After recording the fourth episode of the podcast my dad, who for those who don’t know is my co-host on the show, told me that he had never before, on any of his recordings that he’s done on Cloud TNT or Herstory 101, felt as close to crying. I understood the feeling as the content of that episode was horrifying but incredibly important to know about and people don’t seem to know.
The episode was about Ida B. Wells, princess of the press and anti-lynching activist. She published information about the torturous lynchings in a book called Southern Horrors.
I was talking to my dad before the recording of the podcast and I asked him what he thought a lynching was like and he described a, in comparison to the truth, rather serene and peaceful image of a man being hung from a tree. This did happen sometimes and wasn’t incredibly peaceful or serene but it was far from the truth of what a lynching actually is.
She wrote about how lynching was a spectacle to many: In 1893 she wrote about the lynching of Henry Smith who had iron brands placed on his body for almost an hour and burned his eyes out and thrust red hot irons down his throat.
They set him on fire and when he jumped out of the fire pit (alive!) they pushed him back in.
They made a watch charm from his kneecap, his clothes were kept as mementos, photographers sold postcards of the lynching and sold recordings of his screams.
(taken from Herstory 101 episode 104 show notes)
This idea is not something that my dad came up with in his head, it is something that he was probably taught somewhere and once again this shows an erasure of history that Americans can not handle because it means once again feeling empathy for people who certain Americans don’t like.
Another such example of history being too horrible for people to want to acknowledge, or the history involving people who for many years have gone unacknowledged, is the persecution of homosexuals, specifically gay men, by the Nazi’s.
Pierre Seel wrote the following about his time in a Nazi concentration camp for the “crime” of being gay.
“One day the loudspeakers order us to report immediately to the roll-call. Shouts and yells urged us to get there without delay. Surrounded by SS men, we had to form a square and stand at attention, as we did for the morning roll call. The commandant appeared with his entire general staff. I assumed he was going to bludgeon us once again with his blind faith in the Reich, together with a list of orders, insults and threats – emulating the infamous outpourings of his master, Adolf Hitler. But the actual ordeal was worse: an execution. Two SS men brought a young man to the center of out square. Horrified, I recognized Jo, my loving friend, who was only eighteen years old. I hadn’t previously spotted him in the camp. Had he arrived before or after me? We hadn’t seen each other during the days before I was summoned by the Gestapo.
“Now I froze in terror. I had prayed that he would escape their lists, their roundups, their humiliations. And there he was before my powerless eyes, which filled with tears. Unlike me, he had not carried dangerous letters, torn down posters, or signed any statements. And yet he had been caught and was about to die. What had happened? What had the monsters accused him of? Because of my anguish I have completely forgotten the wording of the death sentence.
“The the loudspeakers broadcast some noisy classical music while the SS stripped him naked and shoved tin pail over his head. Next they sicced their ferocious German Shepherds on him: the guard dogs first bit into his groin and thighs, then devoured him right in front of us. His shrieks of pain were distorted and amplified by the pail in which his head was trapped. My rigid body reeled, my eyes gaped at so much horror, tears poured down my cheeks, I fervently prayed that he would black out quickly.
(taken from Pierre Seel via Fordham University)
And yet when the holocaust victims were bein acknowledged it took years for homosexuals to make the list despite the horrific conditions they endured and the many accounts saying that they were reviled and treated as the worst of the worst of all the inhabitants of the camp it was not until 2002 that Germany officially apologized to the gay community and not until 1985 that they were acknowledged as a victim of the holocaust.
Victims of the holocaust received compensation from the German government under the 1956 West Germany’s Federal Reparation Law for Victims of National Socialism but homosexuals put in concentration camps did not receive compensation. Some homosexuals were required to serve out the terms of their sentence (for being gay) regardless of the time spent in the concentration camp.
The point is that America and the world at large have a history of ignoring and keeping out of the public consciousness things that show Americans in a bad light or show the persecution of minorities in an honest, less window dressed, sort of way.