I actually just deleted a post on Facebook of a police brutality (of an ex NFL player in Georgia) I shared a few minutes ago. I have come to a decision that there’s something perverse about watching, commenting on, and sharing these videos of black men, women, and children getting savagely beaten, or shot and killed with impunity.
If you think about lynching in the late nineteenth and early to mid twentieth centuries, its popularity was as a result of one major reason: spectacle. Hanging black men and boys was a form of entertainment for racist white families. Little kids and whole families went to witness the hanging and castration of black males through the lynch mobs. The spectacle made it attractive to the perpetrators. So they got motivation to up the ante on their sick and twisted behavior.
Today, the KKK cannot openly lynch black men in the old ways. But the FBI (in 2006) released a report that said among other things that most of the former old KKK groups disbanded and asked members to join law enforcement and the legal system so that they can carry on their beliefs and practices with official sanction and cover. So we had in 2015 more unarmed black men killed than the worst year of the old lynching days. And we are helping them make it a bigger spectacle than it was back then. Let me explain.
You see, black people are often a major consumers of of these murder videos often recorded on cell phone video. We share them on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. I understand that we do it partly to tell the world and our fellow citizens that there’s a problem that we cannot solve on our own and by them knowing, they’d be moved to help stop these killings. I will come back to this point later. We also do these sharing because pain can be addictive and seeing the extreme embodiment of the pain we live through everyday can often end up being an end in itself. We risk wallowing in self-pity. But more dangerous is that by sharing these and getting these murders viewed million of times, we’re propagating the spectacle that some of these murderers actually seek it to be. I say that these recordings actually are very entertaining for some of these people because on any of these videos: showing clearly that either an unarmed black boy in a park is killed in two seconds by cops, an unarmed black man is choked to death by multiple officers while saying I can’t breath or a man running away from an officer is shot in the back, you will always (without fail on every killing video clear as daylight) see hundreds of comments with tens of thousands of likes repeating the same message: wait for the rest of the story, he should have complied, he was a thug anyway, he stole a friend’s dinner in fourth grade, his pants were sagging, he had a pottymouth etc etc. These cast of characters obviously enjoy these videos as spectacle. And have prepared deflections to negate and refuse to acknowledge your pain. I believe this is also deliberate and done to amuse these characters. And we’re the ones helping make this spectacle a truly global phenomenon by sharing these videos widely. I don’t want to participate in this.
The second reason why I feel sharing these videos are useless as a strategy to stop these murders is because we need not share them among ourselves. We already know the reality of these murderers in uniform. Well, we’re trying to reach the white moderate and the empathetic white. I think the evidence shows us this is unproductive either. Since cellphone videos and dashcam videos started showing up online about a decade ago about these blatant murders, the actual legal regime in many states have gotten worse and not better. About 27 states have enacted new laws to “protect” law enforcement against “unfair” attacks. They’ve been made even more immune from their impunity than they were before these videos started showing up. So it appears the strategy to call on and trigger the empathetic side of the white majority has fallen on deaf ears. And it’s not just in the South as some smug northern whites may want to obfuscate. New York and California —two of the most liberal states — have some of the worst cases of these murders and “stop and frisk out the dignity of black people” laws in America. So it is obvious that if our idea is to get this to white people so that they can understand our pain and empathize and through that they’ll lean on the law to make it better, it obviously hadn’t worked. The opposite has actually happened. And white people felt we were unfairly targeting their beloved law enforcement showing these videos of murders.
So what is my proposal for the way forward if I don’t like sharing these contemporary lynching videos? I don’t really have a properly thought out or a serious response to this. But what I know is that (from my own personal experience) even among us, we get desensitized to these killings. A sort of numbness that spreads over one’s heart after it has been broken too many times seeing people who look like you and have a million chances of actually being you, killed with impunity. It becomes spectacular for us too. To wallow in self pity. To see in our deaths a chance to continually reiterate what is clear and known to any and all Americans when they’re clearly not interested in changing anything. I’m unwilling to participate in this farce because it is pointless and actually hurtful to the psyche of our people.
Preliminarily, I recommend community action such as voting in local elections for mayors, city councilmen and women, sheriffs, prosecutors, district attorneys etc since these people affect local issues more than anything because police work under local jurisdictions. If possible, create independent and properly run suburban communities to reduce the risk of these encounters. And last but not the least, travel the world. As an American, when you leave the shores of America, your American exceptionalism actually carries a lot of weight whether you’re black or white. So cash in on this privilege which your ancestors toiled to death for. Even though you may not enjoy it much at home, abroad is a totally different ball game. And globally, African American culture is cool. Whether in Asia or Africa. You’ll get some privilege as an American. You can always get back if your trip or stay doesn’t work too well. But it will be a breath of fresh air. And might hold goldmines for you too.
I make this pledge for myself that I will not share these contemporary lynching videos anymore. If I slip, remind me brother and sister. I will make an effort to watch less or none of these as well. If for nothing, it will save me the headache. I’m not burying my head in the sand. I’m not saying this will stop the lynching. I am just saying I don’t think my participation in this is productive. Peace✌🏾️