What happened next is so horrific and inhumane that I struggled with whether I should even write it. Tears obscure my vision as I write these words, yet, as America tries to ignore the bloody stain of a white supremacy as ubiquitous as it is haunting, we need to bear witness to Mary Turner. We cannot forget what she endured. It is certainly not reveling at the specter of black death to prevent time and the institutional white-washing of history to erase Turner from our collective memory, thereby retroactively saying that her life did not matter. We need to know what happened. But please understand that what comes next is triggering. What you read, you cannot unread; the mental images created, you cannot unsee.
People in this country like to think themselves as being above this kind of gruesome violence; as if the genocides we witness in other countries could never happen here. We’ve built an entire ethos on the notion of American moral exceptionalism. In fact, recent Congressional hearings about Gina Haspel, the intelligence officer nominated by the 45th president of the United States to be the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, was all about discovering if she would live up to the moral expectations of citizens of this country. What Mary Turner and the subsequent silence about what happened in Georgia in 1918 teaches us is that America, at best, is morally compromised and, at worst, morally bankrupt.
I mentioned Mary Turner in an article this MLK Day, alongside Emmett Till and Ossian Sweet. You probably know who Till was. Turner? Click through to this post on Very Smart Brothas to read what became of her.
America is, in its contemporary conception, a fraud. It is a failed expression of an idea never quite realized and, as we read the words above, moving away from the ideal many of its people believe we’ve already obtained. Fools.
Keep dreamin’ that American dream. That’s all it is. May the scales fall from your eyes.