Death in Mississippi: Lynching or Suicide?

Slice the pie as you choose but an African-American hanging from a tree in Mississippi is a big deal. So, I humbly ask again, where is the media coverage?
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President Barack Obama being elected the first African-American President of the United States was viewed as a significant move forward along racial lines. President Obama's rapid ascent to oval office glory was supposed to signify that we've officially embarked upon a post-racial society.

While there may be an element of truth regarding advancements along racial lines we still have a ways to go.

I was recently forwarded a rather disturbing story written in the Final Call from Coppin State professor Byron Franklin. The story was about a young African-American man who lost his life in Mississippi. The authorities ruled the death a suicide but some believe the victim was lynched.

That's right, a possible lynching.

I humbly ask, where's the media coverage?

Dec. 3 the limp body of 26 year-old Frederick Jermaine Carter was found hanging from an oak tree with a noose securely tied around his neck in a predominately white neighborhood in Greenwood, Miss.

According to published reports in USA Today Carter was in Greenwood working with his step father painting a house. Apparently the stepfather left Carter at the house to get some tools.

It's being alleged Carter wandered off from the home after his step father left to get tools.

Carter, who resided in Sunflower County, reportedly had a history of wandering off as a result of mental illness.

LeFlore County Sheriff Ricky Banks suggested based on his findings a murder had not been committed due to insufficient evidence at the scene. Carter stated, "I didn't see any indication of anybody else being in that area, going from physical evidence and the general tracks."

Banks went on to suggest Carter likely dragged a nearby table to the base of tree, tied a noose, and proceeded to hang himself.

Mr. Banks stated, "The frame probably broke, possibly because Carter kicked it out from under himself."

Even though the LeFlore County Coroner's office ruled the death a suicide Carter's family and some residents are not buying it.

Some, like the Mayor of Sunflower, Miss. Michael Pemberton, believe Carter's death was a homicide. Pemberton stated, "This is 2010 and we still have Black people hanging from trees? They're saying he hung himself but I have doubt in my mind that he actually did that. That wasn't his character. This wasn't a suicide, this was a homicide."

Attorney and spokesperson for Carter's family Valarie Hicks-Powe believes a more detailed investigation was needed. Powe stated, "A crime scene was never established. They never roped the scene off and this has not been treated as a crime. There is no reason to believe that he would commit suicide. We appreciate attention being brought to this because we need an outcry from the people."

Leflore County Supervisor Preston Ratliff is questioning the reported suicide as well, according to the Final Call story. "I have not made many public statements because I'm still waiting for more information but I do think it is strange that he would hang himself in such a remote area. The mere fact that a Black man is found hanging in a White neighborhood is disturbing based on the history of the Delta."

The president of the Leflore County branch of the NAACP Willie Perkins stated: "There are a lot of concerns there, No. 1 that this individual could not have (hanged) himself without the assistance of someone, if it's being declared a suicide," Perkins stated: "Why would someone from Sunflower County come to North Greenwood, the predominantly white housing area of Greenwood? Why would someone that far away come and hang themselves in North Greenwood by a river? That does not pass the smell test to me."

Even though we've embarked upon a new year there are still many more questions than answers regarding Carter's death.

Frankly speaking, it is not an everyday occurrence to find an African-American with a noose around his neck these days is it?

Where is the national television commentary?

Where is the mainstream newspaper coverage?

Why hasn't President Obama or Eric Holder got involved?

Where is the radio commentary on satellite radio and NPR?

Where is Rev. Al Sharpton?

Perhaps this incident doesn't pay as well as marching against Senate Bill 1070 in Arizona.

During the 1950's it was routine for whites to lynch African-Americans, particularly in Mississippi. Arguably the most heinous of them all was the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955.

Till was a 14-year-old boy from Chicago. He was visiting his family who lived near the Mississippi Delta.

Till found himself in a world far different than the world up north: Racism and segregation was the law of the land in Mississippi and there no exceptions.

Till arrived in Jackson, Mississippi August 21, 1955 a handsome youngster but sadly he would not return to Chicago in the same capacity.

Till was accused of whistling at a 21-year-old white lady named Carolyn Bryant. The word spread quickly around town about Till's alleged actions. One of the first to hear about it was Bryant's husband Roy.

Several days later Roy Bryant and JW Milam broke into Tills' uncles' house in the middle of the night. Till was taken from the home and placed in back of a truck and beaten.

The thugs drove Till to a barn where he was beaten to a pulp. To make certain of their work the racists gauged out Tills' right eye before they shot him to death.

Till's body was loaded back into the bed of the truck. Bryant and Milam tied a 70-pound cotton-gin around his neck with barbed wire and dumped him in Tallahatchie River.

Till was found three day later.

We have an African-American in the White House yet simultaneously there may have been a lynching in a state that storied history of hate: How can this story fly so far below the radar?

Is it a coincidence Carter's murder took place just 10 minutes away from where Till was murdered?

Why would an African-American wander off to a predominately white neighborhood and commit suicide?

As Perkins stated earlier this story it "does not pass the smell test."

The time has come for people to wake up. Many have been lulled to sleep embracing the notion America has progressed so much with respect to race relations.

Sorry, but we are from a post-racial society.

Let's look beyond Carter's death and look at the bigger picture. Ever since President Obama was elected president there have been some pretty high-profile race-based situations.

Esteemed scholar Henry Louis Gates was treated unjustly by police as he was attempting to enter is own home Cambridge, Mass only to be arrested for disorderly conduct. There was weeks of media coverage but no concrete results occurred from the situation.

President Obama promised us a "teachable moment" but it never came to fruition.

Shirley Sherrod was unfairly portrayed as a racist by conservative Andrew Breitbart. There was a rush to judgment in the media. As a result Sherrod was fired from her position at the Department of Agriculture (and later rehired).

Even the NAACP publicly denounced Sherrod only to retract their statements.

CNN aired a special on Sherrod which showed she was a champion for justice and not a racist.

Again, where's the "teachable moment."

A segment of white America has voiced their disenchantment with current state of this country. Conservatives like Glenn Beck suggest they want to "restore America" to the days of old and place the power back where it belongs.

Groups like the Tea Party have spewed similar rhetoric; some of which is out-right racist.

In March Tea Party members spat on Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) Civil Rights giant John Lewis (D-Ga.) was called a 'ni--er.' and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was called a "faggot."

What does this have to do with the death of Frederick Jermaine Carter?

It means conservatives like Glenn Beck and groups like the Tea Party are creating a climate of hate.

Does "restoring America" mean restoring times to the days of old in Mississippi and otherwise?

Slice the pie as you choose but an African-American hanging from a tree in Mississippi is a big deal.

So, I humbly ask again, where is the media coverage?

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