In Cold Blood: The Murder of Renisha McBride

Renisha McBride

By Sikivu Hutchinson

A white family grieves in outrage after their teenage daughter has been gunned down by a black homeowner in an African American neighborhood. In this parallel universe the killer walks free, enjoying the benefit of being viewed as having defended his home from a violent intruder, while the big city D.A. decides whether or not to charge him.

It is no revelation to many black women in neo-apartheid Americana that being white and female pays deep dividends in everyday life.  Among these dividends is the ability to be seen as an innocent victim under dire circumstances and to have the weight of the American criminal justice system behind you upholding that perception.  Another is the advantage of secure access to elite suburban enclaves without fear of criminalization. Stranded in the early morning hours after a car crash in a predominantly white suburb outside of Detroit, nineteen year-old Renisha McBride had no such benefits.  A recent high school graduate, McBride had just gotten a job at the Ford Motor Company when she was brutally shot in the face by a white male resident after seeking help from the crash. Her family described her as warm and loving. As of this writing her killer has not been apprehended nor charged.

McBride’s killing is part of a long legacy of black female murder victims who have been devalued in a misogynist apartheid system of state-sanctioned violence that thrives on the urban/suburban racial divide. In 2010, seven year-old Aiyanna Jones was murdered by a Detroit police officer in her own home during a botched police raid. In 1999, a homeless fifty four year-old 5 feet tall black woman named Margaret Mitchell was killed by LAPD officers in an affluent Los Angeles retail district after a dispute over a shopping cart. The officers in the Mitchell case were not charged. The officer in the Jones case was recently granted a retrial after the jury in his initial involuntary manslaughter trial deadlocked.  Civil rights activists and community protestors have compared McBride’s killing to that of Trayvon Martin, Emmet Till, Oscar Grant and Amadou Diallo, globally known black male lynching victims whose white killers never saw jail time.  But the problem with these comparisons is that they unintentionally minimize lesser known black female victims of white supremacist violence such as Mitchell, Jones, Eulia Love, Eleanor Bumpurs, Alesia Thomas and Mitrice Richardson. Although the circumstances of these women’s deaths were quite different, the lack of sustained national and global attention (relative to black men who have been murdered under similar circumstances) unites them.   National civil rights activists and feminist organizations must ask themselves why these names have not become as prominent or high profile in national activism.  Mainstream civil rights organizations have long had a sexist, patriarchal blind spot when it comes to critical consciousness about the specific gendered and racialized ways in which black women are demonized, sexualized and criminalized in the U.S.  Historically, much of the language around black civil rights uplift has been oriented toward redeeming black men and pathologized black masculinity.  In K-12 education, students are typically taught about American history in general and the modern civil rights movement in particular as though they were merely a procession of events spearheaded by Great white men, a few exceptional men of color and Rosa Parks.  From MLK to the Black Panthers, black women’s self-determination was never part of the mainstream civil rights’ social justice calculus or platform.  Thus redressing the epidemic of intimate partner violence and sexual assault in African American communities has never been a major part of African American civil rights organizing.  Nor has the skyrocketing number of black women in prison and the ways in which this regime has led to the exponential increase of black children that are homeless or in foster care. [Read more...]

The War Against Black Children

 kingdrew boys

By Sikivu Hutchinson

In a predominantly Black South L.A. continuation school class packed with eleventh and twelfth grade girls, only half want to go to college, few can name role models of color and virtually none have been exposed to literature by women of color.  Demonized as the most expendable of the expendable, Black continuation school students are routinely branded as too “at risk”, “challenged” and “deficit-laden” to be “college material”.  Coming from backgrounds of abuse, incarceration, foster care and homelessness, these youth are already written off as budding welfare queens and baby mamas.  They are at the epicenter of the war against Black children. 

State-sanctioned terrorism against Black children is commonly understood as murder, harassment, and racial profiling–overt acts of violence which elicit marches, pickets, mass resistance and moral outrage.  Last week, Republicans and Democrats alike fell all over themselves to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the tragic murder of four African American girls in the 16th Street Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.  Such overt acts of organized white supremacist terrorism against Black children have largely receded.  Instead, they have been replaced by the socially acceptable state violence of school-to-prison pipelining, racist low expectations and the illusion of equal educational opportunity in the “post Jim Crow” era of re-segregated schools.

