On this day we remember the fallen, the victims, made powerless unto death by the raging violent fires produced by jet fuel and burning debris that felled two or three major towers and with them a nation. The occupants of those buildings and the passengers in those airplanes are gone, all gone, some in the blink of an eye while others, unknown others, panicked and watched as the clock ticked against their favor. We recall their phone calls for help, the rushing to and fro of emergency vehicles, firefighters looking up at the buildings, building occupants looking down at certain death, and others, in desperation, reaching for a less terrifying death by jumping from building windows instead of being engulfed by flames.
I can recall the jumpers. Did they jump? Did they not just fall? Perhaps some slipped and fell, an accident understandable to all. The heat, the smoke, the deafening sound of fire bending steel, turning metal into bendable material is what they feared. Relief from the heat was found, if only for a moment, on the outside of a building, as some hanged from windows to call for help while gulping fresh air in hopes of extending life, well-knowing life itself was soon to end. Anything to extend those last moments by minutes, seconds, that undying hope never gone.
I remember them, one by one, falling. The camera would zoom in at first, uncertain if chairs or tables had made it through the slim windows down to the ground floor. Perhaps the newscasters too were unaware of what those falling objects were because the thought of falling bodies was inconceivable, unimaginable, impossible. No one would leap from such height outside of an impossible situation that made the leap the only option better or more acceptable than the one they were in. This, unfortunately, was that situation.
Cameras followed those falling objects until they disappeared from the frame behind buildings, continuing their descent, as their souls continued their ascent.
Other cameras still, closer to the towers were unfortunate enough to have their boom microphones pointed at the tower, and what sounded like oversized cement bags hitting concrete were the bodies of human beings as they were transformed in a split second from recognizable anatomies to distorted figures. Their structures liquidated, bent, torn, ripped, and blasted into a million pieces by the force and untamed power of gravity.
Adults were unable to understand the scene, the sight, the sound of bodies hitting concrete from a 100-hundred-story fall.
But my 11-year-old mind understood. I knew, though I didn’t acknowledge it at the time that I knew in my heart, and my soul was clear on the issue.
Those people jumped because it was the best thing for them to do at the time.
What opened those bodies up to the sky, spine, and ribcage visible, blood pooled and spattered, was not a leap of faith or a leap for a quicker and less painful death. What distorted those bodies was not suicide.
What made them, what forced their grotesque appearance was the evil that led them to such an end. Their bodies were violently transformed by evil long before they ever hit the floor, an evil we now recognize as terror.
19 men, some from Egypt, Lebanon, and most from Saudi Arabia were behind this attack, alongside the infamous CIA favorite, Osama Bin Laden. The nineteen souls placed it in their hearts that they were going to enact, so many thought, the cruelest and most successful terrorist attack on American soil against American citizens to bring the giant nation to its knees; to make the king of the world bleed.
These men were disintegrated in fire, pressure, heat, and explosions, alongside their victims. None survived.
The death toll, some estimate, from this harrowing day is 2,996.
Nearly three thousand souls perished within hours, some, immediately, the luckiest of all, died in the planes when they hit the towers, government buildings, and one, a field as passengers fought to regain control of the hijacked airliner turned missile.
Can we truly comprehend the pain behind this number? 2,996 souls, lost, forever, to terror?
On this day we remember the people whose lives were violently taken by terrorists.
Why must we limit our remembrance to the victims of 9/11?
That is the discoverable number of people; men, women, and children, who have lost their lives to white American terror from 1865 to 1950.
Imagine some 1,088 more souls on top of the 9/11 terror attack and now make them all Black Americans. Many of them are children.
That is how many souls were violently removed from this earth, innocent souls, sifted, by the wanton malevolence of white American terrorists who sought to eradicate a number of their fellow countrymen while terrorizing millions more.
But the difference, of course, is time. Time and culture. Within the United States of America, terror was no foreign concept. It was the means by which order or what they, those in power, understood as order, was maintained. Some uppity person of color would require correction and the only culturally acceptable practice to return them to a place of subservience, fear, and under caste, was, without question, the noose, the lynching tree, the shotgun barrel, the rope around one’s neck held by a man on a horse or tied to the back of a pick-up truck.
19 Middle Eastern men hijacked several planes and brought America to its knees, forcing the giant to reconsider its place in the world and reinforce its might overseas with impunity.
But from 1865 to 1950, some suspect to this day, this white American culture has hijacked the nation, some tens of millions of white Americans, working together to overthrow the threat of equality of the races through violent means.
The Equal Justice Initiative states that the most active lynching states were in the American Deep South:
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. The main perpetrators of these horrors on Black bodies, but not working alone. You must understand that white American culture worked jointly, through active and inactive violence, willful knowledge, or willful ignorance to justify these lynchings and later excuse and acquit the perpetrators, who in time became the legends and heroes of white power.
White Americans may believe that racial terror attacks were relegated to the former slave states, namely, the Confederate states of the South, not knowing or conveniently ignorant of the fact that this consorted act of national violence against minorities was endemic within the nation’s very fiber, from North to South, East to West.
Northern states, too, participated in scapegoating Black Americans, setting their bodies on fire and filling them with lead for spectators to awe and splurge in joy from. Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, and West Virginia all played an equal part in terrorizing Americans, yes, Americans, within their homeland for no other reason than they needed to make their claim to racial superiority more evidently supreme.
