Americans should shudder at the thought of an assault rifle in the hands of a white supremacist as they shudder at the memory of the lynch mobs of white supremacists. The carnage of yesterday is today—and it seems never ending. Lynch mobs terrorized Americans for nearly 100 years. How long will these new lynch mobs of one terrorize Americans?
Adam Serwer: The cruelty is the point
Moved by the victims of gun violence, antiracists are struggling, unsuccessfully, to ban the assault rifle today and control the flow of guns—just as they struggled, unsuccessfully, to ban the lynch mob a century ago. Moved by the National Rifle Association, racists are struggling, successfully, to defend the assault rifle today as they struggled, successfully, to defend the lynch mob a century ago.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill in 1922, just as in February of this year, the House passed H.R. 8 to enact universal background checks for all gun purchases. But filibustering segregationist senators blocked anti-lynching legislation for decades, while today Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is blocking H.R. 8 from receiving a vote despite overwhelming bipartisan support.
No one in Chicago’s lynch mobs wrote a manifesto to explain an attack in 1919. If someone had, then it would have resembled the manifesto linked to Crusius. “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas. They are the instigators, not me,” it said. “I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.” Swapping out Hispanic for black and Texas for Chicago, the 1919 manifesto would have read: “This attack is a response to the black invasion of Chicago. They are the instigators, not me.”
The lynch mob of many and the lynch mob of one are formed of the same racist logic. Protect white supremacy. Crusius wrote at length about “losing Texas and a few other states with heavy Hispanic population to the Democrats,” which would allow them “to win nearly every presidential election.” Senator Ben “Pitchfork” Tillman defended the lynch mob on the floor of the U.S. Senate on March 23, 1900. “We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and we never will. We have never believed him to be the equal of the white man.”
At the time, lynch mobs were snatching the political and economic power of African Americans, justifying the carnage by also claiming, “We will not submit to [the Negro’s] lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him,” as Tillman did in the same speech. But as the anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells had already written in Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases: “Nobody in this section of the country believes the old threadbare lie that Negro men rape white women.”
The threadbare lie energizing the lynch mob today is that the Latinos are invading, the Muslims are terrorizing, the Jews are exploiting, and the blacks are infesting—the threadbare lie of Trumpism is that these groups “will hasten the destruction of our country,” to use the El Paso shooter’s words. Instead of viewing these threadbare lies on the big screen through The Birth of a Nation, which was shown at the White House in 1915, the potential lynch mobs of one are viewing them on the little screen, watching Fox News, which is shown at the White House today.