injustice

White People

for Amiri Baraka

White people don’t wanna hear about struggle.
White people don’t want you to think. White people
don’t want you to think about struggle.
White people don’t want you to struggle.
White people don’t wanna hear about depression.
White people don’t wanna hear about revolution
unless it happened, mythically, in 1776,
unless it happened in a galaxy far far away.
White people wanna watch Star Wars.
White people wanna listen to Imagine Dragons.
White people wanna vote, don’t wanna hear about
Black people dying to vote, Black people
getting killed trying to exercise their right
to vote. White people wanna listen
to the blues, to jazz, to hip hop, to gangsta rap.
White people don’t wanna listen to Black people.
White people don’t wanna hear about Black people,
about history, about slavery, about white supremacy.
White people don’t wanna hear about it.
White people wanna watch CNN, MSNBC, Fox News.
White people wanna watch TV. White people don’t hafta
sing the blues. But they do, they might. To get paid.
White people want the money. They don’t wanna hear about
money, about inequality, about the lack of money.
White people don’t wanna hear about it.

White people don’t wanna think about the bombs we drop.
White people don’t wanna think about the wars we make.
White people don’t wanna think about the wars we make
to keep up business as usual, the status quo,
to keep the oil flowing, the fat pig greased.
White people wanna eat that barbeque.
White people wanna pay for that barbeque
with the money they make working 9-5 capitalism
in the capital of the War on Terror. White people
don’t wanna see the terror inherent in capitalism.
White people don’t wanna read these words.
White people don’t wanna see that shit.
White people wanna look the other way.
White people wanna turn on that TV.
White people don’t wanna hear about poverty.

No one wants to be in poverty.
No one should be impoverished.
Could we change that? White people been exporting poverty
and death for five hundred years.
Can’t change that. Can we change the future?

White people gotta turn it around.
White people need more than a heart.
White people get your head out of your ass.
White people look me in the eye.
White people see the world tremble in your terror,
see the blood, the bombs, the tears, the terror,
White people see the resolution, the spine, the humanity
unflinching in the face of 500 years of terror.
White people, don’t pass the buck.
White people, the buck stops with you.
White people, read some books written by Black people.
Read some books. Read some books written by some people
who are not cushioned by the system that you aspire to,
that keeps you comfortable, that pats you on the head
and tells you you are white, you are ok, the world is just.
White people, wake your asses up. Stay woke.
White people, white people, white people you are shameful.
White people, come out of the American Dream.
It is a dream.
White people,
Reality can be much more beautiful
than that damned dream.

That Just Doesn’t Make Any Sense at All: American Exceptionalism and White Supremacy are Incompatible with Justice

For anyone who still believes that police departments are not infected by racism, this on-the-ground account of the divergent experiences of two men–one white, one black–over the weekend at a protest in New York City may be helpful in getting a clear view. For anyone unfamiliar with excessive force and police corruption, watching this six-minute news clip about the beating of a suspected Latino drug dealer and the undocumented police action against the citizen that filmed the encounter should be informative. Please do note that the news clip is violent and includes police violence against a pregnant woman; those who may be disturbed by the video are advised to read the story instead. And for elucidation of the problems that the African American community has faced and continues to face from the non-African American community, I recommend this video of Angela Davis (prison interview footage starts at about 1:00 in).

Because of the way this society’s organized, because of the violence that exists on the surface everywhere, you have to expect that there are going to be such explosions. You have to expect things like that as reactions. If you are a black person and live in the black community all your life, and walk out on the street every day, seeing white policemen surrounding you… …when you live under a situation like that constantly… um, and then you ask me whether I approve of violence. I mean, that just doesn’t make any sense at all.

Those are the words of Angela Davis from over forty years ago. Yet, despite any advances that may be cited regarding civil and human rights in this country, they apply to our contemporary situation. Let me be clear: none of this is to condone violence. Violence exists. The state is violent. America is violent. Our society has always been violent. That we have been able to overcome the prejudice that we have, that we have been able to make any social progress at all through non-violent means situated in a historical and systemic matrix of violence attests to the power of non-violence.

Yet we have Dick Cheney telling media, “I’d do it again in a minute,” in regards to torture, which has once again been brought into the media spotlight with the release of a redacted version of the Senate’s 6,000 page torture report. This is the doctrine of American exceptionalism, the notion that, because we are America, we do not have to play by the rules. There is no room for justice in that doctrine. There is no room for dissent, which makes it an extremely poor doctrine for a nation founded on dissent and revolution. It boils down to the simple words of George W. Bush, “Either you are with us… or you are with the enemy.”

As calls for police accountability continue across the nation in the form of protests and non-violent #ShutItDown actions, I notice that mainstream white culture remains silent. I stopped paying attention to mainstream media a long time ago, so I’m unable to say definitively whether mainstream media continues with business as usual, though I have my impressions. There is a large segment of white America that simply doesn’t get it; “it” being the entrenched, historic, systemic violence against people of color, especially black people.

What will it take for America to become the just and free nation that it aggressively advertises itself to be? I humbly suggest less posturing, less defensiveness, less violence, the cultivation of empathy and the ability to listen, the demotion of individualism as a cultural value. More to the point: less American exceptionalism, less white supremacy.

Still Separate, Still Not Equal

I spend almost all my waking hours around my young sons. What happened to Tamir Rice will never happen to them, because they are white. White children simply do not get shot by police for having toy guns.

When I was a teenager and young adult, I walked in public spaces, drunk or high, sometimes a mix of the two. When I was in college, I routinely possessed drugs. I did not get arrested and sentenced to prison, as black men routinely are. During a particularly bad chapter of my youth, I caused a station wagon full of my friends to be pulled over by a police officer when I shouted “Officer Bacon”. The officer intimidated and berated me. He did not arrest me. He did not touch me. He did not even ask me to get out of the car. He did not taze me. I am still alive.

The deaths that black people routinely die are not the deaths that white people routinely die. And this shit has been going on FOR CENTURIES, since the first African captives were sold in Jamestown in 1619. Deep Southern slave culture arrived from Barbados in 1670. The justice that black people receive is both a lesser and harsher justice than that which white people receive. This racism is central to our economic system. Slavery built America.

I do not understand how so many of my fellow melanin-deficient brothers and sisters fail to understand this. This is our nation’s history. Wake up. Read. Have some empathy. History informs the present.

The only explanation for not understanding is willful blindness.