Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Real #Fearandrace: Where is NPR's Show About Why America Should be Afraid of White Men?

I am a black American.

I am also a man.

When I look in the mirror, I do not see a reflection of monstrous black masculinity.

I see a human being.

In contrast, the White Gaze views black men as something dangerous and frightening—a type of Other that only through proper training can be forced into some type of civilized behavior. A global culture industry reproduces and circulates images of monstrous black masculinity. It is profitable for a few, and provides pleasure and thrills for millions, even while it robs black men en masse of their full humanity.

But that threat, the idea of monstrous blackness being unleashed on a given white person who lets down his or her guard, is always there. A feral dog or well-trained monster is existentially dangerous; only a fool proceeds from any other assumption.

This belief legitimates the social control of the prison industrial complex, a racist criminal justice system, custodial citizenship, and fuels a “law and order” political logic that is reflected by how white folks who even when made aware of gross racism against black people by the American legal system, still support such measures.

White people are apparently so afraid of black people that social psychologists have designed techniques to soothe their racial animus and anxiety:
Short of that, you can do something very simple to fight prejudice: Trick your brain. UNC-Chapel Hill's Payne suggests that by deliberately thinking a thought that is directly counter to widespread stereotypes, you can break normal patterns of association. What counts as counterstereotypical? 
Well, Payne's study found that when research subjects were instructed to think the word "safe" whenever they saw a black face—undermining the stereotypical association between black people and danger—they were 10 percent less likely than those in a control group to misidentify a gun in the Weapons Identification Task.
Monstrous black masculinity also creates a type of derangement, where through white racial paranoiac thinking unarmed black men being choked to death by police are made into some type of threat, black boys playing in the park can be shot on sight by police, hooded sweatshirts are the uniforms of street pirate brigands, and harmless objects are made into lethal weapons because they are held in the hands of a person who is black and male.

As Frantz Fanon observed, we who are black and brown, living a life in a white supremacist society, must be careful of not accepting how Whiteness and the White Gaze envisions our humanity because to do so is to internalize one’s own oppression.

(White) American society fears black men. This is not a new discovery. In fact, National Public Radio’s show “Code Switch” recently featured two shows on the topic

It would appear that there is a political economy to the “national conversation on race”, one where talking in some flat version of "communicative democracy" is deemed to be a palliative for how white racism negatively impacts the life chances of non-whites.

The repetitiveness of this tired “national conversation” on race is tedious.

Yes, there has been clear, demonstrable, and obvious “progress” on many issues related to the colorline. But, the core value that America is a society structured around maintaining and preserving white privilege and white supremacy, remains untouched. This gem draws it power from how anti-black racism is treated as a type of novelty or aberration when in fact it is a structural feature of American society. It is only the willfully ignorant, the foolish, and dishonest actors who are truly shocked by white racism against people of color in the United States.

This shock and surprise does political work by creating a state of emotional exhaustion among the truth-tellers, who either through lived experience, direct observation, study, or scholarship, know that white supremacy is real and omnipresent (even in the lie that is “post racial” America), yet they are forced to repeatedly treat a “known known” as some type of riddle and “unknown unknown”.

The racism deniers can then hide behind phrases such as “I didn’t know”. Alternatively, those white racists who seek rehabilitation through some shallow act of public apology can say “I am sorry” when their backstage racism is brought out to the frontstage of American life.

The truth-tellers are left repeating the same basic facts...again, and again, and again.

The blindness of Whiteness, its false innocence, the fragility, the self-serving lies both big and small that sustain Whiteness as both ideology and social practice, are revealed in many moments.

For example, during the 1960s, when formal Jim and Jane Crow white supremacy was still the law, a majority of white Americans actually reported to Gallup pollsters that black people had an equal chance of success in the United States.

This delusion continues in the Age of Obama, when too many members of the white public continue to be somehow shocked or surprised by the repeated, videotaped, public episodes of police violence against African-Americans.

[Surprise and shock to which I respond as follows: when black and brown folks were telling you, for centuries, that the police and the courts are racist and violent against us, did you think that we were lying, crazy, or some combination of the two?]