 Last spring, in an offensive commencement speech to Morehouse College graduates, President Obama launched into his standard refrain about personal responsibility, sagging pants and absent fathers.  Checking shiftless Black youth has long been one of his favorite presidential past-times.  As progressive Black pundits have noted, this narrative not only plays well in Peoria, but on the global stage.  For a nation brainwashed into believing the U.S. is an exceptionalist beacon, the underachievement of black students has become both shorthand for and explanation of its low standing in academic rankings.  According to this view, the achievement gap between (lazy) Black and (enterprising) white and Asian students “drags” down the U.S.’ global academic standing.  Steeped in a culture of pathology, native-born African American youth “squander” the opportunities seized upon by newly arrived immigrant students of color.

 As a 2013 high school graduate and first generation college student of mixed heritage, Ashley Jones is well acquainted with toxic anti-black propaganda.  She says, “Being Black and Thai…if I do well on a test or in class, then some people will comment, ‘that’s your Asian side.’”  Jones comes from a South L.A. school where it is not uncommon for teachers to reflexively track students into college prep, honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes according to race and ethnicity.  She comments, “If you were to ask these same people about race, they would tell you we are all equal and anyone can achieve anything they set their mind to, but when you listen to them talk at nutrition and lunch, you hear Blackness constantly associated with violence,  ‘being ghetto’, and a lack of intellectual abilities.” A recent L.A. Times article about Kashawn Campbell, a high-achieving African American graduate of South L.A.’s Jefferson High School who struggled to get C’s and D’s at UC Berkeley, exemplifies these sentiments.  The over 700 responses on the article’s comment thread were relentless: the young man’s plight was due to inflated expectations, laziness, outright sloth, and the natural intellectual inferiority of African Americans.  Even the National Review picked up the piece and dubbed it an example of a “Devastating Affirmative Action Failure.” Why, many commenters howled contemptuously, didn’t Campbell’s slot go to a “real” achiever, i.e., a hardworking Asian or white student who genuinely deserved it? Missing from the near universal condemnations of affirmative action was the fact that Campbell’s freshman performance at UC Berkeley reflects the deficits of a neo-liberal public education system in which even high achieving students of color may be grossly under-prepared [Read more...]

Creepy Crackers n’ Shucking Toms

django uncle tom & little eva

By Sikivu Hutchinson

Pity poor Uncle Tom.  When angry white male atheists start trotting him out as a cover for their racist circle jerk you know you’ve got a postmodern moment with a cherry on top.  Although it’s never stopped being open season on black folk in America the Beautiful, the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act, its partial smackdown of affirmative action and the happy times for George Zimmerman defense trial signal that the gloves are off again.  So now it seems the wages of whiteness atheist privilege brigade has come full circle from American Atheists’ 2012 naked shackled black slave billboard to Cult of Dusty’s viral “Black Christians=Uncle Toms” You Tube tirade.  According to creepy-cracker-white-man’s-burden-Dusty all black folk who subscribe to Christianity are not only domesticated dupes but neo-slave House Negro Stephens (in reference to Quentin Tarantino’s wet dream of buck-dancing black male cunning) shucking and jiving in our own 21st century version of Django Unchained.  But this racist ignoramus is no latter day John Brown dropping knowledge on us docile backward noble savages cowering under the yoke of dis here Good Book blessed by da Massa’s benevolence.

Conveniently omitted from this and umpteen other white atheist paeans to enlightening the dark hordes of ghetto superstition is any analysis of the white supremacist brutality of exalted secularist icons like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and other revolutionary war patriots who built American empire on the backs of slave labor and through the propaganda of democratic citizenship.  Missing from this equation is a takedown of the proto-capitalist engine of black exploitation under slavery, its echoes in 20th century Jim Crow public policy and the New Jim Crow of mass incarceration that fuels the criminal wealth gap between whites and people of color.  As Toni Morrison so sagely put it, slavery and freedom existed side by side, for “nothing highlighted freedom if it did not in fact create it, like slavery.  Black slavery enriched the country’s creative possibilities for in that construction of blackness and enslavement could be found not only the not-free…but the not-me.”  Then, as now, freedom, individualism and universal citizenship (the ostensible ideological impetus for the Revolutionary War) were based on white supremacy and racialized notions of nationhood.  In the aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676 white working class laborers were conferred with citizenship privileges—i.e., the right to bear arms, assemble, hold property and move around freely—entitlements that no black person, slave or free, could ever enjoy.  After the gradual institutionalization of racial slavery in the 1640s the categories slave and black became synonymous as did the categories white and free.  There was no loophole for any enlightened black non-theists that might have been running around.  There was no honorary black slave status (with the advantages of beatings, rapes, lifelong enslavement and dehumanization) granted pesky white atheists and anti-clericalists.  And the very secular American Constitution branded black slaves as 3/5s of a man in order to ensure that slave states had equal representation in Congress.

