So a law professor with a household income above $250,000 blogged about how his family is “just getting by despite seeming to be rich.”
Among other things, he writes that after taxes, private school fees, school loans, investments, lawn care services, house cleaners, child care and other expenses, they have “less than a few hundred dollars per month of discretionary income.” Also he bemoans the fact they aren’t able to “evade” their taxes.
Other than the obvious privilege, he demonstrates a lack of understanding about the tax proposal. But hey, why let facts get in the way?
Anyway, he gets roundly excoriated by the blogosphere and deletes the post. And announces he is no longer blogging.
The electronic lynch mob that has attacked and harassed me — you should see the emails sent to me personally! — has made my family feel threatened and insecure … To those with pitchforks trying to attack me instead of my message, I feel sorry for you. You have caused untold damage to me personally. I may be wrong, even stupid, but I don’t think I deserved that.
Got that? The lynch mob with their pitchforks.
Okay, from reading this guy’s posts, I’m pretty sure he’s not particularly precise with either words or figures. (My guess is that anybody who pays $100,000 in state and federal taxes is making substantially more than $250,000. But whatever.)
But lynch mob? LYNCH MOB?
This isn’t an uncommon use of this term, unfortunately. Another similarly used term is “rape.” You know, when white businessmen talk about not getting a good deal and how they were “raped” in their transaction.
For the record, this guy did not get lynched. He got called on his privilege. He got called on his factual errors. And maybe some people did not mince words. But he was not lynched. If you read the various discussions around the web, you’ll find that quite a few people support him.
I have a huge problem with his language. Because lynching in our country was used to terrorize specific groups of people. It has a long history tied to systemic and societally sanctioned racism.
Henderson did not get lynched.
Ironically, white people have long accused people of color of making mountains out of molehills. Of exaggerating the harm that racism causes. Of seeing racism and persecution where none exists. And yet many whites misappropriate the language used to talk about racism and oppression. You know, reverse racism. Backlash. The white guy just can’t cut a break because of the “preferential gateway” given to minn-orr-it-teees. How white people are the only people without rights nowadays.
And the lynching.
We’ve had this discussion multiple times before, but this type of rhetoric pops up only too often. Because the attack on privilege is so shocking that it is seen as a threat to civil rights and even to white people’s lives. When privileged people no longer have 100 percent of the pie but have to give a slice to others, they are losing everything. When their words are challenged, it is Free Speech! that is in jeopardy. When people of color insist on demanding total equality, it is seen as a loss of the way of life. When the President is a black man, we need to take back our country.
So here’s a thought. If we’re going to talk honestly about race and racism, let’s think critically about the words that are coming out of our mouths. Using “lynching” to describe hurtful words on the internet is invoking a powerful image for something that is petty and trite. It serves to lessen the public idea of what lynching really is.
And that is history we should never forget.
Note that this post is for commenting on use of the words “lynch mob” and similar phrases. If you wish to comment on Henderson’s privilege, go here.