On March 19, 2015, the song “Hanging Tree” from the Hunger Games’ Mockingjay film hit too close to home for some people. Locals of Port Gibson, Mississippi could relate in their discovery of ex-convict Otis Byrd hanging from a white sheet within a tree. His reappearance was shocking and alarming, with Byrd having been placed on the missing-persons list for two weeks prior by his family. As of yet authorities are awaiting the update and results of his autopsy, possibly redirecting the origin of his placement and death towards motivations of lynching.
Byrd’s death also follows a hanging in Bladenboro, North Carolina. In Aug. of 2014, 17-year-old Lennon Lacy was found hanging from a swing set as a result of alleged lynching. This is presently under investigation by the FBI. Contrasting from the history of Byrd’s conviction for murder and theft, Lacy’s only apparent crime was his love for football, his hopes to be in the NFL and his relationship with 31-year-old Michelle Brimhall. According to Brimhall, she had received threats from her neighbors including signs and Confederate flags advocating against their inter-racial relationship.
Both of these individuals lived had diverse experiences, yet both ended in attempted suicide allegedly, and have been further investigated for foul play. These stories hit home for me for several reasons. First off, the deaths remind us as a nation when the Civil War took place, only a short 150 years ago. In the hopes of a free people the war was born, though upon its completion it was only until the 1950s and 60s that there was any true equality beginning to be found for individuals across the board.
Another reason that this becomes personal is the increasing feeling of unsettlement held by those in interracial relationships. As a young adult who is part of the “millennial” generation, I feel that we as a whole are increasingly less conscious of the skin tone of a person and focus upon the personality of those with whom we interact. I am hopeful for this and acknowledge that most of us come to be the first or second generation of our families open enough to being colorblind with society’s modern style of thought.
Not only am I in an interracial relationship, but I question the experiences which our son will experience as he ages. In observing racial discrimination through radio, as seen through Don Imus’ program, and its presence in acts such as the deaths of Byrd and Lacy, I fear for my child and his safety. More often than not, people have enough common sense to see that everyone puts their pants on the same way. The defining point becomes that with the surviving presence of the Klu Klux Klan, found in areas such as Bladenboro among other regions of the nation, I know that there are places which I could never travel to with my boyfriend or my son without risking danger.
While we await the investigative results of these individuals’ deaths, we must remember that there was sadness and death in order to find a peace of some sort. Despite the larger battles over oil and profit we now encounter, we as a nation should worry just as much about those within our own country to avoid seeing people hanging from our trees when we first wake. We must work together to support diversity for, if we continue to hate each other, we will barely be able to save our people as a whole. We must make the change, and now is the time if you didn’t start trying yesterday.