The bodies of four black men have been discovered hanging from trees in various parts of the country, and while police officers are ruling each incident as a suicide, the public isn’t as convinced, especially in light of all the Black Lives Matter protests that have been occurring everyday for the past few weeks in response to the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other innocent black lives at the hands of the police.
Lynching may seem like an outdated crime, but the reality is the politics behind lynching are still very much relevant. In fact, the federal government just deemed lynching to be a federal crime this year, nearly 65 years after the case of Emmett Till rocked the nation.
Now, tensions in America are running high, as we’re currently battling two deadly pandemics; the coronavirus and systemic racism. So when the bodies of four black men hanging from trees made headlines within the past month, individuals were convinced some sort of foul play must have been involved; especially considering the fact that members of the KKK have made appearances at some of the black lives matter protests within the past week.
On June 9th the body of Dominique Alexander, 27, was found hanging from a tree with a rope around his neck in Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan. The next day the body of 24-year-old Robert Fuller was found hanging in a tree with a rope around his neck in Palmdale, California. Two weeks prior to both of these incidents, the body of 38-year-old Malcolm Harsch was found hanging from a tree in Victorville, California, which is about an hour away from Palmdale. On Wednesday June 17th, the body of a black male teenager was found hanging from a tree on the property of Ehrhardt Elementary School in Houston, Texas.
All four of these deaths, except for Robert Fullers, have been ruled a suicide by local police forces. After a petition demanding LA county open a homicide investigation on Fuller’s death gained over 240,000 signatures, the County Sheriff said the death will be “probed as a homicide.” Regardless, the fact that all four of these deaths by hanging happened during such a tumultuous time politically, and within the same month as each other, has the public convinced that they were planned attacks.
Fuller’s family specifically has been very vocal about the fact that they do not believe Fuller was depressed or suicidal in the slightest. The family of Malcolm Harsch has had the same attitude and is also demanding an independent investigation be opened up for his death.
“The explanation of suicide does not seem plausible. There are many ways to die but considering the current racial tension, a black man hanging himself from a tree definitely doesn’t sit well with us right now. We want justice not comfortable excuses,” Harsch’s family said to the media.
The racial tensions in America currently are mirroring that of the 1960’s, hence the major concern over these four incidents of black men dying in a way that mimics how white individuals used to murder black people in this country for sport. The conversation surrounding lynching has also been circulating through these protests even before these deaths. After video footage was released of Ahmaud Arbery being chased and killed by two white supremacists, many people took to Twitter to state that the world just witnessed a black man get lynched on camera.
People around the nation, and the world, are continuing to march everyday until some sort of resolution is met. The goal from these protestors is a complete overhaul of the police system and the way our government splits up funding. Considering the fact that we’re currently enduring the worst public health crisis in decades, healthcare providers are especially angry at their complete lack of resources, but the overwhelming amount of riot/protective gear the police have access too with their much higher budget.
Regardless of if these deaths were suicides or not, the fact that America has now seen four black men “hang themselves” by a rope from a tree within the same month, during a time where racial tensions have heightened greatly, is definitely reason enough to open an intense investigation.
Suicide and mental health within the black community is also a major issue. Within the past few years suicide has been on the rise among black teenagers and young adults. Unfortunately, studies suggest a major contributing factor to this rise is the systemic racism that shows itself in America’s schooling system, police force, physical/mental health care facilities, workforce, etc. This is why the movement has such an intense momentum behind it.
If you want to know more about the Black Lives Matter movement and how you can directly help from home, click here for access to dozens of petitions, donation pages, and fundraising efforts specifically for those fighting for racial equality right now.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.