Opinion | Ahmaud Arbery and the Ghosts of Lynchings Past – By George Yancy – The New York Times


Mr. Yancy is a philosophy professor and author.

Credit…Gamma-Keystone, via Getty Images

“Well before the tragic killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a young black man, in Glynn County, Ga., on Feb. 23, I had a conversation with a very close white friend of mine. She wanted to exercise outside. I preferred the treadmill. I told her that I find it easier to walk or jog on the treadmill. She insisted the air is better for me. Again, I protested. Yet, I had not disclosed the whole truth.

You see, we live in a predominantly white neighborhood in Georgia. And while I’ve not experienced any overt in-person racial incidents here, I often remind myself that Georgia seceded from the Union in 1861. Being here, I often forget. And while I love Georgia’s beautiful flora and weather, my enjoyment of it is always muted by the persistent reminders — in the form of plantations, antebellum architecture and Confederate flags — of the state’s brutal past.

My white friend had no knowledge that Sam Hose, who was accused of killing a white man and sexually assaulting his wife and child (the last two accusations being false), was lynched in 1899 in Coweta County, Ga. According to reports, Hose’s fingers, ears and genitals were cut off, as was the skin from his face as some 2,000 white spectators watched. He was eventually burned to death and his body parts were sold. My friend didn’t have to deal with the knowledge of the lynching, in Lowndes County, Ga., in 1918 of innocent Mary Turner, a young black woman, who was eight months pregnant. Turner was hung by her ankles as her body was burned and as she cried out. After her cloths burned off, a white man cut her baby from her abdomen as onlookers watched the baby fall to the ground. A white man crushed its tiny form under his boot. You see, Georgia is stained with the blood of black bodies.”