All In with Chris Hays does a great job mocking the “What’s wrong with Black culture?” question. He and his “guest,” Gawker’s Cord Jefferson, straight-face skewer news programs that take every instance of African American law breaking as an opportunity to castigate the group writ large. It’s great satire:
In this five minutes, Jay Smooth attacks the “politics of respectability” and attacks it hard. What exactly will happen, he asks, if Black men pull their pants up? Affordable housing? Well-funded schools? Job opportunities? What is this politics really about? Our shame, internalized racism, and sense of helplessness, he says.
This 4:15 minute video features women recounting instances of sexual harassment and battery by strangers. It’s a wake up call for the kinds of treatment that women routinely receive just by virtue of daring to be in public spaces.
…it’s interesting, right, to notice how often attempts to hurt other people come in the language of sexuality. This reveals why sex can be scary, especially for women who are so often positioned as the one who “gets fucked”… It’s also part of how we demean and marginalize gay and bisexual men.
This post came to mind when I saw this confession at PostSecret:
Let me put this in black and white: this person expressed “hate” by exposing another person to his penis. So he considers his penis a thing that can defile. This is the same penis that he puts (presumably) in his wife who he (presumably) doesn’t hate. If I were his wife, I would wonder how exactly he decides when putting his penis in things is a loving thing to do and when it’s a way to harm or humiliate someone.
I don’t mean to pick on this individual. The idea that it’s funny (“LOL”) to expose this woman to his genitalia without her consent is widespread. This confession is just a manifestation of our cultural belief that men can hurt people with their penises. And that it’s funny when they do.
A single event can take on great symbolic importance and change people’s perceptions of reality, especially when the media devote nearly constant attention to that event. The big media story of the killing of Trayvon Martin and the trial of George Zimmerman probably does not change the objective economic, social, and political circumstances of Blacks and Whites in the U.S. But it changed people’s perceptions of race relations.
A recent NBC/WSJ poll shows that between November of 2011 and July 2013, both Whites and Blacks became more pessimistic about race relations.
Since 1994, Americans had become increasingly sanguine about race relations. The Obama victory in 2008 gave an added boost to that trend. In the month of Obama’s first inauguration, nearly two-thirds of Blacks and four-fifths of Whites saw race relations as Good or Very Good (here’s the original data). But now, at least for the moment, the percentages in the most recent poll are very close to what they were nearly 20 years ago.
The change was predictable, given the obsessive media coverage of the case and the dominant reactions to it. On one side, the story was that White people were shooting innocent Black people and getting away with it. The opposing story was that even harmless looking Blacks might unleash potentially fatal assaults on Whites who are merely trying to protect their communities. In both versions, members of one race are out to kill members of the other — not a happy picture of relations between the races.
My guess is that Zimmerman/Martin effect will have a short life, perhaps more so for Whites than Blacks. In a few months, some will ascend from the depths of pessimism. Consider that after the verdict in Florida there were no major riots, no burning of neighborhoods to leave permanent scars — just rallies that were for the most part peaceful outcries of anger and anguish. I also, however, doubt that we will see the optimism of 2009 for a long while, especially if the employment remains at its current dismal levels.
When white Americans are in trouble, they rarely hesitate to call the police. That’s because most of them trust the police. They rarely realize the significance during encounters with the police of their own protective “white” skin.
Many white folks also have trouble understanding the deep distrust of the police in other racialized communities. That’s because they fail to realize how quick many police officers are to harass non-white people, and how much less they tend to value non-white lives.
White Americans should listen, with sincerity and respect, to the reported experiences of others with the entrenched racist attitudes among the police, and the rampant abuse such attitudes inspire. They should also listen to the corrosive effects on non-white communities of the relative impunity with which police repeatedly harass, and murder, non-white people.
In the following short film, Stacey Muhammad’s “I AM SEAN BELL, black boys speak,” black Americans effectively explain their reasoned fear, distrust, and dismay regarding the police. I think that for starters, this film is perfect discussion material for all American classrooms. And any other gatherings that include white eyes and ears.
See a complementary post, featuring a great clip from Michael Moore, at Stuff White People Do here.
Originally posted in 2009. Re-posted in solidarity with the African American community; regardless of the truth of the Martin/Zimmerman confrontation, it’s hard not to interpret the finding of not-guilty as anything but a continuance of the criminal justice system’s failure to ensure justice for young Black men.
About himself, Macon writes, “I’m a white guy, trying to find out what that means. Especially the ‘white’ part. I live in that heart of the heart of American whiteness, the ever-amorphous ‘Midwest.’” Macon’s blog, Stuff White People Do, is an excellent source of insights about race and racism.
Yesterday Martha O. sent us a video that also looks at this militia group. It includes some of the footage of the White residents from the video in Caroline’s post, but focuses much more on the experiences of several African American men who lived in the neighborhood and were shot or threatened by their White neighbors. The men talk about the panic and terror they felt during these incidents. Toward the end, Donnell Herrington watches footage of the White residents bragging about their exploits. It’s brutal to watch this man listening to the militia members talk about shooting African Americans casually and with obvious enthusiasm and pride.
Trigger warning for racist language and discussions of racial violence.
The video is part of an in-depth story about the Algiers Point shootings featured in The Nation in 2008. And as Martha explained, it’s a harrowing example of how swiftly organized violent racism can emerge when external constraints are even briefly weakened.
Originally posted in 2012. Re-posted in solidarity with the African American community; regardless of the truth of the Martin/Zimmerman confrontation, it’s hard not to interpret the finding of not-guilty as anything but a continuance of the criminal justice system’s failure to ensure justice for young Black men.
Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.
Jay Livingston at Montclair SocioBlog discussed the two figures below (full report here). The first shows that Black and Hispanic drivers are more likely to be stopped by Los Angeles Police than White drivers. The second shows that, when stopped, if searched, police are more likely to find weapons and drugs on Whites than on either Blacks or Hispanics. Conclusion: Blacks and Hispanics are being racially profiled by the L.A.P.D. and racial profiling does not work. Data from New York City in 2008 tells a similar story.
The New York Civil Liberties Union reports that the NYPD stopped 161,000 people in the first quarter of 2011. A record number. Eighty-four percent of those stopped were Black or Latino. The Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit, claiming that the practice is unconstitutional.
Originally posted in 2011. Re-posted in solidarity with the African American community; regardless of the truth of the Martin/Zimmerman confrontation, it’s hard not to interpret the finding of not-guilty as anything but a continuance of the criminal justice system’s failure to ensure justice for young Black men.