Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Inevitable 'Niggerization' of Michael Brown by the Ferguson Police Department and the Right-Wing Hate Media

First, I would like to thank all of you who kindly shared your resources for the informal "Send Chauncey Devega to Chicago Comic Con 2014" donation drive. I will send out individual emails of thanks very shortly. We are now very close to making that happen. You are such a very kind and generous group of people. I mean that. Wow.
The niggerization of Michael Brown has begun in earnest. The police and the Right-wing media have decided that like all other black people who have been killed by the police and white (identified) vigilantes, Brown is guilty of causing his own execution-style murder.

Writing about the behavior of the police department in Ferguson, Missouri and their efforts to derail, obfuscate, lie, and dissemble about the murder of Michael Brown is an experience akin to Bill Murray's in the movie Groundhog Day. It is a cultural script that plays out repeatedly in the United States--the events of which are only a surprise to the naive, willfully ignorant, dishonest, and/or stupid.

Those of us who write about race and work the "racism beat" have to struggle to find something new to say about the seemingly endless parade of black unarmed men killed by police and other white-identified authorities. Being a truth-teller on such matters is tedious, not easy, and mentally exhausting.

Cornel West's use of the word "niggerization" to describe how black people are robbed of their humanity by the White Gaze and White Supremacy is cited and mentioned so frequently for a reason: it is one of the most precise and sharp ways of describing both the institutional as well as the ethical and moral violence visited upon black people by centuries of white racism in the United States and the West.

While "Black Twitter" developed a meme designed to point out the twin lying nature of the White Gaze and racial paranoia in how it selectively frames black people's humanity, Right-wing hate media such as the Drudge Report, Fox News, and other conservative sewers defaulted to the black rapist "Bigger Thomas" frame, wherein Michael Brown is a "thug" who got "what he deserved":

Sociologist Joe Feagin's concept of the white racial frame dominates this moment:
In the book Systemic Racism I develop the concept of a white racial frame holistically and comprehensively. Since its development in the 17th century, this racial frame has been a “master frame,” a dominant framing that provides a generic meaning system for the racialized society that became the United States. The white racial frame provides the vantage point from which European American oppressors have long viewed North American society. 
In this racial framing, whites have combined racial stereotypes (the cognitive aspect), metaphors and interpretive concepts (the deeper cognitive aspect), images (the visual aspect), emotions (feelings), and inclinations to discriminatory action. This frame buttresses, and grows out of the material reality of racial oppression. The complex of racial hierarchy, material oppression, and the rationalizing white racial frame constitute what I term systemic racism. This white racial frame includes much more than the usual concepts we use in the study of racial matters, such as stereotyping and prejudice or discrimination.
Black people who have had violence visited upon them by the white racial state and its agents are forced into a type of bizarro world. Like women who are the victims of sexual assault, black victims are forced to defend their right to exist; rapine logic as applied to women is a neat analogy for white racial logic as it applies to black victims of white police (and other) abuse. In this framework, Michael Brown, Renisha McBride, and Trayvon Martin were somehow asking to be killed.

As social scientists have repeatedly documented, there is a deep connection between white racial animus, a fear of black criminality, support for guns, and what is euphemistically labeled as "law and order" politics. White conservative politicians have skillfully exploited that bundle of attitudes for great electoral gain from the end of Reconstruction and "Redemption", to the Southern Strategy, and the present.

The mainstream corporate media dances around a basic fact, one that I have no fear or compunction about stating clearly and directly. Michael Brown is dead because the police are empowered by a good percentage of the white American public to kill black and brown people preemptively and with extreme prejudice. If you doubt the glee that the White Right and the silent majority feel for the killing of Michael Brown, a quick examination of the comment sections on CNN and other news sites will disabuse you of that notion.

During the Cold War, it was "better to be dead than red". Historically, in the United States "it is better to be safe than sorry" by killing black people--who may or may not have committed a crime--as due process is jettisoned in favor of white rage and brutality as a means of enforcing the color line.

There has been an amazing amount of racial progress in the United States. Barack Obama, a black man, is President of the United States. Black culture is American culture.

