Saturday, November 22, 2014

Symbolic Racism 101: 'Where are the Black Leaders!' Exploring Racist Post-Ferguson Talking Points and Memes

A Ferguson, Missouri grand jury has yet to reach a decision about whether to indict the police thug Darren Wilson for his murdering the unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

As I discussed on The Chauncey DeVega Show with my guests Mr. Lou Dubose and Reverend Renita Lamkin, 1) the acquittal of Darren Wilson is a fait accompli because black life is cheap in America and the police have historically operated as a force of the Racial State and 2) the media frame around the subsequent people's protests in response to Wilson's walking free without accountability or negative consequences for executing Brown will not be a sympathetic one.

The mainstream news media's coverage of the first round of citizen activism was relatively sympathetic. With the exception of Right-wing propaganda machines such as Fox News, the mainstream news media covered the anger and rage at the murder of Michael Brown as both reasonable and understandable given the questionable behavior of Darren Wilson and the Ferguson police department.

This observation comes with several qualifiers. The white racial frame still dominated the narrative (for example, that there is something "surprising" about how the police brutalize black and brown Americans). Moreover, the wanton violence and overreaction of a highly armed and unprofessional Ferguson police department was so obvious--white journalists were assaulted, a key element in the mainstream media's sympathetic framing of events--that even the mainstream corporate news media could not massage or deny it out of existence.

Symbolic racism is the "new" or "modern" racism. The ideology of symbolic racism consists of a belief that black Americans are lazy and not hard working, have "bad culture", are disloyal and violate basic "American" values such as self-reliance and the Horatio Alger myth, possess a tendency towards criminality, and talk about racism too much, and in such a way, as to make white people reasonably and understandably resentful.

Symbolic racism was present, but relatively muted, in the mainstream news media's coverage of the initial protests and police riot in Ferguson. When/if Wilson is not charged, symbolic racism will be a naked and obvious force in how the news media covers the citizen's activism of black and brown Americans in Ferguson (and elsewhere) as they respond to the grand jury's misdeed.

Symbolic racists will use several frameworks and memes to slur Michael Brown, his memory, and the African-American community's response to a highly corrupt and dishonest process that will leave Darren Wilson financially enriched and suffering no punishment for his decision to unnecessarily kill another human being.

These frameworks and talking points will consist of the following.

1. America is a nation of laws. The jury has spoken. Why don't black people respect that fact?
2. Black people do not believe in law and order. Look at the crime in their communities. They riot all the time anyway.
3. Where is black leadership?
4. Darren Wilson is the real victim here. How will he rebuild his life?
5. More blacks kill each other than are killed by the cops. What the heck are they complaining about!
6. The riots in Ferguson are the result of a culture that doesn't value hard work, fatherless homes, abortions, and out of wedlock births. Black people need to fix their own problems and not blame white people.

Help me add to this list. What racist talking points have you seen repeatedly deployed online about the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson? What racial frame(s) will the mainstream media deploy when/if Darren Wilson is exonerated?


Plantsmantx said...

We'll definitely continue to see the resurrection of the "outside agitators coming here and riling up our Nigras" meme from 50+ years ago.

chauncey devega said...

Outside agitators!

chauncey devega said...

Do you have a link to that open letter? Would be interesting to reconcile it w. the white racial frame and Ferguson. Your first point is spot on. The black community in Ferguson is damned either way.

chauncey devega said...

You are spot on w. language and moral appeals. Paul Rosenberg, who I chatted w. last weekend, has an interview w. George Lakoff. Good and smart stuff on framing and moral appeals.

The folks resisting white supremacy in Ferguson are fighting up hell...for real. History is an anchor on their feet.

Any other thoughts on the conversation w. Pastor Lamkin?

KissedByTheSun said...

I don't get it white racist!? Are black people hopelessly dependent on government or violently opposed to it? It can't be both at the same time.

On the flip side white people cannot simultaneously be opposed to government doing everything for them and yet believe that government always makes the right decision.

All Darren Wilson supporters are like a man who drinks poison whilst expecting his enemy to be the one to drop dead. You will all reap what you sow!

balitwilight said...

