Part Two: Black Disabled Bodies In The US - Beating/Lynching Podcast/Article


PNNscholar1 - Posted on 24 October 2018

Author: 
Leroy Moore
Black bodies have always been surveillance and abused from the state that many of us know today from slavery to today’s police brutality. Picking up from the theme of my first episode, Leroy’s Short Historical view of Black Disabled Bodies in America Dealing With Slavery. Now in part two of this series I continue by looking at lynching and the erasure of disability from cases of lynching going back to 1916 to 2010 thus going from individual to what does it mean for Black disabled community from 1916 to today. Like in my first article/podcast I’ll use my poetry to explain this picture.
 

Like the first article/podcast in this ongoing sires, I like to start in the same way by saying this.  What you will read and hear is what I have researched, read, wrote and studied knowing that this area, Black disabled bodies, is a new subject even now in 2018. I give all respect to scholars, artists and activists who have wrote about this subject before me. This recording/article will consist of historical text and Krip-Hop songs/poetry.  It comes from my presentation entitled Historical View Black & Disabled Under the Continuation of A Police State.  From advice from friends I’m recording and writing this presentation out.  It is not word by word but it capture the main points.  Like I already said this area is in the beginning stages and this you will hear and read is only my viewpoint i.e. my research.
 
 
I must say that many Black/disabled scholars wrote that disabled africans were lynched and beaten by White mobs using terms back then like weak minded and other terms back then describing people with disabilities.  Ida B. Wells described cases that involved innocent victims, who were mentally disabled, and those lynched for no known reason.  Wells described a brutal spectacle lynching that happened in Paris, Texas, in 1893. She goes on to say, "Henry Smith, a black man known in the community as “weak minded,” was accused of murdering a four year-old white girl. The white people of the town grew more enraged at Smith when false rumors circulated that he had also raped the little girl.  Smith was captured by a posse and confessed.  But he may have been intimidated by his angry captors.  The posse took Smith back to Paris where a mob of 10,000 men, women, and children had assembled to see Smith lynched."

 
Although Black disabled people experience some of the same treatment of Black non-disabled people in many ways like lynching Emmitt Till (who had a speech impairment/stuttering) and Jessie Washington (who had a developmental disability) & others but in other ways their disability disappeared in history as many of us especially chosen scholars tell these stories and bring back their disabilities as part of their identity recently. Because of Black disabled activists, storytellers and writers we now know that that Emmitt Till’s mother taught her son to whistle to deal with his stuttering and in Patricia Bernstein’s book, The First Waco Horror: The Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACP taught me that Jessie Washington had a developmental disability what was called back then mental retardation.  Plus some news articles are including disability when they talk about recent lynching.
 
 
After putting together a short list of names of Black disabled people who have been lynched and who were survived an attempt of being lynched, I found out my short list only mentioned boys and men and we know that this is not a full list.  Wells, however, was well aware that black women were victims of Southern mob violence and also targets of rape by white men.  In the April 28th/2018 New York Times article entitled, Ida B. Wells and the Lynching of Black Women By Crystal N. Feimster  talked about the many Black women who were lynched like “Eliza Woods, colored” from a jail in Jackson, Tenn., and hanged her for supposedly poisoning her employer.  The article goes on to say, “at least 130 black women were murdered by lynch mobs from 1880 to 1930.”
 
The first poem deals with my own body and how it comes from a history of other Black disabled bodies who experience physical abused from the state. it’s entitled Body of History Body of the Present
 
You see like everyone
My body has a history
At 50 it’s telling its story
 
Through oppression, broken promises and reality of time
This body born on November 2nd 1967
Not breathing soul rising to the ceiling
 
Lungs expanding
Back in body
Muscles tighten lack of oxygen
 
Welcome to the world
Sounds of shackles, ropes & whips
My brown skin history wakes me up
 
CP & POC
Cerebral Palsy
Person Of Color
 
That’s only part of my body’s history
Black bodies caught
In Congress’s Halls, in Scientists’ labs
swinging from trees
 
Under the doctor’s instruments
Bodies’ twist, turns, and toggle
Brown disabled body blamed for everything
 
From Nazi Germany to Tuskegee
History of bodies left scares on my brown skin
Made it stronger
 
What makes a man?
More than muscles 
Go deeper within
 
Writing, speaking singing & staging
our own history in the present
My body found a home so welcome
To my body here and now
 
It’s been noted time and time again that the most vulnerable are the first ones to be attacked and feel the harsh oppression and we can see that on the Black/Brown, poor, disabled bodies. This reality separates the Black/Brown disabled bodies to the White disabled bodies. The number one component of lynching was race aka keeping Black people in their place. And like Black scholar and author of Man-Not, Tommy J. said,
 
 “you’re absolutely right that disability from Black men has been erased. The assumption is that any form of defect makes one imperfect. And this is what I’m saying, the erasure of the vulnerability that disabled Black men suffer is next to the pathologization of Black men. The racist pathologization of Black men assumes able-bodiedness, [unclear], being physically overpowering to be a group. But what goes next to that is the idea of defect, that someone who has a mental or physical disability somehow shows they’re not human. They’re still pathological. So that’s, as I said in my essay, that’s what I’m working with, right? This is what I was working with in To Kill A Mockingbird. It’s the same Black man, it’s still the same pathological stereotypes in the minds of whites. As an able-bodied Black man, he was what a disabled Black man couldn’t physically perform the kinds of force and brutality necessary to rape a white woman. This doesn’t matter.   And we see Emmett Till, what comes to mind after race?  The disability of Till doesn’t even situate in terms of what he represents. We don’t even think of Till as disabled.”
 
