The Root of the Matter

As the news of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by a white South Carolina police officer, Michael T. Slager, found its way to social media outlets, people lamented and praised: lamented for the death of another Black person who was killed by the State and praised North Charleston’s swift response to charge the now-dismissed Slager with murder.

Just as the festering sores of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Renisha McBride, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Anthony Hill were starting to develop a crusty sore over them, the nitpicking of not-quite-healed painful scabs was ripped off by a not-too-patient society that is insistent on inflicting psychological, physical, and social pain on its Black and Brown citizens.

Pundits and protestors alike have tried to give voice to the root of the problem between the police and Black and Brown people:

  • Unjust laws
  • Lack of education and economic resources
  • Wrong place, wrong time
  • Crooked cops
  • Mistaken identity
  • A lack of understanding of Black culture
  • Black and Brown people are not obedient
  • Black and Brown people have hands that look like Glock 9s
  • Body cameras are needed
  • Cameras (that are present) aren’t helpful
  • Young Black and Brown boys double their age and triple their size when confronted by police, like a Transformer.

I spent all morning trying to process the root of the problem — the problem between the State and minority peoples. For all the reasons I listed and many more, we have exhausted a laundry list of reasons, real or imagined, to try to make sense of why there’s an all-out assault on the lives of Black and Brown citizens of the United States.

I was desperate to get to the root of the matter as we try for an understanding of why melanin-skinned men and women die at the hands of the police and wannabe neighborhood vigilantes. It needed to make sense for me. I needed to give voice to what was making the State-initiated killings of Black and Brown men and women commonplace.

A trusted friend gave me the language I needed to make sense of it all: white supremacy.

I pushed against the idea that he presented to me because in my mind, white supremacy was about hooded men burning crosses in open fields and Aryan Nation meetings held under the cover of night. I also recognized that no white person I knew would ever admit to being a white supremacist and to suggest such would probably send them into a tizzy.

Today, neither one of those things are my problem.

In 1969, Sociologist Neely Fuller, Jr. wrote the book The United Independent Compensatory Code/System/Concept where he writes extensively on the systematic forms of oppression that are the result of subjugation of non-white people.

Sociologists are very clear about the distinctions between racism and white supremacy, Fuller himself noting that racism is, “the scientific practice of unjust subjugation, misuse, and/or abuse of persons classified as ‘non-white,’ by persons classified as ‘white,’ on the basis of factors ‘associated-with’ color or non-color.”*

Fuller continues to define white supremacy as a system that allows for the “direct or indirect subjugation of all ‘non-white’ people…for the basic pleasing and/or serving any or all ‘white’ persons, at all times, in all places, in all areas of activity, including economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, politics, religious, sex and war.”

In layman’s terms: racism and white supremacy, is a form of oppression that is heavily reliant on the oppression and inferiority of non-white people.

In his book, “Where Do We Go From Here?,” Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Structures of evil do not crumble by passive waiting. If history teaches anything, it is that evil is recalcitrant and determined, and never voluntarily relinquishes its hold short of an almost fanatical resistance.”

This structure of evil is white supremacy.

Without expressed or assumed inferiority at play, white supremacy does not exist.

This is why the white officer who lied about the series of events leading up to the shooting of Walter Scott and following, painted a picture of a white hero who did all he could to save his life that was in danger. To admit anything other than that would have been a break in the white supremacist narrative that says that non-white folks are a danger and threat to not the actual embodiment of whiteness, but to the system that allows whiteness to consume inordinate amounts of power. Click here to see a comparison of what the officer original said happened and what the video revealed.

Michael Brown was characterized as a hulk like figure in open court because of a threat to the structures of white supremacy.

Tamir Rice, age 12, was mistaken for a 20-something year old man and gunned down without warning because of a threat to white supremacy.

A man called in a false report on John Crawford because of a threat to white supremacy.

Renisha McBride was gunned down through two locked doors because of a threat to white supremacy.

Every instance where a Black or Brown body is violated in some way out of “fear of one’s life,” often times imagined fear, is perpetuated by the fear of a challenged to white supremacy.

White supremacy is about a challenge to keeping Black and Brown bodies oppressed so that the systems that uphold white supremacy can function. Any threat to that requires for the breaking and destroying every facet of Black life.

I’m no sociologist. I don’t profess to be one nor do I try to skate around with the idea of going toe-to-toe to the ones who really are. But if there’s any truth to the notions presented here, we can better understand why Black embodiment scares the shit outta white folk.

On the chase,

Alisha L.

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