Today, I had the misfortune of meeting interviewees in a restaurant playing Tucker, the political talk show hosted by Tucker Carlson. While I waited patiently for my coffee to arrive, I noticed the two white interviewees start to shift uncomfortably in their chairs. They were facing one of the tv monitors located just past my head. When I tried to make eye contact, they furtively looked away. So I pretended to be looking for the waiter but actually found a monitor I could actually see well and tried to determine what the drama was about.
In the next 5 minutes, I counted Tucker Carlson claim that the Jena 6 beat up “a white kid because he is white” 6 times, slightly more than once per minute. He did so as an introduction to a white woman who was trying to explain why Jena is an important emblem of Civil Rights and then throughout her attempts to speak. In fact, she never really got a chance to make it through a full sentence. Even when Carlson agreed with her that the severity of the charges was unmerited, he did while reiterating the “beat him up b/c he was white” theory & in such a way as to cut off her evidence and theorizing on the issue.
His other guest, another white woman, started her “counterpoint” (I put that in quotations b/c as I said Tucker never actually let the first woman make a point) with “there are so many deserving boys who would have loved that spotlight [BET].” Then launched into her anti-Jena 6 rant by repeating that the boy was beaten because he was white, that he was “targeted for being white.” She spoke uninterrupted by Tucker, even when the information she conveyed was categorically incorrect.
At that point I was jarred away from the Broadcast by one of my interviewees suggesting we eat somewhere else or go outside. The rest of the interview was punctuated by unspecific and unsolicited apologies.
As I have argued elsewhere on this blog, this incident represents the “new” face of racism or the anti-justice justice movement. In the “new” face of racism (new being the last 20-30 years), two things have to happen: 1. acknowledgement that certain aspects of any racist incident are extreme (not unfair, extreme) or that the black community is acceptable to you & 2. posit a racist overlaying narrative that essentially reframes the discussion around the unfair and unjust behavior perceived to be experienced by white people. Thus, Carlson and his second speaker both made cursory acknowledgment of the black community before completely rewriting the events in Jena as a “reverse hate crime” in which black kids targeted an “innocent” white kid. Carlson chose tack one, where when pushed he admitted that the charges were extreme, his white female conservative pundit chose tack two where she acknowledged there were “deserving black boys” out there somewhere, before both moved on to the agenda of step two: white people are the real victims of racism, hate crimes, and unequal justice in N. America.
To ensure the white supremacist narrative remains in tact, the anti-justice justice movement narrows both the content of and the possibilities for participating in the discussion to those moments which are questionable. In this case, Carlson spoke over or interrupted any attempts to address the precipitating events dismissing them by stating that there was no connection between noose and beating b/c the boy claims he did not hang the noose. 1. No evidence has been produced other than his word that he had nothing to do with the nooses, as no one has claimed responsibility, investigated, or found guilty of hanging the nooses. Even if you believe this kid had nothing to do with it, and not having any evidence either way I have no opinion on his guilt or innocence here (I’m inclined to believe he didn’t based on youth development and human behavior, but have no proof), his innocence is being proclaimed without an ounce of corroborating evidence. The truth value is in his whiteness. 2. The boy in question was seen by some witnesses to have mentioned the shot gun incident from the day before before the fight broke out, and brought his own shot gun to school the following day. None of the Jena 6 had guns, wielded weapons – except apparently the deadly tennis shoe, nor threatened to shoot anyone. Yet they are guilty in this narrative while the gun toting white kids, all of them, are innocent.
Carlson also gave only cursory acknowledgment of the unequal charges faced by black youth involved vs. white youth involved. The noose evidence is dismissed based on the info above – therefore no discussion of the school, police, and D.A.’s office agreement that this act of violence is “a youthful prank.” The gun evidence was talked over – therefore no discussion of how many incidents in which white youth in town threatened black youth and then went and got shot guns to intensify the threat are discussed. No one speaks on the fact the “white victim” in this case brought his own shot gun to school the following day occurs b/c then the narrative that he was innocently walking through the hall when 6 black kids jumped him for being white might be harder to swallow for the non-racists in the room.
In this way, the only piece of the story allowed to be discussed was the fight itself as if it happened in a vacuum. Further, “evidence” surrounding that fight is then introduced as if there is no bias nor question about that evidence because all of the issues surrounding the case have been unofficially excluded from discussion. In this case, court evidence showed that many of the witnesses were related to white youth involved in this and other incidents, and that many were unclear about the events of the fight but gave testimony anyway. It is their testimony and that of the gun toting youth himself that we are suppose to take as truth here despite the purposefully excluded evidence of ongoing excuse of racist behavior, racist threats with nooses and weapons, regularized harassment, and the D.A.’s statements about wiping black kids off the face of history. Nor are we to consider that this same pool of people determined that a tennis shoe constitutes a deadly weapon.
Finally, the main thesis that white people are the real victims in these incidents is repeated forcefully, over and over again, until the opposition has to acknowledge some kind of agreement just to be allowed to speak; however, the space they claim to speak is quickly reclaimed when they try to bring in the facts, discussion of oppression, etc. On Tucker that meant that the liberal white pundit was talked over and brow beaten with narrowed and erroneous sound bites until she conceded that some charge was warranted for the Jena 6, then when she tried to introduce the lack of charges for gun toting white youth in Jena, she was instantly shut down by Tucker yelling over her “So you agree that they are guilty.” His statement of course, rewrites her words only moments after she has spoken them in order to once again narrow the discussion to the parts that allow him and other white people to perceive themselves as the victims of hate crimes and racism.
