Letter to the editor: Our horror

To the editor:

“Moral horror” is the intense dislocation we feel when confronted with evidence, especially visual evidence, of an attack by a government or society on the integrity of a human body, or especially a mass of brutalized bodies, as in photographs of a concentration camp or a genocide. Because we cannot honestly separate ourselves from our societies, these abominations unsettle our self-understanding as human beings distinguished from other animals by a sense of justice. Therefore we grapple with our sense of humanity by viewing art works like Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” or by visiting the Holocaust museum, or by supporting Germany’s efforts at reparations to Israel.

And thus in many American communities, not only in the South, there is history witnessed by photographs of strange fruit in trees, of smiling faces at a picnic lunch for bystanders to a lynching, later fashioned perhaps into commemorative post cards. However I am not aware of any community exorcizing such events through a public examination; instead they fester dimly in white memories and continue to make black people in those places distrust their neighbors.

We in Lawrence are not immune. A book by Kathy Schott Gates usefully described the 1882 lynching of Pete Vinegar, Ike King and George Robertson, but it remains publicly unexamined as to subsequent effects on our history. Therefore I call upon the Lawrence City Commission and the Douglas County Commission to establish a committee to consider and organize means whereby we as a community can memorialize our own forgotten moral horror.

David Burress,



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