In racially charged early twenty-first century America, we are witnessing a resurgence of the ugly lynch mobs of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But vigilante justice is not about race. It never was.
A lynch mob seeks to circumvent the normal judicial process, which it see as flawed or too slow to act. A lynch mob is a group of people acting as one out of fear and anger. A lynch mob – any mob, for that matter – is dangerous to the rule of law, our Constitution, the Republic, our nation, and our way of life.
When we think of a lynch mob, we think of a white person, usually a young women, murdered. A black man is accused. Accusations of sexual assault likely follow. If a trail occurs, it is a show trial and is over before it starts. Guilt was predetermined, never in doubt. Facts aren’t necessary. Evidence is ignored. Anything pointing to innocence would only complicate matters. What is important is punishment. Punishment which is swift, public, and complete.
Why? Why a rush to blame? a rush to judge? A rush to punishment?
To protect the community. Historically, the white community. Change must take place. Control must be reestablished. Power must be asserted. And any wrongdoing by anyone in the white community must certainly be covered-up.
The same rush to blame, the same rush to judgment — complete with a willingness to ignore evidence — and the same rush to punishment can be found today’s twenty-first century lynch mob along with the same rationale: to protect the community.
Today, however, the tables have been turned. The black community provides the lynch mob, the police community provides the culprit. We find the black community trying to bring about change, establish control and assert power, along with a willingness to cover-up wrongdoing by anyone in the community when necessary.
My point has nothing to do with race or racial divisions. Quite the contrary. My point has everything to do with our common humanity. We are encountering a shared sociological phenomenon. A shared psychological phenomenon. We are encountering a shared human phenomenon. People are responding – as humans and human communities do – to a perceived threat.
Still, mobs were bad for our nation in the past, they are bad for our nation in the present, and they will be bad for our nation in the future if they are allowed to persist. Mob rule is no rule, and anarchy is no way to live. Yet we have reason to be optimistic.
That black Americans in early twenty-first century America feel empowered enough to form what is in effect a lynch mob is a sign of progress. That we still divide ourselves into racial communities is a sign we still have much work to do. We cannot rest until we live in a society where all lives matter, regardless of skin color.