Friday, September 26, 2014

Dear White Folks, Please Stop Being So 'Surprised' and 'Shocked' When White Cops Shoot Unarmed Black People

Several weeks ago, Levar Jones, a black motorist, was shot by a white South Carolina state trooper named Sean M. Groubert while complying with the latter's request that he present his drivers license for inspection. This unwarranted and unnecessary use of violence by Groubert was recorded on video. He was fired from The South Carolina State Police and subsequently arrested.
In the United States, the black body is so imperiled and used to being the object of white racial terrorism and violence that Levar Jones, an innocent man, apologized to Sean Groubert after being shot.

If there was not a dashboard camera, Groubert would have concocted one of the typical lies told by police officers--the "criminal" was reaching for a gun; he lunged at me in a "threatening" manner"; it was a "clean" shot because I was in "reasonable fear" of my safety--and been given a commendation and left free to walk the streets where he (or she) would continue to harass and murder other innocent members of the public.

The news media has responded to the video recording of Sean Groubert shooting Levar Jones with surprise. Headlines read that the recording is "shocking" or "unbelievable". The largely white commentariat on TV and elsewhere seem genuinely dismayed at Groubert's actions.

I would suggest there is nothing shocking, amazing, or surprising about Sean Groubert's shooting of Levar Jones in South Carolina. Perhaps, this is a function of my blues sensibility and the common sense life skills that I as a black man have had to develop in order to navigate the color line in the United States?

However well-intentioned and sincere the concern and surprise by the (white) American public towards the events in Ferguson may be, they are still colored by white privilege.

Black and brown Americans have been complaining about, organizing in response to, and publicly discussing police brutality and extra-judicial violence against their communities for hundreds of years. Those concerns have largely been ignored by the white public.

The white racial frame deems that those life experiences must be invalidated as somehow exaggerations, lies, or a function of the "natural" irrationality of those who are not white--as compared to the natural "reason" and capacity for "critical thinking", "objectivity" and "rigor" which supposedly comes with being white and male.

It is also important to highlight the raw truth: many members of the white public are invested in white on black and brown police brutality and violence because of both their implicit, as well as overt biases against people of color.

Moreover, even when "habeas corpus" is, quite literally in these instances, in effect, where an unarmed or otherwise innocent black or brown person has been killed by the police or other white identified street vigilantes, and the events are recorded, white racial paranoia still finds a way to twist those events into a bizarre lie of a scenario in which the victim somehow provoked their own murder or abuse.

Eric Garner was killed by police and it was recorded on video. John Crawford III was killed by the police on video. Levar Jones was shot by police on video. And we cannot forget the recent recordings of a police officer beating a black woman MMA style on the side of the highway, throwing pregnant women on the ground, attacking street vendors, and the many other examples of police thuggery against unarmed, innocent people.

To be surprised by these events, given the history of the United States, and the many times that African-Americans and others have publicly protested police racism and violence requires cultivated racial naivete, willful ignorance, and the almost unique ability to ignore and dismiss the life experiences of the Other that comes with being a member of a privileged group in a given society.

Life in a white supremacist society exacts a high cost on the mental well-being, sanity, and overall health of non-whites. In such a culture, one of the most exhausting experiences is when white folks "discover" a truth that people of color have long known and communicated.

When white folks are surprised or shocked by anti-black and brown racism, I nod my head in acknowledgement of their discovery. I then respond, "did you previously think that black people were crazy? Were we lying all these years? Insane? Mad? Was there some concerted effort and conspiracy for us to lie about police brutality and racism more generally?"

The temporary disruption to white innocence and naivete by the "shocking" discovery that police kill and abuse unarmed people of color is a temporary emotional and cognitive state. Whiteness and white privilege are nothing if not a highly refined type of cultural and social amnesia.

By contrast, the white public and media's shock, surprise, and dismay at the murder of unarmed black men and women by police is a continual state of being for Black America.

White folks are just tourists in this world; we have to live in it.


Mack Lyons said...

Life in a white supremacist society exacts a high cost on the mental well-being, sanity, and overall health of non-whites. In such a culture, one of the most exhausting experiences is when white folks "discover" a truth that people of color have long known and communicated.

I have to wonder if, for the sake of our collective sanity, should we make an effort to spend a moment's respite outside of America, just to catch a breather and not get smothered by the unending miasma of hatred and disrespect that's forced upon us.

Gable1111 said...