Racial slavery was driven by economic conditions and the proto-capitalist rise of American empire.  It provided an insurance policy against white working class resistance against the white aristocracy (from Jefferson the rapist slaver to the Koch brothers) by giving poor white folk access to the wages of whiteness. [Read more...]

Leaving Jesus: Women of Color Beyond Faith

Mandisa Thomas

By Sikivu Hutchinson

The 24-hour prayer sessions are the true test of a warrior for Jesus.  They require Herculean stamina, the patience of Job, the rigor of elite marathon runners hitting the wall in a fiery sweat pit at high altitude, primed for God’s finish line. In many small storefront Pentecostal churches these “pray-a-thons” are women’s spaces; hubs of music, food, caregiving, and intense witnessing.  My student Stacy Castro* is a bass player in her Pentecostal church’s band.  She is also the pastor’s daughter and a regular participant in the pray-a-thons, a mainstay in some evangelical congregations. Much of her weekends are focused on church activities. And though she is an intelligent gifted speaker, up until her participation in the Women’s Leadership Project she thought little about pursuing college and wanted to go to cosmetology school.  Stacy’s aspirations are not atypical of students at Washington Prep High School in South Los Angeles.  In a community that is dominated by churches of every stripe only a small minority go on to four year colleges and universities.

Over the past decade, Pentecostal congregations have burgeoned in urban communities nationwide, as Pentecostalism has exploded amongst American Latinos disgruntled by rigid Catholic hierarchies, alienating racial politics, and sexual abuse scandals.  The gendered appeal of Pentecostalism is highlighted in a 2008 American Religious Identification Survey which concludes that, “Latino religious polarization may be influenced by a gender effect, as in the general U.S. population, with men moving toward no religion and women toward more conservative religious traditions and practices. Two traditions at opposite poles of the religious spectrum exhibit the largest gender imbalance: the None population is heavily male (61%) while the Pentecostal is heavily female (58%). Italics added.”[i]

In my book, Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars, I argued that the literature on secularism and gender does not capture the experiences of women of color negotiating racism, sexism, and poverty in historically religious communities.  The relative dearth of secular humanist and freethought traditions amongst women of color cannot be separated from the broader context of white supremacy, gender politics, and racial segregation.  Harlem Renaissance-era writers Nella Larsen and Zora Neale Hurston are generally acknowledged as pioneering twentieth century black women freethinkers.  Yet what few women’s freethought histories there are celebrate the political influence of prominent nineteenth century white women non-believers, [Read more...]

Aurora, Colorado: Tragedy, Wingnuttery, and a possible racial angle?

By Frederick Sparks

The senseless tragedy in which 12 moviegoers were murdered and scores other injured at a screening of the new Batman film may have been enough to “halt” the presidential campaigns, but the predictable conversations about gun rights, gun control, and of course “God” march on.  Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert blames the shooting on the fact that:

 

We have been at war with the very pillars, the very foundation of this country … and when … you know … what really gets me as a Christian, is to see the ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs and then a senseless, crazy act of terror like this takes place.

You know, when people say, where was God in all of this? Well, you know, we don’t let … in fact we’ve threatened high school graduation participants that if they use God’s name that they’re going to be jailed….etc etc

 

This asshole apparently worships an asshole God who allows babies to get shot because He is so butthurt that  His name isn’t said at high school graduations.   Gohmert also repeats the standard canard that “if only the theatre patrons had guns”…because of course everyone with a gun is a good enough shot to take out an armed assailant in a dark theatre while chaos is breaking out, without hitting an innocent bystander.

 

On another note,  Aurora has become a suburban destination for black Denver area residents and has one of the highest concentrations of African-Americans in the state of Colorado.  An Aurora resident who met the alleged shooter James Holmes  in a bar two weeks ago claims Holmes made “slightly racist statements” about rap music fans.   Reports are that Holmes is not cooperating, however, so no motive has been determined.  

My thoughts are with the victims and their families.

