Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The New York Times 'Niggerizes' Michael Brown: I Wonder How They Would Slur My Life and Memory?

There is no liberal media. There is only a corporate media. The corporate media is deeply involved in maintaining and sustaining a society that is racially hierarchical and where whiteness is privileged.

Social scientists have repeatedly demonstrated how the news media misrepresents, distorts, and presents stereotypical depictions of non-whites. This bias is especially true with the coverage of crime.

For example, black people are depicted by the media as criminals at rates which are much higher than the actual amount of crime which the former commits. Conversely, crimes committed by white people are under-reported by the news media. The news media "humanizes" white criminals, presenting a narrative of a good person who somehow went wrong. By comparison, black and brown "criminals" are monsters. Thus, there is no effort to psychologize, explain, or understand what would motivate the latter to break the law. Why? The White Gaze deems deviance and bad behavior as the natural state of affairs for black people: this is especially true of black men.

The killing of an unarmed black teen named Michael Brown by the incompetent white police officer named Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri is one more example of how the news media defaults to a habit where black people need to be saints and angels in order to receive a modicum of its empathy and sympathy. The news media's desire to niggerize Michael Brown is greater than the obligation to locate his life within a broader context. This is a function of old fashioned racism, implicit bias, and a deep American cultural belief that black people are inherently pathological and dysfunctional.

America's news rooms are predominantly white, the media is dominated by white men, and the American "public" as imagined by the corporate media elite is "naturally" white. Consequently, the white racial frame operates at every level of the corporate media to naturalize whiteness as good and normal while blackness is made into something grotesque, bad, maladaptive, and deviant.

The depiction of black criminality as salacious and common is also circulated and legitimated by a massive prison industrial entertainment complex that includes TV shows such as Cops, The First 48, Orange is the New Black, Lockup, etc.

On Monday, The New York Times slurred Michael Brown's memory by defaulting to a narrative of black criminality and bad behavior in this much-discussed piece. The Times then issued a piss poor weak sauce raggedy explanation for their observation that Michael Brown "was no angel". The editors of the Times should be embarrassed by their rebuttal: it is a pathetic lie, one that the liar himself would not even believe.

Writing at The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates has returned from his walkabout and self-imposed contemplative exile and retreat to write about the murder of Michael Brown by the cowardly killer cop named Darren Wilson.

"Michael Brown's Unremarkable Humanity" is a short and honest essay. As good writing does, it moved me to think about my own life in relation to how Michael Brown has been "niggerized" by the news media. If a snapshot of my life, either as an adult or as a child/teenager, was condensed down to a few hundred words, in an essay lacking any connective tissue or context for who I am (or alternatively would like to believe that I am) how would the story read?

Moreover, what cultural biases and frameworks would be used by the reader and the public to interpret the meaning of my life as a working class black man?

I could pull out some gems about school, grades, and other achievements. But, my personal life inventory contains some of the following facts and details too. Someone working to niggerize or otherwise slur my life and memory would likely emphasize events from my childhood that could potentially be viewed as nebulous, problematic, or titillating.

For example:

1. My friends and I enjoyed setting fires at a local cemetery. We would then put them out. If we could not put them out we would run to a nearby pay phone and call the fire department.

2. My friends and I organized coordinated military style assaults at the local gravel pit. We would hide in the quarry and then attack the workers and their heavy equipment with smoke bombs. We could have gotten killed. Youth knows no limitations of mortality...until one of your friends dies at too early an age.

3. I have beaten up people who called me "nigger" in school and elsewhere. After one such incident, I refused to apologize to the teacher and told her to call the principal so that my parents could sue the school and have her fired.

4. As a child, I would go with one of my neighborhood buddies and steal the bikini style underwear from the clothesline of the gay couple that lived down the street. We would then taunt the gay couple and call them ugly names.

5. I would put dog poop on a stick and chase girls who I liked with it.

6. In middle school, a friend and I beat up a racist white kid who lived several blocks away. We then put him in a garbage can and rolled it down a busy street.

