Wednesday, September 25, 2013

When historical comparisons go wrong and are truly insulting

This is an example of when historical comparisons go wrong.

AIG Exec: Public Outrage Over Bonuses 'Just As Bad' As Lynchings In The South

This  insulting historical comparison was made by American International Group chief executive as a response to the public's demand for more accountability. Robert Benmosche compared the outrage in Washington to the lynchings that occurred in the Deep South in the last half of the century. 

The idea that these two events are comparable is one that I cannot embrace because the historical context of lynching Black people goes way beyond a demand for accountability from a corporation that has been cited for having a role in the economic collapse within the US. The idea of a white male daring to suggest that a corporation is being terrorized on the same level as Black people is an example of delusional white supremacist thinking.  

If this man actually knew the history of lynching in the US, he would not have been so quick to make this inappropriate comparison.  He would have known that anti lynching activist, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, did in-depth research and wrote extensively on the lynching of Black males that dispelled the false notion that when Black men were lynched it was due to the fact that they were raping white women, which was the long standing justification for this type of domestic terrorism. 

This practice of hanging folks to death was not limited to just the male portion of the population. Women and children were also lynched.

Wells and other anti-lynching activists provided proof that lynching was based on racist attitudes. I am not seeing this indicator in AIG's story at all. Demands for being  accountable for the type of economic practices used is not a form of lynching, it is the result of AIG's shoddy practices in the past. It is not racially motivated! 

There is also another historical factor that is overlooked in this statement. At no time while lynchings were occurring in the US, did the government intervene on behalf of black people!   No anti-lynching legislation was ever passed by the Congress of this nation.  AIG received help when the need was obvious and things looked dire. A bailout of $85 billion dollars. The surviving family members of lynching victims receive no monetary compensation whatsoever. An apology was issued in 2006 by Congress for failing to enact any anti-lynching legislation and that was supposed to make us feel better about this long reign of domestic terrorism.

The uproar over bonuses “was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitch forks and their hangman nooses, and all that–sort of like what we did in the Deep South [decades ago]. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong.

I have yet to see any reports of mobs with nooses in hand coming to AIG and taking anyone out of their offices and lynching them to death. There are no post cards featuring lynched executives or staff members of AIG. However, if he Googled the subject of lynching he would find a gruesome montage of picture postcards with black bodies hanging from the limbs of trees with white people looking on.
 If Robert Benmosche thinks that demanding accountability is in the same realm as actual lynch mob, he needs to really consider his level of ignorance instead of harping on how the public and congressional members lack a true understanding of AIG's plight. 

If  American History was inclusive instead of tailored to give a narrow lens of how events occurred in this nation, this type of comparison would not have rolled of Benmosche's lips so easily. He would have known that to make such a statement is not only inaccurate it is also insulting to the Black people of this nation. 

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