Privilege is the ability to deny reality by creating a bubble of willful ignorance around oneself.
This is true of white privilege, male privilege, heterosexual privilege, and all of the other ways that the dominant and the in-group benefit materially and psychologically from a culture that is designed to bend the world in the service of their will.
The mainstream media has, for the most part, moved on from the murder of Michael Brown and the gross violations of the black community's human rights by the police in Ferguson, Missouri. The twenty-four hour news cycle has a limited attention span; the corporate news media does not serve the public interest as it is first and foremost beholden to profits over people and truth-telling.
I will continue to write about and discuss the events in Ferguson because what has and is transpiring there is emblematic of America's national problem and sickness that is white supremacy. Ferguson is a petty fiefdom of meanness, cruelty, and racism; there are many Fergusons in the United States.
Yesterday, the Washington Post and the website Mediaite featured two news items about Ferguson that together constitute a textbook and ideal typical example of white racism in the post civil rights era.
Of course, the comment sections on both stories feature white racists publicly masturbating with their own political feces as is their preferred habit.
Nonetheless, both pieces are very revealing.
The Washington Post's story,"For some Ferguson whites, racial fault lines exposed by shooting come as a surprise", focuses on the ignorance and faux racial innocence that typifies Whiteness as a political and racial ideology.
"For some Ferguson whites, racial fault lines exposed by shooting come as a surprise" is also a clinic in aversive and symbolic racism.
But since the death of an unarmed black teenager at the hands of a white police officer, some African Americans are calling it segregated and racist. Now Singen has found herself talking in terms of “us” and “them,” “we” and “they.”
“I didn’t have any problems with anybody or any color, and all of a sudden it feels like we are being held responsible for something that’s not our fault,” Singen, 70, said as she left Faraci Pizza, a 46-year-old Ferguson business that has become a focal point of racial tension. “I don’t get it.”
That sense of shock is common here among Ferguson whites in the wake of 18-year-old Michael Brown’s death and the explosive protests in the days that followed.
Hart has lived here most of his 47 years. He was class president at McCluer High School. More than a third of the students were minorities then, and he said he could not recall a racist incident. He believes in building communities and the good of people — which made it possible to think that his town’s troubles could be helped, if not solved, by a slice of pizza.
White privilege and colorblind racism nurture a sense of white victimology and racial grievance mongering towards black Americans. White privilege also flattens history by presenting complicated matters of institutional racism and white supremacy as "simple" problems to be "solved" (here with pizza) by individual behavior as opposed to a serious and rigorous examination of inter-group power relationships.
The Washington Post continued:
“My biggest gripe is that no one is giving the justice system a chance to work out,” Hart said. “We don’t know all the facts, but there is an investigation and a process. This is America.”
Protests and arrests have continued in Ferguson and across the St. Louis area, though things have been less volatile than in the summer. On Saturday, black and white demonstrators bought tickets to a St. Louis Symphony performance and at intermission stood and sang “A Requiem for Mike Brown,” with mixed reaction from a stunned audience.
America is a society structured around maintaining white privilege and white supremacy. One of the ways that this is accomplished is by socializing the white public to believe that America is a meritocracy whose social and political institutions treat all people the same way--regardless of skin color. In turn, a belief in this lie nurtures resentment, hostility, and anger towards people of color because the latter's lived experiences battling white supremacy are translated by the White Gaze into complaining, belly aching, "reverse racism", and not being "patriotic" towards the "greatest country on Earth".
When institutional racism is exposed--only the willfully ignorant and those who have cultivated their own stupidity are surprised by these glaring inequalities--there is a hostile reaction by many white folks because they are wedded to the lies of American meritocracy and "colorblindness".
Moreover, the premise that white people have received unearned advantages means their dominant group position/individual success may not have been earned, but rather received unjustly at the expense of others. This is often too much for White America's collective and individual psyche(s), to process.