 

Annual Pastors Conference: All White Christians Invited

By Frederick Sparks

But oh no, it isn’t racist. The groups sponsoring the event, the Christian Identity Ministries, (whose website states: “Our true countenance is not one of hate, but one of love. Yes, we believe that the Europeans and their descendants are the chosen people of God. We believe this, not because we think that the white race is superior, but because there is overwhelming proof in support of this belief. “) and the Church of God’s Chosen, merely didn’t have sufficient facilities to accommodate non-whites.  The organizers also pointed out that they’ve never been invited to NAACP meetings and mosques and synagogues and stuff….so there!   What’s the problem?

The closing day of the event will include a “Sacred Christian Cross Lighting Ceremony”, to symbolize an “opposition to tyranny.”  While there will be KKK members in attendance, this lighting ceremony is absolutely not  a “cross burning” long associated with Klan activity.

A “Scientific” Racist Breaks it Down

By Sikivu Hutchinson

Word has it that the murderer George Zimmerman will finally be charged in the killing of Trayvon Martin.  But the fight for Trayvon has rightfully exposed the polecat underbelly of lynch mob justice in the U.S.

Exhibit A is John Derbyshire, swinging his balls to the breeze for whites fed up with “nonstop” coverage of the lynching of Trayvon.  Derbyshire, a former National Review columnist and mathematician recently broke down a white peoples’ guide to navigating the violent criminal subhuman tendencies of inner city Negroes.  Entitled “The Talk: The Non-Black Version,” Derbyshire’s neo-Birth of A Nation piece offers rich insight into the depth of the white nationalist backlash and the politics of the New Jim Crow.  Martin’s murder elicited a national conversation amongst black parents about how to counsel black youth on public conduct given the realities of racial profiling.  But Derbyshire wanted to set seditious black folk straight about who the real victims were.  Evoking the image of the scary bestial black spook, the post is a mini-primer on black depravity, advising whites and other non-blacks to steer clear of black neighborhoods, avoid events with large numbers of black people, and anticipate situations where they could potentially become victims of black violence.  So if we just arm ourselves to the teeth, make sure those spooks stay in their ghettoes and neutralize race card-playing black politicians we can divide Negro-hood into a neat taxonomy of hostile blacks and domesticated intelligent blacks:

(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).

(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.

(10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.

(10f) Do not settle in a district or municipality run by black politicians.

(10g) Before voting for a black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a white.

(10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.

(10i) If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.

As with any good quasi-academic white supremacist, Derbyshire cherry picks pseudo science and sociology to reinforce his belief in the innate intellectual inferiority and moral depravity of blacks:

(11) The mean intelligence of blacks is much  lower than for whites. The least  intelligent ten percent of whites have IQs below 81; forty percent  of blacks have IQs that low. Only one black in six is more intelligent than the  average white; five whites out of six are more intelligent than the  average black. These differences show in  every test of general cognitive ability that anyone, of any race or  nationality, has yet been able to devise. They are reflected in countless everyday  situations. “Life is an IQ test.”

Derbyshire’s link to “everyday situations” tracks back to an article on mortgage lending discrimination.  Nationwide, black and Latino homeowners have been disproportionately targeted by predatory and subprime lending practices (Disgraced mortgage lender Countrywide having been the subject of a major lawsuit and settlement thereof); practices which implicitly benefit white homeowners and hence constitute the very preferences (i.e., affirmative action) that Derbyshire decries as corrosive to the racist fantasy of “pure meritocracy”:

(12) There is a magnifying effect here, too, caused by  affirmative action. In a pure meritocracy there would be very low proportions of  blacks in cognitively demanding jobs. Because of affirmative action, the  proportions are higher. In government work, they are very  high. Thus, in those encounters with strangers that involve cognitive  engagement, ceteris paribus the black stranger will be less intelligent  than the white. In such encounters, therefore—for example, at a government  office—you will, on average, be dealt with more competently by a white than by a  black. If that hostility-based magnifying effect (paragraph 8) is also in play,  you will be dealt with more politely, too. “The  DMV lady“ is a statistical truth, not a myth.

(13) In that pool of forty million, there are nonetheless  many intelligent and well-socialized blacks. (I’ll use IWSB as an ad  hoc abbreviation.) You should consciously seek opportunities to make  friends with IWSBs. In addition to the ordinary pleasures of friendship, you  will gain an amulet against potentially career-destroying accusations of  prejudice…

Although the National Review fired Derby last week the post merely expresses what segregated American television, film, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and polls bear out — that separate, apartheid inequality is still as Americana as apple pie.