Also part of this story, is the reaction of the “non-racist” white interviewees seated with me in the restaurant. All though they were visibly uncomfortable about what they were seeing on tv their silence allowed the biased discussion on the tv to go unchecked. Whether motivated by the desire to “avoid a race discussion” or their own fear of being caught agreeing with the bigot in view of a black woman, their silence spoke volumes about why liberals so often fail to change anything with regards to oppression while still being quite versed in “right and wrong.” Worse, their consistent apologies throughout the rest of the interview came across as decidedly racist. They had done nothing to intervene in the Tucker n
arrative but now wanted to be absolved of the residual racism they felt tainted them by association. Neither of them consciously considered their silence to be part of how racism is perpetuated in this nation nor, I would guess, did they think their apologies were an attempt to be absolved of complicity which they clearly were. My own recognition of the dynamics between liberal racism (1. do/say nothing, 2. apologize for the behavior of the people who you did or said nothing to stop or confront, 3. become indignant when you are not forgiven for your passive upholding of racism, 4. paint yourself as the victim in the situation with your white friends later) did not get me out of the situation of having to excuse their silence to avoid drama that may have impacted my research pool or continue to suffer through an increasingly awkward and racist encounter.
The pattern I have outlined here, and witnessed in the few moments I was watching Tucker, has been applied consistently to any number of events:
- Jena – as we have already seen here
- Knight High School – where the bruises, medical treatment consistent with a sprain or soft tissue injury, and multiple other complaints of racial profiling are all excluded in order to focus on the discrepancy between the girl’s initial report that her wrist was broken and the fact that it is “only sprained.” Again, we are told to overlook the police brutality involved in injuring one student and arresting two others over cake and the filming brutality, as well as a documented history of similar episodes, in order to zero in on the one moment in which the white person in the case was misrepresented. White people in the community then mobilize across the internet with their cries of reverse discrimination, “you are hurting our community,” & my favorite “I wish those guards were on my child’s school bus” so that any blog or news source that has reported on the story is swamped with an impassioned narrowing of the subject to the point of supposed white victimization. Any attempts to correct them are met with the equivalent of being yelled over and, since it is the internet, threats. In this case, the attempt to make themselves into the victims erases the very ways in which school policing may one day violently impact their children or the ways it narrows their learning environment, because of course the assumption is that policing is aimed at criminals and criminals are people of color. (An interesting test of this theory was the multiple states who passed juvenile three strikes laws and then quickly tried or did repeal them when the majority of youth being caught up in them where white suburban kids.)
- Duke – we are told to ignore the fact Lacrosse members expressly requested two black sex workers for the party & that members of the team themselves initially reported the use of racist language, to ignore neighbors reports of screaming, to ignore student report that the Lacrosse team is known for racialized and sexist behavior throughout campus, to ignore the images of a woman in crisis (I am referring to the sex worker who was pictured face down, bottom up, one shoe missing, on the front porch immediately following the reported incident), to ignore the witness tampering (as evidenced by footage of team members conversing with the key witness that night and again later, as well as the as yet uncounted threats against the accuser, black professors, and female students of color), to ignore the email circulated the following week saying “next time lets not only rape her lets kill her” the language of which implies a rape occurred, to ignore the finger nails torn off and found in the bathroom (how many watch CSI or SVU? DNA is almost always found under the fingernails, and hers were torn off in the bathroom . . . ), and instead to focus on the accusers inability to correctly identify all of her assailants or consistently report the number of attackers as if these are not common occurrences in rape cases especially with PTS present, the presence of alcohol, etc., worse we are bombarded with the misleading phrase “they are innocent” which like the “6 on 1” phrase has become truth despite reality. They were not found innocent, it was determined that there was “insufficient evidence” which is also common in rape cases where a rape kit is not administered immediately, where witnesses have been proven unreliable or tampered with, or where the victim herself is deemed uncredible because of her profession, associates, or behaviors.The flood of “reverse discrimination” and unjust justice in this case flew across the internet from across white groups (liberals, conservatives, “feminists,” sexists, etc.) from the beginning and their rewrite has been so successful as to convince some black people that there was no problem here. The new D.A.’s covering of his own bottom in the face of the money and power being leveled against the D.A.’s Office is now seen not as a political mechanation but some admission of innocence for the boys. Again the evidence that one or more of the boys in question had been involved in assaults and racialized behavior was quickly omitted from the story and by the time the movie version is made (yes they are making one) none of their past criminality nor the stories of sexist and racist behavior claimed by Duke students themselves will likely be included except as reactionary drivel. While the movie is made sans protest, OJ’s book was done in a matter of days – why does the common sense of DSV work in the later case but not in the former even though the former were found “insufficient evidence” and the later found “innocent”? (I of course think they are both guilty)
The list goes on. And I do not doubt that there are people who have heard things reported in such a narrow way that they will question the actual events of each of these cases based on the rewrite of these events’ histories that are now circulating as truth. They will argue that I am just searching for a way to make black people perpetual victims but the facts are clear: all though many of these black people, youth and adults, are engaged in informal market activities and/or may have misrepresented certain events (for which they should be accountable), they were in fact targeted for violence, experienced violence, and then had that violence erased or dismissed by the legal system. Liberals largely sat by and let people of color take the lead on all of these stories until they were well underway before lending their voices to the cause, and quickly went silent when the causes started to be narrowed beyond recognition; when called out, these same people claimed their innocence and acted as victims to angry black voices, the voices of people who are simply asking for solidarity in action. So how is it that the narrative of these events is that white people are the victims?