White Supremacy on Moving Day

confederateThey say you find out who your real friends are on moving day. It’s a shake-up of everything that you’ve come to rely on – of your home and living conditions, school and work, life and re-routing. Finding your feet and acclimating to the new surroundings. For Black USians, the verdict and aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial seemed to be moving day. You find out who your friends are. Real friends of people of color recognize White Supremacy as the enemy. They recognize the effects of it upon themselves and work to eradicate it within themselves and society.

White Supremacy is the great engine of racism in the world, from the times of Western European colonization of the world (1492) until now. And the effects of it can be seen in every crevice, every indelible fingerprint that has been left by White Colonial rule – particularly those still run by the patriarchal White boss. The tragedy of the genocidal massacres in Rwanda, for instance, were rooted in German and Belgium rule and the colorist way that the Europeans divided and structured the colony, which survived well after the Europeans left. And the White Colonizers could do this because, according to White Supremacy understood through the White Man’s Burden, it’s the special place and obligation of the master class/race to run the world and think for and in place of the darker, “savage” people.

Whites in Western countries tend to think that anti-People of Color racism is something that only a small subset of the population is involved in, but it is a part of the very DNA of Western “Civilization,” as they say, and was spread and codified through colonization. So it doesn’t just go away – we White people need to be able to recognize it in our existence; in our collective and individual thought processes; in our institutions, organizations and political structures; in our interactions; and in our behavior. For sometimes it’s easy to spot, but often it resides just below the surface, staining the wood. We don’t see it until we’re moving the boxes and furniture on moving day.

There are of course the obvious injunctions of White Supremacy spewing and reveling in the wake of the Zimmerman “not guilty” verdict. The ones falsely claiming that young Mister Martin was obviously a thug based solely on the color of his skin and his approximate age. They will tell you with impunity that Trayvon deserved to be shot, that he should have obeyed a complete stranger’s orders to reveal himself, put his arms up, and not act out of fear or rage. They proudly assume by the color of his skin that he really was looking for trouble, and somehow the fact of his blackness added an extra fifty pounds of muscle to his 158 pound frame. Twitter and blog comments are full of these obvious undercover Klan members and Youtubers.

Yet what’s truly interesting about their arguments is how similar they sound to the fears of the jurors and other not-so-obviously-racist, normative White people. Pat Robertson has an obvious hater gene, but his explanation that Trayvon should have been followed because “criminals always wear hoodies” is emblematic of much of the narrative coming from much of White America. Never mind that it was raining. Never mind that hoods are worn regularly by perfectly lawful black men (like, say, Trayvon) and that nobody bats an eye at blond women wearing hoodies.

It’s the same racial fear that Juror B37 displayed in her verdict and in her interview with Anderson Cooper, who others Black people as “They”; who believes that Trayvon was responsible for his own death; who acts like race was not a factor in Zimmerman’s profiling; who also blames the profiling on Martin’s clothing; who dismissed Rachel Jeantel’s testimony because she couldn’t understand her vernacular. This type of posturing, this whiting-out of the reality of black people, this othering, this racial suspicion masquerading as just plain old suspicion, is all part of White Supremacy. White Supremacy is the idea and the practice that White people are just better at everything – they are more moral, more intelligent, more virtuous, more industrious and more trustworthy than people of color (and particularly black people).

Another exchange I had was with a White male who argued that, technically, Zimmerman should be free (on a thread that actually said we should focus on the racial injustice rather than the person of Zimmerman). When I told him that even if he bought that, the trend of people of color being hostilely targeted tells Black people that Zimmerman is, actually, guilty, and that the conversation isn’t about the particulars of the case so much, he argues that then we shouldn’t talk about the case at all. Because if talk of justice and guilt doesn’t happen on his admittedly biased terms, it can’t happen at all. Maybe I should have shared this link on twenty other young unarmed Black men shot and killed by police or security guards for simply being black, male, and in the “wrong” place at the wrong time.

