I read yesterday about Carol Bryant Donham finally admitting to Timothy Tyson, author and scholar from Duke University, that she lied about Emmitt Till. A lie that got 14 year old Till brutally lynched; beaten, piston whipped and beaten again before finally being shot, tied to an industrial fan and dumped in a river. Donham's lie that led a broken mother to display her murdered son's mutilated body in an open casket so that the nation could witness the horror visited upon his child's body.
"“That case went a long way toward ruining her life,” said Tyson, who said the Donham family reminded him of his own. He said Donham's views on race had changed over the years, along with much of the country's."
Isn't that nice, kids? I gotta wonder though - how many thousands of black Americans' lives were directly impacted and ruined as a consequence of her lies? How many other black male children, teens and young men were falsely accused for the same things she accused Till of that led to them being imprisoned or killed over the intervening years? But now we should have an iota of sympathy for her because as of 2007 when she was working with Tyson on her memoir, she "was glad things had changed [and she] thought the old system of white supremacy was wrong though she had more or less taken it as normal at the time." Sheer preciousness there. And I'm not willing to give her a pass on this.
All these years and she kept silent instead of coming forward and admitting her lie. All these years when she failed to step up openly, publicly, and vociferously against bigotry and against racial hatred. All these years living in the shadows and silences while letting her lies against Till keep their legs and give racists an excuse to cite his "wolf whistle" as the insult so grievous as to justify child murder.
Frankly, her life in ruins from her lying means less to me than the lives of black Americans who were compelled, against their wills, to bear the brunt of those lies with their bodies, minds, spirits and lives. She has his blood on her hands just as surely as the men who murdered him do. She wrote a cruelly vicious chapter in our nation's history that spoke out against the value of black lives, particularly the lives of black men and black boys.