To not have the self-reflection
to wonder why it is
that all young black men seem to be
“fitting the description.”
To not have the self awareness that
out of your fear
you summoned a family member
armed yourself with multiple guns
and proceeded to hunt down an individual
on suspicion of a completely unrelated-to-you crime.
There are so many layers of allegations
that led you to physically chase down and sacrifice the life of an innocent person.
And, and yet, you felt entitled, furthermore,
to not only hunt this individual down extra judicially,
but then shoot him for trying to defend himself from your inexplicable harrassment and attack.
While he was unarmed and non-provoking,
you had multiple armaments, and provoked him aggressively.
Also that you were afforded praise and emotional support
from your white supremacist peers
for your criminal act
and all this taking place while the family of Ahmaud Arbery,
your murder victim,
could not obtain even the means to justice, much less justice itself.
The lack of self awareness involved in these circumstances is profound.
And I cannot help but look at the affordances
that a white supremacist state, external and internal,
have provided you.
Affordances to exist in abject ignorance of the systemic racist realities we exist in.
That you being white, and thus favored by the white supremacist state, have enjoyed the choice
to not learn about anyone else’s experiences.
To not question, even for a moment in the escalating violent course of events you drove,
your own assumptions, your own interpretations.
That affordance alone is profound.
That you could be permitted such gross ignorance, and to go out and act so ignorantly on the world, with so few consequences from society, suggests extreme failures of said society.
your affordances of doing all of the heinous acts that I just detailed
and not even being arrested for your crimes,
your capital crimes of harrassment, assault and murder,
that you were not even arrested after days and weeks and months
until we, the public, saw the tapes
and advocated, multiply.
Not until the prosecutors saw the tapes.
Not until appeals courts saw the tapes.
Not after any of the white supremacist police or any party in the so-called criminal justice enforcement chain of authority saw the tapes.
For months, you lived free and carefree.
And for the person who released the video to claim
that he believed it would exonerate your acts as aggressors, as murderers.
I mean, in looking at all this, I cannot help but be
very aware of these extreme affordances.
Affordances highlighted in contrast
to a young black male jogging through his own local neighborhoods
Not having the affordance of his very life continuing.
That he could not even jog, could not even move through his own neighborhoods,
and assume he could live through that experience.
Much less have access to due process,
much less avoid the very experience of being falsely accused and harrassed
of perpetrating a crime, simply because of his race.
He couldn’t hope to have any such affordances.
That to me, suggests that the white supremacist state,
the state of ignorance it affords,
the state of aggression and violence towards black bodies it endorses,
the state of systematically “looking the other way” at such heinous unprovoked violence,
the state of such outrageous inequities in affordances
is in fact the criminal state.
As the movie 13th illustrates,
we have been enculturated to associate black folk with criminals.
But it seems lucid to me, based on the many accumulating acts of extra judicial violence,
including the shooting of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Mike Brown, Antwon Rose Jr., and more than I can list here…
and the total disregard for human life that ultimately killed Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Kalief Browder, and more than I can list here…
That the state we accept as normal
is a criminal, vigilante state.
Yet it persists
because white people tolerate or advance it.
This criminal state
is both internal and external in form
and in force.
We must dismantle this criminal, vigilante state in our minds.
So many police officers receive the same (or even more extreme) enculturation that we all do, that’s politically advantageous to keeping black and brown bodies repressed,
which is to entrain our minds to automatically associate black skin with dangerous criminal.
Which has roots in slavery, in Jim Crow, in the oppressive regime that define’s this nation’s history.
Because many of those triggers were pulled,
and many acts of disregarding black folks’ dignity, well-being, and human rights,
stem from the internalized, active mental models
of people entrained to believe that black = criminal.
And we are all racist.
We are all racist because we all struggle with that level
of imprinting that we’ve received.
I was walking just now and I noticed a person, you could say, “fitting a description.”
What description, you ask?
Just a general sense of suspicion was activated.
A black male wearing bright red shorts and a gray t-shirt, and standing on the sidewalk, looking like he was not doing or going anywhere in particular. Just standing there.
And what were my immediate, automatic reactions to that observation?
They were racist.
They were racist.
And so when we can own that, when we can label that, when we can work from it and through and around that conditioning and not automatically perpetuate it, we free ourselves, and we set the stage for freeing each other.
Freedom of mind is necessary
because we internalize these systems and therefore reiterate them,
but this process is subtle, and operates covertly,
and so we have to increase awareness and choice in order to subvert it.
We have to demand institutionalized reform in justice systems, and we have to be vigilant and thorough in our campaigns for justice.
Doing so, demanding accountability, reform of policies, reform of laws, reform of mass incarceration, doing these things,
we could avoid more abuses of black and brown bodies.
Though we might not to eliminate such abuses rooted in racist conditioning, we know that we can reduce suffering at least, we can reduce harm and abuse, we can make it just a little more likely that a black person can live free of racist-based molestation of their rights and freedoms.
Coming back to affordances: Are you able to afford ignorance to these things?
If so, that is generally a testament to how you are unnaturally privileged on the basis of your skin color, possibly in addition to other factors such as class and education.
It is a collective responsibility to intervene in this collective wrong.
I’m walking today, walking alone, physically (in space and time), but I know that I’m walking collectively with others who are also engaged in #runwithmaud in their own communities, and who are trying to digest and move through the level of injustice, anger, and grieving that Ahmaud Arbery’s murder brings up.
Ahmaud Arbery’s murder is especially ghastly as it represents an open resurgence of a historical virus: every detail of Ahmaud Arbery’s brutal killing follows the pattern of extra judicial lynchings and murders perpetrated by racist whites for the last several centuries, an expression of a desire to punish black individuals whose very existence is deemed to be criminal.
The maintenance of the perspective that black and brown folks do not deserve full access to the society their very ancestors built,
whether this perspective manifests itself in gross or subtle ways, in any a given context,
is the heart of the persistence of white supremacy.
So how do we reckon with this?
We have to try we have to consciously undertake the effort to try to face these truths.
White people primarily, I am addressing you with this.
Because the affordances that you live with, you have to understand,
these make your life more comfortable, but they deny the rights and privileges that you enjoy to other human beings.
And whether seen or unseen, confronted or ignored, these unequal affordances
are a fundamental obstacle to our personal and collective liberation.