Bodily Racist: One who is perceiving certain racialized bodies as more animal-like and violent than others.
Bodily Antiracist: One who is humanizing, deracializing, and individualizing nonviolent and violent behavior.
- Page 73: “Unarmed Black bodies, which apparently look armed to fearful officers, are about twice as likely to be killed as unarmed white bodies.” I know that you can name many unarmed Black folks , from the media, who have been killed by police i.e. Amber Geiger. I want to you understand how commonplace this is by doing research within your own community to find examples of the harm/killing of unarmed Black folks. How is technology being created and used to facilitate these behaviors?
- Page 79: Find examples of the fear related to the success of Black businesses and communities
- What is the difference between correlation vs causation? How has the misuse of these terms been used to promote the ideas and beliefs of policies and policing of Black bodies?
Hello everyone and welcome to today’s episode of “How to Be an Antiracist”. This chapter is called “Body”, and we’ll start with the definitions, as we always do.
Bodily racist: One who is perceiving certain racialized the bodies as more animal-like and violent than others.
Bodily antiracist: One who is humanizing, derationalizing, and individualizing nonviolent and violent behavior.
And before I get into this chapter, just reading the “bodily racist” definition reminds me immediately of two athletes—two female athletes. Serena and Caster Semenya from South Africa. And how, I’ve heard just throughout Serena’s trek—you know, sheer determination to be the best—I’ve heard even within my own family conversations about she has to be on steroids. She has to be all these things because her body is just so manly and all these just really degrading, racist things that I really I didn’t agree with, but I didn’t realize the depth of the… that they were rooted in in white supremacy and racism.
Until again, when you start learning—just like I no longer believe that all jokes are funny—when you start understanding the harm of these ideas and where they come from, you have a different perspective. And so as well as Semenya in South Africa and how she’s been this—been used as this very disgusting example of Blackness—being a Black womanhood, Blackness being animalistic and not natural.
So those are the things that I initially when I read this—started this chapter on—and again I’m gonna add this caveat: reading this book and understanding that most of, the majority of the people who are following along are white is very uncomfortable for me. It is. So just know that I’m very uncomfortable and there’re parts of this that I’m not going to read because it feels disgusting and voyeuristic, and I’ve had enough white people staring and examining our lived experiences. So just know that it’s… these are touchy subjects for me. So I just have to keep moving forward.
And so on page 70, it starts with a quote from the beloved, the first quote unquote “Black” President, Bill Clinton, in a speech from 1995:
“Blacks must understand and acknowledge the roots of white fear in America. […] There is a legitimate fear of the violence that is too prevalent in our urban areas. By experience or at least what people see in the news at night, violence for those white people too often has a Black face.”
History tells the same story: Violence for white people really has too often had a Black face—and the consequences have landed on the Black body across the span of American history.
And so the note I wrote up here at the top of this—and this really just—again, I’ve been saying this a lot lately: the more I know, the people who I admired or at least respected, I lose a little bit more of that every time.
I used to love Bette Midler—love Bette Midler!—but because of her white feminist bullshit, I just… I’m done. I just can’t take that in anymore. And so the note I wrote about here is: “Anti Black sentiment is acceptable even from the good white folks.”
And then an example of that is as we talked… this quote from Clinton. But I don’t see Biden or even Bernie Sanders saying anything much differently than this, and so it just, hm, it.. yeah, I’m just feeling some type of way. That’s just me being honest. So I’m just gonna keep on reading because it’s funny that the violence of white people really has often, it really has too often held a Black face.
Oh, my god. Okay, page 71:
This is the living legacy of racist power, constructing the Black race biologically and ethnically and presenting the Black body to the world first and foremost as a “beast”, […] as violently dangerous, as the dark embodiment of evil. Americans today see the Black body as larger, more threatening, more potentially harmful, and more likely to require force to control than the similarly sized white body, according to researchers. No wonder the Black body had to be lynched by the thousands, deported by the tens of thousands, incarcerated by the millions, segregated by the tens of millions.
What could happen based on my deepest fears mattered more than what did happen to me. I believed violence was stalking me—but in truth, I was being stalked inside my own head by racist ideas.
I can speak to this because again I talked about how, although I disagree that Black people can be racist, I do understand that we all have, by design, internalized white supremacy and anti-Blackness. And this fear really came, showed itself to me in my community once my father passed away. My father and I lived together for a number of years, and once he passed away, very well-meaning neighbors were coming by to make sure that, you know, I have these safety things in place, did I want to put a floodlight in the backyard, and did I wanna have this thing and that thing and this thing?
