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Lynching Statement by GOP Senator is no Laughing Matter

Monday, November 12th, 2018

Everyday bold racist statements emerge in the media. A recent appalling racist statement was made by Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. She praised support for someone by saying: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” As an African American who is a descendant of slaves, I can never get used to the bigoted statements and bigotry in the U.S.  In response, Hyde-Smith says “any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous.” She’s running in a run-off election against Mike Epsy, an African American and former Congressman.

I don’t know what Hyde-Smith thinks about a public lynching. But I can tell her that it’s no joking matter—now or never. It is a negative part of U.S. history.   Billy Holliday sang Strange Fruit in which the lyrics describe lynching of Blacks in the south. Those words in part were:

“Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees”

“Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh”

During the 1800’s and well into the 1900’s lynching of Blacks in the south and beyond was almost like a national past time. The forms of lynching varied from hanging, burning, tarring or splitting with a hatchet, to name a few. The purpose was to punish and terrorize African Americans. African Americans were lynched due to hatred by whites and a distorted fear of Blacks refusing to stay in their place.

Senator Hyde-Smith is consciously using her hanging analogy to remind racist white supporters that Espy is not in his place. The lynching of community leaders were most common in the period of 1915 and 1940 to remind Blacks to stay in their place—of below, beneath, behind and after white Americans. That is the essence of white supremacy.

Lynchings often escalated into large-scale violence targeting the entire African American community in places such as Mississippi. The Equal Justice Initiative researched and found 4084 racial terror lynchings in 12 southern states and 300 in other states, including California from the period between 1877-1950. Mississippi had the highest number of lynchings. Counties in Mississippi were sites of mass killings of African Americans in single-incident violence.

Senator Hyde-Smith’s racist remarks harkens back to a time in history when lynchings were mainstream and whites wanted a front row view just to see a Black person lynched. In places like Mississippi, during the height of lynching, public lynchings often held white spectators of 500-1000 and sometimes upwards of 2,000 or more. Hyde-Smith is saying if she lived during this time that she would have been on the front row.

During the high period of lynchings in the U.S., many were carnival-like events, with vendors selling food, printers producing postcards featuring photographs of the lynching and corpse, and the victim’s body parts collected as souvenirs. This is what Hyde-Smith wanted to watch. And during the height of lynching in the U.S., spectators watching included elected officials and prominent citizens while white press coverage regularly a lynching. No one was brought to justice for a public hanging of a Black person.

These killings were bold, public acts that implicated the entire community and sent a clear message that African Americans were less than human. The message behind Hyde-Smith’s statement is clear and resonates with many whites today. These bold racist statements have no place in politics or anywhere else in the U.S. Ever since the election of Trump, many white persons feel emboldened to publicly make such racist comments.

On November 27, 2018 Mississippians should send a clear message to Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. The message to Hyde-Smith should be the joke is on her by voting her out of office.

Debbie Hines is a lawyer, legal and political commentator and former Baltimore prosecutor.

Sorry Camille Cosby but Bill Cosby was not Lynched

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

BlackManLynchedNAACPCamille Cosby broke her silence today following her husband’s conviction when she wrote a scathing attack on the justice system comparing Bill Cosby’s, conviction to a “lynching”, “mob justice” or to Emmett Till.  Cosby who was tried and convicted on three counts of sexual assaults on Andrea Constand, after a first jury failed to reach a verdict.  Mrs. Cosby’s misunderstanding of the words “lynching” and “mob justice” deserves a teaching moment for her and perhaps many others who might be confused.

 

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice opened on April 26, 2018 in downtown Montgomery, Alabama and is dedicated to the legacy of enslaved Blacks who lost their lives through lynching.  It depicted the over 4000 known lynchings that were held in this country of mostly African Americans from post slavery to 1950.  And when it opened, some questioned why a memorial on lynching was necessary. Comments like Camille Cosby’s show there is a need for the public to be aware of the atrocities of lynching.

