Monday, June 8, 2020

It’s Time To Let the King Rest (Guest Post by Cassandra Complex)

Hey, everybody!  Today I'd like to welcome to the blog a unique and insightful person whose voice I've come to greatly respect and admire over the past few years.  Let's meet her briefly and then hear her thoughts.

About Cassandra Complex:

Cassandra Complex is a biracial black and white former child of poverty and current adult of relative economic comfort from the Pacific Northwest, who was radicalized by the racist terrorism she endured as a child.  In her free time, she enjoys completely reconfiguring her body to her actual gender from the one she was assigned at birth, anime, video games, and promiscuity.

Guest Post:

The world was upended the latest time this last week with the murder of a black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer with a history of complaints against him, Derek Chauvin. Predictably, the murderer was neither arrested nor to be charged despite the clarity of the evidence.

Something was different this time, however. What was different, no one can say for certain. Black men have been executed by racists for any reason or no reason at all for 400 years with rarely such an outcry as was seen this week; for the last 30 it’s occasionally been caught on camera and for the last 10 it’s been consistently caught on camera. Black people scream in anguish each time; some racists make it known they wholeheartedly approve of the most recent black execution, and the rest of the country fails to rise above a murmur, leaving black people to wonder if their silence, whispers, or murmurs are ones of tacit approval, or disapproval lacking accompanying courage to speak out. Maybe it was the way Chauvin seemed like he could hardly be bothered to even express anything at all as he extinguished Floyd’s life, apparently as indifferent as one would be if they were kneeling on an inner tube to deflate it, if anything, simply angry at the brave teenage girl who dared to record the murder, while Floyd’s eyes protruded from his sockets, a physiological and physical response exaggerating the shock and horror on his face as he realized what was happening to him.

Maybe it was the novel coronavirus, which, with its devastation, has resulted in millions of people having much more time outside work, both to read and to take action. Maybe the momentum had been building for some time, and this was the final catalyst it took.

However it happened, though, thousands of people in Minneapolis, then more US cities in more states, then US towns and international cities, took to the streets, demanding justice, demanding that the murder and his accomplices be arrested and charged immediately.

It also happened that shortly thereafter buildings began to burn, and with that, the conversation began to shift away from the grave injustice that occurred to shaming of the protesters and framing them as heathens and looters and the villains of the tale.

Now, who damaged what is up for debate; much of it protesters claim was caused by police, and I’m inclined to believe them. But even if it weren’t, I honestly would not much care. The CEO of Target came out and disavowed the people using the burning of their store near the murder as a cudgel against protesters, stating that the store could be rebuilt and their opposition to racism, and I think that’s the right call.

Instead, I’m here to talk about what I expect you’ve been tempted to do, which is look to and cite Martin Luther King, Jr. to make sense of the current situation, and guide the way forward.

I’m here to ask you not to use MLK quotes, imagery, talking points, any of it.

Here’s why.

MLK’s non-violence was a strategy. Not an ethos, despite that it surely was informed by his Christian beliefs. It was premised on the notion that if you meet violence with non-violence, your opponent will be moved to abandon his cruelty upon the sight of your suffering. To quote James Baldwin, King “made on fallacious assumption,” that the United States has a conscience.

Now, perhaps the protests show it’s not so dire. Yet it’s still true that thousands of black lives have been lost since Martin Luther King Jr. himself was assassinated after a campaign of harassment from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, despite his position of non-violence. It’s further true that justice, or even care, by white people as a whole, has been rare. In fact, it’s been so rare that the majority of white people in the US voted for a virulent racist, rather than confront the rot of racism in America as begun under the Obama administration. Black people have been told, then forced, to stop kneeling, to respect the flag, to protest on our own time, that somehow, all of us who’ve been killed were ‘no angels’ and were doing something that invited the harm inflicted on us but white ‘peacekeepers’ and stewards of ‘justice’.

King knew that he was putting his life on the line, every step of the way, right up to his assassination, and chose to do so. In invoking his legacy and beliefs piecemeal, then white people ask, with all the weight of a system built on white supremacy behind them, black people to similarly sacrifice our own bodies, to voluntarily submit to the violence and abuses of racists in the general citizenry, in the police force, in the government, anywhere white people who do us harm are to be found, and to potentially give our lives rather than ruffle one hair on a white person’s head.

There is no other situation in which the same would ask the same of anyone else. The law permits self-defense to repel attacks, up to and including homicide, in the most extreme cases. The US used force to found itself, to preserve the union, and essentially constantly ever since to protect its interests nationwide. It is only black people who are expected to endure constant abuse, without recourse apart from to appeal to the very people murdering them from a position of submission and hope they take pity.

Whether intentional or not, I can’t see such a position as anything other than racist. One cannot simultaneously believe that black lives matter, and that an infinite number of black lives should be forfeited until their executioner stays his axe on a whim.

Now, maybe you didn’t think of it that way. Maybe you just like to believe in positivity and love and care to avoid hate. That’s not unreasonable. What is unreasonable, however, is to characterize black responses to violence as hate, or at least the same hate as that of the white supremacist. No one would say the victim of an assault who repels their attacker is ‘hateful’ in doing so, irrespective of whether they do in fact hate the person. Maybe black people do hate the system that has abused and tortured and antagonized them for so long. That still is not the broad, destructive, cruel hatred we think beneath us as human beings. It is the natural response to such abuses, just as one would not care for a person who kicks them in their ribs every day. Ergo, the result is that rather than increase the total amount of 'love' in the world, you have spared yourself unpleasant emotions again at the expense of the oppressed.

Martin Luther King, Jr. worked to liberate. What black people have seen since the rise of social media is his legacy perverted in order to oppress further; to gaslight and shame and revictimize black people individually and on the whole, either to maintain one’s privilege or simply to spare oneself the unpleasantness of looking at the horrors of racism in America without looking away.

If you truly believe black lives matter, if you truly intend to be against racism, you must be willing to be uncomfortable. That starts with abandoning the use of Martin Luther King Jr. as a security blanket for yourself and a police baton against black people to once again beat down their very human outrage. That means immersing yourself in the vast wealth of literature created since King’s death both by his contemporaries and subsequent generations of black activists. That means speaking not to black people, but to anyone in your life who is still silent about the abuses black people suffer, but vocal about their response.

1 comment:

Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

Thanks for coming on the blog, Cassandra.

This was my biggest takeaway. "If you truly believe black lives matter, if you truly intend to be against racism, you must be willing to be uncomfortable."


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