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Forum Post: Black Reality and White Denial in America by tim wise

Posted 2 years ago on Nov. 27, 2014, 8:10 a.m. EST by flip (7101)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

from a much longer piece - "“And most of all, the reflex to deny that there is anything racial about the lens through which we typically view law enforcement; to deny that being white has shaped our understanding of policing and their actions in places like Ferguson, even as being white has had everything to do with those matters. Racial identity shapes the way we are treated by cops, and as such, shapes the way we are likely to view them. As a general rule, nothing we do will get us shot by law enforcement: not walking around in a big box store with semi-automatic weapons (though standing in one with an air rifle gets you killed if you’re black); not assaulting two officers, even in the St. Louis area, a mere five days after Mike Brown was killed; not pointing a loaded weapon at three officers and demanding that they—the police—”drop their fucking guns;” not committing mass murder in a movie theatre before finally being taken alive; not proceeding in the wake of that event to walk around the same town in which it happened carrying a shotgun; and not killing a cop so as to spark a “revolution,” and then leading others on a two month chase through the woods before being arrested with only a few scratches.

To white America, in the main, police are the folks who help get our cats out of the tree, or who take us on ride-arounds to show us how gosh-darned exciting it is to be a cop. We experience police most often as helpful, as protectors of our lives and property. But that is not the black experience by and large; and black people know this, however much we don’t. The history of law enforcement in America, with regard to black folks, has been one of unremitting oppression. That is neither hyperbole nor opinion, but incontrovertible fact. From slave patrols to overseers to the Black Codes to lynching, it is a fact. From dozens of white-on-black riots that marked the first half of the twentieth century (in which cops participated actively) to Watts to Rodney King to Abner Louima to Amadou Diallo to the railroading of the Central Park 5, it is a fact. From the New Orleans Police Department’s killings of Adolph Archie to Henry Glover to the Danziger Bridge shootings there in the wake of Katrina to stop-and-frisk in places like New York, it’s a fact. And the fact that white people don’t know this history, have never been required to learn it, and can be considered even remotely informed citizens withoutknowing it, explains a lot about what’s wrong with America. Black people have to learn everything about white people just to stay alive. They especially and quite obviously have to know what scares us, what triggers the reptilian part of our brains and convinces us that they intend to do us harm. Meanwhile, we need know nothing whatsoever about them. We don’t have to know their history, their experiences, their hopes and dreams, or their fears. And we can go right on being oblivious to all that without consequence. It won’t be on the test, so to speak.

We can remain ignorant to the ubiquity of police misconduct, thinking it the paranoid fever dream of irrational “race-card” playing peoples of color, just like we did after the O.J. Simpson verdict. When most of black America responded to that verdict with cathartic relief—not because they necessarily thought Simpson innocent but because they felt there were enough questions raised about police in the case to sow reasonable doubt—most white folks concluded that black America had lost its collective mind. How could theypossibly believe that the LAPD would plant evidence in an attempt to frame or sweeten the case against a criminal defendant? A few years later, had we been paying attention (but of course, we were not), we would have had our answer. It was then that the scandal in the city’s Ramparts division broke, implicating dozens of police in over a hundred cases of misconduct, including, in one incident, shooting a gang member at point blank range and then planting a weapon on him to make the incident appear as self-defense. So putting aside the guilt or innocence of O.J,, clearly it was not irrational for black Angelenos (and Americans) to give one the likes of Mark Fuhrman side-eye after his own racism was revealed in that case.

I think this, more than anything, is the source of our trouble when it comes to racial division in this country. The inability of white people to hear black reality—to not even know that there is one and that it differs from our own—makes it nearly impossible to move forward. But how can we expect black folks to trust law enforcement or to view it in the same heroic and selfless terms that so many of us apparently do? The law has been a weapon usedagainst black bodies, not a shield intended to defend them, and for a very long time.