First, Mr. Cosby got not only one trial but two fair trials.  The first jury deliberated over 56 hours before a mistrial was declared.  Those who were lynched in this country were neither given a trial, jury or judge to determine their fate. Instead an angry mob of white individuals hung them up to die on a tree, usually first torturing them.  Throngs of white persons, including law enforcement and children watched as the lynchings took place.  Persons were lynched for any perceived slight to a white man or woman.

The Equal Justice Initiative researched many of the lynchings that occurred post slavery in 1877 until the 1950’s. Some of those lynchings were as a result of multiple single incident lynchings—where lynching one Black person was not enough. Counties in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina had the highest single but mass incidents of lynchings. Some lynchings were observed by mob crowds over 2,0000 persons attending such as ones held on the eastern shore of Maryland in 1933.  There were never any convictions or arrests.

As far as Camille Cosby’s comparison to her husband’s conviction to lynching, she and others should be mindful that many lynchings occurred on the court house lawn.  I see no resemblance there to Cosby’s trial. While Cosby was convicted of sexual transgressions over a white woman before a jury of both Blacks and whites, victims of lynchings never received a trial. Persons like General Lee in 1904 was lynched for merely knocking on the door of a white woman. In 1889, Keith Bowen was lynched by an entire white neighborhood for trying to enter a room with three white women. In 1916, Jeff Brown was lynched in Mississippi  for accidently bumping into a white woman as he ran to catch a bus.

If Bill Cosby were Emmett Till, at the first mention of a sexual assault on a white woman, he would have been lynched.  Till, 12 years old, was lynched for either looking, whistling or doing nothing at all to a white woman.  If Cosby had been comparable to Till, at the first instance of an account by a white victim, he would have been lynched.

I hate to hear when persons compare themselves or their situation to a lynching. Clarence Thomas did it at his Senate confirmation hearings when he referred to himself as being involved in a “high tech lynching”.  To make a modern day court room trial comparison or Senate confirmation hearing akin to a lynching does enormous dishonor to those  persons who lost their lives as a result of real mob justice and real lynchings. .

The reason for the Peace and Justice memorial on lynching is to honor those whose lives were taken away in brutal lynchings.  And it is also to bring awareness to what lynching and mob justice did to Black Americans. For those who cannot travel to Alabama to see the memorial, a trip to the website of the Equal Justice Initiative for its report on lynching in America will also bring awareness to our country’s ugly past.  Perhaps when Camille Cosby gets some free time on her hands away from her husband, she might want to travel or read to see what a real lynching looked like.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is an attorney and legal/political commentator.

Martin Luther King, Jr. 50 Years Later: What’s Changed?

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

Martin_Luther_King_Jr_On April 4, 1968 civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated while standing on the Lorraine hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. In the wake of 50 years since his assassination, with the Trump era, white supremacy uprisings, police shootings of unarmed African Americans, disenfranchisement of Black convicted felons and mass incarceration, many are left wondering if anything has changed in 50 years or changed for the worse. In order to reflect on the 50 years, one must begin with a look back at the years before Martin Luther King’s rise in civil rights era.

Martin Luther King, Jr. led the civil rights movement from approximately 1955 until his death in 1968—a short 13 years. In those 13 short years, King’s leadership with others accomplished more than had been accomplished in the 350 years since Blacks first arrived in the U.S. Throughout the U.S. African Americans were treated as less than 2nd class citizens. Separate but equal was the law. In the year before King’s rise, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that separate but equal was no longer the law in public education. Before Linda Brown’s case, Blacks were denied the right to attend public schools with whites.

Beyond schools, discrimination and desegregation existed in public accommodations in all forms of transportation, hotels, restaurants, parks, swimming pools, stores and anywhere the public and whites were involved. The biggest impediment to Blacks was the denial of the right to vote under Jim Crow laws in the south. In many areas, Blacks were not allowed to register to vote or required to pay a poll tax or take an absurd test—such as guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar. While many Blacks fled the south to the north for better opportunities, still discrimination waited for them in the north.

