Racism: The Most Violent Weapon in Human History – Hip-Hop and Politics

Racism: The Most Violent Weapon in Human History

by JLove Calderon and David Leonard

February 24, 2014

Originally posted at Davey D’s Hip Hop and Politics

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.

Geraldo Rivera Blames TrayvonRace 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.

Fear of a Black Body | The Feminist Wire

Hank Willis Thomas

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Fear of a Black Body

David J. Leonard

“Suspicious;” “he feared for his life;” “it looked like a weapon;” and “it was a dangerous situation.” Such explanations and sources of defenses have become commonplace #every36hours. As black men and women die at alarming rates, amid claims that racism or race is not at issue, those who want to explain away these deaths, disregarding the injustice and lost futures, continue to rationalize and blame, criminalizing black bodies even, perhaps especially, in death.

Jordan Davis spent his last night hanging out with a group of his friends. He, like many American youth, spent the evening laughing and chatting. Shortly after his family celebrated Thanksgiving, he breathed his last breath. Michael Dunn would shoot him to death. Claiming that “he felt threatened” and he “fired his handgun eight times … only after one of the four teenagers in a car threatened him and pointed a shotgun his way,” Dunn hinged his defense on fear and safety—his own.

Yet, according to Davis’ father, “There wasn’t a gun. They were just kids, 17-year-old kids. They have never been in trouble. The kids had no weapon, they had no drugs in the car.” While Davis lost his life, while his friends have been vilified and criminalized in the media, while his family grieves, Dunn is working overtime to construct himself as a victim. While this shooting is yet another that is happening #every36hours involving an African American victim, Dunn’s defense is denying that race matters.

Then there is Shelly Frey, who was killed in front of her two children after she ALLEGEDLY stuffed items into her purse. When confronted by a Wal-Mart security guard, Frey, “ran to a car — that had two small children in it — and mashed the accelerator as he attempted to open the door.” In response, he fired one deadly shot into the car, fatally wounding her. Yet, again, claims of fear and suspicion justify the aftermath. Thomas Gilliland, spokesperson for Harris County Sheriff’s Office, offered additional justification noting: “I think it knocked him off balance and, in fear of his life and being ran over, he discharged his weapon at that point.” He added, “He confronted the suspects at the exit of the store before they left. One female wouldn’t stop, struck the deputy with her purse, and ran off.”

And while some will note that the off-duty officer who was moonlighting at a security guard was African American to deny the racial implications, race always matters. In a country where black is suspicious, where the site of a black body compels fear, where stereotypes lead people to see things that aren’t actually happening, to note weapons that are never found, can we ever talk about fear, danger, and suspicion away from race. “The frightening thing, if you are a young African-American man, is that you know nothing makes some folks feel more ‘threatened’ than you,” writes Leonard Pitts. “Nor do you threaten by doing. You threaten by being. You threaten by existing. Such is the invidious result of four centuries of propaganda in which every form of malfeasance, bestiality and criminality is blamed on you.”

The consequences of racism are clear from Jordan Davis to Trayvon Martin and from Rekia Boyd to Shelly Frey. A report from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) entitled, “Report on Extrajudicial Killings of 110 Black People,” highlights the epidemic of killings, by police, security guards, and others empowered to “protect and serve.” A great number of killings, the police and others have justified shootings with claims of self-defense, fear, suspicion, and alleged weaponry.

  • Stephon Watts, a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome was shot and killed after police claimed he “lashed out with a kitchen knife.”
  • Justin Sipp lost his life after an off-duty police officer “thought Sipp looked suspicious.” Following a routine “traffic stop for broken tail light” and argument,
  • Dante Price was shot 22 times by security guards who claim he tried to run them over with his car.

Sadly there are many more cases – Rekia Boyd, Canard Arnold, and Dakota Bright, just to name a few. To be sure, racism is at the center of each one.

Continue reading @ Fear of a Black Body | The Feminist Wire.