At this point, I’m certain that you’ve already heard about the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri because of the police shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown. Scholars and activists have been writing about this for days as more details unfold from the battle field. As hunting season for black flesh is in its prime for white supremacist USA, discussions are taking place about the militarization of white supremacy, the continued devaluation of black life, and the hypocrisy of “protection” in the US where whiteness is systematically protected, and blackness systematically eliminated.
As most of White America grieves the death of a white man who willingly killed himself, the rest of us are left on the margins waiting for our humanity to be recognized. We wait for white folks to dry their tears for Robin Williams so that they can turn their gaze towards our own situation considering we are in a battle for our lives. Ironically, the topic of depression and suicide has been circulating on the internet because of Williams, despite the fact that depression and PTSD has plagued the black community for generations. As people are trying to dodge bullets in Ferguson (and in other states in the U.S.) we can only imagine the traumatic mindset that comes along with being a target in a battlefield.
I’m writing this post because I think support for Mike Brown in yet another online platform demonstrates a unique form of viral solidarity, a constant reminder to any casual visitor to black websites that we all “raise our fists” in the air for the struggle.
I think one of the most important discussions to emerge from the recent violent collisions with the police force is the hypocrisy in what constitutes protection, and who is allowed to protect themselves. 22 year old John Crawford was recently shot and killed by police in Walmart for carrying around a TOY gun in the SAME country where white gun rights activists routinely go into restaurants with REAL guns and are respectfully asked to leave.
One could argue that police were never interested in the business of protecting black people. In fact, they’re supposed to serve and protect citizens, and black people in the U.S. are illegal immigrants. We’re consistently reminded that we don’t belong, whether it’s a confederate flag plastered on a pickup truck, or police consistently patrolling brown areas.
I’m glad that black people are standing up and fighting back. For far too long, we have tried to be peaceful in a nation that keeps committing violence upon our bodies. Police are terrorists for black people. Whether you’re crossing a street like Dr. Ersula Ore, or walking like Mike Brown, or playing with toys in Walmart like John Crawford, we are reminded that we don’t have access to innocence. That innocence is defined around white bodies, and therefore, we are forever marked as guilty. The police force is the military for white supremacy.
Greg Howard from the Concourse states:
“Officers have tanks now. They have drones. They have automatic rifles, and planes, and helicopters, and they go through military-style boot camp training… The worst part of outfitting our police officers as soldiers has been psychological. Give a man access to drones, tanks, and body armor, and he’ll reasonably think that his job isn’t simply to maintain peace, but to eradicate danger. Instead of protecting and serving, police are searching and destroying…”
We are the permanent enemy. As long as our skin is black, we remain targets for the white hunting force.
The news media is in bed with white supremacy as well. Turn on your local news station and you’re bound to see images of black men and women chained to courtroom tables, awaiting trial for murder, or robbery, or rape. Inevitably, one will logically conclude that black people MUST be dangerous. Though white people commit crimes daily, they are rarely reported on in the ways that black crimes are. There is a giant smear campaign against black people. We are the perpetual scapegoats for white america’s failures. We are consistently pointed to as the problem.
We are painted as the violent perpetrators, even though the reality is the police are violent and we are merely defending ourselves. We are routinely interrogated for the violence we employ. In the documentary, Black Power Mixtape, Angela Davis provides a beautiful response to people who question black people and their use of “violence.” She says:
“You ask me, whether I approve of violence?…When someone asks me about violence, I just find it incredible. Because what it means is that the person asking that question has absolutely no idea what black people have gone through, what black people have experienced in this country since the time the first black person was kidnapped from the shores of Africa.”
For quite some time now, black people have been paralyzed by respectability politics which has prevented us from expressing our outrage, our sadness, and our contempt for white America. We’re always painted as pathological criminals, and sassy, angry, ungrateful black folk. We’ve told mythological stories to ourselves about remaining peaceful so that we look “good” to the police and the rest of the US, but that narrative just doesn’t work anymore. I am reminded of words from Stokely Carmichael who was the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Black Panthers who critiqued Martin Luther King’s peaceful efforts. He stated:
“Dr. King’s policy was that nonviolence would achieve the gains for black people in the United States. His major assumption was that if you are nonviolent, if you suffer, your opponent will see your suffering and will be moved to change his heart. That’s very good. He only made one fallacious assumption: In order for nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a conscience. The United States has none.”
Black people organizing has always been painted as a scary picture for white people, simply because they assume we are inherently dangerous. White America has made a concerted effort to divide black people, to ruin our communities with drugs, poverty, and bad health. They isolate us into food deserts in hopes that if drugs don’t kill us, the horrible food will. They saturate our communities with white-owned hip hop and media entertainment. They attempt to distract us from the murders they commit next door and we are tired of turning to look the other way. People are starting to directly confront the police, to look them in the face, and to demand rights. You can shoot as many bullets into our bodies as you wish, but that won’t stop our message because new revolutionaries are born every minute.
As minoritized subjects, we have had to learn self-care since daily depictions of dehumanized blackness saturate our psyches. We have been learning to value ourselves, because when you understand your value, you feel the need to defend yourself.
It’s important that we all contribute to the struggle, whether it’s through protesting, educating, reading political literature, “standing” YOUR ground, or learning to love yourself in a culture where you are degraded daily. Regardless of what path you take, we are all working together to fight white supremacy. Political Prisoner George Jackson spoke of his revolutionary brother Jon Jackson with the words: