Facebook and other social media have been awash today with accusations that President Obama did something unseemly at the National Prayer Breakfast: he equated every kind of religious extremism as wrong. A partial transcript at PJ Media includes,
He reflected on “realities” around the world from ISIS — “a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism” — to “religious war” in the Central African Republic.
“Humanity’s been grappling with these questions throughout human history, and unless we get on our high horse and think that this is unique to some other place — remember that during the Crusades and Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ,” Obama said.
“…So it is not unique to one group or one religion; there is a tendency in us, a simple tendency that can pervert and distort our faith. In today’s world when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. And God compels us to try.”
The invocation of the Christianity has struck the most vibrant chord. AOL News (yeah, it still exists) provided several reactions:
Conservative firebrand Michelle Malkin led the charge.
“ISIS chops off heads, incinerates hostages, kills gays, enslaves girls. Obama: Blame the Crusades,” she wrote on Twitter.
Another conservative pundit, Dereck Hale, also vented his outrage on Twitter.
“I am shocked, shocked that the guy who sat in Jeremiah Wright’s church for 20 years would defend Islamic violence by attacking Christianity,” tweeted Hale.
“So Obama’s not interested in fighting radical Islam today because of stuff Christians did in the 11th Century,” conservative media watchdog Matt Philbin tweeted.
It’s noteworthy, and somewhat sad, so many laser focused their commentary on the 11th century without acknowledging the 19th and 20th centuries, both homes to slavery, Jim Crow and lynching.
I’ve recently been reading two free books on the subject of lynching, Southern Horrors Lynch Law in All Its Phases, and The Red Record of Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States. Conservative estimates of the number of African Americans lynched, mostly in the southern United States, are between 4 – 5,000.
Lynching was the people’s “justice.” Often it happened before a trial, only as a result of an accusation or charge. Sheriffs and judges looked the other way, or participated. Lynching was a family affair. Men, women and children foamed with bloodlust as another Negro was tortured, abused and finally raised by the neck until dead. Sometimes all three things happened at the same time. It was not uncommon for body parts to be collected as souvenirs.
Chauncy Devega has a very graphic, and very troubling piece yesterday at his blog. Entitled “Yes, ISIS Burned a Man Alive: White Americans Did the Same Thing to Black People by the Many Thousands,” Devega includes two maddening stories of “spectacular lynching” which featured burning the victims alive.
The white-owned newspapers of the South had long gorged themselves with exaggerated or fabricated accounts of such violence. In the papers’ version, the fight between Sam Hose and his boss became transformed into the most enraging crime of all: the rape of the white man’s wife. White Georgians tracked Hose down and prepared for his lynching. Two thousand people gathered for the killing, some taking a special excursion train from Atlanta for the purpose. The leaders of the lynching stripped Hose, chained him to a tree, stacked wood around him, and soaked everything in kerosene. The mob cut off Hose’s ears, fingers and genitals; they peeled the skin from his face. They watched, a newspaper reported, ”with unfeigning satisfaction” as the man’s veins ruptured from the heat and his blood hissed in the flames. ”Oh, my God! Oh, Jesus,” were the only words Hose could manage. When he finally died, the crowd cut his heart and liver from his body, sharing the pieces among themselves, selling fragments of bone and tissue to those unable to attend. No one wore a disguise, no one was punished.
Writing of the lynching of 17-year old illiterate, alleged murderer Jessie Washington in Waco, TX, Devega reminds us,
“Great masses of humanity flew as swiftly as possible through the streets of the city in order to be present at the bridge when the hanging took place, but when it was learned that the Negro was being taken to the City Hall law, crowds of men, women and children turned and hastened to the lawn.”
“On the way to the scene of the burning people on every hand took a hand in showing their feelings in the matter by striking the Negro with anything obtainable, some struck him with shovels, bricks, clubs, and others stabbed him and cut him until when he was strung up his body was a solid color of red, the blood of the many wounds inflicted covered him from head to foot.”
“Dry goods boxes and all kinds of inflammable material were gathered, and it required but an instant to convert this into seething flames. When the Negro was first hoisted into the air his tongue protruded from his mouth and his face was besmeared with blood.”
“Life was not extinct within the Negro’s body, although nearly so, when another chain was placed around his neck and thrown over the limb of a tree on the lawn, everybody trying to get to the Negro and have some part in his death. The infuriated mob then leaned the Negro, who was half alive and half dead, against the tree, he having just strength enough within his limbs to support him.
As rapidly as possible the Negro was then jerked into the air at which a shout from thousands of throats went up on the morning air and dry goods boxes, excelsior, wood and every other article that would burn was then in evidence, appearing as if by magic. A huge dry goods box was then produced and filled to the top with all of the material that had been secured.
The Negro’s body was swaying in the air, and all of the time a noise as of thousands was heard and the Negro’s body was lowered into the box.” “No sooner had his body touched the box than people pressed forward, each eager to be the first to light the fire, matches were touched to the inflammable material and as smoke rapidly rose in the air, such a demonstration as of people gone mad was never heard before. Everybody pressed closer to get souvenirs of the affair. When they had finished with the Negro his body was mutilated.”
“Fingers, ears, pieces of clothing, toes and other parts of the Negro’s body were cut off by members of the mob that had crowded to the scene as if by magic when the word that the Negro had been taken in charge by the mob was heralded over the city. As the smoke rose to the heavens, the mass of people, numbering in the neighborhood of 10,000 crowding the City Hall law and overflowing the square, hanging from the windows of buildings, viewing the scene from the tops of buildings and trees, set up a shout that was heard blocks away.”
These scenes were repeated over and over and over throughout the South. In fact, the victims need not be guilty or even suspected. After lynching three African Americans in New Orleans in 1893, a mob sought more information from
a young man who was in no way related to Julian, who perhaps did not even know the man and who was entirely innocent of any offense in connection therewith, was murdered by the same mob. The same paper says: During the search for Julian on Saturday one of the branch of the posse visited the house of a Negro family in the neighborhood of Camp Parapet, and failing to find the object of their search, tried to induce John Willis, a young Negro, to disclose the whereabouts of Julian. He refused to do so, or cold not do so, and was kicked to death by the gang (from The Red Record Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States).
The only way we can miss the connection being made by the president is to be ignorant of history, or dismissive of it.
Because, as you will remember, the Antebellum and Jim Crow South was not dotted with mosques. There were no calls to prayer. It was covered in churches and people claiming to be Christians. In Waco the year Jesse Washington was lynched the churches were: Baptist, 14; Methodist, 9; Christian, 4; Presbyterian, 3; Jewish, 2; Episcopal, 2; Evangelistic, 1; Lutheran, 1; Catholic, 1; Christian Science, 1; Salvation Army, 1. Most were White, a few were Black.
The southern United States was a demonic hybrid of racism and cultural Christianity. The Klan claimed to be Christian and people rarely argued the point. Those calling themselves Christians fed racist flames (sometimes literally) during the week, then met in church on Sunday to “worship.”
How, exactly, does one become angry at the president over this fact of history? If Obama was wrong in comparing ISIS to the crusades, it was in this way: He did not need to go back that far in time. The notorious lynching of Black Americans is in every way equal to the notorious murders being broadcast by ISIS.