7. In high school, I was shot at during a dust up between one of my best friends, some of his people, and a local gang.

8. I was associated with people who would later join gangs, get killed, kill others, or in one case, become a professional criminal and mid to high level drug dealer before retiring from that hustle.

9. I was sexually intimate with girls in elementary and middle school.

10. In high school I had an emotionally inappropriate relationship with a female teacher who was 30 years older than me. We did not consummate the relationship because at the last minute, once I realized the depth of what was taking place, I panicked.

11. My friends and I would run elaborate war games and military exercises in full camouflage, with realistic looking toy guns, at the local nature preserve/park.

12. I was detained by the police during the summer between elementary and middle school.

[In the style of Michael Brown, I would be smeared as a violent, reverse racist, sex deviant, fire setting, homophobe who would likely have shot people at a mall or school if I did not get caught up with my "thug" friends and end up dead or in jail. Anyone who knows me would laugh at that conclusion; if you did not know me, or alternatively all that you knew was my race and gender as presented in a narrative spun by a third party writing for the corporate media, the conclusion would likely be very different.]

There are many, many other "interesting" facts about my younger life (never mind the present) that I could include in the above list. One of the ways that black people are niggerized by the White Gaze is that we are not given the benefit of the doubt about our humanity and behavior. The default assumption is that we are a problem; as such, there is a backward working reasoning process and path dependency that naturally ends with black folks being troubled, criminal, and problematic people.

One of the core privileges of whiteness is that as compared to people of color, white folks receive the benefit of the doubt in all things--especially if they have to do with race and the color line.

A young white man shoots up a movie theater? Something must have gone wrong psychologically. Another white teenager kills dozens of people at school? We must engage in deep soul searching to see what his family life was like!

White female teachers are having sex with their students? That is just mildly inappropriate and not really a crime anyway.

White conservatives and "ammosexuals" are running around with guns and pointing them at federal authorities? These "patriots" are just exercising their Constitutional "rights" and protecting us from "tyranny". White teenagers are killing black people in hate crimes? White parents kill their daughter's black boyfriend? Those are outliers. Why are you people so upset by them!

The niggerization of Michael Brown by the corporate news media, as well as how black people are misrepresented by the media as criminals, more generally, reflects a type of day-to-day white supremacy where there is no empathy for the Other.

Ultimately, the White Gaze is an act of projection on to others, one that distorts the humanity of people of color as seen by the owners of whiteness, where the latter functions as a type of social and political property.

The White Gaze also works as a type of introspective mirror or looking glass for white folks that distorts, makes noble, and beautifies the person looking in it. White privilege makes black and brown folks into something ugly and criminal as a way of transforming white people into a harmless, benign, and "normal" group of people.

In all, the niggerization of black men and boys by the White Gaze is a way of elevating and nurturing the White collective psyche. Michael Brown is the latest victim of what is a centuries-long American cultural trope.


KissedByTheSun said...

Someone should start a tumblr called "which youthful mistake would the media use to niggerize me?" I've got a whole host of them.
1. I grew up and hung out with crips gang members. We occasionally had small skirmishes with bloods gang members.
2. I smoked weed. Listened to "gangsta rap". Cursed like a sailor. Been arrested twice. Carried weapons often.
3. I got expelled from junior high for bullying a white kid on the last day of school because he ratted on me for bullying him.
The list could go on. I was thinking of concluding with something like "and now I'm a successful blah blah blah" but what exactly would that prove? I was no angel growing up, does that mean I deserve death? Does it mean that I'm always guilty until proven innocent? If my life hasn't taken a 180 does it mean that I'm not allowed the rights of an American citizen? The answer is yes. In America the answer is still yes. We only pretend it isn't.

chauncey devega said...

Off with your head you brigand! There is something very basic in the vitriol being directed towards Michael Brown's memory that I will elaborate on in a follow-up post.

KissedByTheSun said...

Looking forward to it. By the way during my high school years my teachers (mostly white) called me "the spiritual one". They would probably ROFL at the thought of me being a "thug". They also knew I was no angel either, just a flawed human.

chauncey devega said...