And on the surface, it truly is terrifying. On the surface, it makes you think about all the things that could go wrong. But I’m a person who does not want to live like that. I don’t want to live in fear because I also believe that… I believe in, you know, spiritual energy, whatever you wanna call it. That law of attraction. What I focus my attention on becomes more. And so I actively fought back their well-meaning suggestions about making my house some fortress. I have the basic security measures that any homeowner will have. And yet I fought back all these other things because I did not want to focus on what could happen to me.
This is the very reason I’m not a member of my community organization. I will… if they want people to clean the neighborhood, I’ll go out and do that. If they want to do a bake sale or something, I’m going to do that. But what I’m not going to do is continue to go attend meetings that talk about… to have police there, and talk about how dangerous things are, could be, and what happened in the neighborhood over there, and I can’t do that.
It’s also a reason why—I’m kind of skipping ahead a little bit—it’s also a reason why I don’t watch movies or television shows that depict a bunch of Black violence, particularly those shows that could happen at any moment, like “Boyz in the Hood” and “Set it Off” were movies that I was like, “Yeah, no, I’m not going to go down this road again.” And I really—there are a lot of great movies out there and shows out there, very great actors, production wise. But I can’t watch them and a tweet that I responded to recently, he called it “oppression entertainment”, and I was like, “That is what it is.” Watching those things causes trauma to me. And again, I am actively trying to avoid those things whenever possible. So I’m not gonna invite trauma into my life if I can—if I have some control over it.
So, that was me going off into a tangent. But that was something that I’ve really been paying attention to, or just recognize it and owning that so much of our—of the Black narrative has been about our violence. And I am here, along with many others, who say there’s so much about the Black body and the Black culture, the Black experience that is about beauty and upliftment and caring and support and love and fun and you know, and play that you don’t ever hear about.
So let me get back to the book. Okay. So on page 73:
We were unarmed, but we knew that Blackness armed us even though we had no guns. Whiteness disarmed the cops—turned them into fearful, potential victims—even when they were approaching a group of clearly outstrapped and anxious high school kids. Black people comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population. And yet, in 2015, Black bodies accounted for at least 26 percent of those killed by police, declining slightly to 24 percent in 2016, 22 percent in 2017, and 21 percent in 2018, according to The Washington Post. Unarmed Black bodies—which apparently look armed to fearful officers—are about twice as likely to be killed as unarmed white bodies.
And this brought to my mind the Amber Geiger trial that’s going on right now. And so your first homework assignment is on page 73:
Unarmed Black bodies, which apparently looked armed to fearful officers, are about twice as likely to be killed as unarmed white bodies.
And so your assignment is:
I know that you can name many unarmed Black folks from the media who have been killed by police. For example, is Amber Geiger. I want you to understand how commonplace it is by doing research within your own community to find examples of the harm/killing of unarmed Black folks.
That’s part one of the assignment because I don’t want you to keep thinking that… I need you to take this home. I need you to make this smaller. The stuff that you see on Michael Brown. Sandra Bland. That’s national. I want you to understand that with every national story there is a local story that has not been told and they’re out there. So I need you to do that research because I need you to see that it’s more common than you think.
And also part two.
I want you to think about how is technology being created and used to facilitate this behavior. This harm. This killing of Black folks. I want you to think about how we’re creating this technology and how it’s being used for this purpose.
Then… I love the autobiographic perspective of this book. It’s really helpful because it really helps me walk through my own… and unpack my own internalized white supremacy and anti-Blackness.
I was as scared of the Black body as the white body was scared of me.
And then on page 74, he talks about this:
A bipartisan group of white legislators introduced the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. They were thinking about Smurf—and me. The Congressional Black Caucus was also thinking about Smurf and me. They asked for $2 billion more in the act for drug treatment and $3 billion more for violence-prevention programs. When Republicans called those items “welfare for criminals” and demanded that they be scaled back for their votes, Democratic leaders caved.
So I want you to understand that this was 1993 at the height of the crack epidemic. And when the Black Caucus wanted money for treatment and violence prevention program, it was “welfare for criminals”.
I need you to flip to 2019 in the opioid addiction. And that is a medical issue. And so we’re hearing all about the medical and the pharmaceutical companies, and yes, they play a part, yet what this is is that because the opioid epidemic was not about Black bodies initially, the Black bodies—because we weren’t given—we’re not given pain relief in the levels that white people are.
It’s a medical issue for whiteness rather than a criminal issue. So you want to rehabilitate opioid addicts, but not crack addicts back in the day. So—and again this talks about Clinton, and I just really just have a totally different perspective of him now.
And then on page 75, we get into the coming of the “super-predators”, and:
“A new generation of street criminals is upon us—the youngest, biggest, and baddest generation any society has ever known.” My band of “juvenile ‘super-predators’” were “radically impulsive, brutally remorseless youngsters, including ever more preteenage boys who murder, assault, rape, rob, burglarize, deal deadly drugs, join gun-toting gangs, and create serious communal disorders.” We, the young Black super-predators, were apparently being raised with an unprecedented inclination towards violence—in a nation that presumably did not raise white slaveholders, lynchers, mass incarcerators, police officers, corporate officials, venture capitalists, financiers, drunk drivers, and war hawks to be violent.
So again it speaks to that whiteness is always cast in the role of hero or victim and never a villain. That is the sole domain of Blackness.
And then it says on [page] 76:
But crime bills have never correlated to crime anymore than fear has correlated to actual violence. We are not meant to fear suits with policies that kill. We are not meant to fear good white males with AR-15s. No, we are to fear the weary, unarmed Latinx body from Latin America. The Arab body kneeling to Allah is to be feared. The Black body from hell is to be feared.
Then, at the bottom of that page:
Black people are apparently responsible for calming the fears of violent cops in the way women are supposedly responsible for calming the sexual desires of male rapists. If we don’t, then we are blamed for our own assaults, our own deaths.
And this is—I put down in a note—why I’m no longer responsible for white folx’s feelings or comfort. And I’ve said this several times. I’m no longer here to make you comfortable. I’m actually here to actively make you uncomfortable so that things can change. So just know that.
Oh, and then I liked this. There’s also a part about Black writers on page 77:
The acts of violence I saw from Smurf and others combined with the racist ideas all around me to convince me that more violence lurked than there actually was. I believed that violence didn’t define just Smurf but all the Black people around me, my school, my neighborhood. I believed it defined me—that I should fear all darkness, up to and including my own Black body.
Think about the fuck—“the fucked-up-ness”—that’s not a word. But I think about the fucked-up-ness of fearing your own body. You’ve been so indoctrinated in this belief of anti Blackness that you fear your own body.
Those of us Black writers who grew up in “inner city” Black neighborhoods too often recall the violence we experienced more than the nonviolence. We don’t write about all the those days we were not faced with guns at our ribs. We don’t retell all those days we did not fight, the days we didn’t watch someone get beaten up in front of us. We become exactly like the nightly local news shows—if it bleeds, it leads—and our stories center on violent Black bodies instead of the overwhelming majority of nonviolent Black bodies.
And that goes back to—I said I was jumping ahead a bit—about why I don’t watch certain things and I don’t want to have certain conversations. I no longer want to see any videos of white people like the recent one of the lady at CVS. I just know—I didn’t watch it, I just know based on what people said—and then her explanation that she was drunk, blah, blah, blah.
I can’t watch that. That’s traumatizing for me. And it goes back to a part of my pinned tweet that you have to understand that for some reason—well not for some reason. I know what the reason is. But we have to be—I have to be actively harmed for whiteness to understand that I’m harmed. And I’m not gonna continue to do that for you. I’m not gonna continue to harm myself, put myself in traumatizing situations that I have to deal with my own psyche just to prove that we’re not having the same lived experience.
Still on page 78.
The idea that directly experienced violence is endemic and everywhere, affecting everyone, or even most people—that Black neighborhoods, as a whole, are more dangerous than “war zones,” to use President Trump’s term—is not a reality.
It’s just how, the narrative helps support racist policies of—again, as he pointed out—as you know, “shithole countries”, “they’re rapists and murderers”, “let’s treat them anyway because they’re subhuman”, I mean, “they’re here to cause harm, so we want to cut that off before when—you know, we’re being proactive.” So that’s how that narrative spins.
On page 79:
But not because they were Black—we were almost all Black.
Oh, this is where he talks about how—that Blackness was the constant in his community and so that there was a disconnect.
A study that used…
The disconnect was that Blackness was inherently violent. He saw it in his communities, as I’ve seen it in my communities. How I saw it definitely as a teacher; that the students who were most truant, the students who were most angry, the students who were most defiant, the students who were—had special ed paperwork, which is “behavior emotionally defiant”—B.E.D., I think that’s what it’s called. Yeah, I think that’s the acronym. It wasn’t autism. It wasn’t dyslexia. It wasn’t, you know, it was behavior defiant disorder.
Those students, once I really got to know them, I recognized that they had reasons to be angry. They had reasons to be upset and and act out because of—most were in abject poverty or they were in violent situations—they were being abused in some way. So there was a reason for their behaviors. And many of these, particularly on Black boys, were quote unquote “diagnosed” with behavior oppositional disorder in kindergarten, and they get to high school and they still have this paperwork. They still have this paperwork! It’s like no one has evaluated beyond—it just keeps going with them.
And I took it upon myself that if they were on my case load, before they graduated, we were gonna work through this because this paperwork was not gonna go with them and they had to learn how to function and manage their emotions in the real world. And so what I found was that many of those individuals were not oppositional defiant. They were just angry and did not know how to manage their emotions. And also—I’m gonna be honest—they realized that because they had this paperwork and that definition that they could use it to their advantage. And so they leveraged what they had to get what they needed.