However, it is the "exceptional" and "special negro" who is lauded and praised, made acceptable and embraced as an exemplar of white tolerance and the virtues of American exceptionalism and superiority.

But what of the black stranger who exists in a type of liminal space? Where he or she is just an idea or concept for the collective White psyche and white racial consciousness, in which cultural biases and old fashioned racism too often deem black personhood as dangerous, predatory, and criminal?

On both sides of the color line, it is easy to love the idea of the exceptional negro. By comparison, for the White Gaze, it is far harder to possess a common feeling of shared humanity and decency with a black stranger, one who even in the Age of Obama and the post civil rights era is overlaid and embossed with the stain and shadow of Whiteness's paranoia, nightmares, fantasies, fetishes, anxieties, longing for, desires, fears, arousal, envy, hostility, and other assorted feelings.
White Supremacy colours black and brown people with a reflective patina that shines back to it a projection of what white racism desires to see people of color as, instead of who we actually are.

The substantive racial progress required to finally vanquish White Supremacy from American cultural life will mandate that all Americans accept the full humanity of non-whites...even as some of the latter, like all people, are less than perfect in their behavior and comportment.

Loving an exceptional and perfect black person is easy; loving less than perfect human beings who happen to be black, and simultaneously extending to them their basic human rights on an interpersonal level, is a far more difficult task for white folks--and those others--who are infected by the racial logic of Whiteness and White Supremacy.


rikyrah said...

As usual, thank you for these hard hitting truthful posts.

joe manning said...

The authentic "looking glass self" is a reflection of ourselves. We look at another person and see our very self and thereby gain empathy as in "there but for the grace of god go I." This process is short circuited when one reflexively engages in "niggerization," whereby a negative stereotype is substituted for a genuine mirror image. It amounts to deliberate self delusion; to self imposed stupefication, dumb-ization, hatred, self and collective destruction.

chauncey devega said...

Projection is very powerful both individually and collectively. How to unlearn its negative aspects?

chauncey devega said...

Thank you for sharing them. We got to keep putting one foot in front of the other. We also need to translate our commentary into action on the ground too.

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

I'm seeing this kind of framing garbage in the comments sections of my friends' FB posts. It's insidious. I like what you say about exceptionalism. Bella Abzug once said of the women's rights movement (roughly) that "Our goal is not to make sure that a brilliant woman physicist can be an assistant professor, our goal is to make sure that a woman schlemiel can rise as high as a male schlemiel." The Ferguson police have been trying hard to show that Mike Brown was not exceptional, and thus cut off white empathy. It's a sad comment to see how willing so many whites are so eager to lap it right up.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

I was out at a lunch with coworkers during a training session this week and CNN was on in the background. The scenery was about Missouri and they were anticipating President Obama to speak about ISIS as well as Missouri.

The headline was, President expected to address Iraq, Missouri unrest. Like the two were related and on the same level of magnitude and just, ugh..

I pointed out that the tear gas scenes and everything were from Missouri and my coworkers were SHOCKED and aghast. I mean, if you're paying attention to things like these, you shouldn't be surprised.

I did my best to explain what happened and how the were over reacting and heavily militarized, but people are just too damn busy in their personal and professional lives to understand this shit unless they make a concerted effort to be present about political and social news.

how do you get the silent majority to show up, listen and pay attention, and then speak up?

chauncey devega said...

There is a cultural sickness at play here. It actually makes me feel dirty which is why I don't do Facebook, read online comment sections beyond what is necessary, etc. I have had lots of my white friends tell me they had no idea how bat shit crazy and racist there relatives, friends, and colleagues were until Obama got elected. One of my former colleagues said that he knew that his brother was a Republican, but he had no idea how racist he was. And they were raised together by the same parents in the same household.

chauncey devega said...

The silent majority, in my opinion are at the least racially resentful and at the worst old school racists who have learned to hide it. That phrase re: Right-wing politics as you know has a long history of misrepresenting reality. I just saw the author Nixonland give a talk here in Chicago on his new book about Reagan. His interlocutor was Garry Wills. Both were damn frank and straight about white conservative racism in a way that shocked me and the attendees. Wills went hard and said how there are still lots of conservatives who use the word "nigger", hate Dr. King, and have just learned how to be polite in public. I looked at one of the other 2 black people there and we smiled at his telling the truth. The rest of the crowd was shocked.

joe manning said...

