So you want to talk about lynching? Understand this first.
Michele Norris is a former host of NPR’s “All Things Considered” and the founding director of the Race Card Project.
So you want to talk about lynching?
Okay. Let’s talk.
A lynching involved a man, but sometimes a woman or a child, who was dragged from home, heels in the dirt, body contorting, convulsing with fear.
A lynching involved another man — this time, almost always a man — finding a rope and making a noose, or perhaps finding a rope that had already been made into a noose, for this was not exactly rare in an earlier time. It took a special kind of rope to hold the knot, to hold the weight. A heavy rope. Corded and coarse.
The knot took skill; the act was impulsive, but the details relied on practiced technique. The genus, health and shape of the tree were important. Were the branches high enough? Thick enough? Healthy enough to accommodate the sudden plummet of death?
A lynching was bulging eyes and slobber and spittle.
It took a mob, a rabble, a group of several people to carry out the deed. To hold the victim. To toss the rope. To necklace the rope. To hoist the rope. To keep it taut while the body fought and then stiffened and then went limp and sodden. Heavy like coal. Dangling like earrings.
A lynching was loud, for a mob is never silent. The act itself was audible: The rope chafed against the bark. It tore open the skin. It suffocated and gagged, crushed the esophagus and snapped the neck. It made water, involuntary and foul, tricking past the knee, past the calf and the foot. A lynching was a fight against gravity. Desperate. Futile. Listless. And gravity always won.