Racial Violence in the United States, 1863 to Present

Lenny Kravitz "Does Anybody Out There Even Care?"

From Let Love Rule. 1989.

Coming to Grips with the Extent of Racial Violence in America

"Settler colonialism is a genocidal policy....The objective of US colonialist authorities was to terminate [Native nations'] existence as peoples - not as random individuals....The United States as a socioeconomic and political entity is a result of this centuries-long and ongoing colonial process....To say that the United States is a colonialist settler-state is not to make an accusation but rather to face historical reality, without which consideration not much in US history makes sense....Settler colonialism, as an institution or system, requires violence or the threat of violence to attain its goals. People do not hand over their land, resources, children, and futures without a fight, and that fight is met with violence. In employing the force necessary to accomplish its expansionist goals, a colonizing regime institutionalizes violence."

---Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States. 2014.

"The roundups in the Pacific Northwest occurred from 1850 to 1906....The purges of the Chinese in the American West bring to my mind Kristallnacht, the night in 1938 when Nazi Germany violently exposed its intention to remove the Jews....The expulsions of the Chinese from California towns in the nineteenth century anticipated the history of Poland and Greece in the 1930s and 1940s and, more recently of Rwanda, Indonesia, and Bosnia....Surely the term expulsion doesn't fully represent the rage and violence of these purges. What occurred along the Pacific Coast, from the gold rush through the turn of the century was ethnic cleansing. The Chinese called the roundups in the Pacific Northwest pai hua - the Driven Out."

---Jean Pfaelzer, Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans. 2007.

"The problem grows more complicated when we talk about racial cleansings....In 1908, [Ray Stannard Baker]...called what he saw 'Driving out Negroes.' Others have used terms like 'banishment,' 'forced to flee,' or 'expulsions.' The problem with these phrases is that they describe only the act, not the policy. Nazis murdered Jews, but what was going on was not just murder. It was genocide, the policy of killing a whole class of people....Words and terms are born out of a need to describe the world. But because the victors, who get to write the history, had little need to describe the fate of the conquered, the words did not exist soon enough to describe and ultimately prevent the wholesale destruction of black communities in America."

---Elliot Jaspin, Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America. 2007.
[Ed. note. - Jaspin is not equating 'genocide' and 'racial cleansing' in terms of the extent of their means, so when he says 'the wholesale destruction of black communities' he does not mean that they were wholly liquidated. He does mean that with some violence and the ever-present threat of violence, almost entire black communities, over areas as big as many counties, were driven from their homes and told never to return changing the demography of these areas for decades at the least, with all the suffering that entailed for those families.]

Wounded Knee burial Wounded Knee lynching photo
Duluth lynching postcard Tulsa race riot 1921 Tulsa race riot 1921
1943 Little Rock mobs KKK
Oxford Mississippi 1962 water cannons Birmingham police dogs 1963
New York riot 1964 Harlem riot 1964
Watts riots L.A. riots 1992