Maybe a tear for Carolyn Bryant Donham not so misplaced
As a white person allied for accountability in racial crimes past and present, it was not hard for me to see the logic in Charles M. Blow’s arguments against Carolyn Bryant Donham’s assertions that she was a victim as Emmett Till was (“Shed no tears for Carolyn Bryant Donham,” July 20).
As a 21-year-old in 1955 Mississippi, she claimed a 14-year-old Black boy from Chicago, who was visiting his family, had made unwelcome advances. Emmett Till was subsequently abducted, tortured and lynched. Ms. Donham got to live to old age and was never prosecuted for the part she played in this horrific crime. But as a woman, it’s not hard for me to imagine the danger she might have been in if she hadn’t provided the narrative that her husband might have insisted on.
A New York Times article from January 2017 indicates that her husband was physically abusive. Even without that fact, it is not hard to imagine that he would have unleashed a fury if she had protected Emmet Till. In the aftermath, shame fuels the digging in on the story.
When you look at her story from the lens of racism, everything Mr. Blow says looks reasonable. But when you look at it through the lens of sexism, I would be making some additional arguments. While I still shed many more tears for the young Emmet Till, I can reserve some for Ms. Donham, assuming she was living the life of quiet terror that so many women do.