How about this frame? - "It's Time For a National Conversation About Race". That phrase has as much integrity as a lake of crocodiles having a weekly conversation about "Favourite Feeding Locations" with the fish.

Just imagine the Nazis having a "National Conversation About Race" with the Jews in the years of increasing persecution leading up to the war. Does this make any sense?

What about a "National Conversation about Racism"? or a "National Conversation about Ending White Supremacy"? That would put a different complexion on the problem.

But no... it will be "The National Conversation About Race", the one that makes it seem that there are Sunnis and Shiites in America and it's really nobody's fault - (especially not those "white" people and their allies who perpetuate this Apartheid dystopia) - just these ancient biologically-determined natural-enemies... and after all - both sides do it. You can be sure this frame will be trotted out. Obama may even helpfully preside. NPR will discuss in hushed whispers. FOX will shout. Meanwhile, the next "black" man or boy to have his brains blown out by a White Supremacy-crazed policeman or vigilante is walking towards his destined starring role in the next... "National Conversation About Race" probably about right now...

Heavy Armor said...

That "open letter" was a threat to the people of Ferguson - to shoot to kill. Anonymous then started "unmasking" KKK members who also happen to be local cops - and the KKK then responds with more threats to kill.

Details here:

(Note: It also contains the first KKK flyer)

Renee Schiber said...

We live in the greater St. Louis metro area and so this is a hot button issue for real. White people I went to high school with are posting the most racist memes. omg! And the good guys among them remain silent and only contact in private to express their dismay. Profiles in courage. Anyway, an acquaintance of mine teaches criminal justice at the Jesuit school St. Louis University. I just saw him a week ago (Nov. 11) and he said that the laws involving police shootings are different in Missouri from Illinois law. If the suspect commits a felony, the officer has the right to use his gun. Regardless of why Wilson stopped Michael and his friend, Michael committed a felony when he reached for the officer's gun. I got upset and started arguing, "so that gives the cop the right to shoot him to death when he's running away?" So I believe that the prosecution and the judge will hammer this into the jury's heads.

SW said...

That's the one. Thanks for posting the link.

Camilla Cracchiolo, RN said...

I think we'll see more propaganda of the type that painted those two young men arrested on firearms charges as "crazy bomb builders", which was a lie, no bombs involved, but now people believe they were planning bombings.

Plantsmantx said...

There is no judge, and there won't be, because the case won't go to trial.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Only from the most backlogged right wing sewage pipe have I heard this one: The Ferguson protesters are terrorists who have turned the community into their own caliphate with encouragement from President Obama.

What will they do with the news that Brown was 150+ feet away from the vehicle when he was shot to death?
Those supernatural powers...

Two weeks before Mike Brown was shot the world was watching Palestinian children getting blown to pieces by Israel and these same people were applauding the Israelis and scorning Palestinian children for existing in homes and playing on beaches.

In other news, those two boys who rescued that little girl from an abduction a couple of years ago had a gofundme for their college fund. They raised $15,000. Darren Wilson raised how much?

Buddy H said...

Darren Wilson raised how much?

Enough to retire comfortably.

Justin M. White said...

Which parts did your coworker think were reasonable? It's just the KKK saying that peaceful protesters are terrorists in disguise, thus they can shoot to kill.

Justin M. White said...

CBS broke the story, and had some lazy language in their original report (it might even be in the revised version), where they said that the two men who were members of the New Black Panther Party were planning on setting off explosives "while the Ferguson protests were occurring", but they were not quoting the FBI, this was just their comment (horribly sloppy language). The right-wing echo chamber ran with it, and said they were planning on bombing the protests.

SW said...

Oh, I didn't delve into the discussion at all. I knew it wasn't going anywhere at all.

Justin M. White said...

Probably for the best.

Miles_Ellison said...

"A jury of his peers objectively examined all of the evidence and came to a reasonable decision based on that evidence."

Translation: Darren Wilson is not a ham sandwich.

Buddy H said...

