The Black Body is Always a Threat: White Racial Paranoia Killed Eric Garner
I have not written about the videotaped killing of Eric Garner by the New York Police Department--and their subsequent efforts to cover up the crime--because I did not want to contribute to the online necropolis of black and brown people unjustly killed by white American racism.
I have not watched the video of Eric Garner's death. I also would not have looked in the casket of Brother Emmett Till. I make that choice not because of a fear or disgust towards the corpse. My choice is also not one driven by some high-minded claim about a disgust at the spectacular pornography of death and its relationship to the black body.
I worry that to write about the killing of Eric Garner is to give the theft of his life power over me. I know that such a claim is intellectually specious. One cannot deny the fact of gravity because they choose to not think about it.
The naked reveal: meditations on black death are mentally and spiritually exhausting.
The "racism beat" can and does kill those who walk it. White supremacy extracts a high cost.
Moreover, what else is there left to say? Yet, the deed remains a tired repetition which still needs to be performed.
Black life is cheap in America. The historical irony is, of course, that the fluctuations in the value placed on black life, and the labor output it produced, were the basis of America's economy for centuries.
The blues sensibility of black folks has made us very comfortable with death and suffering. In many ways, we are numb to it. Our numbness does not mean that we do not feel hurt, pain, suffering, or anger at how violence against the black body is a routine fixture in American culture.
America was and remains a lynching society--where black bodies were once hung from trees, burned alive, cut apart, or otherwise brutalized by blood thirsty white mobs comprised of men, women, and children, now black people are shot dead by white cops and white street vigilantes.
Numbness here is a lack of surprise at how white racism kills innocent black and brown people, and how then the latter are made into criminals, and those who commit the heinous act are somehow "victims" of "reverse racism". The madness and insanity of colorblind racism in the post civil rights era is encapsulated by that process: America is so sick with white supremacy that calling white racists to account is somehow worse than the social evils they have committed.
White supremacy is a type of social insanity because through the deeply connected processes of the white racial frame, the White Gaze, and white privilege, it can invert and twist reality to suit the agenda of those who have, what George Lipsitz famously described as, a "possessive investment in whiteness".
Eric Garner's killing by the New York Police Department was videotaped. Like the decades-earlier Rodney King case, the visual reference should provide indisputable evidence of white on black police brutality. And as it did in the King case, white racist logic transforms the indisputable and obvious into doubt.
For example, Fox News lies and distorts in an effort to excuse-make for the killing of Eric Garner. The New York Daily News's Denis Hamill denies the obvious by suggesting that reckless and wanton criminal behavior by the police in black and brown communities can somehow be separated from institutional and interpersonal white racism. The online sewers of the Right-wing have instinctively defended Eric Garner's killing by the New York Police Department.