Murder Inc: The White Settler Republic as Homicidal Maniac Series Part 2
Violence is Their Religion!
How Murder Gives the White Settler Purpose
Twenty-four years ago, I moved to Johannesburg to head the Washington Post’s Southern Africa Bureau. The Post’s home office was located in the city’s tony northern suburbs, which was reserved for whites during apartheid. Voters of all races went to the polls for the first time in 1994– five years before I arrived–to abolish white minority rule.
But you cannot undo in half a decade a white settler crime spree that has terrorized Black people the world over for half a millenium, as I discovered the hard way while jogging through my suburban Johannesburg neighborhood one spring afternoon.
Suddenly, as I ran past a row of gated, walled-off rambler-styled homes, I heard barking ; I turned sharply to my right and saw a dog–maybe a labrador retriever– clearly with bad intentions, running towards me.
I froze, remembering that someone had once told me that dogs return our energy. But this dog apparently had not gotten the memo, crossing the busy four- lane thoroughfare into traffic, and continuing to bear down on me.
Finally, in desperation, I turned to my left, spied a six-foot- tall- security wall, and leapt. The dog continued barking at me for what seemed an eternity before the electric gate across the street opened, and he ambled home. When the path was clear, I rappelled down the wall, and continued on my way.
A few days later I went jogging again, but as I approached Cujo’s home, I spotted a white couple jogging towards me. When I asked if they had encountered a dog in the vicinity of my canine tormentor, they responded “no,” and I sped off, relieved.
Not two blocks later, the same dog was nipping at my heels. I hadn’t heard him bark, and by the time I spotted him he was in a full trot. There was no time to do anything but run. I took off, zig-zagging through the neighborhood for another two blocks. Finally, as he closed in for the attack, I leapt again onto a security wall, slicing a gash in my calf so deep that the scar remains visible to this day.
I recounted the incident months later to some South African friends, both Black and white, and they explained to me that this reflected one of the more perverse legacies of apartheid, which was created in 1948 to address white South Africans concerns that they being replaced by the African majority.
Whites often trained dogs to protect homes and businesses by attacking Blacks, and only blacks. In other words, that dog who twice chased me up a wall had a Pavlovian response to my dark skin and reflexively chose violence to eliminate the threat; yet the same dog had spotted the white couple in the same spot and engaged in the same activity only a few minutes earlier, and he didn’t even budge.
One anecdote sums it up: there existed during apartheid a company that employed just a single Black employee, whose job description included running the length of the property every so often to ensure that the guard dogs would chase after him.
And here is the piece de resistance, as I was told; once a dog is trained to attack a specific racial category, he cannot be reprogrammed or retrained to “unsee” what he once saw in the menacing Black body. And if the choice was between putting down a pet, or some innocent kaf ir getting bit, well, you already know the value that white folks attach to their dogs.
I was reminded of my ordeal with the mad dogs of South Africa while watching the video of a white, former U.S. marine strangling to death an African American man, Jordan Neely, on the F train in New York City. A 30-year-old homeless man, Neely, by all accounts, was loud and “aggressive” in voicing his frustration to the other passengers on the subway but hardly posed an imminent threat. I am familiar with that F train and during my time in New York, it was not uncommon for the homeless to board at the stop in the SOHO neighborhood to dance, sing, or just plead for handouts. Occasionally, influenced either by alcohol or simply the frustration of living hand-to-mouth, a homeless man might be belligerent, or loud, or particularly persistent.
But I never, ever ever, saw a homeless person threaten a passenger on the train, let alone assault one.
So the first question is why did the white man, reportedly an ex-U.S. marine, see fit to choke Neely–by all outward appearances a slightly-built man–for 15 minutes causing his death?
And that is really the central question of American life, isn’t it? Why does the white settler–or the chicken-and-butter-biscuit-eating Negroes in his employ–brutalize one African American after another for the most trivial reasons? Our streets run red with the blood of so many Black bodies that it becomes a blur, like melting corpses piled high atop a funeral pyre.
