Yesterday the Charleston City Paper in Charleston, South Carolina, ran a story about a planned protest on the Ravenel Bridge. According to the press release the paper published, protesters planned to block traffic until police intervened. The press release was later retracted and the protest cancelled.
The comments section of the article is full of white people who just don’t understand why activists would use this disruptive tactic. Reading the comments is an exercise in witnessing white privilege, ignorance, and outrage. There’s an accusation of reverse racism, as if that’s a thing that exists. There’s a lot of “don’t inconvenience me” sentiment, which seems callous given a man was murdered by a police officer. There’s also a lot of “this won’t do anything but piss people off and make them want to hurt you” sentiment, which is malevolent and dangerous, given that a man was murdered. One commenter suggests that police should “jump out” at the protesters, which is problematic because here is what a jump-out is. More than one commenter threatened to run protesters over. There’s this one:
Annoying. The murderer has been arrested and charged. There is no injustice here as there were in other cases. Standing in road during rush hour is asking to get run over.
What this man is saying is that the murder itself wasn’t the injustice. The only injustice would be if the officer wasn’t held accountable. That’s a fairly shallow reading of injustice.
It’s tiring, looking at this shit. And they all believe that their sentiments are rational. And I suppose they are, if your moral compass points directly at yourself and your family and whether or not you are inconvenienced, or if you really have failed to understand history.
Because here’s the thing. This extreme violence and dehumanization against Black Americans that’s being witnessed by the masses is not new. The United States was built on similar violence and dehumanization. Black people in the geographical space that has become the United States of America have been killed and terrorized by white authority and white populations since before the country was founded.
I don’t know what it’s going to take for middle-class white people to begin to empathize outside of their demographic. The standard response of white people who felt threatened by the protest is not only racist, but classist. It’s classist because, in its outrage, it fails to acknowledge the privilege involved in driving a car to and from work, or elsewhere.
It’s tiring, looking at this shit. Witnessing these reactions yesterday just drained vitality and joie de vivre from me. It emotionally exhausted me and left me feeling physically tired, my heart rate increased. And that’s white privilege working, too. See, my reaction is still rooted in naivete. I can’t say that I was surprised by these comments at this point, but I was shocked, in the sense that my nervous system jumped in the way I described.
I have no idea how a Black person would feel reading those comments. I can imagine that if I was a Black American, I’d be pissed as hell all the time, living with this white supremacy–because that’s what these comments are, you know. They indicate that middle-class white people have a normal standard that dare not be disturbed. If the standard, the routine, is disturbed, those responsible for the disturbance must be punished.
White supremacy is not an extreme in this country. The comments left by the people of Charleston yesterday are another clear indication that white supremacy is the norm.
The comment section under any story would make one wonder about the sanity of the world. Some comments are serious and others trolling to get a reaction, but all represent a minority of one. A couple anecdotes do not tell us much.
Yes, comments are notorious for trolling and ignorance, but I think these are telling. There are over a hundred comments and there is a pattern to them. Rather than taking individual comments as a “minority of one”, consider the pattern. There’s a common strand throughout many of those comments, and it’s woven with threads of ignorance, disrespect, privilege, and anger.
Over a hundred comments, but out of a population of hundreds of millions. I know it is representative of something and yet not sure if it is something to worry too much about.
I think people tend to focus on the wrong problems. 9/11 was horrific, yet the trillions we spent to get Bin Laden, the liberties and lives sacrificed, were they worth it? Would the time, resources and attention trying to get him be better spent on cancer research or even just handed out in checks to American citizens? Yeah, probably…
Point being: Focusing on evil doesn’t make the world a better place. Yes, certainly, there is a time when evil must be confronted, but there are also times when ignorant people should not be dignified and examples of goodness should be lauded instead.
Don’t get me wrong, I do understand how annoying the reality of prejudice is and I am doubly when white friends post videos like this: https://youtu.be/BLb3o65q0vk
1) Because it feeds fear, brings too much attention to a fringe extreme and is probably motivated by racial prejudice.
2) Because it does represent something real, it does show that real hatred exists and if these guys are saying it then how many others harbor the same sentiments?
But, again, both those who post this kind of thing on my news feed and those in the video do not represent vast majorities either. They both probably deserve less of our attention.
Considering that the default response to the many manifestations of white supremacy throughout the history of the United States of America is silence, and that silence in many ways equates to complicity, I think it’s important and valuable to analyze and criticize any manifestation of white supremacy, however trivial it might seem.
When you view the world through a microscope you risk becoming small in your thinking. You might miss the big picture and those too focused on others are doing might miss opportunities to change what is more within their power to change today.
I think of an article I saw yesterday about need to protect black men. I started to read the response and was astonished. The response was mostly black women and not sympathetic either. The general theme: Why should we care about black men when they don’t care about us. And that’s the nice way of saying it.
Maybe we should all concentrate a bit less on what they are doing, a bit less on what is best for our own tribe (race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc) and a bit more on our common humanity. Too lofty a goal?
Thanks for blogging about this Charles. I wouldn’t have found out about this if it wasn’t for your post.