HAU

Another country? Racial hatred in the time of Trump: A time for historical reckoning

Nancy Scheper-Hughes

Abstract


The contentious confirmation hearings of Trump’s pick for US Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions, barely opened the can of worms regarding Sessions’ indifference toward allegations of summary executions of poor black victims in southwest Alabama during his term of office as federal attorney for Southern Alabama. During his two years Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama (1975) and his twelve years as US Attorney for the same district, Sessions was accused of demeaning his black associates, expressing hostility toward civil rights organizations and rights workers, and ignoring complaints by black citizens who had been blocked from voting in their rural counties. Sessions oversaw the executions of mentally and cognitively disabled people, and he supported grossly unequal distribution of public funds, favoring private white schools over predominately black public schools. What has not been addressed, however, are the reports by local civil rights workers and local witnesses of post–civil rights era “lynchings” of black martyrs in southwest Alabama from the late 1960s into the 1980s. The article is based on my and my civil rights colleagues’ investigative research work that accidentally and serendipitously led us to three cases of likely death squad-like attacks in southwest Alabama in the late 1970s and 1980s. The article also addresses the stigma of place and its impact on the people who live in communities that are seen as backwater or as lacking in cultural or symbolic capital, such as Trump’s early upbringing in Queens, New York City, and Jeff Sessions’ upbringing in Camden, Alabama.


Keywords


Alabama, civil rights, racial hatred, Jeff Sessions, lynchings, Trump biography

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14318/hau7.1.032