Last month, there was the 85-year-old white man in Kansas City who shot a Black Kansas City teenager, Ralph Yarl, in the head, simply for knocking on his door; the month before that was Irv Otieno, who died of asphyxiation after seven Virginia sheriff’s deputies and three hospital orderlies knelt on his chest for 12 minutes; in January, it was the five Black Memphis police officers who gleefully beat Tryee Nichols to death in January, in their morbid reenactment of the five, white, Los Angeles police officers who wailed on Rodney King 31 years ago.
On and on it goes, from Emmet Till to Botham Jean, Fred Hampton to Michael Brown, Little Bobby Hutton to Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner to George Floyd to Sandra Bland.
The technological changes are stunning, and the race of the lynchers may differ from one circumstance to the next but the race of the victim (Black) the motivation (white supremacy) and the result (death or grievous injury) remains the same as it ever was, which raises a second, and perhaps far more profound question:
Can America’s racist white killers be rehabilitated any more than South Africa’s racist dogs?
Something the late African American scholar Otis Madison was fond of saying certainly suggests that the European settler in the U.S. is brainwashed, similar to the South African attack dogs: “The purpose of racism,”Madison asserted, “is to control the behavior of white people, not black people. For blacks, guns and tanks are sufficient.”
Madison’s implication is that racism is nothing more than a particular narrative–albeit one that is antithetical to truth, bereft of all logic, and a disfigurement of our humanity –intended to produce a kneejerk response in white folks similar to the dog that chased me outside Johannesburg more than 20 years ago. In that context, anti-Black violence can best be understood as a tactic deployed by the ruling class to discourage Black resistance, and maintain the status quo by pitting their whites employees against their Black employees.
What better way to distract the knavish mob and prevent it from storming the Bastille than by exhorting the unwashed to fight among themselves?
You needn’t be a revolutionary to see that the United States is going to hell in a handbasket. And while it’s true that statistics–from household debt to the minimum wage to inflation to rising global temperatures to the alarming number of hate crimes or deaths in police custody–help explain Americans’ dystopia, our collective dark night of the soul is, at base, a crisis of storytelling which is the predicate for Neely’s lynching aboard a Gotham subway last week.
Think about it for a second: the stories we most remember–whether in the Godfather franchise or the New York Times magazine, your cousin’s eulogy for your favorite uncle or the novel you just could not put down–has a beginning, a middle and an end, is peopled with colorful characters, and uses language as a sculptor would a hammer, smashing rock-hard myths to reveal us as we truly are, in ways that are often surprising and even unsettling. The best stories, in other words, are authentic, gritty, true-to-life, like the Blues, or Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger in In the Heat of the Night.
Malcolm X, you may recall, began his career with the Nation of Islam as a journalist, pioneering Muhammad Speaks; similarly, Ida B. Wells was a storyteller, as was Fannie Lou Hamer, Kwame Ture, Paul Robeson, Marvin Gaye, Biggie, Richard Pryor, Fidel Castro, Steve Biko, Dave Chappelle, and every icon of African and diasporic liberation movements who articulated, in plain proletarian English, our freedom dreams, unbound by the contemptuous white gaze.
In opening her son’s casket, Mamie Till was a raconteur of the first order; it was her grief, and grace that inspired Bernardine Dohrn to join white revolutionary Leftists who collaborated with the radical Black Power movement of the 1960s and 70s.
The stories that we most often tell each other today, both through our news and entertainment media, and the Academy, conceal rather than reveal, and don’t surprise us so much as anesthetize us with pat, bloodless, poetless narratives that fail to account for the despair, or the anger, or the evil that stalks us. Narratives that valorize the European settler and his colonial institutions cannot solve problems that they, in fact, create, by centering “whiteness,” and subjugating the darker peoples of the earth.
The source of white people’s authority over Black people, Toni Morrison once said, is their power to narrate the world. It is, by and large, the European settlers’ monopolization of the American story, their custodianship of our historical memory, that is the germ of Black suffering, Black dispossession and Black death such as that suffered by the young Mr. Otieno, or Tyree Nichols, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Amadou Diallo, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, and on an on it goes here in America’s killing fields.
More than 30 years ago I was a City Hall reporter for the Detroit Free Press. At one city council meeting, a Department of Public Works engineer updated the council members on a longstanding problem. Since the 1950s, the affluent, mostly white suburb of Grosse Pointe had leased sewage lines from the city of Detroit. Heavy rains, however, caused the pipes to overflow, and saturated the backyards on Detroit’s east side with the shit and piss from Grosse Point.
