Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chauncey DeVega on the BBC; Of Trayvon Martin and Black People's Magical Power to Transform Harmless Objects Into Guns




I just had the good fortune of doing an interview with the BBC about the Trayvon Martin shooting. I was asked to appear on the show World Have Your Say. It is an informal
round-table conversation between various guests about the issues of the day.

The BBC does two segments of about 30 minutes each. The format is a rough and tumble conversation with little moderation. Once I figured this out for the second show, I was a bit stronger and throwing more elbows in order to get my points across. But in all, I think I gave a decent accounting of myself and WARN. You can listen to the interview here; my segment starts at about 26:45.

On both segments, I alluded to the idea of black people's unique ability to convince armed white people that harmless objects when held in our hands are in fact lethal weapons. The research in social psychology on this phenomenon (as well as the "shoot-no shoot test") is damning. American society is so steeped in white supremacy and anti-black sentiment that white cops can convince themselves that black folks are imminent dangers, when in fact we are innocent and minding our business. Talk about a darkly ironic superpower.

On the BBC, I also mentioned the idea of slave patrols and Sundown towns in order to provide some historical context for why Zimmerman thought that he could kill a black person with impunity, and that the cops would aid and abet this act of premeditated murder. Do you have any links or stories on the Trayvon Martin case that have been under the radar and deserve more shine?

In the interest of sharing, here is a particularly rich segment from the documentary Slave Catchers and Slave Resisters:

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Outstanding...I have read some of studies around white cops believing that we have guns..

This is very questionable research which is often employed by lawyers and police as a defense arguments in civil and criminal suits often to mitgate and act as immunity for cops..

chaunceydevega said...

@anon. This research is very compelling. Unfortunately, it should be used to lock these characters up, but as you pointed out it can be twisted to other ends. For the same reason while I think that racism is a mental illness that should be listed in the DSM-IV, it could then be used to let racists off the hook because they are "sick" or "disabled."

Improbable Joe said...

You know, for people who fetishize and obsess about guns, cops are really bad at recognizing non-gun objects when in the hands of black people. They can tell a Glock from a Colt from 50 paces, but once it falls into the hands of a black man they can't tell a phone, candy bar, or wallet from a gun.

Nebris said...

It seems even the Republican authors of the Stand Your Ground law have no use for Zimmerman: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/03/20/142600/trayvon-martins-shooter-should.html

Of course that Zimmerman was not arrested on the spot...well, I'm not going to preach to the choir.

Anonymous said...

Watched the today show this am, agreed Martin should not have been shot. Then they showed a segment about violent attacks by people of color
http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/46794322/ns/today-today_rossen_reports/t/rossen-reports-why-wont-wireless-companies-help-stop-cell-phone-thefts/
stealing cell phones. Now I'm not so sure.

freebones said...

a friend of mine made the comment that if the police don't carefully build their case against a character like zimmerman, we'll end up with another casey anthony. i don't know if i agree, but it is food for thought.

Dan Boyd said...

Wow congrats on getting aired on the BBC! You sound remarkable similar to Neil Degrasse Tyson!

ebos depew said...

CDV--thank you for the excellent blog. your students are lucky to have you, hope they're more attentive than I in my day! look forward to hearing you on World Today.

to me this is key: 'there are those who "naturally" belong to a political community and others who are perpetual "guests," "outsiders," or "anti-citizens."' cf the dog-whistle rhetoric of Romney et al in "taking their country back" and the maelstrom of horseshit as relates to the legitimacy of BO as President.

@Dan Boyd seriously, your pic is of Adolph Hitler as a child right? feel free to explain that ridiculous shit.

nomad said...

Wow. Good catch, ebos. A picture is worth two words.

Ellie Ann said...

Loved this. It made me smile, but saddened about the horrible deaths. I just watched a documentary called "The Science of Evil" and in it they talked about a black man sentenced for a rape he didn't commit because the woman victim picked him out of a line-up and SWORE that he was her rapist. The science concluded that different races can't even tell apart facial features, especially in dire circumstances. Awful.