In many ways, colorblind and aversive racism’s greatest defense mechanism is its capacity to exhaust the righteous opposition.

White America’s fear of black men, of what it sees as our monstrous black masculinity, is perverse, a derangement of rational thinking. If any group should be fearful, it is African-Americans who should be terrified of White Americans. The pogroms, lynchings, chain gangs, rape, murder, enslavement, land theft, job discrimination, mass incarceration, wealth stealing, and other indignities were not visited by Black America onto White America. Those crimes, both interpersonal and against humanity, were committed by White America against black folks. The notion that there is some type of shared responsibility for racism in America is one of the greatest and most onerous lies of the post civil rights era.

The power of that lie is so great that it has been suggested and legitimated by the United States’ first black president in his very problematic “A More Perfect Union” speech while also being echoed by the Right-wing hate media.

This lie is not alone; it exists in a constellation alongside such fictions as “reverse racism”, white victimology and “oppression”, and how “anti-white” “racism” is imagined by too many whites Americans as now being a greater social problem than discrimination against people of color.

America’s fear of black men is also contradictory and paradoxical. White America sees black men and our masculinity as something monstrous and dangerous while at the same time imitating, copying, and imitating black style, fashion, sensibilities, aesthetic, and the cool pose. White America’s historic and profound obsession with black men’s sexuality stands without need for comment on the obvious.

How White America has reconciled the cognitive dissonance that comes with being fascinated and compelled by and to the black body while simultaneously loathing and fearing it, remains of the great puzzles of psychohistory.

In a world that is unlikely to ever be made real except in the fantasies of Afrotopian dreamers, NPR would feature a series of shows called “America’s Fear of White Men”.

White men have started two world wars, destroyed the American economy by engaging in casino capitalism, commit mass shootings in America’s schools, and Right-wing domestic terrorists, a group that are almost exclusively white and male, constitute one of the primary threats to domestic security in the United States in the present.

White men are also at the forefront of organized, violent, anti-black hate groups.

Despite such facts, narratives of monstrous black masculinity are far more compelling to White America.

White masculinity is neither wholly benign nor morally neutral.

Monstrous White Masculinity has killed many thousands of people in the United States. Yet somehow, fictions of monstrous black masculinity dominate the news media and the white American collective subconscious.


KissedByTheSun said...

"Well, Payne's study found that when research subjects were instructed to think the word "safe" whenever they saw a black face—undermining the stereotypical association between black people and danger—they were 10 percent less likely than those in a control group to misidentify a gun in the Weapons Identification Task."

Well I'll be! A whole 10 percent you say! I feel safer already.

On a serious note, I got to see Tim Wise speak at a Seventh Day Adventist school called Oakwood University. He was on point as usual. I hope some of the younger students absorbed what he presented because they spent most of their time running from a wasp that had flown into the lecture hall.

Paula said...

The fictions of monstrous black masculinity are shadow projections of a white people gripped for millennia by fear of sexuality. White men, in particular, see in black men their own disallowed masculinity and are compelled to kill it off lest the White Guy In The Sky start throwing thunderbolts down on the earth. European men historically have not been allowed to indulge the full range of their masculine proclivities because their God had set restrictions, while African mens' Gods did not set such restrictions.

Moreover, white people (some more unconsciously than others) think black masculinity is theirs to own, because the shadow projections they assign to black men are indeed their own — but whites cannot distinguish between their own shadow projections, for which they are responsible, and the discreteness of the person, or entire group of people, onto whom they are projecting. Whites end up thinking they own blacks because whites are incapable? unwilling? to identify and take responsibility for their shadow projections.

And since sexuality is, archetypally speaking, the basis of creativity, whites end up thinking they own the products of black creativity as well: black people are not creative in their own right, they are recepticles for white shadow projection, have therefore been impregnated with creativity by whites, who then think they own and deserve the (financial and other) rewards of black creativity.