King’s nonviolent protests and the civil rights movement moved the nation as Blacks were seen on TV being beat by police as they led peaceful protests for the rights to be treated equally as whites and to e able to vote. Congressman John Lewis (D. GA) was one of those who almost lost his life in the fight for voting rights.

By 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson urged lawmakers to pass the Civil Rights Act. It was signed into law on July 2, 1964 and outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It prohibited unequal application of voter registration requirements, racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations.. The following year, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act which was designed to protect and enforce the voting rights of Blacks as afforded in the Constitution. A core provision of the act required under Section 5 a preclearance requirement, which prohibits certain jurisdictions from implementing any change affecting voting without receiving preapproval from the U.S. Attorney General or the U.S. District Court for D.C. to show that the change does not discriminate against protected minorities. Unfortunately, in 2013 Shelby County v. Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula as unconstitutional, reasoning that it was no longer responsive to current conditions.

By 1968 at the time of King’s death, he was advocating for a living wage for workers. He was assassinated in Memphis, while he was there to protest with sanitation workers on adequate wages. Before his death, he had sharply criticized the Vietnam War.

When I hear folks say that not much had change since King’s fight for civil rights, I must differ. While many things are still present in the U.S. due to racism, such as a resurgence of the KKK and white supremacy, there is a difference. King came into prominence in the 90 years post slavery. In those 90 years, over 4000 Blacks were lynched. Many Blacks were systemically lynched on the court house lawns as a means of perceived white justice. Other Blacks were lynched or killed at the hands of prominent members of white society for perceived indiscretions against whites. Emmitt Till’s violent death in 1955 was the wake up call for the beginning civil rights movement. The death of Emmitt Till had a profound effect on King and moved him to action to start the Montgomery bus boycotts.

Today King’s dream of full citizenship for African Americans is still being fought and waged on many fronts. From the disparate police shootings of unarmed African Americans, mass incarceration of Blacks, disenfranchisementof voting rights for convicted felons in states and restircive voter ID laws for others, the struggle continues. The Trump era’s attempts to set back gains accomplished by President Obama are battles waging daily.

Perhaps the greatest testament to King is his fight for the reality that voting and voting rights are paramount for African Americans. The ability of African Americans to be able to vote, albeit with restrictive voter ID laws aimed to deter voting, enabled the election of Barack Obama. And the same ability of many Blacks to remain home on election day in November, 2016 ushered in the Trump era.

King’s death did not end the dream. It moved the dream into a new era—that must be fought continuously by a new generation. We are not back at square one but we must continue the fight.

I appeared on BBC News to discuss the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.—50 years later.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w172w71nbqg1f2r

Start @5:40- 13:53

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is an attorney, speaker and former prosecutor.

Stephon Clark’s Killing and a Demand for Justice

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

GunOn March 18, 2018 Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old Black man, father of two children from Sacramento, California was one of the more than 230 persons shot and killed by police in 2018. Mr. Clark was unarmed when he was shot and killed in his grandmother’s back yard. Mr. Clark’s family attorney, Benjamin Crump, arranged for an independent autopsy. The autopsy conducted revealed that Clark was shot 8 times in the back. A total of 20 rounds were fired at Mr. Clark. These autopsy results contrast with the statements of the officers who claim they feared for their lives. Mr. Clark was not armed but only possessed a cell phone.

Every year on average, there are 1000 persons killed by police in the U.S. Clark’s shooting death has once again caused outrage over the killings of unarmed Black men to be shot and killed by police in the U.S. Blacks are shot and killed by police at a rate of almost 3 times that of whites. Since 2005, there have only been roughly 80 arrests or charges of police officers. There have been even fewer convictions. Only 13 officers have been convicted of killing unarmed persons from the period of 2005- 2017. Even with convictions, the sentences on average are relatively light from probation to a few years. The exception was the Walter Scott case where the former officer received a sentence of 20 years for shooting unarmed Scott in the back multiple times as he ran away.

