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.

These stereotypes persist and are circulated in the form of how hyper-sexual, black male aggression and thuggery--what is a caricature of black humanity--is a standard trope in much commercial rap music for example.

Ultimately, black people, and black men in particular, have been depicted as animals and brutes in need of
policing and control by "respectable" white society.

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.


chauncey devega said...

Great and thorough comment that is appreciated. The White Gaze is real. But, how much of what constitutes "authentic" blackness is a misrepresentation of our humanity filtered through how white supremacy understands black humanity and is in turn internalized by some black people? Scary thought for some; Fanon and others were onto that many decades ago.

So many black folks hate themselves and each other. Unfortunately--and for understandable reasons--none, or maybe very few, black public voices will say as much. Makes more sense than not given how the white racial frame and the White Right would jump on such a discussion with their knives out.

SunKissed said...

I certainly agree that what is sold as authentic black masculinity is a product of white corporate America. I don't agree that black people, or black men at large bear responsibility for perpetuating those images. Especially when we consider that about 70% of rap music sales are bought by white kids. How is it that the 3 black kids who bought 50 cents album are somehow more responsible for his actions than the 7 white kids who bought the same? Must black people be held accountable for every stupid thing another black person does on air simply because they share the same skin color? And I'm sorry but I'm not buying the myth of the noble black criminal who was more worthy of honor than todays ilk. There was plenty of gangs, crime and N word using amongst our people long before a rapper existed. I hate these images just as much as any reasonable black person should, but I'm not apologizing, hanging my head in shame, or bearing any responsibility for the choices that powerful white men and a few black idiots make.

SunKissed said...

To continue my thought, I also want to cease bemoaning black men who self perpetuate stereotypes. It's the equivalent of telling a young woman she wouldn't get raped if she stopped wearing short skirts. As if the white gaze is somehow justified in some situations. Its like a child who was sexually abused by her parents who thinks she's nothing more than a dirty whore. The attitude I have toward someone like that is one of compassion. Yes, she is totally responsible for her actions, but never does that lesson the responsibility her parents have for how she thinks of herself. Her night walking, drug abuse, or misdeeds never justify her mistreatment. Ever!

skilletblonde said...

I understand what you are saying, but I think I have to respectfully disagree. We cannot sit back and permit these misrepresentations of ourselves to be beamed all over the world. We can't let these guys do that! Indeed, all black males should not have to pay for the sins of the few. Unfortunately, Black Americans are their brother's keeper. We may have grown tired of that responsibility, but it is our lot. It really is. What a few men do in this country not only affects black people in America, but black people around the world. According to the book, "The Black Diaspora", these images are used to oppress black people all over the world. Of course it's not fair that Africans Americans have to bare this burden. But if we ever want to be free of whites defining who we are, the fight must continue. Besides individualism is not part of the African or African American tradition. The right-wing has been successful in propagandizing the individual over the collective. It's sole purpose is to make you think you're only responsible for yourself. Yet, white supremacy is about the collective. It dominates the entire world for prosperity of the European collective. And, make no mistake about it, their whole purpose of demonizing us, is to make sure they stay prosperous.

SunKissed said...

Like you said, we respectfully disagree, with emphasis on respectfully. I hear and agree with much of what you say, I'm just weary of having to answer for the behaviors of folk I don't even know. We certainly are our brothers keepers, I don't believe that means we bear each others sins. Responsibility for perpetuating these gross images lies with those who produce and consume them, be they white or black.

Let me put it like this: Say you got your identity stolen and there were outrages charges made in your name. It would be up to you to gather all the proper documentation to bring to those in power to prove that you are who you are. Lest they make you pay for charges that you never made. In that sense you are totally responsible for proving your identity, even though you've had a false image criminally projected onto you. But, say in the same scenario you have your identity stolen except now you live in a corrupt system that no matter how much documentation you bring they still make you pay for the charges. In that scenario the responsibility for removing the false image projected onto you lies with the one who stole it and the corrupt system. In such a scenario some may be so discouraged that instead of fighting to prove who they are they accept the false image and all the charges and try to make the most of life. In fact some may steal other peoples identity, projecting a false image onto them in a vicious cycle. Rebuking the identity thieves, calling for folk to get their documentation together and prove who they really are, will avail nothing if the system doesn't dispense proper justice.

Mike Bruce said...

That picture of an ape holding a stick is supposed to represent a German. Not a black person.