The Fall 2007 issue of The Public Eye has an interview with Maryland-based civil rights lawyer and law prof Sherrilyn Ifill, author of On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century. In a telling passage, Ifill recounts the cognitive dissonance she has encountered over the years when discussing incidents of racial terrorism with blacks and whites:
I found while working on many cases in Texas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Arkansas, and here in Maryland, that when I asked my clients about the history of discrimination in their communities, I would very often hear a story about a lynching or another story of racial terrorism, sometimes decades in the past. I was struck by the accuracy and the detail with which the events were described – usually events they didn’t see or they weren’t even alive at the time.
When I talked with Whites about the very same incidents, they had vague recollections, particularly where lynchings were concerned. I thought this was alarming because Whites were for the most part the ones who saw lynchings, not Blacks. I’d often seen this in my civil rights work: Whites see their world one way and Blacks see their world a very different way. I thought this disconnect really lies at the heart of race in America.
As they say, read the whole damn thing.