Letter to the Editor
Published: Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 18:04
We are writing to condemn the message of the anti-abortion protest that took place outside the Commons this week. In particular, we are disturbed by the equation of those who support women’s reproductive rights with those who lynched thousands of African American men and women in the 19th and 20th centuries. We do not condemn the protest itself; in fact, we believe that the right to peaceably assemble is one of the foundational rights of American citizenship. However, as historians, we feel it is imperative to speak out against this crass, uninformed and dangerous misuse of history.
From the end of the Civil War through the mid-20th century, white lynch mobs throughout the United States, although mostly in the South, deliberately and with extraordinary malice, terrorized and murdered African Americans under the pretense of “protecting” white womanhood from the supposed threat of rape by black men. Of course, this mock chivalry was just a ruse. Lynchers could not imagine a world in which a white woman might choose to love a black man, and no doubt some of those lynched were guilty only of crossing the South’s prohibition against consensual interracial sex. Others were simply guilty of owning their own land or trying to make a way for their families. Regardless, all of them paid the price for the white South's brutal effort to control not only black bodies but white female ones, as well.
The inability to see women as capable of making decisions about their own sexuality. The use of violent, inaccurate, and misleading imagery. The pretense of protection. Anti-abortion protesters appear to have a lot in common with those who supported lynching.
We applaud vigorous, thoughtful debate and protest. It is the lifeblood of democracy. However, this kind of political action requires much deliberation, which unfortunately was missing from yesterday's anti-abortion protest. If students wish to learn more about the history of racial and sexual violence, including lynching, we welcome them to take any of our classes.
Susan Cahn, Professor of History
Carole Emberton, Assistant Professor of History
Theresa Runstedtler, Assistant Professor of American Studies
Lakisha Simmons, Assistant Professor of Global Gender Studies
Victoria Wolcott, Professor of History
Jason Young, Associate Professor of History