9/11’s 19 terrorists had a litany of reasons, true or false, to hate Americans. They used those reasons to justify their attack on hundreds and thousands of innocent American souls. If you would like to read Osama Bin Laden’s manifesto against America, feel free to look it up. I won’t showcase it here. My platform isn’t here to justify nor amuse the musings of a madman whose life was spent under the auspices of American intelligence elites and later in the caves and deserts of the middle east. His end, if it is true that he was hunted and killed, was his own doing. A life of violence leads, in the end, to a violent death.
But white Americans had six main reasons for terrorizing Black Americans, six reasons for hanging Black men, women, and children from trees for sport and pleasure, as EJI discovered:
- Lynchings that resulted from a wildly distorted fear of interracial sex.
- Lynchings in response to casual social transgressions.
- Lynchings based on allegations so serious violent crime.
- Public spectacle lynchings.
- Lynchings that escalated into large-scale violence targeting the entire African American community.
- Lynchings of sharecroppers, ministers, and community leaders who resisted mistreatment, which were most common between 1915 and 1940.
Those were the six reasons why.
American imperialism abroad led to the skewed perception of innocent Americans at home. Muslims, extremist Muslims to be exact, began to see all Americans in the same light, going about policing the world, mistreating minorities, and people of different faiths, bullying them out of their natural resources, or ousting them from the table where decisions about their national well-being were made. Some viewed America as the great satan, the global terror, the unstoppable force that required an immovable object to deter its greater access to world domination.
American foreign policy and extremist faith were the causes, some assume, behind the 9/11 attack.
But what were the causes behind racial lynchings and racial terror attacks against Black people in America?
Black Americans never sent Black citizens into white communities to terrorize them, thus invoking the ire of white citizens and matched and justified retribution.
Black Americans existed and that was enough reason to hang them from trees. As EJI notes, lynchings and racial terror emanated from accusations of interracial sex; social transgressions (so ambiguous, because it was, hint, Emmitt Till’s lynching for supposedly whistling at a white woman); allegations, not convictions, of serious crimes; because crowds loved lynchings; because crowds wanted to exact further violence upon Black communities and their members; lastly, Black community members refused to accept the violence laid upon their bodies and communities.
They were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. They were damned for existing on American soil.
There was nothing, not even an inkling of reason for the public, private, grouped, and individual killings of some 4,084 Black Americans.
Men, women, and yes, children and babies, murdered on American soil by white American terrorists, who… to this day, many of which are remembered as local heroes.
Nearly all escaped justice because their acts of violence were seen and accepted as a requirement of social passage, of righting wrongs, of reestablishing principles and order to an orderless, racially mixed, and equal society. This, of course, a threat to white rule.
I’ve written at length about racial terror in America from 1800 to 1900 in my article, Race Riots: An American Heritage — Part I.
I will in time write about racial terror in America from 1900 to date. The violence hasn’t stopped, I believe it has taken a break, in parts, as the socially accepted act of killing Black people in public has grown sour in the mouths of many Americans so many of them permit police officers to do it for them with impunity.
The devastating death of thousands of Americans in one day is terrorism, whereas the murder of thousands more is seen as something of a distant past, too far removed from our modern society whose many norms and social whims have since changed and adapted with the times.
On 9/11, terrorists killed Americans with planes and jet fuel.
In American history, white Americans have murdered Black Americans with just about every object and means accessible to them at the time.
We’ve demonized the devils behind the 9/11 attacks.
What then, shall we do with the memory and legacy of white American terrorists?
Were they devils, too?
On this day we remember those lost to Islamist extremism on American soil. We honor the victims, understand their cries for help, understand, further yet, their desperation in seeking refuge in suicide over being burned alive.
We remember. We will never forget.
We will never forget.
We will never… ever… forget.
But amnesia creeps and crawls to erase from our memory the thousands more killed by white terror.
White American terror.
And this, I believe, is because white supremacy is still alive within American life and policy making. We remember the victims of Islamist extremism but we’re deathly quiet about the murder of Black Americans.
Twenty-one years have passed since 9/11 and we continue to honor those fallen innocents.
How many years have passed and we seldom honor, nevertheless even mention, save for a post like this one, the public lynchings of thousands of innocent Black Americans?
EJI has calculated some 4,084 Black lynchings in America from 1865–1950. A couple of years off here or there.
Those were the numbers they were able to find. Newspaper clippings, police reports, postcards, and confessed and acquitted participants.
What, then, of the unknown number of white terror attacks? Those that escaped the ears of justice, the ones that never made it onto a notice board, the ones that happened in the dark of night, in the field, in the bush, in the swamps, in the deltas, in the wild west, in the mountains and valleys, rivers and at sea.
2,996 remembered, yearly.
4,084 (plus innumerable and unknowable more) forgotten and erased, yearly.
On this day we remember the victims of terror… the terror of every stripe, call, and creed.
On this day we remember the victims of white American terror.
May the victims of 9/11 rest in peace.
May the victims of white American terror find justice, in this life, in our time, through cultural changes, endemic cultural changes where we oust and condemn the images, symbols, and policies of white supremacy, repair and reallocate stolen property, funds, and futures, to the descendants of those victims.
And also in the next life, as those violent perpetrators face the unending consequence of their crimes against innocent Black Americans.
On this day… on this day…
On this day we remember.
We remember you.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. — Proverbs 31:8 NLT
Display image by Steve Harvey.