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September 28, 2014 | by  | in History That Hasn’t Happened Yet Opinion |
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Have a sad wank, Chris Lynch: I’m trying to make my history just.

There is a programme on Christchurch TV called Lynched. (For non-CTV viewers, I’m serious.) It’s an unjust title. So much so, it is only just for me to tell the host to have a sad one. I shouldn’t be surprised: Lynch is just aligning with his ‘classic talkback’ (racist) opinions. For people who have been through unspeakable pain at the hands of extralegal ‘justice’ in the name of white supremacy, the play on words is unfunny and shit. This isn’t making fun of Jesus Christ, the superstar. This is the death of 4742 people in America between 1882 and 1968.

We are constantly referring to the past, and using history in our attempts to achieve a just society. It is the reason legal precedents hold such an important place within modern justice systems. Or why the Archives attempts to hold the future’s history. It is also why events of extreme suffering should not be appropriated in ignorant programme titles.

Beyond referencing the past in legal and official worlds, it is all the more important on individual, personal levels. How you situate yourself within history, within your own lifespan and beyond, will dictate how you conceive what justice is, and how you conduct yourself towards achieving some sort of justness.

Take the memorialisation of so many people lynched in America. Starting in 2005, a reenactment has taken place every July, remembering a lynching at Moore’s Ford Bridge in 1946 of four African-Americans, one a woman seven months pregnant. It is an explicit and emotive act of public remembering. (YouTube “lynching reenactment”.) A group of white men – ten-gallon hats, cowboy boots and all – violently drag several black people along the bridge, rifles at heads – “Nigger get down!” Voices howl hymns as the four victims are shot at with blanks. Tarps catch the fallen bodies and imagined, remembered blood. It is over the top, though not far beyond historic reality.

Reenactments are a foreign image to New Zealand’s culture of memorialisation. I thought of reenactments as trivial. Though how much more trivial than a 100-gun salute, or an ANZAC poppy, it is hard to say. Upon watching the video, I realised my ignorance. One of the reenactors makes the point: “I do this every year to bring attention to the disparities that we are facing in life, and young people need to know the truth: this is why I do what I do.”

To know truth is to know justice. Beyond highlighting the freedom of Ku Klux Klan members who have never been subject to justice, the reenactment serves the members of that community outside Athens, Georgia, to serve their own kind of justice through remembrance and collaboration between once disparate peoples. Though unlikely, there are lessons to be learned here by Chris Lynch. And, more hopefully, by our wider culture of remembering. #WW100.

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