Racism: The Most Violent Weapon in Human History
by JLove Calderon and David Leonard
February 24, 2014
Stop denying that race doesn’t matter.
To claim that killings of Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Darius Simmons, Garrick Hopkins, Carl Hopkins, and countless others have nothing to do with race erases generations of white-on-black violence.
And before you trot out some example from history of an African American who killed a white person, or cite some FBI statistics (deflection is a form of denial), hear us:
The history of violence directed at African Americans is grounded in a history of systemic racism; efforts to protect slavery, irrational fear, segregation, Jim Crow, stereotypes and white privilege are all part of this history. It is what binds together Emmett Till and Jordan Davis, what links together the countless incidents of lynching throughout America’s history with killings of Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride who were seen as “not belonging.”
The history of the United States is one where whites have killed with impunity; the murder of African Americans has been carried under a culture that continues to sanction this violence. Our society has refused to hold white killers accountable within the criminal justice system. On the flip side, African Americans have historically and continually experience the opposite: the unequal brunt force of the criminal justice system. Unlike their white counterparts, who have been let off the hook over and over again, blacks have been policed, locked up, lynched, and executed for s**t they didn’t do. Just as those involved with countless lynchings and Emmett Till’s killers never faced consequences for killing black people, Michael Dunn and George Zimmerman have been left off the hook.
Race matters because of continued circulation of racial stereotypes. From Dunn’s views about “thug music” or Zimmerman’s profiling of Martin, or the belief from Theodore Wafer that Renisha McBride’s an intruder has everything to do with race. How many different jokes about blacks and crime do you hear each day, either from popular culture or from friends? How often do you confront media reports, video games, films, TV, or conversations that depict African Americans as dangerous, as “thugs,” as threatening criminals?
One cannot understand Michael Dunn, or George Zimmerman or countless others within a colorblind fantasy. We must talk about racism, stereotypes and the history of criminalizing black bodies. Research proves that whites, from college students to police officers, are more likely to misidentify a gun when in a black hand. According to B. Keith Payne, “Race stereotypes can lead people to claim to see a weapon where there is none. Split-second decisions magnify the bias by limiting people’s ability to control responses.” Racism thwarts many in white America from seeing how racism kills.
According Project Implicit, “An analysis of more than 900,000 completed Implicit Association Tests (IAT) at the Project Implicit website suggested that more than 70% of test takers associated White people with good and Black people with bad…” It is easy to dismiss race and racism but the daily consequences of American racism are real; the trauma and pain, the ongoing history of racial violence, and a culture that is more likely to see black criminality than black innocence. Racism kills and so does denial.
Race matters even in death. How else can we explain the lack of concern society shows for the anguish of black parents who have lost a child? The mantra of not speaking ill of the dead is rarely applied to black youth. For all too many, that means routinely seeing the victims as criminals, as unworthy of sympathy and assumptions of innocence. Instead of being seen as victims, as someone’s son or daughter, someone’s friend that lost their life, they are turned into criminals deserving of death. Writing about Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin, Eric Mann highlights the longstanding history of blaming black youth for their own murders: [D]eep in the white American psyche” rests the controlling belief and script that sees “the impossibility of Black innocence.” Efforts to convict black youth for their own murders is engrained in the American fabric, enshrined in the history books, and centuries old in the script of white supremacy. Racism continues to turn the victims of racism into criminals who either deserved to die or did something that resulted in their own death.
Whether citing school suspensions, problems with the law, drug use, clothing choices, being drunk, loud music, whistling, not listening to authority or simply their attitude, the presumption of black guilt, black criminality, and black pathology is reason for black death. Don’t look at the killers or a history of white supremacy since the “victim” is in fact responsible for his/her death. The message is clear: Don’t mourn for them; don’t seek justice for them since it is they (and their parents, their “culture”, and their community) that is responsible, not the killers, not the laws, not the gun culture, not the racism, and not America. . . .
Continue reading at Racism: The Most Violent Weapon in Human History – Hip-Hop and Politics.