Monday, September 23, 2013
Surprised? The Cop that Shot Jonathan Ferrell Dead Like a Rabid Dog Used to Work as an "Animal Control" Officer
More details are emerging about the murder of Jonathan Ferrell by Randall Kerrick, a police officer in North Carolina during the very early morning hours of Saturday, September 14th.
The Charlotte Observer has an account of the events that evening which includes details of the video recording made by the police dashboard camera.
As I wrote here, Jonathan Ferrell was quite literally killed by the White Gaze. What sociologists and social psychologists call "stereotype threat" helped to ensure that Randall Kerrick saw Jonathan Ferrell, a black man, as not fit for human compassion. Research on implicit bias, and the relationship between racism and cognitive processes, demonstrates that Kerrick may have actually believed that an unarmed black man had a weapon in his hands.
Alternatively, and this is a more frightening hypothesis, perhaps Kerrick's instincts to shoot and kill another human being were primed and aroused by the fact that the target was an African-American male.
There is a long history in the United States of whites linking black people with ape and other animal imagery. The Racial State created such a connection as a means to legitimate the dehumanization and murder of black people during the centuries-long slave regime in the Americas and across the Black Atlantic.
Such stereotypes linger into the present: they are reproduced in the collective subconscious (and mediated through popular culture. Black men were historically described as "black beast rapists" or "giant negroes". The same logic argued that we are naturally libidinous, violent, and lack impulse control.
Ultimately, black people, and black men in particular, have been depicted as animals and brutes in need of
I rarely find myself disturbed by news items about White Supremacy and white racism.
However, the last sentence of the Charlotte Observer's story about the shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell is jarring: "Kerrick, a former animal control officer who lives in Midland, was the least experienced of the three."
I was momentarily taken aback not because of the facts presented, but rather as a result of how those words highlighted the "logic" which drove Randall Kerrick's decision to shoot and murder Jonathan Ferrell.
Animal control officers are often called upon to shoot and kill rabid or otherwise out of control and dangerous pets and wildlife. On the evening that Kerrick shot Ferrell 10 times, the latter was transformed into one of those "beasts" that had to be put down with extreme prejudice for reasons of "public safety".
Black men occupy a complicated and contradictory space in America. Black men--and black bodies--are an object of desire, curiosity, envy, fear, and yearning for the White Gaze. As such, black men embody a type of "blackness" that can be consumed and purchased by the public across the color line.
The athletic black body is the metaphorical "million dollar slave". Through hip hop and other types of popular culture, "white negroes" can get a visceral thrill from being "cool" and by engaging in cultural tourism in order to fill the cultural emptiness often associated with Whiteness as a social identity.
Whiteness views black men as dangerous pets: we are wild animals that are best enjoyed from afar. Occasionally, black men may be experienced intimately and in close proximity. Why? The thrill is much more exciting that way.
But, as Jonathan Ferrell, Trayvon Martin, the day-to-day harassment through policies like stop and frisk, and a racist criminal justice system that disproportionately punishes black and brown people as compared to whites demonstrates, the black male body is something that White Society must always be prepared at all times to police, murder, and discipline.
Randall Kerrick did not just kill the person Jonathan Ferrell. He shot a fusillade of bullets at the White Supremacist projection of black men as inherently dangerous and a threat to white society. Consequently, while on his own personal safari as a police officer who embodies State power and authority, Randall Kerrick bagged himself a "giant negro".
The demons of White Supremacy still haunt the Age of Obama. Trayvon Martin and Jonathan Ferrell are proof that they will not be exorcised any time soon.