Thank you for the links. How would your life be distorted?

Myshkin the Idiot said...

You must be OG. Look at you light that cigarette with a milkshake at 8 years old.

Courtney H. said...

You are welcome. I have been watching this video a lot since Michael Brown was killed. I think I will watch the 5 BROKEN CAMERAS documentary as well. And I have heard about Edward Said and his comments about Orientalism.
You are right -- making the Other the enemy, and then demonizing that enemy (whoever that enemy may be) has been happening for generations.

Courtney H. said...

You are welcome. Here are some things: I was not exactly a stellar student in school, I did not respect my parents all of the time, I cheated on a couple of tests, I punched a girl in the stomach, I bullied and was bullied, I used a lot of profanity, there have been times when I spent too much money, etc.
Hate-mongers can use any of those examples to justify distorting my life. Who knows? They may even make up some stuff.

kokanee said...

There is no liberal media. There is only a corporate media.

Amen to that. But what about MSNBC? What about Al Sharpton?

Lkeke said...

I'm seeing all knds of interesting parallels between the events in Ferguson and 9/11. A lot of what's being said aobut Mike Brown is being used to justify White people's apathy towards Black life but a lot of these things were also said about this country after 9/11. That we were bullies who deserved what happened to us.
And how is it okay for White poeple to get on social media, and praise Officer Wilson, vilify all Black people and and celebrate Mike Brown's death but it wasn't okay for for the Iraqia and Iranians to celebrate in the streets after 9/11.
A lot of the same people who expressed confusion and anger and called out those people about their actions in celebrating the deaths of so many people are now doing the same thing in excusng and celebrating the death of one man.
It's just interesting how that works.
Mike Brown deserved it bc he was a bully.
America deserved it bc we're global bullies.

Courtney H. said...

Great analogy! I never thought about that! Someone needs to tell that to the bigots.

joe manning said...

The concepts "childhood" and "adolescence" are products of bourgeois culture. These groupings are marginalized and therefore tend to be rebellious. In the 60's many radical feminists such as Shulamith Firestone and Germane Greer championed the cause of children's liberation.

chauncey devega said...

Yup. You are a "thug". Time to have you shot dead in the street by a cop because you are a threat to his or her life.

Courtney H. said...

Check this out:


chauncey devega said...

That is funny. I forgot that I was smoking weed and cigarettes so young. I am sure that Fox News would bring on an "expert" to analyze the photo in order to determine what type of drugs I was using and my state of mind at the time.

chauncey devega said...

MSNBC is owned by General Electric. So yes, corporate media.

DanF said...

Wait ... Chasing girls you liked with poop on a stick actually worked? Man. No wonder I never saw any action.

Also set fires as a kid, blew-up more fire crackers (illegal in California) than anyone really should, had some Hispanic friends that later joined gangs, we stole pool coping and construction materials to make skate ramps, most of my friends either smoked pot or drank, but I'm white - so really just good clean hi-jinks in the burbs.

OldPolarBear said...

I have a coworker who has openly talked at work about smacking her daughters for being "mouthy." If anybody says anything about it, we get that same "my mom and dad hit me and I'm fine," but she is not "fine." Her life is one big train wreck of a mess and she is only now, in her 40s, kind of starting to figure that out. Hitting kids is never OK.

OldPolarBear said...

It's not nothing that they have Al Sharpton on a show, but it's not very much, either. He and the other reasonable, more-or-less liberal hosts are only a small portion of their programming.

OldPolarBear said...

LMAO at your number one! What is it with kids and fire? I loved fire and would mess with it any chance I got. OTOH, my mother had a near-obsessive fear of it, so there was sometimes a certain tension created there. We lived out in the country and burned a lot of our household waste in a burn barrel. That was one chore I begged to be allowed to do. I would do any "extra" things while it was burning I could get away with. One was, if there was a cardboard carton to throw out, I would cut windows and doors in it to make a model of a building and turn it over and pretend it was burning, dramatizing the action such as firemen arriving, people jumping from the upper floors, etc.

