Mary Turner was lynched on May 19.
1918 because she dared raise her voice. Her husband, Hayes Turner,
was among 13 people lynched in two weeks in and around Valdosta,
Georgia. The lynchings took place because one brutal white man, who
was known to abuse workers so severely that he was only able to
attract workers by getting them through the convict labor system,
beat the wrong Black man too many times. Sidney Johnson shot and
killed the brutal Hampton Smith, and in response the white people of
the area started apprehending, beating, and lynching Black men
believed to be associated with Sidney Johnson (even though many of
those lynched were not). Mary Turner was nineteen years old and eight
months pregnant, and her husband was lynched. She openly denounced
the lynchings and threatened to have the men who killed her husband
Mary Turner's lynching, an investigative reporter stated that Turner
was lynched because she made "unwise remarks." The mob, it
was reported, "took exception to her remarks as well as her
attitude." Her "defiant voice" was the impetus for mob
retaliation. The mob action was particularly brutal. Mary Turner was
hung by her ankles, lowered face down from a tree. Her clothing was
set afire while she was alive. When she was dead, one of the mobsters
slit her belly open, and her fetus came out, landing in a pool of
blood. Then the sick and brutal white men crushed the infant's skull.
women have been, too often, cautioned to be silent, to be demure, not
to rock the boat. And Mary Turner's lynching reminds us that mouthy
Black women often suffer the consequence of their vocality. The 45th
President of the United States stands in the shadow of the men who
silenced Mary Turner with his vicious and vile attacks on Black
women. From Congresswoman Maxine Waters to Congresswoman Fredricka
Whitfield, to journalists April Ryan, Abby Phillips and Yamiche
Alcindor, this man neither has the grace or the gravitas to interact
with these brilliant and amazing Black women. Now, here he goes
again, spewing his filth. He suggested that four fresh women members
of Congress, the self-described "Squad" of Congresswomen
Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, "go back to where they came from."
He amplified and attacked the women so vociferously (and
inaccurately, but that's another story) that one of the mobs, I mean
crowds, that attended one of his rallies began to chant "Send
of the four members of the Squad were born in the United States.
Ilhan Omar is a naturalized citizen and member of Congress. The
President is out of line and out of order, but that's nothing new.
What is new is that he's stopped dog-whistling his racism and now
just shouts it out. And sometimes retreats. Five days after his
offensive tweets, he claims he did not incite his crowd and instead
tried to shut the racist chants down. Films of the mob at his rally
Omar and the other members of the Squad have had their lives
threatened, sometimes by identifiable Trump supporters. We can't
expect 45 to repudiate the threats. After all, he thought there were
"good people on both sides" in Charlottesville when Heather
Heyer was killed. So we aren't surprised that he let the vitriolic
chants of "send her back" to go on for more than 13 seconds
before they died down naturally (he did nothing to stop them, nor did
he comment at the time).
something happens to Ilhan Omar, our 45th President will be
responsible. If something happens to any of the Squad, it will be the
result of our putrid President and the silent Republicans who are
reluctant to tell this man he is wrong. It took a full day after his
offensive "go back" tweet for a handful of Republicans to
speak up and say something.
the white men who lynched Mary Turner, our President "takes
exception to her remarks as well as her attitude." Without
accusing Mr. Trump of lynching, one can accuse Mr. Trump of being a
racist and hostile to Black women. Ilhan Omar isn't the first he went
after, and she won't be the last.
Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib
had better not shut up. They need to continue to raise their loud,
discordant, disruptive voices to make our country a better, more
inclusive nation. They must raise their voices because Ida B. Wells
did, and she paid the price. Because Shirley Chisholm did, and she
paid the price. Because Barbara Lee did and got death threats as a
result. Because Maxine Waters does, despite attacks and ridicule.
Mary Turner chafed at her husband's lynching, and she paid the
ultimate price. But the story of her lynching should strengthen us
all. We must surround the Squad with support. We need more mouthy
women to challenge patriarchal predatory white supremacy. There must
not be another Mary Turner.