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Borrowed: Lynchings

I was reminded of the infamous photograph of the Marion, Indiana lynching of Tom Shipp and Abe Smith while viewing Vanity Fair’s online article of The 25 Best News Photographs. As if the two men hanging in the trees is not horrific enough, the casual nature of the white people in the foreground pushes this photograph into new territory. I would hope that we are horrified by this picture, but I would also hope that we not simply relegate these barbaric acts to an older time and another place. Though we no longer have the same degree of racism in the average person today (as is evident in what will hopefully happen next Tuesday), such racial hatred still exists. And even if we think of ourselves as being beyond the racism of the past centuries, we would do well to ask ourselves about the blind spots that we may currently hold. As a professing Christian, I look at this photo and am appalled that the people who almost certainly went to church on the Sunday before could participate in such acts. What to me appears with historical hindsight as obviously wrong seemed to them a perfectly reasonable chain of events. Tom Shipp and Abe Smith were not people to them, but animals with no rights. There are a number of places around the country that are in the process of voting about the rights of other citizens, and many of them will be voting to limit those rights based on religious conviction. Pictures like these are a reminder to me how short sighted we all tend to be. If only we were able to live our lives with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.

Lynching of Tom Shipp and Abe Smith

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One Comment

  1. Posted November 26, 2008 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    A few months ago I went on Sankofa. We saw a number of videos during our bus ride. One had video clips of White people screaming at the Black students who were entering the previously all white school. The horrifying thing about it was that the people doing the abuse looked just like me, and in any other context possibly would have been people I would have had as friends, acquaintances, fellow congregants…
    Fast forward to video clips I saw during the election which depicted some White people passing a group of Obama supporters who had positioned themselves at the entrance to a Republican rally. Some of the same kinds of things were being said…
    Sometimes I have great hope for our society making progress, sometimes great despair.