I was bullied relentlessly for years on end for being fat. Also bullied others, later on especially because of my own internalized, homophobic self-loathing. My best friend and I verbally harassed another kid who it turned out was a transgirl/woman (we had only the vaguest clue about that in those days and certainly not the correct terminology). I often found myself in a rage, suicidal or homicidal, I'm not sure which or maybe both. I shudder to think what might have happened if my family had had guns lying around like people do now. But of course if something had happened, it would have been people saying, "that kid, he always seemed like a nice boy, he must have had mental problems." It would not have been taken as saying anything about my "race." It would not have been all, "oh those white people, they are like that."

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Hitting kids is shameful. My brother has never hit his own kids, but somehow he has found it in him to forgive his abuser. I can't understand it. I have zero respect for my step dad.

kokanee said...

Corporations also rule NGOs with donations and politicians with contributions.

In the Sci-Fi TV show "Continuum," the global corporate congress is the world government.

Aside: GE sold MSNBC to Comcast some time ago.

kokanee said...

I will, thanks!

Miles_Ellison said...

There are white people who've done as bad or worse who are now members of the law enforcement community and the government, where they do substantially the same things with legal and social sanction.

balitwilight said...

Interesting - but I beg to differ. I don't recall a lot of people saying that actual people who died on 9/11 (or, if you like - "America") deserved that fate. What was said by many was that a history of careless, destructive and cynical interventions in other people's countries by a global Hyper-power (USA) had led inevitably to blow-back (see: CIA and US Congress' own analysis).

Michael Brown's brief life was in no way analogous to the unique power-intoxicated arrogance of the American Hyper-power. One is powerful, the other is powerless. That's the point of "niggerization". He was not some Super Villain Scary Negro Bully. Michael Brown lived no more venally than many frat boys his age , or any sample of teenagers. If Brown "deserved" to be shot dead by a policeman on the street, then so do the teen-aged sons of a quarter of all families in this country.

I don't think it's fair to Michael Brown to perpetuate that invidious Scary-Negro-Bully narrative, in any way.

Gable1111 said...

The implication from the times says it all: to be white is to be angelic.

chauncey devega said...

You got to give more details on this one:

"Fast forward 3 years later. They had one of the "Duff" concerts at RFK, with EWF, Rare Earth, The Bar Kays, Eddie Kendricks and many others. A mostly black crowd. Even though it was sold out, they didn't throw the gates open like they did for the Dead. And just like at the Grateful Dead concert, the crowd, otherwise well behaved by comparison, surged onto the field. They started telling everyone to get back in the stands, but everyone was pumped up, enjoying the music and didn't hear. The cops went wild, rushing out and beating folks off the field. Police helicopters swooped in overheard and tear gas was dropped. They beat us as we tried to leave. They broke it up and the concert ended."

Brigand. Dangerous. I am calling the po po to lock you up right now!

chauncey devega said...

Isn't that twisted? Me thinks you can do more and have done more than just empathy. There is a certain timbre to your comments and observations shadow walker. I mean that as a complement.

chauncey devega said...

Isn't fire awesome? You had a damn great imagination. Your comments on guns are true. There were 2 guns in my home that I knew about. Maybe there were others. Funny, I had some bullying, crap happen to me, etc. I didn't ever think of using them to hurt people. My dreams and fantasies were more like a Christmas Story where me and my dog(s) fought off robbers. But, with social media, and the intense bullying young people experience today, who knows how I would have acted out?

One of my great regrets is being a bully by proxy in elementary and middle school for a second because I was friends with a bad man...in the blues sense. I could also hold my own. In pro wrestling, I would the technician of the tag team.

Then I was told after college and grad school by a good friend that I was still, in my own way, very "intense" and "intimidating".

Me? I still don't see it. I am just reserved. It is all in the eye of the beholder. I give hugs and talk to animals and birds sit next to me while I read in the park because they like my treats :)

chauncey devega said...

