I’m going to open this post with the fact that I was not planning on writing about the topic I am about to share. Our discussion on whether fictional stories about historic events really interested me, and I wanted to explore that further. However, when we walked out of class on Wednesday, I still had one burning question – and maybe it is not answerable at all: where did the oversized myth of African American men’s attacks on white women (specifically rape) come from? When did it start? If you have an answer, please let me know. We know who perpetuated the myth. It was the white American men who participated in lynch mobs and all of the white citizens that lived in fear of this fake fact. But when and how did it start?
I know that black-on-white rape threatened the American patriarchy because it was thought that abusing “our women” would degrade white men’s masculinity and power. But how did this thought start? I simply think it is strange that the first thing to pop into white men’s heads after black men were freed was: women! Why wasn’t it: jobs! Money! Who will work for me?! Space! All of these were actual issues during this time period and up until the Civil Rights Era, but women became a leading reason (fake or not) to lynch African American men. I still ask how this all started.
I decided to do a quick search on the internet to find any scholarly opinions on the fact, and was stunned at what I found. Not only was the internet completely unhelpful (no big surprise there), but the top ten websites that appeared after a Google search were white supremacist. I certainly do not want to advocate that you give any of these sites any of your time, but try a quick search and see what comes up.
Instead of discussing fiction and American history, which I really like to do (I wrote my undergraduate thesis on fiction and American masculinity during war time) I felt a need to call attention to this issue on the internet. Perhaps the lynch mobs have disappeared, but the perpetuation of this myth of African American men’s rape of white women continues today. For instance, the first website to come up was for “Stormfront,” which I had never heard of before now. Stormfront is a white supremacist group that has an online community and even a forum. I wanted to spend the time this week to recognize the fact that although most of the gruesome violence has gone away, the hatred and ignorance still survives today. In fact, they are using the internet to share their ideas just as we are using it to share ours.
Is it possible to educate people differently? What can we say to make racist citizens understand issues differently? Do you think there is any harm in having websites like this, those that write and project obvious lies or fractions of the truth? Is it better, worse, or equal to have white supremacists in hiding rather than out in the open as mobs? Society in America today has changed how racists voice their opinions and how they act in public. But how can society change their minds?
 Image from: “Fibre Intermediates Achives,” ICIS, <http://www.icis.com/blogs/asian-chemical-connections/fibre-intermediates/>, Accessed 20 March 2010.