Jim Crow is a persistent old bird. Reports of his death and burial are premature and much exaggerated. Even in the 21st century, he still flies high. Hatched almost two centuries ago on the American stage, after the Nat Turner uprising, Crow and his glossy feathers are shining again in the news and in the media on a regular basis, with recent sightings on state judicial and educational perches.
Just before Thanksgiving 2016, a Texas judge named Oakley took to the internet to vet his view that a lynching was called for as necessary punishment in the case of a black male accused of fatally shooting a policeman. Oakley’s words, referencing a death ritual with torture and incineration that historically targets black folks, made into corpses for display and crowing, give this opinion piece a title.
In the same holiday week that James Oakley decided that a fast and excruciatingly painful public death was the only proper punishment for a young black male, a California public school teacher named Woody Hart gave his mostly white class in Sacramento an explanation in constitutional equality, using lynching as an example. Hanging one black person is not equal, he said. “… you have to hang them all.”
The one bi-racial student in Hart’s class, thirteen-year-old Tyler McIntyre, became the focus of all eyes. Being singled out, in this school, for racial animosity is not a new phenomenon for him. Fellow students have already told him he belongs in the back of the bus, demonstrating that white teenagers in one of the area’s “better” schools are quite adept in the Jim Crow history lessons they have been taught.
Jim Crow today is especially fond of picking off young black males, as they sit in a classroom, talk on a cell phone or shop in a store. In West Virginia, a couple of days ago, shortly after the Ku Klux Klan heralded the election of Donald Trump, William Pulliam said he was threatened by the presence of black boys and so shot one to death, claiming he was only engaged in clearing “another piece of trash off the street.” Pulliam, who lacked authority to carry a gun, may go scot free in the current climate in which blacks, in the opinion of some in the empowered status quo, deserve no future or any kind of existence.
Of course, it cannot be assumed that Jim Crow targets only one kind of prey; his beak is out for boys who are not yet teenagers, for young girls, for young women, for older women, for men, young and old, for anyone whose skin catches his eye. And his peripheral vision is growing ever wider these days. So folks who thought their safety was guaranteed may learn another lesson in the unsure days ahead.