The human race is hardwired for altruism, inclusion, and empathy as a matter of evolutionary adaptation. Due to a series of historical accidents humanity has embraced egoism, exclusion, indifference, and hostility. As Neil deGrass Tyson and so many others have proven, said short sightedness is threatening our very survival. We can only hope that the survival imperative will shock us out of our complacency. Like Irving Goffman said "nothing focuses the mind more that the knowledge that he'll be executed in a fortnight;" the point being that survival is a mighty motivator, more effective than mere moral outrage. The necessity of education for survival is palpable.

Carolyn Moon said...

As always a well done piece. "Color arousal" (I first heard of on the
Field Negro site) is a prominent feature of this "cultural sickness" you speak of in your article. I remember a relative whom as an elderly person years ago spoke of "resistance" as being a necessary and ongoing aspect of black life. He further cited that many of us have grown group weary and have become a part of the status quo. They must be resisted as well. Daunting indeed!

BobbyV said...

Interesting comment on the militarization of our police (posted on

“If officers are soldiers, it follows that the neighborhoods they patrol are battlefields. And if they’re working battlefields, it follows that the population is the enemy. And because of correlations, rooted in historical injustice, between crime and income and income and race, the enemy population will consist largely of people of color, and especially of black men. Throughout the country, police officers are capturing, imprisoning, and killing black males at a ridiculous clip, waging a very literal war on people like Michael Brown.”

kokanee said...

Excellent post! The subject of separating the "exceptional negro specimen" from average (and collective) black Americans is a neglected topic that needs more attention. Another piece of the puzzle.

Take a picture of this political cartoon: Bill Cosby yelling at a black kid from sidelines, "Come on kid! Pull yourself up by the bootstraps!" Meanwhile, the kid is pinned under the boot of a white giant. Label the white foot with whatever you deem appropriate.

"I'm not a racist. I support Ben Carson for president and he's black." fits right into the white gaze and white supremacy frame.

Cornel West for president!

skilletblonde said...

As I am writing this the autopsy report is in by independent doctor Michael Baden. He concluded that Michael Brown was shot at least 6 times. I'm not sure if I'm down with the celebrity pathologist. But of course it was the family's decision. The only thing I'm going to say about this topic tonight is watch the media it always does. They will take every bit of irrational, unreasonable, insane, nonsensical excuses of the police, and make it logical.. This is what they do, EVERY TIME! When there was video tape of Rodney King being pummeled by police, you were told because he was moving... as he was being struck, he was therefore resisting. In other words it wasn't the video tape, it was your lying eyes. Furthermore, they invited George Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O;Mara, on CNN and allowed him to paint Trayvon Martin as a thug... when he was no such thing. When Zimmerman was acquitted, they hired the ghoul faced O'Mara as a legal analyst.

Now you just watch People of Warnville.

Nick Dahlheim said...

I don't use Republican---I use "RethugliKKKan." I can barely get 2-3% of white AmeriKKKans to accept that the Transatlantic slave trade between ca. 1500-ca.1800 was the most vicious and systematically, long-term genocidal violation of the human rights of a specific targeted group in the last 4,000-5,000 years of human history. Calling it a cultural sickness even makes it sound too nice. What's really at play is that mainstream white AmeriKKKan society is deeply and pathologically psychotic in the high level of cognitive dissonance and the total lack of moral concern or moral imagination for black life---especially the lives of young black males.

Nick Dahlheim said...

I've always liked Mr. Wills---his writings on Reagan were always excellent. And to me, Reagan basically is pure evil. Perlstein's Nixonland is also a great book---Nixon's 1972 campaign (where he had to compete against the likes of open segregationists like Wallace) was the real beginning of the intense white racist backlash that only has been growing in intensity even as the overall population is browning....