Following Mr. Clark’s death, I appeared on Al Jazeera to discuss the silence of the Trump administration, Clark’s case and the disparity of Blacks systemically killed by police in the U.S.

Debbie Hines on Stephon Clark shooting from Debbie Hines on Vimeo.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is an attorney and former prosecutor.

Trump’s Wins are Major Losses for the U.S.

Sunday, February 4th, 2018
Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump, Public Domain

When Donald Trump campaigned in 2016, he stated that he planned to win on every single issue for Americans.  And one year after taking office, Trump has won hands down on every single issue that seeks to divide rather than unite us as a country and lower our standing in the world.

Trump got off to a running start on January 27, 2017 by hastily implementing a Muslim travel ban on 7 Muslim countries.  The ban barred citizens of the Muslim countries from entering the U.S. After a federal appeals court struck down the first ban, a second ban ensued.  Later after litigation, a third ban was enacted. On December 4, 2017, the Supreme Court allowed a third version of the travel plan to go into effect banning individuals from eight Muslim countries.   Citizens from the effected countries will not be able to immigrate, work, study or vacation in the U.S. while the ban is in effect. Litigation is still ongoing.

The propaganda of “America First” touted by Trump has resulted in a loss of travel business and jobs in the travel industry. An analysis shows that the travel ban could cost $18 billion dollars in U.S. tourism over two years.  In just the first week after the travel ban, business travelers canceled $185 million in travel bookings.

By January, 2018, Trump continued his attacks on other non-white countries by calling Haiti and all countries in Africa “shithole countries” in decrying against immigration from these countries.  The derogatory remarks further show the open bigotry advance by Trump.

On May 31, 2017, Trump declared that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. One hundred and ninety-five countries support the agreement. Only Syria and Nicaragua didn’t join—and now the U.S exited. The purpose of the Paris Climate Accord was to help prevent further global warming and to use clean energy.  Most of Trump’s base and likely Trump, himself, do not believe in the science of global warming. The Trump administration’s policies on world issues have diminished the U.S. in the eyes of the world and its standing among most countries, except Russia.

On August 12, 2017, hundreds of white supremacists, Klu Klux Klan members and Nazi’s marched at a rally in Charlottesville, VA.  The rally resulted in the death of one woman as a car plowed through peaceful anti-Nazi protestors and injured 35 other individuals.  Trump instead of denouncing the bigotry, racism and divisiveness of the rally, defended the white supremacists.  Trump stated there were “very fine people” on both sides.

White supremacists have existed throughout our country’s history.  Trump has allowed a renewed platform for their bigotry and hatred. According to research by the Anti- Defamation League, white supremacy propaganda has increased by almost 300% at college campuses –up from 2016.

In the fall with the beginning of NFL season, Trump weighed in on the protests by NFL players on police brutality and mistreatment against African Americans.  The protests began in 2016 by Colin Kaepernick.  By 2017, some NFL players began kneeling during the national anthem in silent protest.  Trump referred to Kaepernick and others as “sons of bitches” in defiance of players’ first amendment rights.  During his State of the Union address, Trump again stressed the importance of standing during the national anthem.  He never addressed the underlying reasons for the protests—police brutality against Blacks and Black mistreatment in the criminal justice system.

 

Just in time for Christmas, Trump gave the best winning Christmas gift to the rich— an overhaul of the tax code resulting in increased wealth for the wealthy. On the tax increase, Congressman Paul Ryan boastfully stated on Twitter on February 3, 2018 that the tax increase resulted in one high school secretary to receive an additional $1.50 per week—as if that was something to be boastful about.

Previously Trump and the GOP—tried to repeal and “replace” Obamacare on at least two occasions. With the tax law, Trump ended up settling for repealing the individual mandate requirement to purchase health insurance—all but insuring that insurance premiums will soar in 2019.

Some other wins for Trump are appointments to lead federal agencies whose ideology are in direct conflict with the agencies they lead, nominating federal judges for a lifetime appointment who have little or no trial experience, casting doubt on our system of checks and balances otherwise known as the rule of law and his relentless attack on the media and journalists except Fox News —referring to the media as “fake news”.

