Ward Sutton is a New York-based cartoonist and illustrator.
While the overwhelming majority of African Americans see some level of racial discrimination and devaluing of black life in the police murders of unarmed men like Akai Gurley, Kendrec McDade, and Eric Garner, it’s become far too easy for police (and society) to deny race played even a small role in any of these homicides.
In essence, unless the police are recorded using the “n-word” or secretly walking out of a Klan meeting, they can effectively deny they have a racist bone in their body, but that’s not really how the new racism works in 2014. Racial slurs and Klan meetings are used less, but some reputable polls show the majority of Americans still hold some level of racist views against African Americans. Yet we’re expected to believe that those racist views are somehow never held by police and never play any role in the deaths of African Americans they kill by the hundreds year in and year out.
“Start A Fire” by Unspoken
Music video by Unspoken performing Start A Fire. (C) 2014 Centricity Music
#BlackLivesMatter #Ferguson #JusticeforEricGardner
Standard YouTube License
Racism and its close cousin xenophobia are ingredients baked into the slave morality that afflicts so many white Americans, feeding a persecution complex and a sense of permanent aggrievement among the most historically privileged demographic group on the planet. (Yes, there are millions of poor whites, and they have good reason to lament their marginal, forgotten status. They also have a strong tendency to look for enemies in the wrong places.) Crime is at or near all-time lows, employment is high, many consumer goods are cheaper than ever before and the United States has not experienced a major attack by foreign terrorists in 13 years. Given all that, it is crucial to conceal the real source of middle-class and working-class America’s worsening anomie: the vast gulf of inequality between the super-rich and the rest of us, along with the stagnant wages, declining benefits and longer work weeks confronted by ordinary people.
As the black radical philosopher Frantz Fanon observed in the early 1960s, racism becomes a tool in the hands of the masters, used to pit different sectors of the oppressed against each other. He was talking about the European working class and its reluctance to join forces with the anti-colonial struggle in Africa, but we face a version of the same problem today. This week I watched an eerie and powerful new collage film from Swedish documentarian Göran Hugo Olsson called “Concerning Violence,” which is inspired by Fanon’s revolutionary classic “The Wretched of the Earth” (a book not as far away from Nietzsche as you might suppose). The film is an essayistic and aphoristic assemblage of archival footage from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, opening a window onto various episodes from that little-understood and profoundly important period of post-colonial and anti-colonial history in Africa. But it also struck me as a distorted mirror reflecting our own situation, which has elements of internal colonialism (with respect to the poorest elements of our population), and an external neo-colonialism, although held at a great distance and largely invisible.