White Supremacy is, again, evidenced throughout social, economic and political realities – even, as we discover through this Great Moving Day, in liberal and progressive White people. Supposed allies have shown their true colors these last few days. They’ve chosen to focus on a narrative of the case that privileges the defendant, perhaps. Or – and this is incredibly common occurrence through Facebook – they tell their black friends how to feel, tell them to stop grieving, to not be angry. In one particular exchange I was privy to, a white male liberal invoked King and Gandhi as examples of calm for my female black friend to follow. Of course, he wasn’t evoking them as real, complex humans, but his own colonized versions of them. For a Black female to grieve and be concerned in public about something which affects her and her family, friends and community is something that White (and Male) Supremacy cannot stand. Emotions of people of color are to be kept in check and limited to how comfortable White Supremacy allows them to be. This highlights the fact that White Supremacy does not see People of Color as actual people, but subjects of white fantasies and whims.

Sometimes those fantasies are entirely antagonistic, sometimes they are nicer, but still lack the ability to see people as fully human. It also highlights the controlling impulse of White (and again Male) Supremacy, as well as the idea that Whites have the answers and know how to solve conflict and problems. These concepts have been displayed time and again by White Leftists. From Democrats joking about racism or color-blinding the issue, to Green Party members arguing that Zimmerman was actually innocent in rebutting against a statement from the party. From liberals worrying that Black people will riot and mess up everything, to socialists arguing that we really should ignore the issue and go after the banks.

Donald Miller, a fairly progressive Evangelical author wrote a piece whitesplaining the verdict and the “truth gaps” that Black folk “filled in” with their imaginations. Because Black folks, to White Supremacy, are not able to come to rational conclusions based on their experiences and minds…

Even the godfather of progressivism, Jimmy Carter (who is a hero of mine), could not help but portray Peace for Trayvon protests as violent race riots. While that could just be a sign that he was misinformed about the nature of the marches (in LA, for instance, police shot rubber bullets into the crowd to disperse them, but despite a few arrests, marches were peaceful), it also speaks to a residing fear among the collective White Imagination about Black people. Additionally, the former President seemed to chide Black people for being emotional, and suggested that they should bury the past. As if the injustice of racialized predator practices and murder was a mere singular event rather than a regular occurrence among people of color in the US.  But more revealing of the thread of White Supremacy is Carter’s admission that he doesn’t think race played a factor in the verdict and shouldn’t have. Race and racism was central to everything in the trial. In proclaiming the jurors and verdict to be color-blind, we are saying that the jurors resided on their de facto “race” identity to understand the trial – that race being “White,” the normative race for White Supremacy.

In sum, racial conversations must take place only on the terms of White people – that is White Supremacy at its essence. Others are not qualified to conduct or analyze their own business or their own realities. They are not even qualified to know how to act without White supervision and interference. In White Supremacy, personhood is only given to those who act in accordance with White Supremacist narratives and only as long as they do (which is why they denied it to the enslaved but give it to the unborn).

To the extent people of color fall out of this WS narrative, White people are supposed to judge and fill in the gaps or cross out the offending parts – always keeping the non-White in check. This applies to not just Black people, but indigenous, South and East Asian, as well as women, trans* people, people with disabilities, autistic people, etc. – as long as they are kept in their “proper place.” If, in fact, we find ourselves arguing against the majority of an oppressed group on their own perceptions of their own lived experiences, then maybe it’s time for us to shut up.

In agreeing with the White Supremacy narrative, we White people cannot see our own blindness and we deny the beautiful, hopeful, ugly and tragic complexity of humanity. To reject the narrative gives us a clearer vision for where we are right now, and that gives us a map in order to move forward in seeking freedom and justice for all of us from oppressive forces – including ourselves. We find the keys to our freedom on moving day.

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*As many of the views and conversations I share here are on private pages and I did not have the foresight or technology to properly screen-cap, I only share links where I can.

jasdye

When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!

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  • rexi44

    *sigh* Today feels like the part of moving day when your knuckles are caught between the refrigerator and the door jamb, and the other guy keeps pushing.

  • Ivan Ivanovich Renko

    So very spot-on.