All of this is unconscious of course and white people far and wide will howl in indignation at these kinds of ideas, but I have thought about this a very great deal and I don't see how it can be otherwise. White psychology, like the White Guy In The Sky it created, requires a sacrificial scapegoat — a slave, in other words, tasked with carrying the shadow-projected sins of everyone else and who will be sacrificed for the spiritual cleansing of all. Every black man who dies at the hands of white authority represents white victory over its own unacceptable, repressed masculinity — except it doesn't work that way, and so black men continue dying en masse so white men can continue their failed project of killing off their own rejected masculinity.

I could say a lot more but i'll stop blathering now. Thanks for reading and thanks for an excellent blog — there seems to be a dearth of excellent blogs anymore.

chauncey devega said...

What a visual. I think there is a painting or cartoon there about the truth as a wasp that our young people run away from like it is a monster!

What did Tim talk about?

chauncey devega said...

Interesting analysis. You are likely familiar with Lacan, also Dyer's great book on Whiteness. If not, seek them out. You will find them very useful. I was thinking of the classic book White Racism: A Psychohistory as I worked through some of my ideas here. A classic.

cognitive pupillometry said...

It's probably all that negro crime and criminality and the thirty year celebration of the same in popular music, video, etc..., Behind every crimey black billionaire rapper is a Jew many times as wealthy. Dare not speak the truth of this pornagraphic media sensationalization that accounts for the global fascination and pathetic superficial imitation.

KissedByTheSun said...

It was like a highlight reel of some of his best work on white supremacy, white privilege, and white fragility. Not new for me but certainly new for many of the young students there.

Gable1111 said...

There's an abundance of historical evidence and events that would more than justify an examination called "America's Fear of White Men." Violence is certainly not limited to the black community, and yet violence of the non-petty crime type, the school shootings, racial and religious terror acts are damn near exclusively white, enough so that it practically cries out for an examination of the question, why are white men prone to violence?

Such a show would be of tremendous value, not just to answer that question, but also to address the social narrative and mindset that black men are by nature super violent predators.

INDYOO7 said...

Wow Chauncey that was some spot on social commentary. I realized long ago, Americas bread and butter is cognitive dissonance as it relates to white male pathology. It's far easier to point the finger at someone else than to examine ones self.

joe manning said...

Besides having a dearth of black voices in its programming, NPR's harping on the subject of "black fearsomeness" is disingenuously self reinforcing. The "white" in white collar crime puts the lie to the charge that blacks are more fearsome than whites. A fair comparison would illustrate the criminality of predatory lending, corporate tax cheating, political patronage, xenophobia, Elmer Gantry-ism, chauvinism, war mongering, "drill baby drill," gun proliferation, red lining, global warming denying, etc.

SW said...

Can you share a little more about Kovel's book? What can one expect?

chauncey devega said...

Just trying to be direct. Something about that show and the genre to which it belongs is very irksome and problematic.

chauncey devega said...

His book remains controversial, but his use of psycho-analytic frameworks do work through the various types of white racism are very powerful. His chapter on "meta racism" was and remains very much ahead of its time. Accessible and very smart stuff.

kokanee said...

Pretty Freudian essay, Chauncey...a man after my own heart!

I have an inferiority complex that I don't have the ideal black man's body while at the same time knowing that I don't get to play the victim. But it must be harder for a black man to live up to the ideal black man's body than a white man. It's not always even possible either...

chauncey devega said...

I don't have the "ideal" as judged by who is the question, body either :)

Courtney H. said...

So true.

Audrey said...

Most women I know are very weary of men, especially when we see them on the streets at night. Men are a danger to women, I see them harassing women all the time. White women and black women I know DO NOT want to deal with men at all in certain situations, and we deeply resent the out of control male violence epidemic in America right now. My gang condemns white male out of control behavior all the time, it's time for white men to condemn white men--frat boys, football players, sports bars, men who go to strip clubs--white men!

Audrey said...

I'd say it's more a question of horizontal violence, black men preying on black women, white men preying on black, brown and white women.

Audrey said...

P.S. Love this blog!

chauncey devega said...

How kind. Just trying to do right :)