Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Michael Brown - We are Looking at Volcanoes

Yesterday, on Tuesday, April 7th, officer Michael T. Slager was charged with the murder of Walter Scott, a middle-aged black man.

After being stopped by Officer Slager for a broken taillight, Mr. Scott ran away. Officer Slager chased him and shot him with a Taser which did not render Mr. Scott immobile. According to Officer Slager, Officer Slager shot and killed Mr. Scott after Mr. Scott took the Taser. A civilian video, however, shows the two in a struggle, after which Officer Slager shoots eight rounds at Mr. Scott who was running away. Officer Slager picks up an object that was tossed aside in the struggle and places it next to Mr. Scott's body. The full story can be read here.

Officer Slager was charged with murder. Case closed! Problem solved.

Except it's not. Of course it's not.

The problem with these individual narratives is they get individual solutions. All we're doing is looking at volcanoes. Every time one erupts, we get furious. We run around with stoppers and plug up the volcanoes, wipe our hands, and then become surprised and furious again when another volcano erupts somewhere else. We grab another stopper and repeat the process endlessly without confronting the truth: the lava is deep, ingrained, and universal, but hiding under our feet.

Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, the Oklahoma SAE fraternity, comments on Zendaya's hair. These actions were not the cause of rouge racist individuals. We're all prejudiced to some degree, but racism is power to enforce these prejudices.

Racism is the country-wide tendency to infantalize and dismiss Black concerns as 'annoying', the overarching tendency to grow tired of hearing about 'Black issues' and refuse to see them as American issues. The tendency to tell Black people to 'deal with it by yourself' and scrutinize them at the same time, the tendency to demonize  Blackness, Black self-love, and Black culture while lavishing awards upon white artists who appropriate Black culture.

The media is a large cause of this. The media loves headlines. This Canadian-based article about the 'inhumane exploitation in the United States,' a possible new form of American slavery, won't be making headlines. Race, even beyond income, is the single most powerful predictor for the location of toxic waste sites; yet this isn't headline material. The fact that the Oklahoma SAE frat members would have become CEOs, politicians, or in other positions of power had they not been caught will not be discussed.

Institutional racism does not make headlines. Events make headlines, because they are easy to sensationalize.

When we look at Martese Johnson and Renisha McBride as events, we are ignoring the lava that runs under the land we stand on. We are ignoring that some groups of people are more listened to by politicians, when blacks (even before Obama) actually vote more than whites when controlled for income and education.

We are looking at volcanoes, and we need to stop. Next time something like this happens (because there will be a next time), view it in the larger context it exists in. Do not focus on it as an 'event'. Direct our anger towards the overall oppression instead of towards an individual, even though individuals are so much more fun to get angry at. A conviction is not what we need! There can be no 'justice' after a life is lost. There are no reparations for a lost life. We need to engage in better discussions, or else all we'll have are surface-level bandages.

Don't get me wrong. Charging Officer Slager for murder is great, but there was a better solution: not killing Walter Scott.

(This discussion was just for anti-Blackness in America. Wait till you hear about other the loads of other underprivileged groups!)

This post is part of the #WriteInclusively campaign created to promote the normalization of diversity in creative fiction. Please please subscribe to the monthly newsletter! I don't spam. 

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  1. No, one conviction will not solve anything, but I sure am glad that cameras are helping to bring the truth about power, privilege, and racism to the surface where no one can turn away. And it is everyone's problem. We all have to think, feel, and write about it to make lasting change.

    1. Yes. There's a much deeper issue, one that'll take a lot longer and a lot more effort to fix.

  2. I'm glad you posted this. This type of objective, analytical approach is what's needed to face this situation. I feel education is the only leveler here. The more people are educated about their rights, about the laws they have recourse to if those rights are infringed upon, the less likely they are to feel trapped and helpless. The more empowered they feel, the less likely they are to feel they have to turn to violence. They'll realize they can use the law (and a good civil rights lawyer). What you said is true. You can't bring the victim back. We have to stop those murders. The more we talk about it, the more we understand the fear a person feels when stopped for a minor traffic infringement (and have to worry for their lives), the more we realize this is a nation wide problem - the better chance we have to prevent another volcano. And the key remains education. Good teachers and a good education system. My son's social studies teacher discusses subjects which are considered sensitive, and I applaud her for that.
    That's my rant. Sorry for being so longwinded :)