Thoughts on the Murder of Emmett Till

Yesterday, formally kicked off what is commonly referred to in the United States as Black History Month. During this time period of twenty-eight days, the Nation reflects on the achievements, struggles, and progress of Black Americans in the United States.

Since 2019 started, I’ve been scrutinizing the inhumane murder of Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old black teen from Chicago who was kidnapped and lynched by two White locals during a visit to Money, Mississippi in 1955.

After working hard in the fields, Till and his cousins visited a local store, the only store in Money that sold to Blacks, to purchase refreshments. Upon leaving, the store owner’s wife claimed Till whistled at her which lead to a confrontation. Days passed, but during the early morning in the pitch-black night, the store owner and a companion entered Mose Wright, Emmett’s great uncle, residence and abducted the young teen. The men tortured and shot Emmett before dumping his mutilated body tied to a cotton gin in a nearby river. Days went by before the body was finally recovered.

After being identified by his family, Mammie Till, his mother, agreed to have an open-casket funeral to display the atrocious and bestial injustice that happened to her son. Nearly 50,000 people visited the funeral and global media outlets unmasked lethal violence that was still happening to Blacks in the United States.

What became of the culprits? Eventually, they were acquitted by an all-white male jury.

The highest degree of heart-wrenching.

Emmett’s death was a vital component of the Civil Rights Movement. As a result, many Blacks in the South began to rise up and object against Jim Crow.

I think Till’s death has a message that reverberates across humanity and is the central point of Christianity: The sacrifice of one has an inestimable impact on many.

For about three months, I’ve been doing a one-year Catholic Bible plan. As I’m ending the Pentateuch in a few days, Moses constantly reiterated the importance of following the specifics and details of offering a spotless offering. Yes, It’s easy to drown out the ceremonial laws, but they do serve a purpose: to reveal the coming of the perfect once and for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Bede Jarret, a former English Dominican friar, in his book Classic Catholic Meditations mentions something profound regarding Christ’s sacrifice, “Over and over again, we find the death of one man, himself most frequently innocent, being required for the abolition of some injustice or the setting free of some people.” We see this clearly in Jesus Christ, who was the spotless lamb, that willingly offered his life as a sacrifice to the Father on the cross. This moment in history was completely sacrificial love to God for humanity.

This idea of the innocent being sacrificed for the greater good is perfectly embodied in Emmett Till. His unintentional sacrifice eventually was the vanguard for economic, social, and political equality for Blacks in the United States. In addition, Emmett Till’s contribution to the Civil Rights era in a matter of ten years produced a much-needed ransom from the chains of segregation, Jim Crow, and racism. His death gave power to the powerless. Most importantly, he gave people that cowered in constant apprehension a valiant heart.

All this was acquired by the power of one individual.

After developing a deeper connection to Emmett Till, I implore everyone to pray that the Holy Spirit would illuminate their hearts and minds for any racism, prejudice, or discrimination that may linger. Above all, we should pray for a renewed gift of love to recognize and treat everyone with dignity regardless of race, ethnicity, and nationality.

St. Peter Claver was an exceptional manifestation of knowing no boundaries to extend God’s compassion. As he followed Jesus, may we follow in fellowship with him and the countless other Saints who stood up against racial inequality, reduced disparities, and advocated human rights?

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