Very true. I have seen that fact cited. Any materials to suggest?

joe manning said...

Shulamith Firestone's The Dialectic of Sex chapter 4 Down with Childhood is an illustrative history of the institution of the patriarchal family, familia referring to the pater's total number of slaves according to Roman law. And you'll want to read Dialectic of Sex chapter 5 Racism: the Sexism of the Family of Man. Dialectic of Sex Chapter 1 is on marxists.org. See Calvin Hernton's Sex and Racism in America, Phillipe Aries' Centuries of Childhood, and Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex.

Wild Cat said...

I marched. I protested. I witnessed. I denounced. I saw more than most, perhaps, because young and old I've lived in all-black neighborhoods, and young-and-old, I lived in all-white neighborhoods.

I came to grips with various racist white people in my past, shrugged them off and their poisons as best as I could. It took nearly a quarter century, but I've finally shrugged off my "ethnic" identity. I re-educated myself as best as I could to deal with my own [possibly] innate and inherited racist thoughts and assumptions that I deserved better things because I was termed "white."

I try not to give many details. As stated, I'm a very minor functionary in the media, and what I see these days in the media is frightening; the vapidity of the low-wage workers, the white-supremacist infiltration that would shock you (or perhaps not).

I'm middle-aged; I'm tired; I'm in my cancer years from endless cigarettes; I'm shell-shocked from the hate of the people whose "tribe" or "team" I'm supposed to belong to. I look at the armed madhouse we call the United States, and I just want to get out.

If I have a message, it's that we should all get out and let these rancid, insane white lunatics kill each other off in the name of their gods and their property and their sexual insecurities.

Keep up the great work. To speak out when no one has your back is a courageous thing.

Lkeke said...

I hear you and I'm one of those people who constantly thinks I should get out. But I won't and can't advocate for it.
If I did that I feel like I would be abandoning those who can't leave and someone neeeds to stay for their sake.
There's also the idea that anywhere else is safe when, in fact, nowhere is safe.There is no safe place for someone like me. Black, female, atheist, unmarried, and childless,no matter where I go I'm pretty sure I can find someone happy to mind my personal business to my detriment.
I could probably leave, if I wanted. But iwon't. I can't do it and still be able to comfortably live with myself.

Buddy H said...

Wattstax - the Black Woodstock. Captured on film:


The film is something greater than a record of fantastic concert footage, though the performances from artists like The Staples Singers, Isaac Hayes and The Bar-Kays are mind-blowing. It’s the interviews with Watts residents, who reflect on their lives and politics and what has and hasn’t changed since the riots, that really make the film. Richard Pryor serves as a kind of Greek chorus, and his interactions with the crowd are hilarious and full of humanity. You’ll notice that nearly the entire audience defiantly stays seated during Kim Weston’s rendition of the national anthem.

Wild Cat said...

It's all theoretical, but what if they make conditions so bad beyond belief that you have to leave?

If history is a guide, soon they will need scapegoats for their failed wars and economic policies; soon, their demagogues will have to really deflect blame from themselves and those they championed; soon, whatever is in the air or in the endless pills and booze they inflict on their precious, virginal little white bodies will utterly imbalance what little they have of normal brain synapses. You saw one of their "solutions" just today: It's now OK for kids to go to the White Desert's Burgering and Shootin' Family Joint- just make 12 the "magic" age for girls to shoot to kill a human target, not 9. They're as insane as any storm trooper, and with weaponry and devices the madmen of the past could only dream of.

Soon, the hordes of white supremacists holed up in a Christianist army will be unleashed and unemployed on our general population if we don't find another war to masturbate their hate in. can you imagine this psychotic nation then?

Perhaps your sentiments are noble, but reality may crush those sentiments.

Gable1111 said...

Back in the 70s they used to have these huge concerts, kind of like
WattStax like our friend here mentioned.
There was this promotions group called Dimensions Unlimited, and their
full acronym was DUFF (don’t recall what the FF was for). They would put on these big-a**ed concerts,
with black acts, at indoor and outdoor venues.
In DC this mean Constitution Hall, RFK Stadium, Uline Arena.