In his contribution to Jill Nelson’s 2000 anthology on police brutality, scholar Robin D.G Kelley reminds us of the bill of particulars.* As Kelley notes, in colonial Virginia, slave owners were allowed to beat, burn, and even mutilate slaves without fear of punishment; and throughout the colonial period, police not only looked the other way at the commission of brutality against black folks, but were actively engaged in the forcible suppression of slave uprisings and insurrections. Later, after abolition, law enforcement regularly and repeatedly released black prisoners into the hands of lynch mobs and stood by as their bodies were hanged from trees, burned with blowtorches, body parts amputated and given out as souvenirs. In city after city, north and south, police either stood by or actively participated in pogroms against African American communities: in Wilmington, North Carolina, Atlanta, New Orleans, New York City, Akron and Birmingham, just to name a few. In one particularly egregious anti-black rampage in East St. Louis, Illinois, in 1917, police shot blacks dead in the street as part of an orgy of violence aimed at African Americans who had moved from the Deep South in search of jobs. One hundred and fifty were killed, including thirty-nine children whose skulls were crushed and whose bodies were thrown into bonfires set by white mobs. In the 1920s, it is estimated that half of all black people who were killed by whites, were killed by white police officers.

But Kelley continues: In 1943 white police in Detroit joined with others of their racial compatriots, attacking blacks who had dared to move into previously all-white public housing, killing seventeen. In the 1960s and early ’70s police killed over two dozen members of the Black Panther Party, including those like Mark Clark and Fred Hampton in Chicago, asleep in their beds at the time their apartment was raided. In 1985, Philadelphia law enforcement perpetrated an all-out assault on members of the MOVE organization, bombing their row houses from state police helicopters, killing eleven, including five children, destroying sixty-one homes and leaving hundreds homeless

19 Comments

19 Comments


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[-] 0 points by StillModestCapitalist (343) 2 years ago

I challenge you to explain how we have managed as a nation over the last 30 years to gradually reverse most of the fantastic progress we made in race relations after the second world war.

I'll give you a clue. It has less to do with cops and more to do with corporations.

[-] 3 points by flip (7101) 2 years ago

ours is a corporate/business dominated society - always has been (read charles beard). the cops work for the power structure - so what is your point? and yes we have too many guns - assault weapons for hunting deer? but as mr moore has pointed out that does not explain why we use them to kill each other so much more than other gun owning societies. and once again - your point?

[-] 0 points by StillModestCapitalist (343) 2 years ago

My point regarding corporations was their reckess, immoral, and irresponsible deindustrialization. The wake of destruction left behind literally fuels racism and violent crime.

My point regarding gun control is that our city streets have become flooded with guns. More fuel for the fire.

We need Federal laws preventing conservative run states and cities from undercutting others in order to transfer jobs, wealth, and vital revenue.

We need mandatory background checks and registrations on every single firearm transferred in order to reduce the flow of guns into city streets.

This would help to reduce racial tension and save lives.

Unfortunately, I don't know how the hell to transfer those jobs back to the formerly industrial areas they were stolen from. The consumers sure as hell won't do it. They don't give a flying fuck about deindustrialization as long as they get their material goodies. The government can't force them back. That would be going to far.

We really dug a hole this time.

Greed kills.

[-] 2 points by flip (7101) 2 years ago

yes these are all (mostly) class issues but the we do not like to discuss class in our political discourse do we. i agree with all but your attack on consumers. what would you have them do. the bottom 60 to 70% of the population has no wealth and has lower income than 1970. you blame them for trying to buy what little they can afford cheaper. you are incorrect about those people - they know what the fuck has happened to them and that is one reason they do not vote!

[-] 1 points by StillModestCapitalist (343) 2 years ago

Smartphones, cell phone plans, CDs, DVDs, tablets, cable, satellite, high speed internet, digital downloads, movie tickets, concert tickets, sporting event tickets, official merchandise, pain killers, diet pills, allergy pills, sleeping pills, high fashion, medical testing, makeup, hair extensions, and WAY TOO MUCH DAMN FOOD.

I'm not suggesting that American consumers should live bland uneventful hermit lives in order to make ends meet and/or help transfer jobs and wealth back to formerly industrial areas and the lower majority. I'm only suggesting that they give a thought or two about the COW and the good of society before they throw down what money they do have on TRUCKLOADS OF UNNECESSARY CRAP PRODUCED BY FORTUNE 500 CORPORATIONS AND FILTHY DISGUSTING RICH PIGS WHO DONT GIVE A FLYING FUCK ABOUT ANY OF THEM.