There is "shock" because this incident cannot be denied. Blacks have been murdered by cops for decades, and without any video, whatever story the cops came up with was believed, because
blacks are by nature murderous brutes prone to violence anyway, so why wouldn't anyone believe a cop being forced to kill out of fear for their lives?

kscoyote said...

Seriously, when the police officer put his hands on his gun, when my Honor Society, Gifted son, who passed the SATs when he was 15, and I remarked that I was set to kill the officer - I was greeted with dismay, horror, and all kinds of condemnation.

My son put his hands in his pockets, because it was freezing outside, and he had no gloves.

If his hand came up, I would absolutely have killed him.

He accused us of being "Drug Dealers," while I was beating an 11 year old Mustang v6, and wearing a Kansas State Engineering T-Shirt.

I must've been the WORST drug dealer in the history of drug dealing.

T. Jones said...

An elegant request but ultimately futile. I understand your approach but there are bigger truths here. White people aren't really "surprised" by racist violence and we all know this. They're well aware of what cops do and have always done to Black and brown people. They know because they're the ones who request and sanction those actions. The press' incredulity is just part of the grand scheme- feigning concern to mask indifference. The benefactors and architects of racism are well aware of its mechanics.

I think a far more meaningful request might be for Black and brown people to stop being surprised and to stop "forgetting" and resetting three weeks after every single murder. Stop thinking that demonstrating and "asking" for the rights and protections that every other American receives at birth will ever make sense. This country has never intended for us to feel safe and secure within its borders and it never will. As long as we offer no resistance to slaughter it will continue. As long as only a small segment of our population stands up and speaks out nothing will change. As long as middle class African Americans hide behind jobs, pleasant homes in white neighborhoods and temporary affluence nothing will change. As long as what passes for African American media fails to actually reflect African American life, nothing will change. As long as African American million and billionaires tend to business as if the house isn't on fire nothing will change.

As long as we continue to offer lip service as resistance to slaughter nothing will change.

Continuing along the path we're currently on only guarantees two options- dying on your feet or on your knees.

Gable1111 said...

Very well said. We've allowed ourselves as a people to be co opted by material pursuits to the extent that as black folk we've become complacent and don't care, until it happens to one of us. Even then resistance isn't sustained.

Little wonder then the grand jury in the John Crawford III trial came back with such a lame and nonsensical excuse for no indictment. There is no cost.

Felonious Grammar said...

Yes, and the press knows that much of their white audience will hear what they want to hear in what they're saying; and many would read this calm, matter-of-fact presentation as being militantly strident and full of nothing but the angry product of a "real racist."

That's what the 'other side' of the "controversy is all about--- speaking out both sides of their mouths. I can't watch this crap.

Felonious Grammar said...


Kameshwari Kate said...

Tariq is correct, the citizens of other countries reject the systematic white supremacy that is so much a part of these United (or divided?) States. Not only are citizens in other countries non-racist, they cannot even wrap their heads around the institutionalized racism that exists in this country.
An example:
Just this summer, I was in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. At an evening house party of a handsome Canadian man, Jean Marc, I spotted a copy of The Autobiography of Malcom X on his bedside table. (I had to change my clothes from gym clothes to party clothes and used his room). I couldn't believe what I was seeing, especially since the book is just one-step away from being banned in U.S. college classrooms. I asked Jean Marc why he was reading Malcom X. He said that he has been thinking of traveling to the U.S., but is not certain he wants to travel to a country that is so racist. He said he was trying to get some idea of why there is so much hatred of Black Americans. He said that in Canada, there might be some racism, but not the long, centuries old racism to its own citizens.
Tariq is also correct that a great way for a younger person to get out and travel to another country is to teach English abroad. College grads, with huge debt and no opportunity for a job here in the U.S. can do very well in India, Japan or China. Everyone outside of the U.S. wants to learn English. I know of a UWSP graduate who went to China. Within two years, he was able to pay his entire student debt. My sister-in-law, from Taiwan, studied English with a private tutor before coming to the U.S. She said that her family paid $125.00-USD per hour for her English language studies. She learned English well enough to work on her PhD here in the U.S.
Courtney H; thanks for the link to Tariq Elite.

chauncey devega said...

"I think a far more meaningful request might be for Black and brown people to stop being surprised and to stop "forgetting" and resetting three weeks after every single murder. Stop thinking that demonstrating and "asking" for the rights and protections that every other American receives at birth will ever make sense. This country has never intended for us to feel safe and secure within its borders and it never will. "

That is some real talk there. Black Americans are in many ways the most "American" yet our status as full citizens is dependent upon being disempowered relative to Whiteness. Hell of a thing. Racial terrorism is part of that mix.

chauncey devega said...

