“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the phrase ‘mob or riotous assemblage,’ when used in this act, shall mean an assemblage composed of three or more persons acting in concert for the purpose of depriving any person of his life without authority of law as a punishment for or to prevent the commission of some actual or supposed public offense.” The Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill, introduced in 1918 by Republican Congressmen Leonidas C. Dyer, passed in the US House in 1922, but was blocked from passage by Democrats in the Senate
This past Saturday there was a march in Sanford, Florida by protestors decrying the shooting of 17 year old Trayvon Martin by a Hispanic neighborhood watchman. I cannot imagine the pain of the parents of this boy. I too want to see justice and know the truth as to what happened. Yet, in watching the news, it seems that the search for justice and truth seem to have gone by the wayside. This event seems to be spinning out of control, and appears to be descending into an angry, race-baiting mob. This is a dangerous thing; history has shown us that when justice is left to the whims of a mob’s fury, vary rarely is justice ever served.
I have no idea what happened the night that Trayvon was shot. And at this point, neither does anyone else, as the investigation is still underway, the facts are still being discovered, and due process is running its course. We don’t know if it was racially motivated, but it seems unlikely now, as the details of George Zimmerman’s life are coming out (he tutors black children and was himself a minority). Yet, that does not seem to matter to those only interested in fanning the flames of division and hate, as this event increasingly becomes political fodder. I want justice as much as this boy’s parents, but under the law of the Constitution, not under the “law” of the mob.
Our past is littered with the sad stories of what happens to men and women when the mentality of a mob takes over. People of all colors and creeds have been lynched when mobs serve up their own version of justice. It is frightening to me that celebrities would tweet out what he thought to be the address of George Zimmerman, only to discover it was the wrong address, and the elderly couple who actually lived there had to flee for their lives as they were barraged with harassing calls, reporters and death threats. It is frightening to me that people like Rev. Al Sharpton would not only endorse judicial extortion by calling for a boycott on local businesses until Zimmerman is arrested, but call for the repeal of laws that allow people to protect themselves (Is disarming the citizenry and empowering the criminals really the answer here?) It is also frightening to me that our own news media would run pictures of Trayvon as a young boy, instead of the near adult he was, and broadcast altered 911 tapes in order to further distort facts. And it is also frightening to me that own President, who is perfectly positioned to take a leadership position, and bring in a statesmen-like calm and reason to the situation, but instead chose to enter the fray. Justice defined by race or distorted truth is not justice at all. What is it then that we truly seek?
No matter how much we wish it, there will always be those who seek to harm others because they can. There will always be those who hate an entire people because of how they look, worship, or think. But that is not representative of all of America, and it should not be used as an excuse to condemn us all. I am growing tired of those who seek to profit, either politically or economically, by consistently trying to maintain that this is the case in order to pervert justice. There are far more of us who believe that all human beings have value than those who do not. While what happened to this young man is awful, we must not allow ourselves to either embrace the idea of mob justice, or cloud our present with the injustices of the past. If we do not seek equal justice under the law, we are no better than the lynch mobs of the last century. Giving in to the mob would only wound and scar us as a nation.
Hate and evil are not bound by the color of one’s skin; if anything, history has shown us that they are about as equal opportunity as you can get. But then again, so is love.
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. … Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.(1929-1968), Baptist minister and civil rights activist