by Danielle Brown '18
The world exists in a perpetual state of anti-blackness. This is neither new nor has it intensified. The only difference between anti-blackness one century ago and anti-blackness today is how quickly news travels.
I used to wonder what could be done to change this. What was I doing -- aside from being unapologetically Black -- that made people hate me so much? What was lost upon me at a younger age was that the issue was not a product of how I acted, but rather of the people I wanted so desperately to accept me. I surrounded myself with toxic white and non-Black people of color in hopes of being wanted, when often it seemed I was simply an exception to their rule of racial discrimination. I shrugged off their racist jokes in order to pretend they did not phase me, and tried to reason with their dichotomy between “Good Black People” and “n*ggers.” I was brainwashed, whitewashed and overwhelmed with the pressure to fit in.
The dangerous fact discovered in the last few years of high school was that these people I pretended were my friends did not care for my safety or well-being. They would not be phased if our predominately white town was cleared of its population of Black people, including myself. I did not matter to them, and it was tough to come to terms with that.
After news of the attack in Charleston, many stories surfaced regarding the shooter’s background. News stations turned to his friends, searching for clues. None viewed his apparent racism as credible, and his racist jokes and threats were not to be taken seriously. I felt nauseous upon reading those accounts because I recognized many of the people with whom I tried to remain friends. From their nonchalance about racism to their mocking of cultural differences, it all seemed eerily similar. And simultaneously, in the victims I recognized those I grew up going to church with as a child.
I have often read studies about the effects of racism on people of color, and have even written about it myself. There are few analyses, however, of what white supremacy and its enforcement through systemic measures does to the mentality of white people. Perhaps this is because, regardless of race, we experience white supremacy on a daily basis; because the white life and psyche is so widely considered to be the norm. It is ingrained into our lifestyle. It begins innocuously as parents teaching their children not to play with children who aren’t white, and gradually morphs into racist jokes and ideologies.
Elitism is a varied form of white supremacy that I have come to recognize in its rawest form at Mount Holyoke, including the mocking and pitying of those with less education than students and professors accustomed to the sphere of higher education. Unabashed encouragement of assimilation is prominent everywhere, including the College, in the form of mocking people with names that do not sound Americanized enough, or who eat differently. Racial hierarchy forces us all to judge our success in relation to standards of whiteness. Sometimes the effects of white supremacy are a different type of extreme: the type that result in mass shootings at churches, malls, schools and movie theaters. White supremacy allows white terrorists to survive post-shootings, assures them that they’ll have their rights upheld in a court of law and be able to follow through due process. White supremacy causes dead young black men to be put on trial for their own deaths, while simultaneously assuring their alive-by-luck counterparts that they’ll never be liberated from a system poised against them at all times (Cf. “mass incarceration” and the “school-to-prison pipeline”).
Each time news of brutality and violence similar to the shooting in South Carolina is circulated, I am not shocked; I reflect on the long list of unarmed black people murdered by white men and wonder how many more names will be added by the end of the week, month, or year. I feel remorse on behalf of the victims and think about the lives they will not get to live. While I am not shocked, I am terrified. It terrifies me that I, or any member of my family could be added to this list. It terrifies me that when I go to activist functions or protests, I am making friends with yet another person who could be added to this list.
So, no. I am not shocked by these events. I am exhausted.
I am exhausted because there are so few places on earth where Black people are wanted or welcomed. I am close to shirking the idea of studying abroad or even leaving this literal hell of a country, mainly because there are few places outside of sub-saharan Africa (because they look like me) where I can walk the streets without fearing an attack, a slur or looks. Recently experiencing racial hatred on my own campus has reinforced the feeling that I'm not wanted anywhere. After a racist “incident” in a course with a relished professor, there were conflicting messages from those I knew. People were telling me to report everything and instantly call him out, to wait and see if there would be any action on behalf of the school or to drop it because I seemed to be overreacting. The latter caused me to question myself profusely and to tone down, in my own head, the events of that day.
Some of the worst reactions to the voices of angry, mourning black people take the form of gaslighting. Are we overreacting to these atrocities? While it has taken some time for me to unlearn this doubting and self-hatred, I would say not at all. It takes a toll on you when you hear these stories one after another, yet Black people are still shamed for reacting the way they do, both within and outside of the community. We self-police our own people because we fear the overuse of the “race card” or start to believe that if we ignore the giant, glaring and growing racism on the face of America, it’ll go away by itself. After a kettle has been left boiling on a hot stove, you're not surprised when it starts to steam and scream. So why are so many surprised when people do the same?
I have already heard and expect to hear of more disappointing tragedies like the shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church. Due to the subversive domino effect of encouragement, one tragedy often sparks many others. When white killers are reminded of their freedom to murder -- enabled by easy access to weapons and ammunition -- the support of other supremacists in power and push towards privileged recklessness mobilizes them.
I dread seeing another list of victims proving what white supremacy can do. I am sorry, Susie Jackson. I am sorry, Myra Thompson. I am sorry, Ethel Lance. I am sorry, Depayne Middleton-Doctor. I am sorry, Reverend Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. I am sorry, Tywanza Sanders. I am sorry, Cynthia Hurd. I am sorry, Reverend Daniel Simmons. And I am sorry, Reverend and Senator Clementa Pinckney. You all deserved much more from this world than what is afforded to us, and I hope I am still alive for the day the rest of the world recognizes this fact as well.
The image above was taken on June 18 by Getty Images
*Please Note: At MHRadix we realize that the state of anti-blackness is on-going and is very much a part of our history. We ask you to keep up to date with this tragedy in Charleston with this article by Vox.