Sympathy for Emmett Till’s accuser seriously misplaced
Let me disclose a very important part of my identity right away: I am a Black woman born and raised in America by immigrant parents from Belize. As I wake up to social media discourse on the recent trailer of “Till,” the movie about Mamie Till-Mobley’s fight for justice after the lynching of her son Emmett Till, I could not help but go on a search about Carolyn Bryant Donham. She is the white woman who accused 14-year-old Emmett Till of an unwanted advance that eventually led to his demise. In my search for this white woman, who has lived long enough to tell her side of the story, I come across a letter to the editor that appeared in The Baltimore Sun, “Maybe a tear for Carolyn Bryant Donham not so misplaced” (July 27), and, against my better judgment, I read it.
The letter writer claims to be an ally to the Black community. As to why she can “reserve” a few tears for a white woman whose false accusation got an innocent Black boy murdered, she chopped it down to looking at it from a sexism point of view as the then-Carolyn Bryant was apparently a victim of spousal abuse, and things may have been worse for her had she tried to protect Emmett.
However, this logic does not add up, as Ms. Donham revealed in her most recent memoir that she “tried to protect” Emmett Till by telling her husband that he was not the one who made the unwanted advance and to take him home. I’m not sure how true that is, as the author has already proved herself to be a liar in the most sinister way, but I am here to say this: White women cannot claim to be allies while shedding tears for the very white woman that caused a Black mother immense pain.
There is no possible way that you can be an ally and ignore the very real history of Black boys and men being lynched by white mobs in the name of “protecting” white women and their “purity.” You cannot try to understand, reason or sympathize with this horrid liar on the basis of “sexism” when Emmett Till’s mother put her life on the line as a Black woman dealing with racism and sexism to try to get justice for her son.
No, I will not be viewing this event in history through the lens of sexism, and I will not be assuming that Carolyn Bryant was living a life of “quiet terror that so many women do,” when Black people in America have historically been terrorized in the name of white supremacy.
Justice for Emmett Till.
— Chanell Miranda, Brooklyn, New York