The city’s engineer was droning on and on about what was being done to address the problem which had, at that point, been ongoing for nearly 40 years. Suddenly, a councilman named Gil Hill–who you may remember as Eddie Murphy’s profane supervisor in the Beverly Hills Cop franchise–exploded:
“Man, just get it done! Can you imagine how fast they would’ve fixed the problem if the shit was flowing the other way?”
You could’ve heard the proverbial gnat pissing on cotton in Georgia as everyone in the room contemplated the wife of some Grosse Pointe auto executive–that is to say “white”– scraping Black people’s shit off their house slippers after tiptoeing through the backyard tulips one spring morning; in that scenario, everyone understood that white people awash in Black people’s shit is the equivalent of a five-alarm fire.
In his classic book, The Open Veins of Latin America, Eduardo Galleano quotes indigenous, Bolivian rebels who acknowledged their failure to confront the European settler narrative that had enslaved them:
“We have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity.”
This episode of Black Republic Media is the second in a series entitled, Murder Inc: The White Settler Republic as Homicidal Maniac. In this episode, Violence is Their Religion: How Murder Gives the White Settler Purpose, we break the silence surrounding the 400-year-old serial killer known as settler colonialism in the hopes of lessening the Devil’s power over us, by giving him, at long last, a name.
Months of hostilities between the Philadelphia police and a group of Black militants known as MOVE came to a head on Mother’s Day in 1985. Late on the evening of May 12, under the cover of darkness, patrolmen began to evacuate the 6200 block of Osage Avenue on the city’s west side, and nearly 500 officers moved into position: SWAT teams guarded the alleyway behind the MOVE commune, a rowhome at 6221 Osage, snipers perched on rooftops and in windows that afforded them a clear shot at the target, and at 6 a.m. the following morning, Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner lifted a bullhorn to his lips and proclaimed:
“Attention, MOVE! This is America! You have to abide by the laws of the United States!”
After reading the arrest warrants, he delivered an ultimatum:
“We do not wish to harm anyone. All occupants have fifteen minutes to peacefully evacuate the premises and surrender. This is your only notice. The fifteen minutes starts now.”
But MOVE, if you will pardon my rather sophomoric pun, did not move.
And so the police opened fire. The 13 men, women and children inside the MOVE commune fired back but they were outnumbered by nearly 100 to 1, and with only two pistols, two shotguns and a .22 caliber rifle, they were vastly outgunned.Armed with M16 semi-automatic rifles, Uzis, shotguns,
sharpshooter and Browning automatic rifles, a Thompson submachine gun, water cannons and tear gas canisters, the poh-lice–I say it like Pac– squeezed off more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition in only 90 minutes.
Still, the impasse lasted into the late afternoon. Finally, Philadelphia’s first African American Mayor, Wilson Goode, gave the order, and at 5:20 p.m., a blue and white Pennsylvania State Police helicopter took off from the command post’s flight pad at 63rd and Walnut, circled over 6221 Osage a few times, and then hovered 60 feet in the cloudless blue sky above the two-story home in the mostly Black, middle-class neighborhood. After radioing firefighters on the ground, the head of Philadelphia’s bomb disposal unit reached into a canvas bag, retrieved two sticks of bunker-busting military grade dynamite, lit the 45-second fuse, and tossed the bombs onto the roof.
There was a loud explosion, followed by a bright orange ball of fire that was sparked by a gas can on the rooftop. Within seconds, the rowhome was engulfed in flames that would reach 7,200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Neighbors pleaded with police and fire officials to put out the fire. This time, it was law enforcement that would not budge.
“Let it burn!” was their response.
“There is a small war underway on a street in Philadelphia tonight,” Tom Brokaw told his NBC Nightly News audience as the conflagration roared.
But not really. This was a massacre, and when the guns finally fell silent, six MOVE members and five of their children lay dead, two city blocks had
been destroyed, 61 homes gutted by fire, and 250 people left homeless. There is no evidence that the police suffered so much as a hangnail.