In other news:

"Woman accidentally kills self with gun bought for Ferguson unrest"

"After purchasing the weapon, the victim is claimed to have "jokingly saying the couple were ready for Ferguson" while waving it around in a moving car, leading to a minor accident, during which the gun went off."

Buddy H said...

Wilson has specifically requested that white rice be thrown at his wedding, not brown rice.

Buddy H said...

From the NY Times:

People close to Officer Darren Wilson said that he had spent the last several days in a state of nervous anticipation.

He has carefully prepared for the possibility of being indicted in the shooting death of Michael Brown. Last week, he met with Jeff Roorda, an official with Shield of Hope, a charitable foundation for police officers that had offered to provide him with bail money, should it be needed.

His lawyers have spoken with officials in the prosecutor’s office to discuss how Officer Wilson would turn himself in if the grand jury returned an indictment. The tentative plan, people close to Officer Wilson said, was that he would be quietly brought into the courthouse in Clayton, where he would post bond, accompanied by his lawyers.

Throughout the last three months, Officer Wilson has typically stayed close to St. Louis, reading news articles and following television coverage of the case, those close to him said. He has made no public statements or appearances.

But he has given considerable thought to how he might begin to emerge from the shadows: He flirted with the idea of telling his story on television, holding off-the-record meetings with television anchors, including Anderson Cooper of CNN, who have courted him for interviews.

And in a secret ceremony in October, he married his fiancée, Barbara Spradling, also a Ferguson police officer, court records show. His lawyer and longtime family friend, Greg Kloeppel, stood witness to the ceremony.

Officer Wilson remains on paid administrative leave, but local officials said they expected that he could resign in the coming days.

balitwilight said...

It's not an accident that you notice the similarity between the fate of Palestinians and the fate of "black" people in these two shining democracies. They are both Type I specimens of "Settler (gun-) Culture" metastasized into full Apartheid states. In both societies the violent border where Dehumanized-Person-Meets-Bullet is where the status quo is preserved for racist mayors right on down to anxious soccer moms. The bloodshed spells an indelible message on the streets: "Know your place". Just like Colonel Jessup yelled in "A Few Good Men" about the men-of-violence who like Darren Wilson, or the IDF, enforce the status quo: "You want me on that wall. You need me on that wall".

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Anyone read this piece by Ta-Nehisi Caotes today?

About the Giuliani garbage from the other night.

The Gospel of Giuliani

"I demand a TSA checkpoint at every shopping mall to shield Americans against Americans. I demand drones to kill Americans before they kill other Americans. I demand that American leaders stop pretending that American morgues and American cemeteries are full of young men because of jihadis. The evidence is clear—American-on-American violence is a silent killer that only Americans can stop. American criminality is now so rampant that it must always be the only topic of any conversation. Let us not speak of any act of international terrorism until American terrorism has been wholly vanquished.

"I realize that uttering these hard truths will find me ostracized from an America where my brave stand and incredible courage will not be appreciated. But this great truth, this high principle, must be spoken in every corner of our country. To limit the Gospel of Giuliani to black people would imply that we regard them as separate category of humanity, fit to be judged by a separate standard. And we wouldn't want that."

balitwilight said...

I just listened to the Ferguson press conference and President Obama's follow-on speech. My main takeways from both:

1) Yep, it's time for that "National Conversation on Race", according to St. Louios (non-)prosecuting attorney Bob McCulloch

2) According to Obama, it's all about Race Relations. (You know, just like Sunni-Shiite conflicts - both sides do it and they just need to "relate" better). Oh yes - and... "Race Relations" are so much better now than ever before. Oh yes...Don't riot "black" people.

3) If you are a "black" person in America and a policeman shoots you dead while your hands are up to surrender - whatever you do - don't let your dead body fall or stumble forwards towards the police man - because that means you are charging him like a zombie. He might shoot you some more, and that would look bad in the casket.

Paul Willis said...

That is awesome. Sure, tongue in cheek somewhat, but there is a couple of important points being made. That Rudy is an unapologetic racist is one; that we are indeed a culture of murder is another.