The DOJ Just Deported a 95 Year Old Nazi for Crimes Committed in 1945. Good! Now the DOJ Should Prosecute the Woman Who Got Emmett Till Murdered in 1955.
The lies Carolyn Bryant Donham told on 14 year old Emmett Till got him killed. Like Nazis, she's simply not too old to be brought to justice. Why does the US government only have such will for some?
75 years ago Friedrich Karl Berger did something truly heinous - he willingly and actively served as a Nazi guard of concentration camps during the Holocaust. He was 19 years old when he helped oversee one of the most despicable moments in the entire history of the world. And even though he was living a seemingly benign life as a senior citizen in Tennessee, the United States Department of Justice, as they have done with over a hundred Nazi guards and conspirators before him, arrested and deported him back to Germany where he will be held responsible for his crimes against humanity.
This is a semblance of justice. I’m glad to see it. Period. End of story. I don’t have any “buts” here. When you do something so unspeakably despicable, you should know that even in the twilight of your years that you could still be held to account for it someday. And many of the governments of the world have made a deep commitment to ensuring that Nazis are brought to justice - no matter how old they are today, no matter how old they were during the Holocaust, and no matter how complicated the case may be.
I simply want to see this same commitment made to African Americans. Except the United States government seems to lack the will, the moral courage and clarity, and the basic commitment to right the wrongs of its own past as far as Black folk are concerned.
Ten years after 19 year old Friedrich Karl Berger served as a Nazi guard, a 21 year old white woman named Carolyn Bryant not only told lies, but committed crimes that directly caused the brutal lynching of a 14 year old Black boy named Emmett Till. On August 24th of 1955, deep in the Mississippi Delta, Emmett Till, a sweet momma’s boy from Chicago, walked into a small grocery store that ended up being a sort of lion’s den. It was owned by a white supremacist family that would eventually lead a group that kidnapped, tortured, and killed Emmett just a few days later.
62 years after Emmett Till was murdered in one of the most grotesque acts of racial injustice in American history, Carolyn Bryant Donham admitted that the story she repeatedly gave under oath to both police, prosecutors, and the judge was a lie. The baby-faced boy had not actually grabbed her, then said sexually crude things to her, as she told her husband and his friends. Those men all openly admitted that they murdered Emmett. And the evidence was overwhelming, but of course an all-white Mississippi jury found them not-guilty after deliberating for less than an hour. I can’t quite form the words for the magnitude of this injustice.
The lie of Carolyn Bryant Donham is the origin of Emmett Till’s murder. She held on to it for four straight days as her husband and a mob of monsters boiled over with racist retribution on their minds. She told this lie to police - which was a false report. She told this lie to prosecutors and the judge - which is perjury. And she held on to it for generation after generation until finally admitting that it was all as phony as a $3 bill. Of course it was.
She’s 87 years old now. That’s 8 years younger than the Nazi that the DOJ just deported. So my question is this…
Will the United States government and our Department of Justice hold her accountable? She’s younger than Friedrich Karl Berger and her crimes were committed 10 years after his. It’s universally accepted that the lynching of Emmett Till was as grave an injustice as any single moment of the 20th century in this country. So what’s the holdup?
My guess is that it is far easier for the United States government to pursue justice for crimes it didn’t permit and protect. But this nation still has open wounds - and its refusal to do the hard work of healing them haunts it to this very day.