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.