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How Does Racism Hurt Racists? The Case of Emmett Till

How does racism hurt racists? In many ways, actually. Here’s one:

The case of Emmett Till.

In 1955 this 14-year-old African-American left Chicago to visit his cousin in Mississippi.

One day his cousin dared him to flirt with a white woman. Accepting, he whistled at a woman who was working at a grocery counter, and called her “baby.”

Later that night the woman’s husband and his half-brother hunted Emmett down, kidnapped him, and the torture began. They cut off one of his ears, gouged out an eye, and put a bullet through his head before throwing him into a river.

The men were arrested. At the trial witnesses placed them at the site where Emmett was tortured, and the two men admitted the kidnapping.

But they faced a jury of white men in a Mississippi courtroom. After deliberating for less than an hour, they acquitted the case. One juror told a reporter, “If we hadn’t stopped to drink a pop, it wouldn’t have took that long.”

We easily see how racism hurt the young minority in this case. But how did it also hurt the white people who were involved?

When one person can torture another, with no conscience or concern, and when others dismiss the behavior, we see that racism dehumanizes its target, but it also dehumanizes the racist.

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How Does Racism Hurt Racists? The Case of Emmett Till

How does racism hurt racists? In many ways, actually. Here’s one:

The case of Emmett Till.

In 1955 this 14-year-old African-American left Chicago to visit his cousin in Mississippi.

One day his cousin dared him to flirt with a white woman. Accepting, he whistled at a woman who was working at a grocery counter, and called her “baby.”

Later that night the woman’s husband and his half-brother hunted Emmett down, kidnapped him, and the torture began. They cut off one of his ears, gouged out an eye, and put a bullet through his head before throwing him into a river.

The men were arrested. At the trial witnesses placed them at the site where Emmett was tortured, and the two men admitted the kidnapping.

But they faced a jury of white men in a Mississippi courtroom. After deliberating for less than an hour, they acquitted the case. One juror told a reporter, “If we hadn’t stopped to drink a pop, it wouldn’t have took that long.”

We easily see how racism hurt the young minority in this case. But how did it also hurt the white people who were involved?

When one person can torture another, with no conscience or concern, and when others dismiss the behavior, we see that racism dehumanizes its target, but it also dehumanizes the racist.

Georgia Platts

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