I love the moral and ethical inversion of colorblind racist post civil rights America where to tell the truth about white supremacy 1) makes you the "real" racist and 2) hurts white folks' feelings...and there is nothing worse than doing that in America.

chauncey devega said...

Pithily stated. That is the raw truth--a whole culture has created the myth of the black beast rapist thug murdering ignorant savage negro. What reasonable person wouldn't kill such a fiend on sight?

chauncey devega said...

I heard about that. I couldn't watch the video of his mother. His example is why I tell these wannabe "multiracial" and "mixed race" negroes that want to be anything other than black that the law sees you as black and will you accordingly.

chauncey devega said...

Keep a grip on your sanity Sanity Inspector. Correlation does not equal causation. And if he was shot and it was a planned response to police thuggery then actions beget consequences. In terms of state tyranny I am very much of the Locke, Federalists, liberal democratic Two Treatise's camp.

dbtheonly said...

Mr. DeVega,

Is there an answer? Is there anything to be done?

Do we give up on the idea of a multiracial society? If so, how does that differ from apartheid?

Do we restrict policing of "neighborhoods of color" to Police of color? Isn't that giving up on a multiracial society?

Mr. Jones suggests, "This country has never intended for us to feel safe and secure within its borders and it never will." When I was young, the segregationists were losing the integration battle. As a fall back position the segregationists suggested shipping all of them (the Negros) back to Africa. How exactly does that differ from what Mr. Jones suggests?

Miles_Ellison said...

White America knows anti-black violence the way sugar knows ice cream.

Miles_Ellison said...

A black person with high SAT scores is a lot more dangerous than a black person who's a drug dealer.

Sandy Young (Corkingiron) said...

What should be shocking are the long list of lame brain excuses offered up to justify these shootings. I sometimes think there's a card somewhere that says:

"Pick one from Column A and two from Column B:
Column A:
-black-on-black violence...
-lack of black fathers...
-poor parenting by black mothers...
-cultural pathology....
Column B:
Chicago...(counts twice)
-lack of respect for authority...
-teenagers should not act like teenagers...
-Loud Music. Rap Music...
Funny names that scare grown-ass adults!
But-but-but Knockout Game!"

And the list goes on. I seriously read a number of comments on the Jones shooting that said the shooting was justified because of the fact that Jones did not carry his wallet in his hip pocket like a normal person, so his actions were suspicious.

joe manning said...

Reflexively reacting with surprise at routine instances of human mortification is consistent with obfuscation, denial, self deception, and self censorship. Such reactions function to preserve racism by making it appear to be the exception to the rule. The maintenance of morale and morality requires that we feel good about ourselves and regard our society as just. In the extreme, this panglossian attitude holds that this is the best of all possible worlds, everything happens out of absolute necessity and for the best. It has produced to a high degree of mass schizophrenia as folks try to put a happy face on the general demoralization.

Kameshwari Kate said...

Even though this country has a long history of anti-black violence and non segregation, the lifestyle of integrating came with punishment. White communities that were casually and actively integrating with Black citizens in churches, shopping districts, schools and neighborhoods, were confronted with violence by other white neighbors.
I have experiences of being stopped and harassed by other white women while being with black friends. Police officers pulled guns on me, while being with someone who is non-white; then letting me go, while holding my black friend in custody for no reason. In Milwaukee, I had multitudes of experiences like these, until I finally threw-in the towel and stopped being with Black or Native American friends.
I feel shame at abandoning Milwaukee to live in a more white place in Central Wisconsin.

Kameshwari Kate said...

Thank you, Buddy H.

Courtney H. said...

Kate, you are very welcome! I am glad that the link was informative for you!

Courtney H. said...

Miles, you are so right:

Courtney H. said...

WTF? Are you serious? Damn!

Gable1111 said...

Indeed, and its been so deeply internalized culturally that even many non-whites will have this automatic reaction. This is not to say that, in cases like the Brown murder, Jordan Davis, Eric Garner and others, there was not a conscious, thoughtful and calculated violent response to a black person.

Gable1111 said...

And the fear here is undeniable substantiation of what they know deep down, that not only are blacks their equals, but often times superior in many respects. But this is anathema to white supremacy, built on the stereotypes of black inferiority and thuggery. For many steeped in centuries of white supremacy, the public acknowledgement that its bs is too much for some to take. If they're not "better" then their entire lives are lies and not worth living. In this regard, the successful black scholar, scientist or anything is far more of a threat than the so called thug, which is to them may as well be a wild animal on the loose they just shoot down. Not so easy with the successful black person and thus far more of a threat.

And this is why a President who happens to be black has so upended their world. And why we're seeing this vicious backlash.

Courtney H. said...

You are absolutely right. Dr. Frances Cress Welsing has stated that the only way for many Whites to simply exist is to feel that they are superior to everyone else. Black excellence (especially academic excellence) is a mortal threat to that superiority complex.

chauncey devega said...

White supremacy is a global problem. As is out group in group dynamics more generally. Many racists in Europe, Africa, Asia, and across the Americas have learned white supremacy and are masters at it.

chauncey devega said...

Just curious, what/why do you find Welsing so authoritative and compelling? Just curious.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Dear white people,

Where's the hoodie?
Where's the loud rap music?
Where are the sagging pants?

It's never been about Thug Life. It's always been about being a black person.

T. Jones said...

I'll reserve full comment until the moderator has had an opportunity to respond. In the meantime, please understand that what I wrote and what you suggest are not related. I offered a succinct take on historical facts. You are suggesting that white America's failure to live up to its own ideals should be excused and that a solution might be to give in to white supremacy.

Courtney H. said...

I have not read any of her books, but I have watched a few of her videos on YouTube. It seems as if she is saying what I am thinking. She also brings up things that I have not thought about. She is honest and straightforward about the issue of racism/white supremacy and really breaks it down, especially when she uses anecdotes from her own experience. Dr. Welsing just speaks truth to power.

Courtney H. said...

Thank you. That is basically what it all boils down to.

dbtheonly said...


I'm asking for your suggestion for a solution. I understood you to suggest that Black America and White America can not coexist. If so, then what?

Buddy H said...

When my sons were in their early teens, they (and their white friends) went through a nerf gun phase. They bought these nerf-shooting machine guns and chased each other around shooting at each other. The guns, as purchased, were various dayglo colors (yellow, green, pink) which my sons found uncool. They painted their guns gray. The guns no longer looked like toys, they looked real.

I remember how pissed they were at me when I scolded them harshly about running around outside with these toys. My oldest son, at the age of fourteen, could pass for an adult (at least in the eyes of a nervous white racist)... I told them if they ran around outside with these realistic-looking weapons, a neighbor would call the cops, and they'd be shot on sight. They were PISSED at me, and probably feel resentment to this day. But they're alive.

Years later, I was driving with my youngest son when he was a high school senior. We passed a town police car coming toward us in the opposite direction. I could see him through his dashboard. He raised his hand, and with his thumb and forefinger, made a gesture like he was shooting us.

Our cars passed, and I was shaken by the experience. We don't live in that town anymore.

nicole said...

The problem is that there are so many similar stories, and Mr. Devega is right that we white people have a limited attention span when it comes to the shock and dismay.
Maybe we spend a day or two really upset about it, but then most of us simply put it out of our minds until the next time. Really, while I am as guilty as anyone of this, we have absolutely no right to be shocked..
Mr. Devega's article and the killing of John Crawford III have combined to become a turning point for me. What I can do about it is probably so little that it's futile, but I will try and I will not forget again.

nicole said...

to tell the truth about white supremacy 1) makes you the "real" racist
Truer words never spoken.
I can't recall or recount how many times a right winger has accused myself and others of exactly that since 2008.

T. Jones said...

Apologies if I misunderstood your position. I was thrown off by your suggestion that considering restricting the policing of Black neighborhoods to Black policemen would mean giving up on a multiracial
society. I think you're placing the emphasis in the wrong place. White cops and
their conduct is the problem. White cops shooting and killing Black people is the problem. A "responsible" society wouldn't fix that problem by removing the white cops, a responsible society would demand that the white cops conduct themselves professionally and treat the neighborhood with the proper
amount of respect while upholding the law. Cops that violate that requirement
would be fired and jailed if necessary.

The idea that we have to forego a "multiracial" society because Black America and White American cannot coexist is ultimately ignoring the larger truth, which is that Black Americans have been attempting to "co-exist" with whites for hundreds of years.
We're not in this sad state because Black folks have not attempted to integrate
and assimilate and to otherwise ingratiate themselves with white America. We're here because America is not interested in co existing. We're here because
America requires a scapegoat to keep other white (middle class and poor) people
in check, we're here because white America requires a boogeyman and a villain
and an example of what true disenfranchisement looks like to mollify their masses.

But you wanted a solution right? Well that is an entirely different affair. You’re asking the wrong person, perhaps the wrong people- Black folks can only offer reactions to racism or
defenses against racism. Black people will never be able to come up with a "solution" for racism any more than
women can “fix” sexism.

Imagining for a moment that racism isn’t baked into the soil, I think the “solution” lies with the engineers and the benefactors. I think the solution lies with all the folks who prop up institutional racism every single second of every single day by ignoring it and with that action condoning it or by redefining it and with that action fortifying it. All Black people can offer as a “solution” is not being Black and that ain’t going to work- now is

Racism isn’t a “problem” that the victims can “solve”, it’s a finely crafted, self-perpetuating
socio-political policy that supports and maintains white supremacy. Racism is not a Black issue, it’s an American
issue and America is designed to uplift and support white people. When the day comes that white supremacy and white privilege is recognized as the real “problem” we’ll be well along the way to a solution.

Now, how long do you think that will take?

dbtheonly said...

No apology needed.

I'm just trying to figure out what you're standing for. I'm looking for a way forward.

Because, "would demand that the white cops conduct themselves professionally and treat the neighborhood with the proper
amount of respect while upholding the law. Cops that violate that requirement
would be fired and jailed if necessary.". I thought we've been doing that for years with the (lack of) results you see.

" Black people will never be able to come up with a "solution" for racism any more than women can “fix” sexism." Agreed, but there are specific things to be done, i.e equal pay for equal work, to address the issue of sexism. Are there similar things to be done to address racism? Adjusting attitudes is the goal. Is there something that specifically be done in September 2014?

"Now, how long do you think that will take?" At least in the English Colonies; slavery started in 1608. Slavery was abolished in 1865. Schools began being integrated in 1954. I'm not optimistic. That said, I'm still eager to do specific things today, to solve my little corner of the problem.

T. Jones said...

"Adjusting attitudes is the goal. Is there something that specifically be done in September 2014?"

Yes, en masse white people can reject racism outright. White Americans from all walks of life can demand that their political representatives, employers, employees, educational and penal institutions, military, artists, advertisers, law enforcement, churches, realtors, bankers, doctors, judges, civil servants, lawyers, friends, lovers and neighbors uphold and defend the basic concept that all men are created equal.

They can start this arduous task by realizing that racism is not an "attitude" that can be adjusted, but a purposeful policy designed and maintained on their behalf to ensure that power remains in the hands of rich white men. The only "solution" is for the creators and benefactors to attend to their better selves and abandon the system by dismantling it (and put at risk a finely tuned system of white supremacy).

They determined white person can continue the process by realizing that contrary to popular belief racism is not perpetuated by individuals but by societies through their institutions. This means that society has racist policy as an underpinning- a bedrock- a foundation. Understanding this will make them see that the popular tactic of putting the onus of "fixing" the race problem in the hands of the victims of racism is a sucker's game- a distraction from the real job which is of course- maintaining racism. They'll understand that victims of racist policies don't have the power to modify an institution because they don't control the institution or the machinery to upend it.


While white folks are getting it all together Black and brown folks have three choices.

1. Chill and count on white folks to come correct and live up to all that hoorah written on parchment by slaveholders.

2. Get their defensive game tight and realize that a Black president was probably their best shot and that it just might be time to stop acting like that brother or sister that just got shot or strangled was a stranger.

3. Revolution

I'm banking on #2

Ashley Bell said...

true. plus the canadians have racial antagonism per First Nations People

Justin M. White said...

Sorry for getting to this post so late, but there was a segment making the rounds on Tumblr that fits this post very well, while we're discussing historical amnesia by whites.

It's a Fox news "Never forget 9/11" session where the black commentator (whose name isn't in the description, and I don't recognize many TV figures on Fox) brings up the fact that, in discussing remembering terrorist bombings from planes, we should also never forget the Tulsa, Oklahoma bombings.

Of course the white commentator replies with "What does that have to do with 9/11?", then goes on to say that his opposite is what's wrong with America today.

Dennisdread_2000 said...

Limbaugh told them to do that.

Nigger AIDS said...

Around Blacks, Never Relax