Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Police say deaths of black people by hanging are suicides. Many black people aren’t so sure.

By Stacey Patton

Washington Post

The historical seasons have changed, and once again, America’s trees are bearing a strange and bitter fruit — dead black bodies.

In less than one month, six black people have been found hanging from trees, in California, Georgia, New York, Oregon and Texas. Authorities say that all of these deaths appear to be suicides, with no signs of foul play. But family members of the deceased, protesters and activists, and some scholars of anti-black violence are intuitively suspicious about those conclusions. Rumors are also swirling on social media that these deaths are lynchings, with Twitter users saying things like: “With sound body and mind, I’m here to tell you right now, if my body is found hanging from a tree, I did NOT commit suicide, I was murdered.”

These incidents are happening at a time of nationwide racial upheaval — when people are already on edge and suspicious about police accounts of their encounters with black people. Tree hangings evoke traumatic memories of America’s grisly history of unpunished lynchings of thousands of black adults and children between 1880 and 1968.

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