The following passage comes from Kristina DeRoucher, RAISING RACISTS: THE SOCIALIZATION OF WHITE CHILDREN IN THE JIM CROW SOUTH, (University of Kentucky Press, 2011) kindle, loc., 21-33
This book looks at the socialization of White southern children into a violent culture of Whiteness between 1890 – 1938. They were taught by the community of White adults that White violence against Black people was essential to the maintenance and perpetuation of the culture of Whiteness and White lives. Consequently, White adults took White children to lynchings to condition them to the significance of the roles of race and gender in establishing the foundation of a White supremacist social order and of Black compliance and White domination.
“The lynching ritual offers a microcosm for exploring white southerners’ conceptions of race and gender, as all members of the white community participated. The role played by white youth in public racial violence has long remained unexplored, as no studies of the Jim Crow South consider this violence as a primary site of the construction of racial identity. Yet white southerners did employ the brutal lynching ritual to construct and maintain southern racial identity, and white children played an active role in the process. Examining white children’s role within the white culture of the Jim Crow South, including its racial violence, reveals the shifting intersections of race, gender, sexuality, culture, and power in the New South. Lynching offered a central public ritual in which white youth encountered and helped to perpetuate the brutal practices that southern white males deemed necessary to maintain segregation and their position at the top of the southern social hierarchy. The public mass mob lynching—from the leveling of the accusation against the lynch victim to the collection of souvenirs from the corpse—offers insight into the social understandings of white southerners during Jim Crow. The mass mob formed for only the most heinous of crimes: the sexual violation of white women and girls and violent acts against whites. As one of the most visible forms of violent socialization, the lynching ritual served the dual purpose of repressing African American resistance and reinforcing white adults’ and children’s own conceptions of racial and gender supremacy. Following the pattern of the ritual, after the female victim or the family of the injured party reported the allegation of wrongdoing, a mob led by the white male community secured the accused either through a manhunt or by storming a holding cell in the local jail. Joined by the larger community, including children as witnesses, the mob brought their victim to a preselected location, often near the site of the alleged crime. Mob leaders then publicly accused their captive of his supposed crimes and attempted to gain a confession. The failure of the accused to admit to the alleged crime often led to torture, with male relatives of the accuser or purported victim, if available, serving as self-appointed avengers. The climax of the ritual arrived with the killing of the accused, who was usually shot, hung, or burned. Within the lynch ritual, this culminating act imposed justice, restored order, and allowed white men, women, adolescents, and children to realize their roles as protectors and dependents. The victim’s death reinforced the understanding that a violation of the laws of segregation required deadly punishment. Afterward, the crowd took pictures while children and mob members scavenged for souvenirs from the victim’s corpse as mementos of their experience. These acts of witnesses seeking remembrance of the event ended the ritual of the mob killing.”
RAISING RACISTS: THE SOCIALIZATION OF WHITE CHILDREN IN THE JIM CROW SOUTH
by Kristina DeRoucher
The following questions are based on the passage from the above book.
1. White Christians professed to follow Jesus during the Jim Crow South, yet they lynched Black people. Is there a disconnect between their actions and being Christian?
2. What do you make of the following quote from James Cone where he draws a connection between the cross and the lynching tree? He says:
“The cross and the lynching tree are separated by nearly 2,000 years. One is the universal symbol of Christian faith; the other is the quintessential symbol of black oppression in America. Though both are symbols of death, one represents a message of hope and salvation, while the other signifies the negation of that message by white supremacy. Despite the obvious similarities between Jesus’ death on a cross and the death of thousands of black men and women strung up to die on a lamppost or tree, relatively few people, apart from black poets, novelists, and other reality-seeing artists, have explored the symbolic connections. Yet, I believe this is a challenge we must face. What is at stake is the credibility and promise of the Christian gospel and the hope that we may heal the wounds of racial violence that continue to divide our churches and our society.” Cone, James, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, (Orbis Books, MaryKnoll, NY., 2011) kindle loc. 184
3. You have been asked to preach on John 19:23-24 within the context of lynching. What would be your three major points? See passage below
23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier, and took his cloak as well. The cloak was seamless, woven in one piece from the top down. 24 So they told each other, “Let’s not tear it. Instead, let’s throw dice to see who gets it.” This was to fulfill the Scripture that says,
“They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they threw dice. So that is what the soldiers did.”