NewsBlack History Month


An analysis of modern-day lynching and how we got here

Posted at 10:17 PM, Feb 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-03 15:32:57-05

People may think of lynchings as an extremely horrific practice of the past, but in some ways they continue today.

In 1998, James Byrd Jr. was chained to a car by three white supremacists and dragged to his death in Jasper, Texas.

Amaud Arbery was shot and killed while jogging near Brunswick, George. The three white men found guilty of his murder claimed he was simply trespassing. He wasn't.

Then, Houston area native George Floyd was held down by a white Minneapolis police officer in broad daylight, with the officer's knee pinned to his neck for nine minutes, suffocating him to death.

James Byrd Jr., Amaud Arbery and George Floyd; names that come to mind when thinking of modern-day lynching.

Looking back at the darkest moments of Waco history, it's hard to imagine what it takes to lynch another human being.

But Dr. William Carrigan said documenting history can help inspire change and hopefully progress.

"In Texas, violence was justified and celebrated in a way that was not common in other places," Carrigan said.

A historian and Waco native, Carrigan says racism and its' horror still exists.

"At the time of Jesse Washington's lynching, and today you can see these parallels where people would say it's just a few bad people who did this," Carrigan said.

That same indifference to human suffering from 100 plus years ago, isn't too hard to spot in 2022 America.

"It's not like George Floyd is the only Black man ever killed by the police. Jesse Washington wasn't the only Black man who was ever lynched. But they were particularly gruesome features of a larger phenomenon and the visual evidence in each case was remarkable," Carrigan said.

It's a systemic problem and in some ways it's still hiding in plain sight.

"How do you go to a lynching with a hundred people to a lynching with 15,000? Well, on the way to the lynching with 15,000, are a lot of other lynchings, which time after time, no one does anything about it," Carrigan said.