Has lynch law returned?

Whether it was murder or suicide, the grim spectacle of a Mississippi teen's death shows that interracial dating is still taboo -- in the minds of blacks as well as whites.

Topics:

Has lynch law returned?

The discovery of Raynard Johnson’s body hanging from a pecan tree in the front yard of his Kokomo, Miss., home last month stirred fears among many blacks that lynch law had again reared its ugly head.

Johnson’s family openly disputed the coroner’s ruling that their 17-year-old son was a suicide. They said he was murdered for dating a white girl.

Underlying their bitter charge was the recognition that Johnson, an African-American, had presumably violated America’s oldest and most enduring taboo: black males having sexual relations with white females. And while civil rights leaders quickly joined the clamor over his death, lost in the shouting is the fact that relationships between black men and white women have become increasingly controversial in black circles, too.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson insists Johnson’s death has the earmarks of a lynching. The NAACP hired a private investigator, and the Southern Poverty Law Center noted that the Klan had long used white fears of black men raping white women to terrorize blacks.

There is no tangible evidence that Johnson’s death was anything other than a suicide.

Indeed, many found the idea that he had been lynched for dating a white girl absurd. They point to a sevenfold increase in black and white marriages since 1960 — there are now an estimated 1.5 million interracially married couples. But these account for only a tiny fraction of total marriages, and the overwhelming majority live in multiracial urban areas.

Older blacks still have vivid memories of the lynch murders of 14-year-old Emmett Till for allegedly whistling at a white woman in 1955 and Mack Charles Parker for the alleged rape of a white woman in 1959. As late as the mid-1950s, interracial marriage was a felony offense in 30 states, with heavy fines and prison terms. Six years after the Supreme Court struck down school segregation in 1954, 29 states still outlawed black-white marriages. Maryland and Nevada went further, banning all sexual contact between blacks and whites.

The civil rights movement and the political emergence of Asian and African nations, however, made anti-miscegenation laws a political liability and the Supreme Court in 1967 finally dumped them. This did not sound the death knell for the taboo. Though legally unenforceable, bans on interracial marriages remained on the books in 12 states in 1979.



This week a New York Times poll offered new insight into black and white attitudes toward the taboo. Almost two-thirds of whites, and four-fifths of blacks, said they approved of interracial marriage. But the figure for whites jumped by 50 percent, while the black number edged up more slowly, from 70 to 79 percent.

In 1996, an informal survey in Ebony magazine found 40 percent of black women and 25 percent of black men saying they would not date a person of another race.

Hollywood and the TV industry are still unenlightened. They avoid showing black men and white women in intimate relations, mainly for fear of offending mostly white audiences and sponsors. But again, some black stars are reluctant to play romantic roles opposite white women — the most recent example being Eriq LaSalle, Dr. Peter Benton in NBC’s “ER,” who asked writers to terminate his relationship with a white doctor because his character had never had a successful relationship with a black woman. (This past season, Benton’s girlfriend was black.)

Just last week “Sex and the City” showed a hot liaison between Samantha and a black boyfriend, but it ended when the boyfriend’s black sister made clear she wouldn’t stand for his dating a white women.

Anti-miscegenation laws may be buried, and Americans may be more tolerant toward interracial sex, so the notion that someone can be murdered for dating someone of a different race seems far-fetched. But the fact that so many blacks are instantly willing to think the worst about Johnson’s death, and that so many Americans, black and white, still express fears about white women and black men dating and marrying, should remind us that this oldest of taboos is alive and well.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a contributor to Pacific News Service and the author of "The Crisis in Black and Black."

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>