We are writing to condemn the message of the anti-abortion protest that took place outside the Commons this week.
Yes, we certainly wouldn’t want to give anyone the impression that a modern university is a place where opposing viewpoints are welcomed and debated.
In particular, we are disturbed by the equation of those who support women’s reproductive rights with those who lynched thousands of African American men and women in the 19th and 20th centuries.
It is an unfair comparison. Between 1882-1968 approximately 3,446 blacks, along with 1,297 whites, were lynched in this country. That is less than a morning’s work in the abortion clinics of this country.
We do not condemn the protest itself; in fact, we believe that the right to peaceably assemble is one of the foundational rights of American citizenship.
I am sure there is a “but” coming.
However, as historians, we feel it is imperative to speak out against this crass, uninformed and dangerous misuse of history.
Yep, I am certain it is the purity of History, and not voices raised against your right to slay your offspring, that has your knickers in a twirl.
From the end of the Civil War through the mid-20th century, white lynch mobs throughout the United States, although mostly in the South, deliberately and with extraordinary malice, terrorized and murdered African Americans under the pretense of “protecting” white womanhood from the supposed threat of rape by black men.
Actually, lynch mobs had various motivations. In regard to blacks, one of the chief motivations immediately after the Civil War was to ensure that black Republicans did not vote, lynch mobs often acting as the terrorist arm of the Democrat Party, the party of abortion today. The Republicans in Congress and in the White House made attempt after attempt to pass federal legislation against lynching, some 200 bills being introduced between 1882 to 1968. Each time the legislation was blocked by Southern Democrats in the Senate.
Of course, this mock chivalry was just a ruse. Lynchers could not imagine a world in which a white woman might choose to love a black man, and no doubt some of those lynched were guilty only of crossing the South’s prohibition against consensual interracial sex.
Lynchings involving accusations of rape were almost always based upon a white woman making the charge of rape. Of course that is an inconvenient fact for the professors, so they don’t mention that.
Others were simply guilty of owning their own land or trying to make a way for their families. Regardless, all of them paid the price for the white South’s brutal effort to control not only black bodies but white female ones, as well.
Oh give me a break. The idea that white females making accusations of rape were merely pawns in the hands of male lynch mobs is feminist clap trap and has virtually no basis in the historical record.
The inability to see women as capable of making decisions about their own sexuality. The use of violent, inaccurate, and misleading imagery. The pretense of protection. Anti-abortion protesters appear to have a lot in common with those who supported lynching.
Only if one views history as through a glass, darkly, combined with a bad case of feminist stigmatism. Pro-lifers of course wish to stop the slaughter of black babies just as they wish to stop the slaughter of all babies. No doubt the professors would view the main problem with Kermit Gosnell as being, not that he slaughtered hundreds, maybe thousands, of nearly full term black babies, but that his case threatens the sacred rite of abortion.
We applaud vigorous, thoughtful debate and protest.
Sure you do, so long as the debate and protest agrees with you.
It is the lifeblood of democracy. However, this kind of political action requires much deliberation, which unfortunately was missing from yesterday’s anti-abortion protest.
I would certainly hope that anyone undertaking political action engages in much more deliberation than you put into this letter.
If students wish to learn more about the history of racial and sexual violence, including lynching, we welcome them to take any of our classes.
Thanks for closing on a humorous note.
Susan Cahn, Professor of History
Carole Emberton, Assistant Professor of History
Theresa Runstedtler, Assistant Professor of American Studies
Lakisha Simmons, Assistant Professor of Global Gender Studies
Victoria Wolcott, Professor of History
Jason Young, Associate Professor of History Continue Reading