Race Based Terrorism Has a Long History in the United States

Fifty two years ago today, James Chaney, a black man, Michael Schwerner, a Jew, and Andrew Goodman, a white man, were murdered by terrorists in Mississippi, USA. These men were part of “Freedom Summer”, a voter registration and education campaign organized by the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) to educate Black people about the political process and register them to vote.

The long-standing white terrorist organization, the KuKluxKlan, recently associated with the current GOP presumptive presidential nominee, was implicated in their deaths. The bodies of the three men were found in an earthen dam after they were stopped by local police, let go, and then followed out of town.

The Mississippi Attorney General announced yesterday that the investigation into the deaths of the three civil rights workers has been closed. One person was convicted for manslaughter in the case. The Attorney General cited difficulties in the investigation including “enduring reluctance among some to speak to the authorities [that] made the likelihood of more  prosecutions remote”. According to a 48 page report released by the U.S. Justice Department on Monday, “the willingness of surviving witnesses to cooperate fully rather than minimizing their knowledge with false denials or feigned memory problems is a factor to consider.”

One hundred and one years ago today (June 21, 1915), the United States Supreme Court ruled that “grandfather clauses”, used by some states to keep African Americans from voting, were unconstitutional.  Many states continued to use ‘grandfather clauses’ and other measures (poll taxes, literacy tests) to insure that only white people  (who often did not have to take the literacy test) could vote.

These measures, along with laws designed to restrict the participation of People of The Global Majority (African, Asian, Latina/o and Native American Heritage People), refusing to pass laws overturning barriers to participation, hate speech, and physical violence, are some of the ways that race based terrorism is kept alive in these United States.

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