"2015 was a whirlwind year, full of miserable happenings and scant hope for those of us who write about and study the color line in America.
Freddie Gray, Laquan McDonald and so many other black and brown people had their lives stolen from them by America’s out of control, hyper-violent, militarized, racist police.
The right-wing news/entertainment complex continued to weaponize its followers. Dylann Roof followed through on his programming and killed nine black Americans after they welcomed him into the fellowship of their church community. Robert Dear also heard the drumbeat of hatred and lies turned into truths by Fox News and Republican presidential candidates such as Carly Fiorina when he killed three people at a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado.
The old combination of guns, racism and toxic white masculinity was lethal in 2015. There is no reason to believe that it will be sated in the years to come.
Bill Cosby, once “America’s Dad” and exemplar of “black respectability politics,” was revealed to be a likely sex predator/serial rapist.
President Barack Obama continued to face strident opposition from Republicans. America’s first black president is entering the twilight year of his two terms in office with the lesson now fully reinforced that “hope and change” was beaten back by old fashioned racial bigotry and white racial resentment. For too large a swath of white America, a black man who is president of the United States is illegitimate: his policies, however reasonable, are to be rejected as dead on arrival.
There is an ugly irony in how America’s first black president, the most powerful person in the world, is in many ways a 21st century Dred Scott, the latter a man deemed by the United States Supreme Court in 1857 as having “no rights which the white man is bound to respect.”
For those of us who study race and politics during a time when white supremacy is resurgent, American empire is in decline, and the inhumanity of neoliberalism is accepted as the natural order of things, it is easy to surrender to racial battle fatigue. To resist this impulse, a person must develop mental and emotional armor. Ultimately, if the worst of human behavior is your object of study, it is easy to become cynical, to no longer be surprised.
Even by those low standards and expectations, the de facto street execution of a 12-year-old black child named Tamir Rice by an incompetent and emotionally unstable white Cleveland police officer, and his subsequent exoneration for such a foul and wicked act, shocked me.
However, the response by conservatives–in the news media, online forums and by at least one of the 2016 Republican presidential candidates–to the killing of Tamir Rice is potentially even more disturbing.
What should be a source of collective outrage and sadness has instead been transformed into an opportunity to lecture black people about “personal responsibility,” a lightning rod for virulent anti-black racism, a showcase for how white racial paranoic thinking always blames the black victim for his or her unjust killing by the State, as well as one more chances to make excuses for a broken American criminal justice system that enables police murder, abuse and violence against people of color, the poor, the mentally ill and other groups marked as the “disposable” Other.
For example, the comment sections at the website Cleveland.com (which is a news aggregator that also features content from the newspaper The Plain Dealer) were so infested with racism and hate speech against Tamir Rice that the site administrators deactivated them at the end of November.
Cleveland.com explained its decision as follows:
So why, a lot of you have asked, have we chosen to turn off all comments on stories about Tamir Rice?
The simple answer is that we don’t fancy our website as a place of hate, and the Tamir Rice story has been a magnet for haters.
We tried to maintain the conversation. The Tamir Rice case offers lessons for Greater Cleveland, and hashing out those lessons in an online community forum could be a healthy exercise. A lot of people firmly believe the police broke the law when they shot Tamir, but others feel just as strongly that the shooting was justified. Passions are strong, and because our comments section could provide a place for venting, we allowed comments on Tamir stories for months. We enlisted a small army on our staff to monitor the comments and delete any that violated our standards.
The trouble was that we couldn’t keep up. Just about every piece we published about Tamir immediately became a cesspool of hateful, inflammatory or hostile comments. Rather than discuss the facts of the case, many commenters debased the conversation with racist invective. Or they made absurd statements about the clothing and appearance of people involved in the story. Or they attacked each other for having contrasting viewpoints. In many cases, well over half of the comments on Tamir stories broke our rules and had to be deleted.
We ultimately decided that the comments sections of Tamir stories, overrun as they were by wickedness, were not contributing to the needed conversation. In early October, we reluctantly and finally decided to close down the comments on any news story about Tamir..." [More]
DeVega goes on to talk about the rise of racism in America and the resurgence of white supremacy while the American empire continues to decline.
The state killing of Tamir Rice is just one example of many. Sadly, these types of incidents that continue to divide along racial lines have been the norm and not the exception since the election of Barack Obama.
I suppose we could blame the conservative media and their huge echo chamber, but I suspect that things would be this way if there was no FOX VIEWS and Drudge Reports. What is driving the America's racial divide is the fear in some quarters of the new America that is emerging and the thought that a person of color could actually lead it, again.
Like DeVega, I don't see the color lines in America getting any closer, and I certainly don't see anyone trying to bridge it.
Folks in the majority hate to hear about racism and racial issues because they believe in their hearts that racism no longer exists. And if they didn't, they would have the right-wing media to tell them that it really doesn't.
On the other hand, folks in the minority population see race relations getting worse, and they believe in their hearts that white resentment and angst is only going to increase as the country becomes more diverse.
Of course we both can't be right. Fortunately, though, I think events in the coming years will show us all who is.
*Pic from huffingtonpost.com