 

Assuming if Trump is impeached, indicted or otherwise put out of office before 2020, he will still be winning in 2020 and thereafter. The dismantling of our norms, distrust of our media, loss of world standing and divisiveness caused by Trump’s first year in office will likely last for decades—long after 2020.   Trump’s wins are our losses as a society.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal/political commentator and former prosecutor.

What if the Las Vegas Killer was Black, Muslim or God Forbid Both

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

las-vegas-The Las Vegas mass shooting and killing by Stephen Paddock resulting in 58 deaths and hundreds of injured individuals is a horrific event in our history.  The media’s focus on the motive of the killer and the whitewashing of Paddock committing the crime loses the point.  There are no good motives for killing anyone—let alone over 50 persons.  Any killer who kills innocent persons while perched from a high-rise luxury hotel shooting them down as if he were playing a video game, is not a good person. Much of the media has gone out of the way to paint Paddock as a regular white guy.  I can’t but help to think how the media would have addressed the killer if he or she were Black, Muslim or both.

Every possible good trait known about Paddock has been mentioned.   From being prescribed Valium to being a high stakes gambler and an apparently wealthy individual with a girlfriend, the media has struggled to make sense out of his killing rage.  Contrasting the depictions of a good white male figure with how the media describes Black or Muslim killers and victims makes me what to scream out loud.

Assumptions of a bad actor are the routine media response when describing even Black victims, particularly when shot and killed by whites.  Trayvon Martin was said to be “up to no good;” Ditto for Michael Brown who was shot and killed in Ferguson.  The media went out of its way to find anything bad associated with Michael Brown. Media accused Brown of a robbery before police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed him. The alleged robbery had nothing to do with Darren Wilson shooting Brown.  Freddie Gray was portrayed as a criminal instead of the six officers who were on trial for his murder.  Eric Garner was portrayed as a criminal selling loose cigarettes illegally instead of a victim gasping for air while being unlawfully choked to death.

And for Muslims who are involved in killings, there is never any semblance of the media looking into the individual’s life for anything good.  Media almost always looks for everything that a Muslim did wrong, any association with ISIS and coming to this country illegally, if they immigrated here.

But when the white mainstream media looks at a white guy killer, like Paddock, they see themselves and wonder how it could happen.   As a former prosecutor, there is never a good reason for a murder or why someone kills and plans a vicious attack on hundreds of innocent individuals.  So, please stop trying to find out why or how a good white guy went bad.  Or in the reverse, look for the same good traits when reporting about Black and Muslim victims and killers.  It is a two-way street—if you care to look both ways.

 

And while you’re looking down the two-way black and white street, make sure that Black history is not erased in the coverage.  First, the killing of 58 persons in Las Vegas was not the largest mass killing in modern U. S. history—as inaccurately rolled on many network chyrons and stated by anchors.   The largest U.S. killing occurred on the early morning hours of June 1, 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  White Tulsa police officers deputized other whites to attack innocent Blacks for what they believed was an attack on a white woman by a black man. In the vicious killing, burning and raping that followed of an entire town of 10,000 Blacks, 300 Black persons were killed; 4000 were captured and placed in jail and thousands more left and never returned.  The area was known as the “Negro Wall Street” in 1921 due to wealthy Blacks residing there. And while some may ask, why is this important at a time like the Vegas shooting?  It is always important to never forget history—and particularly to refrain from erasing Black history.

And lastly let’s remember that all Black is not bad and all white is not good.   And Stephen Paddock was not good—at all.  He was pure evil.  He was a domestic terrorist. So please let’s stop trying to make him out to be a very good white guy gone bad.  He was rotten to the core—his white skin and all.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former Baltimore prosecutor.  She frequently appears on MSNBC, CBS News, PBS, Fox 5 DC and Al Jazeera.  Her opinion articles appear in the Washington Post Huffington Post and Baltimore Sun.