This picture is from Sacramento State University (“Sac State”). Yes, those are real people and real nooses.
But no, they aren’t really being strangled by them. You can see the second set of ropes which are holding them up attached to the harnesses behind them.
According to various news sources, these students are enacting a live demonstration of a race-based lynching. It’s not officially sponsored by the university. In theory, it’s supposed to be an art project sponsored by a black student (yes, that’s relevant) named Christina Edwards. She just wanted to have white students “perform” for this project because it would spark a bigger discussion. Edwards had this to say:
“I choose to express my art in a way that resonates with me, but I did not intend to offend anyone in or outside of the project. The purpose of this performance was to bring to light social injustices and the issues of inequality that impact me and my community as a whole. As a young African American Woman, I feel that not enough has changed in society in terms of racial and social equality that allows for true equal opportunities.”
Naturally, some of the more conservative blogs are taking this story and running with it. Accusations of reverse racism abound.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first, please: there really isn’t that much art to this. It’s just two guys hanging from a tree. If this is art, then every rappelling instructor in the Colorado Rockies is a Picasso, and Miley Cyrus swinging from a wrecking ball is a Michelangelo. You don’t want Miley Cyrus to be considered on par with a Renaissance painter, do you?
Neither do I. So let’s please not go there.
Now, if the races were switched around, would this display be deemed tasteless, insensitive, and racist, regardless of the intent? Yes, as conservative blogs contend, it very likely would be.
But there’s something both Edwards and her critics are missing which this site can help shed light on. Regardless as to whether the victims of lynchings are black or white (according to some academic statistics one out of four lynching victims were white), they overwhelmingly share one common characteristic, both then and now. A characteristic of which – dare I say – Christina Edwards is actually less associated with than she realizes.
They are both men.
Men have always been the vast majority of the targets of lynchings, street violence, and violence in general. It is basically a time-honored tradition.
In my own state of Texas, it has long been a tradition that when a boyfriend meets his girlfriend’s parents for the first time, her dad walks her boyfriend over to the gun cabinet and makes sure to inform him that he knows how to take care of his daughter. I made a video about it not too long ago. Some of these overprotective fathers were conservatives themselves, bragging about how they were threatening young men with violence because it was a “godly” thing to do.
The phenomenon of an overprotective father threatening a young boyfriend with violence is linked more to the phenomenon of lynchings than many conservatives and liberals might like to admit.
There is something that can be learned from this “art project” controversy that both liberals and conservatives aren’t seeing: male-on-male violence has always been the normative form of violence down through the ages. We see it when we watch the latest action movie. We see it among those who are sent off to war (overwhelmingly young men). And we see it in the everyday small town interactions, where men are called upon to risk their lives to absorb and dish out violence in behalf of others. And always against other men.
There is no such thing as “reverse sexism” when it comes to men, because society has always taken out its prejudices upon men in the most violent fashions. It is not something that has just arrived “all of a sudden” with the rise of Feminism. The only thing Feminism did was con and coerce the world into believing that men’s suffering throughout the ages was either non-existent, or somehow mattered less than women’s. To add injury to insult, they then demanded that men of all races be penalized for a history that was never one-sided in their favor to begin with.
Here’s a truly revolutionary idea: I will not lay a hand of violence upon my fellow man, regardless as to whatever race he is, whether he is rich or poor, and so forth. And I call upon my fellow man to say the same. It is not my “role” to be violent toward other men, whether it would be in the service of women or not. Some people may disagree with that worldview.
But hey – my body, my choice.
We need advocates who are willing to call other men to consider these ideas and perspectives. It’s not the only part of the conversation regarding violence that is important. But it is definitely an element we should be talking about.