Tuesday, September 8, 2015

White America's Emotionally Abusive Relationship With Black People

White America emotionally abuses black people.

The abuse takes many forms. It is an unwillingness to admit to harms done, a denial of the pain caused to others, and a habit of selective remembering and forgetting in which White America can imagine itself as largely good and benign, a feat that is accomplished by attempting to silence and bully anyone who would dare to suggest otherwise.

Like most abusers, White America wants people of color to forget the bad and to only remember the good.

Gore Vidal keenly observed that America has “no public memory of anything that happened before last Tuesday.” This truth helps to explain America’s sociopathic behavior: mass amnesia allows a country to benefit from the crimes and immoral deeds it has done, while never having to remember or negotiate the trauma caused by them to others.

As an abuser, White America somehow imagines itself as the real victim. This is the newspeak of “reverse racism”. It is also the public opinion polls which detail how whites somehow believe that it is they, and not people of color, who are the primary victims of racism in America.

Emotionally abusive people also create a sense of insecurity, fear, existential malaise, and anxiety in their victims.

Because of this, the victim of abuse is often made to feel like they are the insane one, the irrational, or the confused. The truth is usually the opposite.

There are many aspects to the emotionally abusive relationship between White and Black America.

There is also a ritual where white racism can only be proven by extraordinary evidence—evidence that must always satisfy the standards provided by White America. Here, the abuser is allowed to determine the “correct” feelings and experiences of the abused. What results is a perverse arrangement that combines the white racial frame, white privilege, and white racial paranoiac thinking.

In its emotionally abusive relationship with black people, White America rarely if ever admits to wrongdoing. The silent white majority cannot concede such a thing. While its behavior may change, and sometimes laws are substantially altered, the public utterance, the mea culpa, and the deeds necessary to make the hurt party fully whole are a near impossibility.

Emotional and physical abuse often takes place in the same relationship.

There are many examples of the institutional-level physical violence and emotional abuse in White America’s relationship to black and brown people. These include the harm done by the criminal justice system, housing segregation, job discrimination, land theft, racial pogroms, white racial terrorism and hate groups, medical Apartheid, and police thuggery.

White America’s emotionally and physically abusive relationship with black people also has a human face. These are the named, the known, the tragically famous victims added to the necropolis of police violence and black death in the Age of Obama. They are the Sandra Blands, Rekia Boyds, Jonathan Ferrells, Freddie Grays, Samuel Duboses, Eric Garners, John Crawfords, and the child Tamir Rice.

Some abusers in the American ritual of white on black emotional and physical violence are infamous among people of conscience. These same abusers are often valorized and made into heroes by Republicans, overt racists, racially resentful white people, and their black and brown sycophants in the Right-wing media.

Two of these schizoid men—heroes and villains simultaneously—are Darren Wilson and George Zimmerman.

Black America told white people that these men, the killers of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, were foul and disreputable, and that racial animus coloured and influenced their behavior and character.

White America chose not to listen to these pleas.

Darren Wilson finally revealed what many people knew and suspected: he gave public voice to his unapologetic anti-black racism in an interview with New Yorker magazine.

(One should never forget that Darren Wilson was a member of a racist and abusive police department that was engaging in a debt peonage racket and Jim Crow-like campaign of harassment against the black residents of Ferguson, Missouri. This is the cultural and political context that empowered Darren Wilson to take the life of Michael Brown for the high crime and capital offense of supposedly stealing cigars from a convenience store.)

George Zimmerman, the police wannabe fan boy and self-appointed block watchmen, has followed Wilson’s lead. Zimmerman now openly embraces his white supremacist values as he sells images of American Swastika/Confederate flag, and publicly calls Barack Obama a “baboon”.

People show you who they are. Black America saw the truth of Zimmerman and Wilson. White America chose to look away. Moreover, as is the habit of physically and emotionally abusive people, White America told black and brown folks that they were crazy to believe that Zimmerman and Wilson were racists.

This is evidence of a deeply felt hostility towards black people’s humanity.

The profoundly racist assumption that white people are supremely rational and that blacks are somehow childlike, hyper-emotional, stupid, and poorly equipped to make reasoned, thoughtful, accurate, and intelligent claims about the nature of reality is unfortunately all too common.

We see such a belief in the scientific racism of the 19th and 20th century, the mind of the chattel slavery plantation owner, offered by American child slave rapist “Founding Father” Thomas Jefferson in his racist tract “Notes on Virginia”, and circulated by today’s Right-wing propaganda media.

Yet, White America has offered no public apology to black folks for its defense of George Zimmerman and Darren Wilson. The Right-wing media is silent. The mainstream corporate media is surprised, to the degree that it is even interested, in what has finally been revealed about the true character of Zimmerman and Wilson.

And black Americans are left saying “we told you so”.   

Emotionally abusive relationships create a sense of frustration in the victim.

The victim communicates their pain and is rebuffed by the abuser. The abused provides the evidence of harm done and are in turn ignored or told to “get over it”. The claims of the abuse are shown to be empirically and demonstrably true. Yet, there is no closure. What remains is a broken and open loop, a cycle of emotional (and often physical violence) where the abuser rarely if ever owns or acknowledges the connection between cause and effect, their actions and the harm done by them.

These sentiments are captured in part by the beautiful prose of Langston Hughes:

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Black folks are only human. Racial battle fatigue still grates and stresses. Racial battle fatigue also kills those who live under its shadow. Black people are not superhuman: there are many victims, those who were somehow broken by life in a racist society, they shamble on, their lives and life chances diminished and unfulfilled.

It is an amazing thing that black Americans have never defaulted to the very human yearning for revenge or racially motivated violence in the face of the physical and emotional abuse they have suffered both historically and in the present at the hands of White America.

The supposed "anti-white" violence committed by Vester Flanagan several weeks ago (or Colin Ferguson in 1993) is profoundly uncommon (despite what white supremacists and the Right-wing media would suggest, according to the F.B.I., black Americans are most likely to be the victims of hate crimes, and white Americans are the group least likely to be targeted).

Black America has made basic justice claims. For centuries, Black Americans have only wanted fairness, justice, and perhaps even a simple and public acknowledgement that people of color are not crazy in their critiques of the color line and its many injustices—as in many ways black folks have been and remain the prescient, amazingly insightful, and "miner’s canary" of American democracy.

Black Americans are a people who are made to suffer in an abusive relationship because they tell white Americans truths about themselves, out of love, and in an effort to heal and improve the United States so that the country can live up to its full potential. Unfortunately, those truths are unpopular, and too many of our white brothers and sisters are loathe to hear them.

No comments: