Friday, October 24, 2014

From 'Bumptious Walking' Under Jim Crow to the Shooting of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson in the Age of Obama

The trickles and leaks of information from the grand jury investigating the killing of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by the white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri have turned into a flood.

This "new" information suggests that Darren Wilson will not be held accountable for shooting an unarmed person multiple times in broad daylight. It was already a fait accompli that Darren Wilson would not be arrested for the killing of an unarmed black person: any other outcome would be outside of America's long tradition of extra judicially murdering black and brown people.

The news media is also complicit with framing and circulating the leaked information in such a way as to exonerate Darren Wilson.

For example, the Washington Post has presented a one sided, rumor filled, and carefully framed story about Brown's autopsy as representing definitive fact--as opposed to information leaked by Wilson's defenders and a corrupt prosecutor's office.

Ultimately, what is the needlessly complex theater surrounding the death of Michael Brown at the hands of Darren Wilson can be crystallized down to one essential truth. Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown for the "crime" of being black and walking in the street.

This is not a new crime in the United States. Under the white racial terrorist regime of Jim and Jane Crow, black people were bullied and murdered for violating similar rules.

The present day version of this "crime" in the Age of Obama is demonstrated by Wilson's harassment of Michael Brown for "obstructing traffic".

Several decades ago, what is a very recent past in the highly polarized and racially segregated community of Ferguson and its surrounding area, this crime of violating white public space was known as "bumptious contact".

For this crime, black people could be arrested, beaten, and even killed for being on the sidewalk near a white person. Bumptious contact was part of a racist legal regime that included other crimes, both formal and informal, such as "reckless eyeballing", not yielding to white people at four way intersections, and asking to be paid a previously agreed upon price for one's labor.

This old fashioned racism of Jim and Jane Crow that lives in the present is circulating in one of the common defenses given for Darren Wilson's killing ways.

In the twisted imaginations of the white racist defenders of Darren Wilson, Michael Brown would not have been killed if he obeyed the following edicts when confronted by White authority. In online comment sections and other social media, Wilson’s homicidal ideation filled defenders have repeatedly suggested that:
all the boy had to do was to be polite. it will happen again- cos thugs arent polite”
The racial semiotics of this statement is not complicated. "Thug" is a contemporary and more polite version of the ugly word "nigger". "Boy" is a statement of racial humiliation and white supremacy that attempts to infantilize, emasculate, and rob black men of their dignity and rights.

"Polite" is a word rich with history and racial meaning.

The White Gaze deems that black people must and should always be submissive and defer to white authority. 

Historically, the racial state and white authority are corrupt, and thus not worth respect or legitimacy by people of color--or ethically and morally grounded white folks. 

However, when white racial logic evokes "politeness" in its discussion of black comportment and behavior there is an implied threat of violence. The impolite black body is to be policed, punished, trained, violated, and tortured--the whip, the lynching tree, the slave patroller, and the police have/do serve that purpose in America. 

Black folks are victims of a cruel paradox in their submission to white authority, for even when they are "polite" and "respectful", black people are still subjected to violence and murder. The White Gaze is the ultimate arbiter of black submission. Consequently, it changes that criterion to satisfy White Power, White authority, and racial paranoiac thinking to fit the mercurial mood(s) of a given white person.

From slavery and Jim Crow to the era of Stand Your Ground, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and Michael Brown, white supremacy and the color line are maintained by codes and rules that are both formal (the law) and informal ("common sense" and "acceptable" behavior).

When Darren Wilson is not indicted for the murder of Michael Brown, Ferguson will burn. The strategic leaks of information by the prosecutor's office are a way of turning Wilson into a victim and Brown into a "thug", the instigator of his own suicide by cop. 

Per routine, the mainstream news media will frame the righteous anger at a broken and corrupt system as one more episode of black irrationality from a people who collectively do not respect "the rule of law" and "the system".

The exoneration of Darren Wilson, a white man who killed an unarmed black person without proper cause, is an old American habit. The black community of Ferguson's reaction to his being allowed to walk free, financially enriched via paid for bounties from his supporters, and without negative consequences, are the sum total of many violations, both small and large.

The present is not an orphan. It has parents. The killing of a black teenager Michael Brown without negative consequences by the white police officer Darren Wilson is part of America's long dysfunctional family legacy across the color line.


Jim Wagner said...

"The present is not an orphan. It has parents."

These are a really fantastic couple of sentences. Might I humbly suggest that we add the phrase "history-blind" to our concept of modern color-blind racism? It is such a common tactic among racists, covert and otherwise, to harp on the supposed facts of a single case in order to seek out some justification as to why that particular "thug" deserved what he got, or why some single instance of police violence may have been regrettable but wouldn't have happened if X, Y, Z. There is always some minor mitigating circumstance to be found, the discovery of which is immediately elevated into the determining factor in the case. Each instance of police brutality or white-on-black murder then becomes a singular, unrepeatable phenomenon, hermetically sealed in the present and to be judged only according to its own supposed rules, divorced from any historical context or link to this country's rich past of gunning down non-respectable negroes in the street. The black bodies pile up, each one marked with a blood-stained factoid that absolves its murderer of culpability in this longest of cons. "This isn't about racism, it wouldn't have happened if he'd been polite." "This isn't about racism, it wouldn't have happened if he hadn't been wearing that hoodie." "This isn't about racism, it wouldn't have happened if he hadn't been drunk."