  • Katt Möw

    Kinda upset that at the mention of how the White Colonists formed a racist nation, not one single nod of the head was given towards the largest American Genocide, The Indian Removal Act. This Act served to produce the largest genocide the world has ever ignored.
    Several grammatical mistakes were also found in this essay. I would like to see the writer develop more research skills and better presentation of factual evidence.
    That being said I cannot argue that Trayvon Martin was not racially profiled, because he was profiled under assumptions that would have costed a police officer his job. Florida, the lovely state where I live, has woefully ignorant law-writing skills and have thus written a law that, while providing for use of lethal force against would-be racists, literally wrote that what the shooter THOUGHT of the situation being is what the situation must be treated as in court. What we see with this case is an unclear racially motivated case (unclear because as assimilable as Zimmerman is, he is still Hispanic enough for true White supremacists like the KKK to victimize or reject from their groups). What we see in the trial is a reverse racism, the assumption that only whites can be racist, therefore racial motivations “do not apply”. Worse is the jury selection; the jury selection was so far removed from the demographics of both the victim and the accused that one is reminded of the book To Kill a Mockingbird. Ironically, the mockingbird is our state bird. Florida, though incredibly integrated, is also still incredibly segregated in its towns and school districting. I used to work in Sanford, and I must mention that it is a very Black town. There is a strong dichotomy between the Blacks and Whites in the area, and it IS more likely that poor people steal, making it more likely that Trayvon did fit the bill for a thief suspect to an untrained guy acting as a vigilante. THIS is the real problem, that murder on the street is acceptable in lieu of a trial by jury for the suspected crime of thievery.
    That decades after slavery and “integration” that gerrymandered districts (although we are still redistricting as a result of Florida’s redistricting bill aimed at fixing that problem) encasing Black communities in impoverished states in which local funding is pointless; you cannot make money for the government if none of your people are making enough to pay into the system. But this gerrymandering has pretty much done its damage, and it will take twice as long to fix the inequalities that produce the criminality amongst the poor. And since more Blacks are poor as compared to Whites, more Blacks will do the crimes that only a few Whites (called White Trash, harshly) commit. Robberies are not victim-less crimes, but more often than not the person committing them are victims of the inequalities of yesteryear, perpetuated by the economic machine in which it depends on where you start. Aside from the obvious crimes of the “Birth of a Nation” and such other KKK propaganda (not all of which are as obvious) is this assimilation which I mentioned earlier. (“The Birth of a Nation” is a very old silent movie that lasts longer than James Cameron’s Titanic, and actually had the very first explosions and full scale battle scenes in a movie, and is parodist of Gone With the Wind, but far, far, more overtly racist. It’s incredibly astonishing when you think of the budget all of these firsts in silent films must have costed. Then one might wonder exactly who funded it…)
    White supremacy has changed itself into what other nations may call “American Pop Culture”. It’s not as much about the color of your skin as it is about acting white. And still a little about the color of your skin. You have to have that “Good Hair” if you’re black , and you have to be “Red-Bone” or “Yellow”… “Dark Girls” is a good documentary illustrating how the “lighter the better” for black women plays a role in Black society, and how the closer to White a girl can look, the better. We see skin bleaching and wearing weaves and wigs is essential to being accepted as natural Black hair is essential to being “fashionably acceptable”. One might also look into India’s Fair and Lovely product advertisements for an overtly expressed version of this. It is no different than this American equivalent, it is only more honest in its discrimination. It is odd to me, the “white” kid in a mixed Native and European American family, that darkness is not the prettiest, as I was teased, if only tounge-in-cheek and in good humor, about being “White”. It wasn’t fair to my older sister who got called Mexican, or Squaw like it was a compliment and not a word turned derogatory. Not having your race recognized immediately, but proud of who you are makes you chide your kid sister about never being recognized. Social assimilation assumes that those, like Zimmerman and myself, who could pass for white SHOULD pass for white. This is wrong. What is even more wrong is for someone to know that this exists and use the misguided nonsense of those social imbalances to pass judgement on another because of that presumed race. President Obama was right, it could have been him years ago. It could have been a mixed kid who looked “black enough” and/or “rap fan” enough to look “threatening” or “suspicious”. However, the prosecution got a lucky break about race to a presumably all-white female jury, who may not have viewed Zimmerman as white to them as he appeared to the cops who first saw him that night. Surely, in their delayed response with Zimmerman, they at least aided the racial profiling by acquiescence.