And what was the putative reason for turning 6221 Osage into an abattoir? Was MOVE a sect of dangerous, wild-eyed radicals plotting a terrorist attack or to overthrow the U.S. government? Hardly. Mostly, they just wanted to be left the fuck alone. Police had accused the group of violating the city’s noise ordinance by protesting the arrest of several MOVE members on a bullhorn.
I shit you not.
For understandable reasons, Nichols’ killing at the hands of five Black Memphis police officers in January is most often compared to Rodney King’s beating by five white Los Angeles police officers in 1992. But in some important ways, the better comparison is to the assault on the MOVE commune seven years earlier.
First, there is the question of African Americans working on behalf of an apartheid state. Just as the five Black Memphis police officers charged with murdering Nichols did so at the behest of an institution that began as a means for plantation owners to capture runaway slaves, so too was Philadelphia’s first Black Mayor, Wilson Goode, tasked with carrying water for our herrenvolk Republic West.
In a 2015 article for Philadelphia Magazine commemorating the 30th anniversary of the MOVE assault, Michael Coard wrote “ that five of the city’s most influential black political leaders met at the mayor’s home
before dawn on May 13, 1985, in response to the mayor’s invitation. He warned that “I’m going to make a move on the MOVE house … (this) morning,” in response to complaints by Osage Avenue neighbors and outstanding arrest warrants. By the way, it should be noted that those same neighbors attempted to stop the police department’s siege of their community as soon as they realized what was developing. In fact, as the five influential Black leaders watched the television broadcast of the military-like assault unfolding with shots and tear gas, two of them repeatedly urged the Mayor to call it off. In particular, City Council President Joseph Coleman, sitting at the Mayor’s kitchen table, told him the 500-strong police action was “excessive” and State Senator Hardy Williams, standing near the kitchen entrance, said “Why don’t they just back up and relax? Nobody’s going anywhere.”
And that underscores an even more profound comparison between the murders of Nichols and the 11 African Americans inside the MOVE commune which is simply this:
It was sadistic, or as one Black lawyer would say later, a ‘criminally evil” act of state terrorism.
The explosive used to firebomb the MOVE rowhome was Tovex TR2, which was invented in the 1960s by DuPont for the purpose of carving trenches from rock. But in a clear attempt to shock and awe African American dissidents everywhere, Philadelphia police topped the two sticks of Tovex with one-and-a-quarter pounds of C-4, which they had ordered specifically from the U.S. Army in anticipation of the showdown with MOVE.
In other words, the police did not go to 6221 Osage to negotiate, or even arrest, but to murder everyone in that rowhome, and if sounds hyperbolic to your ear, I would ask you to consider what happened when the MOVE members fled the burning home:
The police again opened fire.
The attorney Coard wrote that witnesses heard semi-automatic gunfire as the conflagration roared and MOVE had no such weapons. He wrote:
“And why does the official report of the city’s own medical examiner provide proof from the autopsies of six of the 11 dead — namely, 7-year-old Tomasa, 9-year-old Delicia, 10-year-old Phil, 11-year-old Netta, 13-year-old Tree, and 25-year-old Rhonda — that they did not die inside from flame-fire but died outside from gun-fire? If, as the police later testified under oath, these victims died from the flames that exceeded 2,000 hellish degrees inside the house, why were Tomasa’s long locks still long? Why was Phil’s body not burned? Why was Netta still wearing her white blouse with red trim? Why were Tree’s pubic hair and blue jeans still intact? And why did Delicia’s body and Rhonda’s body have in them metal fragments consistent with shotgun pellets as noted by an FBI ballistician? You think maybe they were fatally hit when they all were being shot at while trying to run from the flames and surrender?”
Predictably, the national conversation in the aftermath of Nichols’ murder centered on “training” and “police reform” before fizzling out after a few
days, which is for the best, because, seriously, how exactly do you retrain homicidal maniacs? How, pray tell, can you reform an institution that was created to catch runaway slaves, in a country, if I may quote James Baldwin yet again, that measures its safety in corpses and chains? And just what is the plan to soften the edges of the largest and oldest criminal enterprise in the world–white settler colonialism–that is founded on genocide, slavery and rape, all of which are regarded as crimes against humanity by virtually every major religion in the world?
