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A Black Man Was Lynched In Minnesota: A Retrospective

A Story About My Bloodline

A black man was lynched in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was the descendant of chattel slaves like me. My grandmother’s grandparents were chattel slaves. My mom’s grandparents were children of chattel slaves. My grandmother was the grandchild of chattel slaves. At one point in my bloodline all my ancestors saw behind them was generations of chattel slaves. When they peered into the future all they could imagine was generations of chattel slaves. 

My grandmother’s grandparents told her a story about when they were slaves. My grandmother told me, her grandson, the same story. Now I share that story with you. A chattel slave had escaped the plantation. The overseer organized a search party to find the chattel slave and bring the property back to the plantation. The overseer also had instructed the remaining chattel slaves to cut wood and pile it in a certain way so that when the property had been returned to the plantation it could be placed in the wood and be destroyed with fire. The overseer told each of the chattel slaves it would be their responsibility to keep the property from leaving the fire. They would be provided with hoes, rakes, shovels, and axes to keep the property in the middle of fire, while the overseer and other whites watched. 

My grandmother’s grandparents told her that it was that day that all of the chattel slaves were going to turn those tools on the overseer and anyone else who demanded they participate in this barbaric scheme. The property was never returned and thus no revolt took place. Yet, this is part of my family’s oral tradition. It is a story that I will share with my grandchildren, if I am fortunate to have any, and live long enough to meet them. 

A Question About Your Bloodline

I wonder what happened to that overseer’s bloodline? Did he ever tell his children or grandchildren about the time he forced the men and women he had enslaved to burn alive one of their own? Did he ever discuss how many black people he lynched or saw lynched? Do his decedents still recount the stories of lynchings that he was a part of?   

A black man was lynched in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His head was compressed into the warm asphalt. His pleas were urgent and strained. A black man was lynched in Minneapolis, Minnesota and those who lynched him were able to go back to work a couple hours later.  A black man was lynched in Minneapolis, Minnesota and we spied on his last private moments of life. Moments that should only be for family, lovers, and close friends. Those moments should not be broadcast to the world. Those are intimate moments. Those are moments for loved-ones to say goodbye. For family to provide comfort to one another, but we threw back the curtain and leered as he took his last breath. A black man was lynched in Minneapolis, Minnesota and we all watched. Will we tell our children and grandchildren about this lynching of a black man that we saw?

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What I See As A Possible Future For My Bloodline:

Right now I look into the past and realize that every generation of my bloodline, in this country, has been subject to plunder and maltreatment. When I imagine a future for my bloodline I can only conjure generations of continued victims of plunder and maltreatment. 

I was promised that if you went to the right school, got the right job, lived the right life, and was a productive member of society that I would be protected. If I did not have corn-rows, I would be fine. If I did not play loud rap music in my car, I would be fine. If I pulled my pants up, I would be fine. If I fully embraced respectability that I would be fine. That was a lie. 

Barack Obama is a double Ivy League graduate. The head of HLS Law Review. He is married to a woman who is also a double Ivy League graduate. Together they have two beautiful daughters and Bo that beautiful dog who just passed away. This beautiful black family lived together, as a loving family, in the White House. In the world of respectability, you cannot be more respectable than the Obamas and white people still called him a nigger. They said Michelle was an ape. They lynched him in effigy. They burned him in effigy. They shot him in effigy. If Barack Obama is not good enough for white people than no black person is. That is how I know respectability is a lie. That blaming the man for having corn-rows is just an excuse for racism. That complaining about a black man sagging is just an excuse for bias. That arguing that he was listening to loud music is a justification for maltreatment.

Perhaps, the arc of the moral universe does not bend toward justice. Maybe all there is, is just entropy. In the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota a lynching beget protesting. That protesting beget rioting. The rioting beget looting and looting only begets death. Like I said, entropy. 

If a riot is the language of the unheard then looting is the dialect of the ignored. What we have been saying to whiteness, for our entire existence in this country, is that our lives have meaning. That our lives have purpose. That our lives matter. That we matter. That those who kill us should be held to account. That those who plunder us should be held to account. That those who injure us, should be held to account. Yet, each time we say this we are unheard and ignored. 

A black man was lynched in Minneapolis, Minnesota. You will not find any comforting words in this post. If you are searching for a call-to-action, you will not find it in my words. I am not going to provide any next-steps. When I gaze into the future all I see for my bloodline is plunder and maltreatment. What do you see when you peer into your bloodlines’ future?