HAHAHA. Stop killing, raping, selling drugs, and being worthless little gangstas. Pull your damn pants up and take yo' grillz out. Get a respectable haircut and wear a suit properly. SPEAK PROPER ENGLISH. I'll never hire a stupid a-hole like Michael Brown. He isn't worth my or anyone else's sympathy. Leave it to blind black people to think nothing of their own irrationality. Look at all of the violence and craziness after both Brown and Martin's deaths... Don't you people have anything better to do at 2 in the afternoon?

skilletblonde said...

Thanks for posting those links, Kokanee.

Wild Cat said...

The saddest thing was seeing the return of a blogger, who is linked and respected here, on the racist "The Atlantic" site; after he had to see previously this year the dismal and hostile responses to his coverage of the massacres of Martin et al., one would figure he'd move on, stay in Paris. It's not perfect, but it's better there than here, and his son would be in less danger than in the U.S.

Likewise, his other outlet, the Zionist-friendly/Gaza-hating NYT, is full of racist support for the Ferguson's psychotic police force in their comments section.

I hope people keep in mind the sickening silence of mainstream Democrats over this matter. Likewise, don't be fooled by the so-called "Libertarians."

Again, the only winners here will be the GOP; we'll be hearing law-and-order rants from now until 2025 or so, when the Treasury finally dries up from their looting.

Lkeke said...

You also want t olisten to the St. Louis dispatch audio of just after the shooting.(The release of that audio by Anonymous may have been what prompted the local PD to admit that WIlsn knew nothing about the "robbery that they claim occured before the shooting.) The audio is still up on Youtube, I think. At any rate it needs to be disseminated as widely as possible before it is inevitably removed.
The autopsy shows that the last bullet entered through the back of his head at the hairline and exited out the right eye. It alsosays the wounds on his arms are consistent with someone fleeing or rasing their arms.
At any rate it may all be moot as Wilson has fled and will probably nebver be arrested for what he did. Iwould be very shocked if he decided to turn himself in and face judgment.

chauncey devega said...

I need to watch that...I will not be surprised but again it shows the cultural sickness at work here. The Right-wing media is getting its propaganda machine spinning--law and order and racism and dead Negroes are their decision rule.

chauncey devega said...

Thanks for the kind words. Wish I didn't have to keep talking about these matters. Disturbing.

chauncey devega said...

Wills didn't seem to have much love for Reagan either. I need to go read more of his work.

chauncey devega said...

Is that why he took his learning French sabbatical? I hope he is back and recharged. Rand Paul's words on these matters have no credibility given that he wouldn't have supported the Voting or Civil Rights Acts.

Rosey_the_Robot said...

I read an autopsy report that said all shots came from the front...what I going on...I guess none of us know for sure.

Wild Cat said...

He had a last-minute offer to head to Paris this year, I believe, to continue his French studies. Only he knows if he wants to explore exile (a noble quest) or try to stay with a variety of middle-class, white-oriented periodicals that attract open racism and US aggression (futile, in my book).

I cannot judge him either way (see below). At that Atlantic rag, his task is Sissyphean.

In my real existence, I produce propaganda for both the elite and stupid to exist in this racist and armed madhouse; I'm just another wonk Chris Hedges rightfully condemns in his "Death of the Liberal Class."

chauncey devega said...

Talk about critical self-reflection. Real talk.

chauncey devega said...

Kind words. More coming on that front.

chauncey devega said...

I remember some of his stuff from when I was in college and high school. I was struck by how he didn't give a damn about how folks may respond to what he said. I told myself when I am in my 70s or 80s I am going to not give a damn like him. Was great to see their convo.

Michelle Kirkwood said...

Yeah, even to this day you see comments online by racist idiots claiming Martin was a thug, even though he had NO criminal record at all, and Zimmerman is the one with the known history/police record of domestic assault, assaulting a police officer, racial harassment of a co-worker (you can find that co-worker's testimony about that online) and most recently, arrested for pulling a shotgun on his ex-girlfriend. Yet Martin is still considered the thug, even though he was the victim! And now Micheal Brown is going through the same demonization process, simply because he was a big young black man! As if shoplifting justified his getting shot---why the officer even felt the need to do that in the first place isn't adressed by those idiot racists who believe that.