Ida B. Wells: The Legacy of Lynching

Introduction

Ida B. Wells was born to a family of slave parents who went through hard times in the south. Ida’s parents had to bring her up under hardships to give her education and a livelihood during her younger years (Rings, 2013). Ida was exposed to the atrocities of the Ku Klux Klan before she was able to read. With the available oral history and guided by those who were close to her, Ida began a journey that explored the extent of racism in the south. The brutalities she met pushed her to write an article fighting for the abomination of lynching practiced by whites against people of color in the south (Wells-Barnett, 2005). No paper has the convincing power that matches the words of Ida’s work. Many of the latter works were feeble in comparison. Ida’s paper gave the public what they wanted to know accompanied by factual ideologies. Ida’s paper deals with facts using a painstaking fidelity that leaves her words oozing with power. The naked facts tell their own story, doing Ida’s work a service that one cannot weigh or measure. According to Wells-Barnett (2005), Ida’s pamphlet can touch the door of heaven, only if the church in America were half-Christianized or if the continuous infliction of people of color did not harden the hearts of people. However, this is not possible, since crime possesses reproductive power, and generates only conditions that favor its existence.

Racism and Christian morals

In her authoritative piece, ‘the Red Record,’ Ida pioneers several strategies that enable her to speak up openly about the oppression of blacks. Ida appeals to Christian morals to give the article an international dimension capable of seething through the layers of narratives on lynching laws (Rings, 2013). Ida breaks through the narratives singularly to make unlawful lynching the subject in the paper. Ida explores the assumption of the racialized moral economy, which assumes that whites are naturally virtuous and moral. Ida confronts the morality that the media associates with whites as good Christians (Rings, 2013). The artist confronts this assumption by revealing the hypocrisy beneath their claims as they engage in criminality, but hide under the guise of law and order. Ida reframes the narrative and argues that the issue of Christianity does not divide the line between blacks and whites. Ida divides the group with Christian morals against those without Christian morals. Ida is not shy to affirm that priests deny their moral authority when they defend lynch mobs (Wells-Barnett, 2005). This is a brutal falsehood in the Christians themselves, similar to an argument of a man in demon form who batters a child.

Engaging the international community

Ida realized that lynching was not only synonymous with the South or the US alone, but spread to other regions. Ida visited England to champion anti-lynching campaigns that most people were not aware existed (Wells-Barnett, 2005). This gave her necessary support that she required to continue in her campaigns, as she shamed the whites for not speaking up against the inhumanities in the south. She put the south out to the whole world to decide if the acts were just or a violation of humanity. Her narrative grabbed outsiders’ attention as they added their voice to the core of the problem (Wells-Barnett, 2005). The excuse that people around the world faced the same problems disappeared, leaving the disenfranchised to realize that there was more to life than they knew. The way the media reacted shows that her efforts to shame the criminal perpetrators worked by raising awareness for the crimes. Ida’s campaign efforts had the central theme of a united front against the evil associated with race and prejudice.

The media turns attention to Ida

According to the Washington Post, ‘little could be done, if people waited around for Miss Wells who was out collecting funds through misrepresentations of her country’. This strong attack from the media house in 1893 was the struggle towards the idea that America was able to handle its efforts to end lynching internally (Rings, 2013). The newspaper reminded Ida of her country using sentiments that pictured her as a deserter from her family. The article downplays the reality of segregation during the late 1890s. According to Copeland (2010), Americans was intent on letting the outsider know that everything was fine on the inside and that unnecessary attention was uncalled for as the country was doing well. During the periods, the amount of space that the articles dedicated to publishing efforts meant to end the unlawful practices was minimal when compared to the space given to condemning Ida Wells. The priorities that openly favored the status quo were glaringly visible. The attack on Ida worked to shift attention away from the crime of lynching to their causes. However, Ida countered these claims and stated firmly that each person was accorded equal rights to a fair trial to allow them defend themselves (Copeland, 2010). Ida was clear that she was not defending crime, but speaking for the rights of the blacks. She openly revealed the act of lynching as a crime that fellow humans perpetrated on the other human.

Blacks as inferiors through the media’s eyes

During the 1860s, white engaged in a complex political, legal, educational control that influenced mass media institutions. Whites birthed the inferiority process, with the mass media at their advantage (Schechter, 2007). They influenced the media into producing the dysfunctional patterns of behavior among blacks in all aspects of their lives. The inferiority process involved a media propagated black socialism that viewed them as lesser people could not solve national problems. Under the media advocated system of white supremacy, whites were functional superiors. In the system, whites provided solutions to the environment (Copeland, 2010). Blacks were dejected for their inability to contribute meaningfully to their homes due to joblessness, felony conviction, inability contribute to societal change, and expectations to cope with desperation.

The Media turns a blind eye

Many scholars credit investigative journalism to Ida’s professional passion that brought out words in beautiful writing. Ida stood tall over her peers and reported courageously while speaking the truth in power (Schechter, 2007). Ida discarded her life to the wind and began documenting the lynching that plagued the black society towards the end of the 1800s. The intense media coverage following the murder of Michael Brown brought to light the police department’s poor leadership practices, when they failed to provide details of the behavior of the victim and that of the officer at the scene (Schechter, 2007). Americans voiced their outrage at the police department after Wilson’s hands killed Michael. The death of Michael Brown challenged Americans who were not bound by traditional politics to begin what Ida did. Today, politicians speak in ways that challenge law enforcement officials to look at the stereotypes that they embrace. These stereotypes block the thinking of law enforcers and often lead to death of an innocent or guilty citizen (Wells-Barnett, 2005). New and diverse voices have sprung up across all types of media to speak in a similar spirit as Ida. New leaders crop up with words that enrich public discourse and the media is awash with informed journalists who have the sole will of getting the truth out into the public. Media personalities are speaking out glaringly about the vice of racism using notable authority to air their views.

Conclusion

As a journalist, Ida was able to risk her life advocating for an end to lynching in America. The lynching of close associates in the south pushed Ida towards a reaction that would bring these vices to light. The lynching sparked the beginning of anti-lynching crusades across the South. The lynching was an impetus for exploring the wretched rights of the Jim Crow era. Ida relentlessly pursued the ideal, thereby giving birth to ‘The Red Record,’ which reports the findings of her investigations. It is sad that in an age where information is abundantly available and storable in microchips that the story remains locked in the analogue era. One can only imagine the impact of the investigative piece if today’s technology and media strategies were applied to the piece. Ida eloquently launched an anti-lynching crusade that was determined to end the suffering of the people. The press was available to her as a resource to advocate for rights of the disenfranchised. These texts were the beginning of the journey towards the civil rights movement.

References

Copeland, D. (2010). The Media’s Role in Defining the Nation: The Active Voice. Switzerland: Peter Lang.

Rings, J. (2013). Ida B. Wells breaking the narratives supporting Lynch law. Web.

Schechter, P. S. (2007). Biography of Ida B. Wells. Web.

Wells-Barnett, I. B. (2005). The Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States. Web.