 
Before I go into the individual cases of lynching of Black disabled bodies, we must realize that the state legalized what led to lynching. We had Black Codes, the legal framework of Jim Crow and the Ugly Laws.  In short all of these laws discriminated to places where Black and disabled people could not be. Please look them up and the book, The Ugly Laws: Disability in Public by Susan M. Schweik. I argue that these laws set up the environment of lynching. These are only a few names of Black disabled men that I have know of before I became burned out of collecting stories of lynching of Black disabled people..
 
Jessie Washington (1916)
Will Brown (1919)
Emmitt Till (1955)
James Bryd (1998)
Marcus Hogg (2000)
Billy Ray Johnson (2003)
Frederick Jermaine Carter (2010)
 
Here is a new poem I just wrote for this piece entitled,
 
Disabled Bodies In The Making Of US Lynching Culture
 
 
Legalized by the state
Created nothing but hate
Full story never told
Body pieces they sold
 
NAACP started their campaign from his name
Jesse Washington race & disability was his frame
Accused of rape in the biggest state
In 1916 Waco in 1998 Jasper
 
James Byrd dragged through the streets
Not only men but boys
Jesse a teenager
Back then no term like disability
 
He was slow or weak minded 
The judge, Mayor and the jury 
Were all in on it
Black skin on concrete
 
That was their entertainment
People even brought food like a picnic 
Picking up Jessie's bones so they could sell it
From Waco to Jasper blood rising in Texas
 
From the courtrooms to the classrooms
Black disabled boys choked by nooses
Kids will be kids, right? 2000 two White teens jokingly tied
Marcus Hugg to his chair & a noose around his neck
 
Are you still here microphone check
But let’s go back
1955 everybody knows about Emmitt Till
Do we really know let’s get real
 
Mother taught him how to deal with his stuttering
By him whistling 
It turned into something threatening
Remember Moses had an accommodation
 
Did I mention 
It was all Black & Brown bodies
From Africa to Native Americans
By the hands of White men & women
 
You can’t erase disability
From US history
Early US legislation
Lead to lynching culture
 
No dought this is for sure
We don’t have to go to a museum
Because it is still happening
Ask the family of Frederick Jermaine Carter
 
Another Black disabled man hung in 2010
His mental health was used in the beginning
Called it suicide, no we got off that ride
Always lynched the most vulnerable
 
Putting disability back on the table
Got more cases when I googled feeble
The making of a lynching culture
Includes my disabled Black/Brown & Red people
 
We must realize that at the same time lynching was happening you also had eugenicists constructed developmentally disabled men as social menaces & sexual predators. According to Michelle Jarman’s essay entitled Dismembering The Lynching Mob: Intersecting Narratives of Disability, Race and Sexual Menace, she says, “Although the ritualized violence of lynching differed in form and overt purpose from institutionalized violence of surgical sterilization, the intertwining narratives of rape and the extreme corporeal punishments enacted upon black & disabled bodies share important similarities.”
 
From 1919 to case of Frederick Jermaine Carter (2010) a lot of media and Black organization have left out disability when Black boys, girls, women and men were lynched or was almost lynched that continues today with police brutality. Have disability rights activists/organizations stepped up to the plate on this issue?  What can we learn from this history especially now as we are living in the hight of police brutality?  Have the The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration included disability to their walls, exhibits, books and other collections that make up this museum? The catch 22 of museums early history is that many of us disabled scholars wrote about the caging of disabled bodies in early museums.  These questions and more must be answered and more writings on the topic of lynching and state violence of today against Black/Brown disabled bodies must continue!
 
I must end with something uplifting from Krip-Hop Nation. We know that lynching victims were not only Black men however a great number were Black men and boys and because of that I like to leave with an uplifting poem-song speaking our abuses and what we contribute to this country entitled
 
Black Disabled Man
 
Head hang down low
Yeah I know
Nobody cares about you
 
Sit down, lets talk about your roots
We created the Blues
Blind Black man couldn’t even afford shoes
 
We always created our own rules
Got kicked out of the church
We took it to the porch
 
Guitar strapped with a tin cup
Many told us to shut up
Blues are the roots those leaves are Hip-Hop
 
Billy Holiday sung about strange fruits
Jessie Washington lynched & kicked by White men’s boots
Black disabled men still black and blue
 
Stealing our identification 
From Jim Crow to Hip-Hop appropriation
Dumping Jimmy Brooks aka Drake out of the wheelchair
 
Black Disabled man don’t avoid me, come here
I’m pumping Krip-Hop in your ear
Creating self worth this is your rebirth
 
Life is hell on this earth
Only if you don’t lift a finger
Eye to eye now you see your brother
 
She wanted the best for you, your mother
I know you want a partner
But you got to love yourself first
 
There goes your mirror
But it’s not only about you
Those young ones will be walking in your shoes
 
Black disabled man you survived
Now you are an elder
What will leave behind
 
Live today knowing people are looking at you
I know many days you will have the Blues take a deep breathe and say ummmm
Black disabled man just remember where you came from
 
 
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