Indeed, because the stakes are so high, murder, in the context of settler colonialism, is a community building exercise, a quasi-religious liturgy or ritualistic sacrifice on the altar of white supremacy. Generally speaking, studies show that whites are comforted by videos of police assaulting or even murdering Blacks because it reassures them, particularly in tough times, that they are the master and we, their slaves. Black suffering is a metric for white well-being and if you doubt that, ask yourself, as Gil Hill asked the municipal engineer in Detroit all those years ago, how quickly the problem of police would’ve been resolved, if their target was cocker spaniels, French bulldogs or Rottweilers rather than African Americans?
The late, great Kwame Ture– nee Stokely Carmichael– was a friend and confidante of Martin Luther King Jr. but he openly questioned King’s strategy of non-violence, which he said, appealed to the conscience of people who, for all intents and purposes, had none.
Scroll through this nation’s scrapbook and recall the bacchanal of grinning whites smiling in photographs while a smoldering black body dangled from a tree, or the smirk on Derek Chauvin’s face as he choked George Floyd to death, Joe Biden leading Congressional lawmakers in a Klan-like chant of “Fund the Police” at last year’s State of the Union address, or the Chicago police officers who beamed like lottery winners as they carried Fred Hampton’s corpse from the walkup at 2337 Monroe in the early morning hours of December 4, 1969. Recall the Freedom Riders’ account of the white women holding their babies in their arms and shouting “kill them niggers”as their husbands and brothers and fathers attacked peaceful protesters.
In the controversy over the audiotape leaked to the media last year, Los Angeles City Council President Nuri Martinez took shots at Jews, Oaxacans, Koreans but the only group threatened with violence was the adopted Black son of her city council colleague.
The boy was two at the time.
Similarly, the black-owned newspaper, the Richmond Planet tallied 123 nationwide lynchings in 1897 for offenses that included rape, murder, asking for a drink of water and sassing a white woman. An eight-year-old boy identified only as “Parks” was lynched for “nothing.” Both historically and contemporaneously, lynchings seem intended to make a statement to the world that the killer is indeed someone to be respected, if not feared, similar to a slave owner.
White terrorism launched the career of the crusading journalist Ida B. Wells. In 1892, she investigated the lynching of three African American men for defending a black-owned grocery store from goons sent by an envious white competitor. Foreshadowing the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal’s conclusions about white jealousy in his 1943 tome, An American Dilemma, Wells’ reportage led her to similarly conclude that lynching was seldom used to sanction rape but rather to condemn consensual sex between Black men and white women, or, alternately as “an excuse to get rid of Negroes who were acquiring wealth and property and thus keep the race terrorized and ‘keep the niggers down.’ ’’
Post-colonial scholars–most notably the Cameroonian academic Achille Mbembe–refer to the white settlers’ bloodlust as “necropolitics” which is nothing more than a binary calculation. The unspoken principle goes something like this: We, white people, can live better if Iraqis, Libyans, Palestinians, Yemenis, and Africans die, in both the physical and sociological meaning of the world, allowing for the theft of their land, and the exploitation of their resources.
This choice, who lives and who dies, is made almost entirely in darkness because our stories fail us. Unable to shine a bright enough light on the Conrad-esque horror of America’s heart of darkness, we cannot address the scourge of white supremacist terror because we cannot define it in public spaces.
The New York Times reported that at least one of the Memphis police officers charged with Nichols’ murder sent photographs of the fatally wounded man to friends, like a trophy, collected by John Wayne Gacy or Jeffrey Dahmer. In its bloodlust and solipsism, the settler colonial state produces monsters. Black Panthers in Chicago say that police would raid their headquarters in the months leading up to Hampton’s assassination just to empty boxes of cereal used to feed poor children. Similarly, after white police officers murdered four activists in apartheid South Africa in 1984, they would drive through the neighborhood where they lived and ask their grieving children “How’s your Daddy?”
Israel supervised the slaughter of 3,500 Palestinian at a Lebanese refugee camp, and Rhodesia bombed a refugee camp in neighboring Zambia, killing 5,000 Zimbabweans. When Algerians assumed their independence from France after they had helped the allies rout the Nazis on Victory in Europe Day in 1945, the French murdered 45,000 of them to disabuse them of that notion.
