When Black Lives Don’t Matter
Blacks have never been free in this country, a country in which, never was it intended that they should be free, and the spectre of so dreadful a freedom—the idea of a license so bloody and abandoned—conjures up another, unimaginable country in which no decent, God-fearing white man or woman can live.
--James Baldwin, No Name in the Street
“You gotta gather all the facts. Once you got all the facts…”
“I think we know how to do that…”
“Gather all the facts first.”
How plain as day was the video. Jacob Blake is approaching his car, and, in the back seat, we’ll know soon enough, are three young children. He pulls the driver’s car door towards him and starts with his back to the officers.
Did I mention the officers? Kenosha, Wisconsin police officers!
Don’t talk about race. Or anything that calls attention to you as a Black person, and while you maneuver the terrain that is Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop…
The witnesses on the scene are scream. Jumping up and down.
It’s unbelievable. But it’s happened before.
As Jacob Blake was coming around the car, it didn’t seem as if he had anything in his hands. He wants to get away from the police with guns already drawn. He, a father, wants to reach his children because he knows they are young and babies and precious but not to police, seeing only black. Black. Black. Black. The police won’t care in a country were anti-blackness is an inherited European concept that made it so much easier for David Hume and Hegel as well as Jefferson and Franklin to pontificate on the inferiority of African people.
There’s a history but never enough time to lay out this history, is there, before the police start shooting? They won’t stop, will they?
Seven times the police fire at Jake’s back. Right into his back!
Compare this scene to the second night of protests. Witnesses on the scene pointed at a white man with a weapon. It’s so usual an image. A long rifle but he is able to shoot at a crowd of protesters, some who are shouting for the police to notice this insanity and others trying to stop the man from firing.
White vigilante, says Lt. Governor, Mandela Barnes, appearing on Democracy Now! But who is listening in Kenosha?
Two are dead and the white man escapes capture. And why is this? Why is it that the Black man is shot but not the white man with the rifle, firing into a crowd of protesters? Why is the former image of violence acceptable to the point of being invisible to law enforcement while the latter requires an excessive response?
Now to the “facts.” As of a few days after the shooting: Jacob Blake is paralyzed from the waist down! A fact!
Attorney Benjamin Crump is on the scene asking, was it necessary for Kenosha police to shoot Jake, once, let alone seven times?
There’s a real problem in our culture with policing, adds Barnes.
But in this neck of the woods in Wisconsin, policing here thinks the way white citizens think.
It’s Kenosha, Wisconsin. Here where I’ve been sending dispatches in the form of articles to my column at The Black Commentator and to OpEdNews in the last five years about the narrative and practice of racist. Ethnic cleansing.
What can I say about the Kenosha NAACP—perhaps, as chained to the “good” Negro role, terrified of any Black resisting the maintenance of the racial hierarchy in Kenosha. But some time ago, when I tried to reach out to fellow activists, activists I thought were Black Lives Matter activists, I encountered middle-aged to older white women who were of the generation I left behind here twenty years ago when I taught at the University of Wisconsin Parkside. These were white women, with a lock on “activism” just as they were committed twenty years ago to protecting the racial hierarchy and economic status quote. I could teach women of color courses, African women courses, African American women courses. But I would never be invited to meetings of women studies faculty.
So now, there’s a new generation of new gatekeepers. And it’s “activism” now in that illusion of “progress.” And “diversity” is only lesbian and trans, with no room for Black people struggling to combat systemic racism. White supremacy.
Let’s keep it in the family! Making the world, starting with Kenosha, safe for sons and daughters to “get ahead.”
It isn’t as if racism doesn’t exist for them. They know racism is real. They are “activists” in making sure certain Blacks don’t express the anger at living in a city that seems to have skipped right over the Civil Rights era and the shadow of black figures with raised fists and rifles lurks the streets of Kenosha even if such a reality never existed here.
Nonetheless, white residents fear the whole city of Chicago. Too violent. Filled with people who are two violent. And I haven’t had to live here all of twenty years to know that there are whites here who believe my birth town, Chicago is filled with violent Black people.
It’s hard to inform liberal white America about that conquest and enslavement of a good chunk of humanity. And the perpetrators were white. Millions then as millions in the 20th century. Hiroshima, Vietnam, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan.