A color-blind, history-blind, racism-blind acquaintance from high school who engaged me in a conversation about Michael Brown on Facebook back in September actually wrote to me: "Well I would just say this, the more often you put yourself in the position to get shot by a police officer the more often it will happen.." I didn't bother to ask what his minimum standard was for "putting yourself in the position to get shot by a police officer."

Bob Macias said...

Brilliant-yet-maddening as always. How can so many people be so deluded as to NOT understand the idea that overt racism is alive and well in our 'Land of the Free'? Oh wait.. it's because they're willfully ignorant. Sorry, I keep forgetting that sorrowful fact. "The present is not an orphan. It has parents." Spectacular, CDV!!!!

Buddy H said...

Again, John Fugelsang has been making some interesting twitter comments:

I like how ppl who would never trust govt or the media immediately believe both whenever an unarmed black teen's been shot.

Buddy H said...

And speaking of bumptious walking... Every time the wife and I take a stroll, we find ourselves expected to step out of the way of younger white people (sometimes men, sometimes women, sometimes couples).

When I was younger, if I saw an older person approaching, I'd respectfully make room for them on the sidewalk. But now that we are older, young men and ladies seem to expect us to step out of their way.

At first we made room without even thinking about it, because as my wife put it "we're polite" but then I finally asked her if she noticed the pattern, and she did. She told me it irked her because it wasn't long ago when people of color were expected to step out of the way of their "betters."

Is it racism or rudeness? I don't know. Pedestrians are supposed to make way for each other. The next time someone tries to walk directly into us, there's going to be a collision.

chauncey devega said...

That is so spot on. Interesting too, how the black witnesses who saw this unfold before could not be trusted by Wilson' murder the "new" black defenders of Wilson who were "in hiding" must be believed because they are saying what Wilson's fans want to believe.

chauncey devega said...

There is a serious decline in public standards of comportment across the board. I have also noticed young people walking 3 and four abreast on the sidewalk blocking everyone around from passing and getting an attitude when you push through or tell them to move. Nevermind the "smart phones" that have created fools and zombies who can't pay attention to where they are walking.

chauncey devega said...

Kind words. Just trying to tell some truth. Wilson walks. Old story. Now what do we do? I have another piece on a bit of hidden American leisure culture that is part of this too that I will save for next week. I have been finalizing and editing Season 3 of the podcast so I am a bit behind. I have 3 interviews from folks who were/are on the ground in Ferguson--2 already done, one for Monday, that will make for a special podcast series.

chauncey devega said...

Great comments. Funny how these day to day white supremacists won't simply own their sentiments, i.e. black and brown people should be killed by the police because it makes me feel safe.

Plantsmantx said...

Let's not forget the "sidewalk lane change", in which you approach a white couple, and happen to be walking on the part of the sidewalk that will bring you closer to the woman than the man when you pass them.

Plantsmantx said...

The Daily Kos comment I'm going to excerpt is actually about Trayvon Martin and Zimmerman, who of course wasn't a policeman, but I think it still might answer your question:

Later I realized he wasn't a little kid, he was practically an adult. He had already been in fistfights, he smoked pot and he'd been kicked out of school. His dad was out with his girlfriend instead of home with his kids. Of course, this background information was not available via the MSM since they were much more interested in riling up the public and getting more attention for their shoddy reporting antics.

This same guy complained about the photo of Mike Brown that accompanied another Kos post. It's the one where he's wearing a green jacket and has headphones on. This guy thought he lookedunacceptably nonthreatening in that photo.

Wavenstein said...

Five words : Burn it the fuck down.

James Estrada-Scaminaci III said...

Hopefully, if Darren Wilson is not indicted (which I hope he will be), Ferguson will not burn. If Ferguson does burn, then the story will shift to the burning and rioting and the violence and whatever else happens. RFK is reported to have said, "Don't get mad, get even." Violence only serves the white supremacist cause and plays directly into their "law and order" code words. Political organizing and putting together a movement is what is needed. "Righteous anger" will be re-framed. This is the time for the black community and progressives to formulate a strategy to counter-act a strong possibility that the murderous officer will not be indicted. If you know something is coming and don't prepare for it, believe me, the other side, the white supremacist side, the colorblind conservatives, mainstream media, and others will be prepared.

Dennisdread_2000 said...

Because they see the police as their personal shock troops, charged with keeping them safe from the rampaging and murderous, angry black hordes.

Dennisdread_2000 said...

The official story is almost always a lie.

Dennisdread_2000 said...

Geo Zimmerman, with malice aforethought(" they always get away" he told the 911 operator), pursued an unarmed, minding his own business teen through a housing subdivision. He pursued him, first in his vehicle, then on foot, gun in hand. That the teen ended up dead, shot to death, is hardly a Nancy Drew mystery.

And who is Geo Zimmerman anyway? A drunken, violent, unemployed, racist abuser of women. A man child who has never had to face the consequences of his actions. Hardly a role model, in fact a classic example of the worst kind persons you would ever want your child to grow up to be like.

But, he killed a black male, and to the cons and racists of this country that makes him a hero.