In the year 1955, a 14-year-old boy was found bloated and mutilated in the Tallahatchie River. He was found drowned after having his eye gouged out, being beaten nearly to death, shot with more than 40 bullets, and mutilated almost beyond recognition. He was murdered in cold blood on account of what I call vigilante injustice. His killers were acquitted in a court of “unjust” law after having admitted their crime.
Sixty-two years later, the woman at the center of his death, the reason for the entire encounter finally admits that her lie caused this child’s death; but was it simply Carolyn Bryant’s lie that caused his death? Was it something more? I would argue yes.
Emmitt Till did not simply die because a woman (falsely) accused him of harassment. He did not die because he was black. He did not die because he visited the south that summer. He did not die because he was kidnapped. He did not die just from the gunshots or the drowning or the beating for that matter. He was not killed because men took the law – their law – into their own hands. He died due to a system designed to oppress – a system designed against him. Emmitt Till was murdered by the system he was born into. He was murdered in cold blood before he was even born – he never stood a chance. In 1941 Emmitt Till was born into a system designed to hold him back and strip him of any rights he would have in any other country. The inalienable rights written into our constitution were not extended to the Emmitt Tills of the world. He was never afforded those rights nor the freedoms he as a human being should have been entitled.
He was born on the inhibiting side of the century and today in 2017, it is truly no better and I would argue that we as a people are progressively backpedaling – heading in the direction we have fought so hard to move forward and distance ourselves from. We have Emmitt Tills all around us. Whether we choose to see them for who they are, is our issue, but they are everywhere. The system of injustice that protected and encouraged his killers discouraged and left Emmitt vulnerable. This system is at fault for his murder, his mistreatment, his degradation, segregation, injustice, and their eventual acquittal. That is the system they lived in. This is a system still in practice, unfortunately… 62 years later.