    Finally, the reason that the prosecution did not overtly use the Stand Your Ground Law in court is that they did not want the defense to use it as the reason that Trayvon Martin was justified in busting up Zimmerman’s face. Instead they came at it like he was fucking Batman. This isn’t Gotham and surely Trayvon Martin wasn’t the threat that The Joker or The Penguin were to the fictitious city of Gotham. This is real life, and in real life neighborhood watches are about reporting to the police. He did not listen to the instructions of the dispatcher and pursued Trayvon Martin too closely. Had Trayvon indeed been a robber and not a kid walking down the street with skittles, the penalty for theft, embezzlement, fraud, is not death. Stealing does not get you killed. In the state of Florida, breaking and entering can get you shot on sight, but allowing citizens to use excessive force on the street in a neighborhood watch is devastating. I am very much for the Castle Doctrine, which allows a person to shoot someone entering their home. However, Stand Your Ground is far too vague in allowing for perceived situations to occur. IF one was to perceive incorrectly it is no longer a factor. Technically, if one were PERCEIVE that another was a danger to society, without evidence, without probable cause, without due process. That is the danger of such laws. Spare me the Wild West rhetoric and let us really discuss the basic constitutional rights that were denied in this case. This is the basis for which this horrendous law should be overturned. I’m a nice girl, but if you break into my house I will either stab, shoot or injure you with anything I find in order to physically stop you until the cops arrive. If you die while waiting for the authorities then the liability of your death should not legally be mine. However, the law about public use of force should—at the very least—be revise from saying “perceived danger” to “OBVIOUS danger”. For example, if someone starts shooting in a public arena like they think they’re The Goddamned Joker then I want to shoot them in the head if I can get a clear shot, while having the safety of knowing that their death is not my liability. I want the law to be clear that citizens should do this not because they think that they are The Dark Knight, (or The Night, as it were in my day), but because in that situation there is no time to wait for the police to show up; lethal force is an obvious choice when there are no alternatives. Working out guilt is something that is given to due process by authority of The United States Constitution. I do see a conflict should very well lead to its repeal.
    Furthermore, it is obvious that the process of jury selection is somehow very biased in its methodology and warrants some investigation and quite possibly re-thinking. Jury instruction regarding this case needs a very close look. This should have been a mistrial, as some jurors do not have a clear idea of what happened. How could their decisions be conclusive if they did not know how to understand the accents of witnesses? If they did not have enough information, a mistrial should have resulted. A skeptical look at the jury instruction is also key in the miscarriage of justice that has led to an awful precedent from this case . The precedent is horrendous and I’m very tempted to offer a slippery slope of shootouts at The Long Branch Saloon every Tuesday night with the gunmen celebrated as heroes protecting the innocent, but I’ll refrain. Either I am naive or stupidly optimistic to hope that the precedent perceived by the outcome is a far cry from reality. I am, however, a cynic, and still wonder about kids buying Skittles and some Soda from the corner store. I used to walk everywhere at night, unharmed as a female youth walking through the nice neighborhoods looking at the architecture and designing my own plans to have one like that, or that, someday when I get older. That’s the American Dream, right? To have the nice house with a good job in a nice neighborhood with a neighborhood watch to call the cops for you if someone odd starts moving your stuff out with a truck across the ditch. No one stealing uncaught by the local police, and police who don’t profile because of your appearance… An effective ambulance response time in your area with good paved roads and unbiased law enforcement… But no, give an untrained citizen authority of police and security guards, who don’t always get it right WITH training, and allow them to remove another citizen’s right to due process? No. That is not the point of the Second Amendment and it is definitely not a “well-regulated militia”. This legislation missed its chance to truly define what it is to stand your ground against an attacker.

    • Aldous

      The word is “cost,” not costed. Other than that, a very thoughtful essay, if a little long.

  • Aldous

    This was the best article on race in America and the Zimmerman trial I have read yet. THIS is the crux of conversation that should be taking place in the center of American media, not the pathetic spokesmodels and talking heads of FAUX News.

    • I’m both immensely flattered and largely saddened. Thank you, Aldous.