At that time you had “supergroups” – Earth, Wind and Fire, Rare Earth,
Eddie Kendricks and the Young Senators, Stevie Wonder, 'Retha, etc.
Then you had local groups cranking out the DC go-go sound, groups like
Chuck Brown, Experience Unlimited and others.
DUFF concerts would include the EWFs, and the local bands.

The DUFF concert I referred to was the last of its kind, because of
what happened. At RFK, they would
position the stage in the center of the field.
It wouldn’t be roped off, but there would be a few security personnel on
the field. When the bands really got
cranking people would be grooving naturally and would want to get closer the
stage, not for the purpose of doing any damage but just out of sheer enjoyment,
and the crowd would surge toward the stage.

Now, they did more than this at the Grateful Dead concert. “Hippies” and assorted white folk came from
far and wide, and many camped out on the stadium grounds. They turned that stadium into a
mini-Woodstock, and virtually took it over for two days. It rained the night before so the field had
turned to mud after being trampled under by all those fit surging on to the
field. But they didn’t just surge; they
settled in, and effed up the field something terrible.

By contrast, at the DUFF concert, we did the same thing, however we
didn’t set up shop there like they did for the Dead concert; we were just there
for the few hours. Me and my friends
were surprised how the cops responded. You
would have thought it was a “riot” instead of people just getting excited at a
concert. And again, nobody was tearing
up anything. RFK security gave but a few
warnings on the loudspeakers before the cops swooped in. They must have had a plan because, they had
the stadium entrances surrounded, and police helicopters flew over head,
dropping tear gas on the crowd. They
gassed the hell out of us. People scrambled
for the exits, but cops were in the mix, just beating up on people. And having gotten outside wasn’t safe either,
as they had cops at the exits. I saw my
friend get his head cracked open by a cop, who continued to whale on him as he
fell. We were so scared we just kept
running. We ran the 12 or so blocks home
without stopping.

The cops went wild that day. It
was a police riot more than anything else.
And the odd thing about it was it appeared to have been planned.

Gable1111 said...

The DUFF concerts on the east coast were like this, and the social scene was virtually the same. Being from "Chocolate City" at the time, there was heavy emphasis on black pride, so the black political perspective was a little different than on the left coast. These concerts were a celebration of blackness at the time, and you couldn't go to one of these and not leave feeling being black was the greatest thing in the world, regardless of the sh*t you had to put up with.

I think about this a lot, how the ethos has changed, Back then, it was about "social consciousness" and "pride." The precursor to this moment in time and the transition into it was marked in part by the point where being called "black" instead of "negro" was no longer a fighting word. That was when James Brown made "Say It Loud..." We had James, Ali and others.

Not to open up a can, but today at these rap concerts its less about feeling empowerment in who you are, as opposed to in what material crap you got, Unfortunately.

Lkeke said...

To be absolutely , I say this and I believe it and my fair my sentiments are strong but I do know my limits. I have family here. Small children, a Mom, brothers, I think their endangerment would definitely be my breaking point.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. (All of today, in fact.) and asking myself that same question. How bad would it have to get? How much could I tolerate? Canada is right next door. ( We live on the Erie.) it wouldn't be spectacularly hard to go there. We could just drive over.

Wild Cat said...

If things progress as I believe they will, I hope you do make it over.

It won't be the first time people will have to leave the so-called "Land of Freedom," and find actual freedom (or at least a better version, unslaved) in Canada.They're not perfect, they have their rouges and racists, but their nation wasn't built on the backs and blood of slaves.

Of course I'm aware that for me it's easier to escape or blend in or act as if, as I'm white. Others in the cross-hairs of a mad nation are not so fortunate.

I wish I caould help, but I can only offer empathy. I've never seen a void in a nation and such a degeneration of thought and culture as I've seen since the Bush II coup d'etat.

chauncey devega said...

Is there medicine available to cure BFR?