[-] 3 points by flip (7101) 2 years ago

you are correct about the filthy pigs but you did not really address what i said about the bottom of the income ladder. they don't have the time or money to do much of anything much less by grass fed beef at whole foods!

[-] -2 points by BrentWeirick81 (109) 2 years ago

The only way you stop jobs and capital from flowing over state and national boundaries are capital controls and barriers to trade. Cuba has done this with a lot of success, just look at their economy.

[-] 8 points by ShadzSixtySix (1936) 2 years ago

The same Cuba that has been blockaded with US Trade Sanctions, you mean ?!!! That Cuba where life expectancy is higher than US ?!! What would have happened, do we think ... IF Cuba had been able to trade fairly with the rest of the world for last 50 years, rather than be embargoed by an Act of War ?! + :

Should we all simply accept being cowed victims of 'free trade & capital movement' because there's fk all ''free'' about it as someone, somewhere pays for it, imo ! Neoliberal Crapitalist Globalisation favours The 0.01% Parasites and their 1% lackeys but robs, rapes and pillages The Global 99% as it extracts, extorts and expropriates at will !! 'Resistance Is Fertile', so we'll just have to .. 'Globalise' thAt !!!

I've replied to you because I saw your comment but I had only really come here to post the following link

respice, adspice, prospice ...

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[-] 0 points by flip (7101) 2 years ago

hey professor - i have been reading diane's new book. do you realize that the achievement gap between blacks and whites has been narrowing while the gap between wealthy and poor has been growing? do you realize that in schools where 10% or less of the kids are poor we rank at the top of the world in testing. did you realize that our national test scores are higher than ever today - been going up steadily for 50 years more or less.

[-] 2 points by BrentWeirick81 (109) 2 years ago

2014 NAEP Report Card:

"Despite dramatic upticks in overall student achievement in recent years, the achievement gap between white and minority high school students remains wide and steady.

The academic performance of the nation’s 12th graders in math and reading has not changed since 2009, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which on Wednesday released The Nation’s Report Card on America’s high school seniors. But the white-black gap in math and reading scores in 2013 was 30 points, the latter of which grew five points since 1992.

The white-Hispanic gap was 21 points in math and 22 points in reading".

What is she using to measure test scores?

[-] 1 points by flip (7101) 2 years ago

naep - from 1990 to 2011 white 4th graders up 29 points in math and 8th graders up 23 - blacks 4th graders up 36 and 8th up 25. for reading whites up 7 and 7 blacks up 13 and 12.

i do not have time to do this research fro you. get the book. there are a few chapters you should read. you are getting info from those like gates and hedge fund managers who are not trustworthy. the white black gap is narrowing and the poverty gap is increasing.

anyone who knows poor people knows what a crushing burden it is. the gates people say bad teachers are the cause of poor test scores - fix the schools and you will eliminate poverty. that is a cruel sick joke. only those who live in "ivory towers??" can think this way. if you read "outliers" you will find that black students increase their reading skills more than white during the school year. those skills deteriorate over the summer - while white kids increase those skills over the summer. you can blame it on single mothers or whatever you like but it is poverty and that is obvious

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[-] -1 points by StillModestCapitalist (343) 2 years ago

Hey spinoza34. I'm just dying to know. How do you feel about gun control?

[-] -1 points by StillModestCapitalist (343) 2 years ago

Hey flip. I'm just dying to know. How do you feel about gun control?

[-] -2 points by StillModestCapitalist (343) 2 years ago

Hey DNCheadquarters. I'm just dying to know. How do you feel about gun control?

[-] 1 points by DNCheadquarters (69) 2 years ago

That's a broad subject.

Please frame your question very precisely.

[-] 0 points by StillModestCapitalist (343) 2 years ago

Look at all those markdowns for me and markups for the conservatives posing as disgruntled liberals. Yup. Transperancy can be pretty transperant sometimes.

It's been framed. Now dance.

A one, a two, a one two three.

[-] 0 points by StillModestCapitalist (343) 2 years ago

For starters, mandatory background checks on every single firearm transferred. No more cry baby excuses.

[-] -2 points by StillModestCapitalist (343) 2 years ago

Hey turbocharger. I'm just dying to know. How do you feel about gun control?

[-] -2 points by StillModestCapitalist (343) 2 years ago

Hey Shule. I'm just dying to know. How do you feel about gun control?