In contrast to the polite and restrained white racism of the Washington Post's story, Mediaite featured a video and accompanying story which shows the racial bigotry that hides in the the "backstage" of American life moved to the "frontstage" for all to see.
Mediaite reported how:
At the top of the video, an older gentleman looks directly at the camera and shouts about how if these (all-black) protestors had been working (at night?) “we wouldn’t have this problem!”
The crowd soon begins chanting “Let’s go Cardinals!” to drown out the protestors’ chant about “shutting the shit down” if they aren’t given justice for slain 18-year-old Michael Brown. That Cards chant quickly changed into “Let’s go Darren!” referring to Officer Darren Wilson, the Ferguson cop who killed the young man.
Things continue to get uglier as the video progresses.
One Cardinals fan calls a protestor a “crackhead,” while another fan presumably made eye contact with one protestor and began questioning his “tough guy” status, telling the unseen protestor that “if you ever saw me in the street, you’d look at the ground, that’s what you’d do.”
While one protestor waves an upside-down American flag (symbolic of “country in distress”), a blonde lady enters, telling the crowd: “We’re the ones who fuckin’ gave all y’all the freedoms that you have!” Another lady takes it upon herself to question the cameraman’s background, suggesting she doesn’t believe he’s an ex-Marine, while asking incoherent questions about his rank. All fun times.
Peppered throughout the rest of the video are “USA! USA!” chants from the Cards fans, along with one woman getting real clever and shouting at the protestors: “Africa! Africa!” There were also more calls for the protestors to get jobs, pick up their pants, and remove their caps.
I prefer honest white supremacists. Their behavior is refreshing.
The white fans at the Cardinals game, shouting their support for a police officer who killed an unarmed black person who was surrendering, hands raised, in cold blood, are racial contrarians.
It is also important to note how their chants and screeds against the defenders of Michael Brown's right to life and our shared civil liberties reflect the standard racist talking-points of the Right-wing media and the Republican Party in the post civil era.
In all, the supporters of Darren Wilson are engaging in a type of idolization of their hero because they too would like to earn their bounty by killing a black person.
Homicidal idealization and symbolic racism have reduced the killing of Michael Brown by a cowardly white thug cop named Darren Wilson into a set of dueling chants at a sporting event.
The moral rot of the white fans at the Cardinals game who heckled and harassed the supporters of justice for Michael Brown are reminders of Mark Twain's wisdom in the classic book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn where he wrote:
I didn't rightly know what to say, because I didn't know whether the boat would be coming up the river or down. But I go a good deal on instinct; and my instinct said she would be coming up -- from down towards Orleans. That didn't help me much, though; for I didn't know the names of bars down that way. I see I'd got to invent a bar, or forget the name of the one we got aground on -- or -- Now I struck an idea, and fetched it out:
"It warn't the grounding -- that didn't keep us back but a little. We blowed out a cylinder-head."
"Good gracious! anybody hurt?"
"No'm. Killed a nigger."
"Well, it's lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt.
Twain wrote that scathing observation of how white supremacy damages white people's ethics and morality in the year 1885. It is now 2014. Twain's insights remain painfully valid.
America's public discourse is obsessed with the cultural "problems" and supposed pathologies of black people. "What does it feel like to be a problem?" is the birthright slogan penned with existential ink on the minds and bodies of black Americans.
The events in Ferguson--as well as others such as mass shootings, right-wing domestic terrorism, breaking the economy--are a reminder of America's real problem: the United States has many cultural pathologies rooted in Whiteness and white privilege.
Instead of demanding that black folks fix their "bad" culture and demanding "where are the black leaders?", White America needs to exercise some of the "personal responsibility" it is quick to throw in the face of others by getting its own house in order. White America also needs to challenge its own "leaders" to do better and to act more responsibly.
Ferguson needs a better class of racists. America does as well.
Once more, and as Ethiop asked, what shall we do with the white people?