What about the children in those detention camps at the border? How many children in the world without enough food thanks to US embargo.
But that would require gathering the “facts” and gathering the “facts” here means social media with no discretion. And FoxNews and Trump.
A predominantly working class city, Kenosha, leaned toward Trump in 2016. I didn’t come across the opposition’s sign. Months after his election, Trump came to Kenosha’s Snap On plant and the town went wild. Red hats everywhere. Cell phone cameras on the ready.
Trump is Great and Make America Great signs are making their way to apartment doors and lawns, in time for November of this year. Even here in my apartment building, there’s an apartment door with two Trump signs.
Prior to the shooting of Jacob Blake, everything was fine here—if as a Black, you don’t bring up race! Don’t even refer to “Black people” too many times or you will be asked, as I was, why do you talk all the time about Black people! If you as a Black woman, at 66-years old, don’t mention anything to do with race but talk about the weather, shopping, you’re good. Not so confrontational! Mental!
Blacks are sick and tired of the Kenosha brand of “activism” that is nothing more than the madness of deliberate ignorance and indifference!
Don’t talk about race. Or anything that calls attention to you as a Black person, and while you maneuver the terrain that is Kenosha, Wisconsin, please keep even informed opinions to yourself so as to not raises the anger of whites who will punish you—with impunity—because power is wrapped so tightly around their skin that it is one and the same thing, isn’t it?
Whites are superior beings here. Some of the young are arrogant and speak not as if—but as—older and therefore wiser because they assume they know Blacks are inferior, aren’t we? And older whites finding nothing unusual in their expectation that Blacks will understand that second-class citizenship is reserved for them. It could be worse: There are prison cells in Milwaukee, filled with “criminals,” Black, of course.
But some will say, it’s like this everywhere in this racist nation. But, yes, but here in Kenosha, it’s a joke to say you will appeal to the local traditional organizations that have traditionally been complacent with the status quo. The bar is set too high if you are intent to point out racism. On the other hand, there is no end to the “activism” galvanized to blacklisted, marginalized, gaslighted, shot down dissent.
It’s a day-to-day struggle, small “s” because in Kenosha, the anti-blackness is swirls, as white-hot flames, around a perceived invasion of Blacks from Chicago and Milwaukee. Even Racine. Safety for white citizens here is therefore a priority in order to hold back this “herd” of Blacks coming to take away a haven where whiteness can reside without fear. Ironically, the whole image of Black people invading Kenosha, seeking to harm white people is fueled by fear!
“Activism” then, Kenosha style, is an adjustment to a narrative of white innocence devoid of any historical white violence. It’s a form of “activism” Black residents are forced to participate in. Keeping yourself in check and stressing out!
That’s not activism, but instead, Black life in Kenosha!
And here, in this adherence to a racial hierarchy, the practice of violence can be traced to its origins in the late medieval concept of white as good and black as bad. Consciously or unconsciously, adherence to this ignorance and indifference is the primary violence that blankets Kenosha just as it does the whole of the United States—a country founded on the conquest of Indigenous populations and the enslavement of Africans and their descendants.
So that day after Jacob is shot by the Kenosha police, I’m sitting in the community room because my neighbor was determined to see the back side of an “uppity n-----” exiting the building for the last time, when I hear the manager and a tenant greeting one another:
How are you?
I can never feel so awesome as I live between one police shooting and the next. Not a damn things is awesome in Kenosha! Not for Black people! And that should matter!
But, I guess, Kenosha has failed to gather all the facts!
Resistance if futile here. That’s the usual message to native Blacks and those of us crossing the Illinois-Wisconsin border from Chicago.
Until it reaches home, becomes real, and Black residents, once compliant and numbed, remove for themselves the muzzle from their mouths.
Resistance is our place. Black lives do matter.
I can express how proud this older life-long activist was to see Black Lives Matter protesters here in Kenosha! Young Blacks and allies here, gathered from surrounding cities, including—Chicago and Milwaukee and Racine—demanding accountability. Demanding above all that the movement for justice and freedom not be stifled by the reflective response of a fearful white population anymore!
Enough! Blacks are sick and tired of the Kenosha brand of “activism” that is nothing more than the madness of deliberate ignorance and indifference!
Enough! Blacks in Kenosha aren’t returning to white spaces!
Jacob Blake, hang in there! Hang in there!