In a recent study, the Vera Institute of Justice found that only 1 percent of all 911 police calls nationwide summon law enforcement to intervene in a violent criminal act. So why do white people gaslight calls to Defund the Police?
Res Ipsa Loquitur is the Latin phrase for “the thing speaks for itself.” Doesn’t 400 years of murder, of Black folks squarely in white folks’ crosshairs speak for itself? It continues to happen because the European
settler wants it to, gets off on it in fact. Or as Zora Neale Hurston once wrote:
“Violence is their religion!”
The veracity of Jon’s words, “This choice, who lives and who dies, is made almost entirely in darkness because our stories fail us,” is magnified when we consider that by default, those who are knighted to tell our stories fail us.
Before I read anything about the heinous murder of Tyre Nichols and the four Black police officers whose hands forced life out of his body, I went to Black Twitter. Frank Leon Roberts, PhD, tweeted:
“The five police officers who murdered Tyre Nicholas [sic] are also representative of an unspoken tradition among some cis hetero black men; the idea that ‘black power’ simply means the power to behave like powerful white men. Read that again, and let it factor into your analysis.”
In 280-characters, Roberts attributed the brutality of the police officers specifically to their sexuality, race, and gender. By invoking “tradition” to characterize Black heterosexual male behavior, Roberts offered an analysis uncannily congruous with 19th–century white supremacists’ ethnological theory that Black males are inherently violent rapists.
Roberts, a community organizer and activist, professor, creator of the Black Lives Matter Project curriculum, Ford fellow, among many other accolades, doubled-down on critics with follow-on tweets, including:
“The tweet here is about toxic black masculinity and its relationship to white male heteropatriarchy…the idea that this is ‘also’ (in many cases) influenced by male patriarchy is the bridge that stretches too far for their hotep minds.”
Many Black liberal and feminist scholars and journalists—the knighted ones—write, tell, spread, and preserve similar narratives that Black heterosexual men aspire to adopt the might of white masculinity to ascend to power. They immortalize (seemingly with little to no ambivalence) the Black straight male predator capable of accessing privilege and patriarchy simply because he is biologically male, like white men. They have no supporting data. None. And so it begs the question: is it easier to cast Black men as the villain of the Black community, an entity that the rest of the collective can conceivably caste out than to accept that whiteness is the antagonist in every scene of Black life, that white supremacy has dominion over every institution—schools, media, banks, medical facilities, churches, social organizations, law enforcement and courts—that affects Black life?
Conversely, there are many scholars and thinkers who focus on Black masculinity who wholesale reject white ethnological theories about Black men and who debunk—philosophically and empirically—Black male ascendancy into privilege and patriarchy. Dr. Tommy J. Curry, a world-renown scholar in Black Male Studies, writes in his book, The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood, “Scholars investigating Black manhood are not only denied the ability to assert that Black males do not, in fact, conform to white masculinity but also condemned for suggesting that Black men do not…”
The most unsettling truths about Roberts’ series of tweets is that first, it ignored any vulnerability that the Black police officers may have had under an apartheid state. For example, Roberts does not loom in the room of their membership in the slave catchers’ fraternity. Nor does he walk in the land of ‘what if’ to pose what the police officers, in their grab for power, would have done in similar circumstances, if the citizen had been a white man or white woman. I am clear that none of these things matter in relation to the fact that they killed Tyre Nichols. They do matter, however, relative to journalists, academics, and even community members telling a story of Black police officers exercising their power versus expressing their oppression.
Second, Roberts’ tweets obfuscated Nichol’s death and victimization. As the storyteller, Roberts, at that moment, was more compelled to highlight presumably heterosexual Black men as predators rather than a Black man as prey. But Roberts was not alone in this compulsion. Just 17 days after Nichols died from his injuries, the Memphis Police Department released the video for white America to salivate at Black police officers murdering a Black man. It took 13 months for the Chicago Police Department to release dash cam video of white police officer, Jason Van Dyke shooting and murdering LaQuan McDonald.
