The Ongoing Lynching of African Americans


It is interesting that, while the federal government is casting doubt on the integrity of the FBI and the Justice Department, that it still finds a way to sanction everything that local law enforcement officers do to people of color on a daily basis.

It would seem that if there is no justice and no integrity in law enforcement at the very top of the ladder, there certainly could be no justice on the lower rungs.

And it seems that if the top level of law enforcement is so corrupt that it needs to be publicly excoriated, presumably threatening the very security of this nation, then the same excoriation of law enforcement agencies on the state and local levels must happen as well.

It has been interesting to hear this president and his crew put down the FBI and the Justice Department – not because they are any more corrupt than perhaps they have always been. Certainly, there were questions about the FBI’s penchant for unchecked authoritarian tactics when J. Edgar Hoover was its director. Under Hoover’s FBI, crimes against black people were too often ignored.

In a 2014 article which appeared in The Nation, it is noted that “African Americans didn’t have to have radical ideas or engage in violence, to merit surveillance.” Hoover’s FBI was known to investigate any group which dissented. But when it came to African Americans, they didn’t have to have done anything. “Being black was enough,” the article said. (

Hoover’s FBI watched African Americans in every aspect of their lives – going to the store, to the library, to church. The Nation article said that for black people in Hoover’s era, a bill collector might be the FBI.

Hoover’s FBI represented nonviolent lynching, the taking of life in the form of government intrusion and governmental interference in the seeking of justice by African Americans. It is highly probable that the worldview of Hoover’s FBI trickled down to state and local law enforcement departments. African Americans were targeted. The FBI knew about violence meted out to African Americans by racist white American civilians and white American police officers and did little to quell the injustice.

Theologian James Cone, in his book The Cross and the Lynching Tree, wrote that while “spectacle lynching was on the decline in the 1950s, there were many lynchings as state and federal governments used the criminal justice system to intimidate, terrorize and murder blacks. Whites could kill blacks, knowing that a jury of their peers would set them free but  convict and execute any black who dared to challenge the white way of life.” (p. 49)

There was real damage done to African Americans by law enforcement; bias against blacks was common, and there was nobody to challenge the wrong that was being done. White privilege had its way, with law enforcement either merely turning a blind eye to what was going on or by actively participating in biased, violent and unfair policing against blacks.

Nothing of the sort has happened to this president. This president has no morals and no ethics; he challenges top law enforcement that he feels is getting too close to information that would be damaging to him. He says nothing about the years of injustice that law enforcement has meted against blacks for generations. That kind of real injustice and corruption means nothing to him. The only thing that matters is that this president protects himself and his family.

Mark Twain once referred to the United States as “the United States of Lyncherdom.” He saw what was going on, as did others. Cone said that artists saw what black religious scholars and preachers “merely alluded to: that in the United States, the clearest image of the crucified Christ was the figure of an innocent black victim, dangling from a lynching tree.”

The lynching tree is still being overused, even while a wealthy, privileged white man manipulates the system and the emotions of people who believe in and buy into the rightness of racism and white supremacy. If this president is going to cast doubt on the highest level of law enforcement, then he really needs to cast the net over all law enforcement agencies and, in the name of “transparency,” clean the stench of violent injustice delivered by law enforcement officers out of the nostrils of Americans. If we’re going to talk corruption, let’s talk corruption. If the president’s goal is to expose corruption – then let’s really do it and perhaps give America a new narrative as pertains to law enforcement’s treatment of African Americans.

It is past time.

A candid observation …

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