Friday, July 9, 2010

Fear Of Black Men

Adam Serwer has an excellent piece about the involuntary manslaughter conviction of Johannes Mehserle, the former BART police officer for killing Oscar Grantwho was lying face down and handcuffed in an Oakland train station.

Times change, but the radioactive fear of black people, black men in particular, has proven to have a longer half-life than any science could have discerned. This is not a fear white people possess of black people--it is a fear all Americans possess. It makes white cops kill black cops, it makes black cops kill black men, and it whispers in the ears of white and nonwhite jurors alike that fear of an unarmed black man lying face down in the ground is not "unreasonable." All of which is to say, while it infects all of us, a few of us bear the brunt of the suffering it causes.

This aged fear is not the only thing preventing justice for Oscar Grant. We live in a time when Americans are also possessed by a fear of terrorism. In the thrall of that fear we've done more than just cede civil liberties, we've come to accept extraordinary government power over life and death in the name of Keeping Us Safe. Instead of believing that people who hold the power of life and death in their hands should be held to the highest standards of conduct, we remember our fear and just feel thankful for their presence. Instead of believing that great power comes with responsibility, we shrug at the collateral damage, because at least it isn't us.


Shan said...

So sad, but so true.

Nikki Marie said...

Sad but not really "true"

I'm feel a natural fear of anyone who acts like they are angry with me especially if they are dressed in the fashion of many musicians who glorify things like violence and guns and drugs regardless of ANY race. It is an association based on fashion and mannerisms not race.

The real issue I believe is not the racism but the culture that many inner city children feel they must adopt to survive. There is so much of a felt need to appear tough and strong not just because it is cool for young kids it is the response they are looking for because they feel it perpetuates their survival.

Should someone not from this upbringing feel fear it is natural. Acting on that fear is extremely unfortunate. I would think the root of the issue lies in teaching children how they're perceived will impact how they are treated.

I am not denying racism or stereotyping. It is still around. I think that this perpetuation of fear of the black man does not merely lie in "the black man rising up" or even have to do with their race at all anymore though.

I used to have a face full of metal and quite a few tattoos, but pointing fingers and getting angry at others for being afraid of me only makes the problem worse. I don't know anyone who is scary to conservative people and aren't well aware of it, but if you are mindful of how others perceive you you can overcome their fear. Care for others and they will often care back. Come out swinging and you'll probably end up taking some hits.

Anonymous said...

I belive that black men have been feared for so long by European's that
in america it becomes a creed for the young and the naive to follow in the footsteps of their forefathers and allow false observations and fear to blind them of their own neighbors.
All of my life i was pretty much feared and hated by everyone, Black people didn't tolerate my intelligence and white people didn't tolerate my presence even a good friend of mine admits that when he first saw me he was very afraid that i would attempt some degree of violence on him in that say its not that black men are scary or intimidating its just that were not unusually happy all of the time because were always dealing with the pressures that society places on us, i have to watch my back all day long because im in deep fear that police will harass and beat me, why because it has happened before and it happens to alot of us.
White people glorify hip hop, in ways that make me believe that in reality the fear of blacks is all in our predetermined conception of what a person should look like think its always a white male or female never a person with a tan or any defining features that i am bistowed that makes people who look like me a unknown from early development stages in peoples minds.