Wednesday, September 2, 2015

When Will the Families of Alison Parker and Adam Ward Forgive Vester Flanagan?

Last week, reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were killed by Vester Flanagan, a mentally ill former colleague, in a black on white racially motivated attack that was broadcast on live television.

Such a horrific and tragic happening is a political intoxicant for the Right-wing media.

The shooting murder of two white people by a “racist” black man on live television incites white American nightmare fantasies of slave rebellions, distorted understandings of the urban rebellions of the tumultuous 1960s, slogans like “black power”, and obsessions with “black crime”.

In their concerns about the murders of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, white conservatives and their media such as Rush Limbaugh claim to be acting in the interest of public safety and order.

This worry is superficial. It is a means to an end: panics about black on white violence are first and foremost an opportunity to debase the humanity of black people.

The killing of Adam Ward and Alison Parker is a joyful thing for conservatives; the horrible event is fuel for their anti-black propaganda machine. 

The Right-wing media has responded to Vester Flanagan’s killing of Alison Parker and Adam Ward with the following talking points.

The “liberal” media has a double-standard, suppressing information about “black crime” while simultaneously exaggerating violence committed by white individuals such as Dylann Roof and other Right-wing domestic terrorists.

Inspired by the “Black Lives Matter” movement, there is a crime wave in the United States against white people and police.

Barack Obama’s election, twice, has encouraged black people to commit violent hate crimes against white Americans.

Black conservatives have worked hard to legitimate these narratives.

(Vester Flanagan also fulfills a double need for the collective paranoia of contemporary American movement conservatism: he is both black and gay; this represents an unholy alliance of evil and violence against White “Christian” America.)

The Right-wing media, and the broader political imagination of American movement conservatism, is a twisted, distorted, and fantastical place that exists separate and apart from empirical reality.

Crime in the United States is at record lows.

Police deaths in the United States is also at historic lows.

According to the F.B.I., African-Americans are at least 10 times more likely to be a victim of a hate crime than are whites.

Hate group membership dramatically increased with the election of Barack Obama in 2008.

Social scientists have repeatedly demonstrated that crime committed by black and brown people is substantially over reported by the media, while crimes committed by white people are substantially under reported. White people are also much more likely to be depicted as victims of violent crime relative to the actual data. Likewise, black people are much less likely to be depicted as victims of crime by the news media.

And as is their present role in the post civil rights era, where they eagerly serve as professional apologists and enablers for white racism, black conservatives such as Jesse Lee Peterson play the Pied Piper and lead marching band boy in a human zoo political chorus that enables white victimology and the delusional belief that white people are somehow the real “victims” of racism in the United States.

The Right-wing media and its public are correct about one aspect of the supposed double standard at play in the racially motivated killings of Alison Parker and Adam Ward by Vester Flanagan.

Black Americans are expected to forgive the racial violence done to them by white people. I have written previously about these phenomena of immediate black forgiveness as seen in the aftermath of the Charleston church massacre, the police thug killing of Samuel DuBose, and other such incidents. I have termed it, “The Ritual”.

In keeping with “The Ritual”, Right-wing websites heaped praise upon the families of those black people killed by white racial terrorist Dylann Roof because they chose to forgive his murderous deeds.

If conservatives are in fact as emphatically fair, consistent, and “color blind” as they claim to be, their logic of forgiveness should apply equally on both sides of the color line.

Ultimately, if black Americans are always (and oftentimes publicly) expected to forgive the racist violence done to them, white Americans should be held to the same standard. If forgiveness is indeed healing and redemptive, it does so equally, for all people, regardless of their skin color.

When and if Alison Parker’s and Adam Ward’s loved ones choose to publicly discuss their tragic and horrific loss, perhaps a reporter will be brave enough to ask the family members, “do you forgive Vester Flanagan?”

The answer--and the American public and media’s reaction to it--will reveal a great deal about the state of racial justice and fairness in the Age of Obama.

I doubt that such a reporter would keep his or her job for asking such a thing.

“The Ritual” is reserved only for black Americans. For white folks, such a question would be considered rude, insensitive, presumptuous, unprofessional, and impolitic. 

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