Reflection on James Madison

On November 9, I listened to James H. Madison speak on the subject of his book A Lynching in the Heartland: Race and Memory in America.  He focused mainly on the lynching in Marion in 1930, in which two black residents were brutally murdered and whose corpses were displayed for the town to see after being accused of murder and rape.

I think at a few points in his lecture, my mouth literally hung open and my heart felt ashamed to acknowledge people could do something so awful.  I understand black citizens were considered second-class at the time (if not worse), but I don’t understand how people could show up at a lynching laughing and treating it like a social event.  I doubt they would have acted the same way to even an animal, which is sickening to think they would degrade humans to such a level.

Today in America we don’t have the same level of racial violence so frequently (although, unfortunately, it still does occur).  We pride ourselves on respecting diversity and being tolerant of many different backgrounds.  However, while a culture may change in certain ways, people do not.  If people could display such awful qualities 80 years ago, I’ll bet people today are just as capable of acting with such brutality.  Perhaps we don’t look down upon African-Americans or have lynching social events, but are there other areas we act so brutally in?  Or, perhaps we do not act so brutally, but we think so brutally.  I certainly have looked down upon others for what I perceive as inferiority.  I am not proud of this, but as a human, it is natural—natural, but not right.

Here at Taylor, do we treat any group of people as second-class citizens?  Sometimes I feel we put a pedestal on spiritual things.  What if I skip this women’s programming event, that Spiritual Renewal night, this Bible study meeting, or that wing church?  Will I be as good of a Christian?  While the answer is irrelevant because we need faith and not works, sometimes I feel there is a pressure on campus to do spiritual things because they are seen as better than other categories of life.  This, though, goes against Galatians 1:10: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or am I trying to please man?  If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (ESV).

I wonder how people rationalized their views and behaviors toward blacks in 1930.  We may not struggle with the particular issue of racism like our country did then (though we still have work to do in that area), but I think we need to be careful of looking down on others for arbitrary reasons and then determining their worth based on that.  We are not who decides anyone’s worth—that is God’s job and it would be best to avoid usurping it at all costs.  Matthew 7:1-2 says, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (ESV). While our actions may not incite such dramatic violence as in 1930, the root of that action lies in thought and still occurs today—we must be careful to control these thoughts lest they build and eventually result in something we will be ashamed of later.

—Taylor Blake, sophomore in the Honors Program

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