It's been almost five months since I posted here. I've laid low before since I started this blog over nine years ago, but not this low and never for this long. I make no apologies. What happened in Ferguson put me under the bus for a while. I was angry. I was depressed. I was frustrated. I was frightened for the young Black activists who were rising up angry (I remember what happened in earlier times and there is plenty to be frightened of). But I knew it wasn't permanent. I just didn't know when I would sit back down and write.
The fact is: the YouTube video I posted on November 17th featuring folks in Ferguson said so much so well, I didn't really have anything to add.
Yet here I am again. Finally. Hopeful that someone out there will hear me bumping around in the dark and turn the light on.
I've been saving things I found along the way to post when the time came to return and there are quite a few of them, actually. So I'll spend Spring Break cleaning out the closets, as it were -- going through the list of links, deciding which to delete and which to post as I first intended, setting the stage to become a more regular writer again.
But before I do that, I'm going to post a rant I saw on Facebook the other day. It was written by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (a pretty famous guy who teaches at Duke University and writes important books like Racism Without Racists when he's not posting rants on Facebook). Lest you worry that I'm poaching, I asked for and received his permission to present his words here before I did it.
I didn't opt to do this because he's a famous guy or because I haven't said the same thing myself in one way or another on this blog many times in the past nine years. I opted to do it because it seemed like the segue I've been looking for to take us past our frustration over Ferguson, our raging over extra-judicial executions, and our collective need to establish the simple sense of the idea that Black Lives Matter. The problem is not the police. The problem, as I've yelled till I'm blue in the face, is White Supremacy. And far too many ordinary White folks -- with "good hearts" and the "best of intentions," but no clue at all, are busy, busy, busy making life hell on earth for Black folks on a daily basis.
If they happen to be one of my students, they fill their reflection papers with the most garish types of White Supremacist vitriol, write in my student evaluations that I "make White men feel bad about themselves," and stomp out of my classes (when they bother to come at all), warning others to steer clear of me if they want to keep their sanity. Clearly, something or the other has to give. And this dog's a little old to be changing her mind.
Bonilla-Silva's rant was in response to an incident involving a noose hung in a tree on Duke's campus recently. He was upset, needless to say. And the incident reminded me that one night last fall, a group of Black students studying late on the campus where I teach decided on the spur of the moment to march the following morning in solidarity with those demonstrating in Ferguson. Not only did they receive an early morning email instructing them that any student marching on the campus property would be suspended immediately, but when they marched anyway, being careful to skirt the outside boundary of the campus itself, leering frat boys came out of their houses to point fingers in their direction, pretending to shoot them without concern about on-lookers. Which is one of the reasons our department brought Matthew Hughey to campus last week to talk about the University of Oklahoma video that went viral and fraternities' history of racism. 190 people showed up, but only a few represented Greek letter organizations so far as I could tell. Why am I not surprised?
In any case, Bonilla-Silva was obviously frosted when he wrote:
"All whites are deputized as agents of racial control in the contemporary racial period (they have been deputized as such since slavery, but that is another story). In the seemingly more flexible regime we navigate these days, whites participate in maintaining racial order in jobs (it is our colleagues who keep us "in our place"), in the streets (whites and honorary whites report “suspicious people” or even follow them and kill them if necessary as Zimmerman did), in stores (clerks monitor us and ask impertinent questions), etc. They also support and endorse the actions of the police and the criminal justice system. An example of individual whites enforcing the racial order happened last night at Duke University. Someone hung a noose on a tree by the main student cafeteria. This incident comes on the heels of another “isolated incident” where some white students were heard singing the racist chant of the Oklahoma fraternity while a black student was walking by.
I am posting on this matter for three reasons.
FIRST, I think it is important to recognize that in our fight against police brutality and contemporary racial domination, we cannot leave "regular white folks" off the hook. Without their participation in the racial game (following the dominant racial script), the racial structure of the nation would collapse.
SECOND, too much theory and politics is oriented toward dealing with either elite whites as the exclusive beneficiaries and drivers of the racial game OR toward fighting police brutality and the criminal justice system. Although whites have internal divisions (and not all participate in racial domination, witness John Brown, etc.) and some get more out of the racial game, whites form a social group...and defend their collective interests in various ways. And although we must fight against police brutality and the criminal INJUSTICE system, we cannot do it by ignoring in our analysis and politics the centrality of average white folks who participate in and benefit from the racial order of things.
THIRD, no matter how much you think you know about race, one still gets shocked by incidents like these. Today I was shocked, angry, mad, and sad. What hurt the most was white normativity: while WE are in pain, most whites keep trucking as if nothing had happened. I hope our President and Provost do something revolutionary. I hope they investigate the incidents seriously, but more importantly, begin discussing the fact that our university is an HWCU (historically white college and university) and advance polices to begin removing the W from our university. It is all good that they are making statements about tolerance and will attend a rally today, but NOTHING will change at Duke until we take the bull by its horns, until we admit the fact of whiteness in our University!"
And my thoughts? What he said.