And so he talks about how:
A study that used National Longitudinal Study of Youth data from 1976 to 1989 found that young Black males engaged in more violent crime than young white males. But when the researchers compared only employed young males of both races, the differences in violent behavior vanished. Or, as the Urban Institute stated in a more recent report on long-term unemployment, “Communities with a higher share of long-term unemployed workers also tend to have higher rates of crime and violence.”
And this also speaks to—this is a caveat—but this also speaks to what we might see in the future, what people have been talking about when we’re talking about a universal income, and people aren’t addressing it. You’re going to see more of this. You’re gonna see more communities where unemployment is high and violence and crime are high. And there’s a correlation there.
Sociologist Karen F. Parker strongly linked the growth of Black-owned businesses to the reduction of Black youth violence between 1990 and 2000.
And so question number two is really interesting because I want—I put in my notes “the fear of Black businesses.”
I need you to find examples of the fear related to the success of Black businesses and communities.
And there’s some historical ones. Historical ones where I mean, communities were actually burned down and individuals killed because they were working for their own success and their own independence. Black Wall Street. All these kinds of examples exist.
There’re also some modern examples and they don’t have to be extreme as people being killed, but I have some things in my mind that I’m thinking of, and I wonder if anybody is gonna come up with some very “today” examples of how fear of the success of Black businesses and communities keep these racial policies in place because it shows like this— she says, “strongly linked”—the growth of Black-owned businesses is reduction of the Black youth violence between that time.
So I want you to do some research. In other words, researchers found a much stronger and clear correlation between violent crime levels and unemployment levels rather than between violent crime and race.
And so, question four—or homework four is—as a researcher, I have—I see this a lot in peoples’ conversations. There is a misuse of the terms, “correlation” and “causation”. So what I want you to do is for your homework is to:
What is the difference between correlation versus causation? And how has the misuse of these terms been used to promote the ideas and beliefs of policies and policing of Black bodies?
So, correlation and causation are not the same thing. And a lot of people who think they have this research, you know, who want to bring us data—they’re talking about false causation. I—one of things that I remember distinctly, and when I challenged the 2018 results of the Stack Overflow survey results was, the research designer said when asked, “Why hadn’t more people of color completed the survey?” And they said “because of some old data that it was too long.”
And I was like, “What is your—where you getting that causation from? What about your data? It says that this is the reason that people of color aren’t filling out your survey. Have you looked at the fact that maybe your questions aren’t relevant? Have you looked at the fact that these people are definitely not overwhelmingly in your community? Have you looked at all these other things before you made the judgment to say that the length of the survey is why Black and Brown people weren’t completing a survey?”
Because that narrative is racist in tone. That narrative is white supremacist at its roots because it says—it communicates to people “we’re too lazy to figure out this”, that “white people find it so important and they are so diligent and they can fill out this survey. But because of the length, Black and brown people are too lazy, disinterested to fill out the survey.”
So we need to be careful when we assign a causation, because I actually didn’t even see any correlation with what that survey said. So we need to be careful of that.
So that’s what I want you to do:
What is the difference between correlation and causation and how is the misuse of these terms being used to promote the ideas and beliefs of policies and policing of Black bodies?
And then, on page 80 :
For decades, there have been three main strategies of reducing violent crime in Black neighborhoods. Segregationists who consider Black neighborhoods to be war zones have called for tough policing and mass incarceration of super-predators. Assimilationists say these super-predators need tough laws and tough love from mentors and fathers to civilize them back into nonviolence. Antiracists say Black people, like all people, need more higher-paying jobs within their reach, especially Black youngsters, who have consistently had the highest rates of unemployment of any demographic group, topping 50 percent in the mid-1990s.
So I want to draw your attention back to the assimilist because the assimilist does not say “no, these aren’t super-predators”. An assimilist says “Oh, yeah, they’re super-predators, but with our tough love and our tough policies…”—and it’s that slight, like, “Oh, because they need to be fathered because their fathers aren’t there.”
And that goes into a whole ‘nother thing that I talked about the myth of the absent Black fathers. If you have not—I think that was in one of the episodes that I already did. But I know it’s in the #CauseAScene podcast episode with Ayani. Ayani Good. A-Y-A-N-I Good. If you want to know about the myth of the Black—missing Black father and how our government actually created this entire thing.
So, the last thing is I have here is:
There is no such thing as a dangerous racial group. But there are, of course, dangerous individuals like Smurf. There is the violence of racism—manifest in policy and policing—that fears the Black body. And there is the nonviolence of antiracism that does not fear the Black body, that fears, if anything, the violence of the racism that has been set on the Black body.
So that’s all I have for this week. I welcome you to again reach out to me with questions, comments, concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a wonderful day.