Third, and perhaps most dangerously, the tweets corroborated the naked-eye optics of the video and America’s conscience-embedded belief that Black people, especially Black men, are savages. Any conversation about Black police officers murdering Black people that compares them to white men serves one purpose: to denounce that white police brutality is an outcome of white supremacy and instead declare that it is a result of black degeneracy.
Roberts’ statement is reminiscent of Damon Young’s 1,024-word piece, “Straight Black Men Are the White People of Black People,” which appeared in the September 19, 2017 issue of The Root. As one half of the Very Smart Brothas duo, Young compromised his and his writing partner’s, D. Marcellus Wright’s credibility as griots for the masses of Black folk.
Young espouses about Black men and their supposed patriarchal position, cleverly scripting, “We are the ones who get the biggest seat at the table and the biggest piece of chicken at the table despite making the smallest contribution to the meal.” Only in an apartheid state would Black men’s building of a new nation’s entire infrastructure, being made the target of state-sanctioned violence and lynching, and becoming the primary target for mass incarceration and racialized capitalism be considered a small contribution.
He goes deeper into his misandrist diatribe of Black hetero men’s relationship with Black women: “And nowhere is this more evident than when considering the collective danger we pose to black women and our collective lack of willingness to accept and make amends for that truth.” He continues by stating that Black men “pose the same existential and literal danger to them that whiteness does.” That whiteness does?
Shame on Young for opting for the elementary patriarchal argument that buttresses a strategically contrived Black gender war that blames Black men for Black suffering and absolves white supremacy as the energy source for all violence in our communities. In his book, Dr. Curry writes, “violence is an extension of the violence found in neglected communities, which enters homes through the psychology and interpersonal relationships of men and women affected by economic, political, and various other environmental traumas.”
Young’s comparison of whiteness and male blackness trivializes both a 400+-year track record of whiteness as the implementer of anti-Black terrorism and a 400+-year history of male blackness as the target of and justification for anti-Black terrorism. His pseudo-conflation is meritless—injurious, treacherous, and fallacious commentary.
But Roberts and Young are not unique in promoting commentary that either bears Black people responsible—wholly or in part—for the outcomes of white supremacy or that fails to identify it as the primary culprit. On July 8, 2016 during a press conference, the Congressional Black Caucus, assured white America that Micah Johnson was a terrorist, that it knew that not all cops are dishonorable (about 99 percent are good), that we needed to rebuild trust in our communities with the police, that more training is needed to prevent cops from killing black folks, and that the Republicans need to give them a hearing on gun control. No mention of white supremacy or the police’s origin as slave catchers.
At the community level, we do it. How many times have we read diatribes on social media or seen a neighbor screeching through tears—after a senseless killing of a young black man by another young black man—that we can’t expect folks to stop killing us if we don’t stop killing each other?
I have not heard anyone even hint that Irvo Otieno’s murder is race-related, not the slightest possibility that racism reared its wicked head. Nine of the 10 people charged with killing Otieno were men. Seven of the nine men were Black. The narrative of Black men killing Black people is so ingrained as a pathology—from the black-on-black myth and to the Black men are monsters invention—that we don not recognize the markers of an oppressed people. In this case, the conversation is less about the savagery of Black men and more about their intellectual and professional deficiencies to handle a mental health patient with humanity. Al Sharpton in his comments, is calling for better mental health training.
Deep south plantation owners often hired a white overseer to keep watch over and harass those kidnapped and forced into labor. The owner or even the overseer would also identify a driver—an enslaved man who would be given tasks such as making sure the forced laborers were in the fields at sunrise and watched like a hawk that everyone kept picking cotton. The driver, like his status as slave, had no agency to refuse this position. Personal narratives reveal that some drivers felt ambivalent about being a driver, while others treated the slaves as harshly as they were allowed. Even when the driver flogged and then splashed pork brine into the wounds of another slave, the beating was no less an act of white supremacy.
There is nothing brave, insightful, on-point, or intellectual about a storyteller willing to mimick the ethnological theories of white supremacists. We must resist and reject the parroting of the white supremacy formulaic prose that omits the effects of centuries U.S. chattel slavery and Jim Crow on Black existence and the manufacturing of the Black male monster to justify the monstrous behavior of the white male and female.
I’m Denise Young, Black Republic Media.
How we got Here: