WARNING: White guy talking racism here, okay? I’m not an expert. You hear someone better on this topic than me, listen to them.
One thing I’m seeing a lot today is Why Doesn’t Obama Do Something. Or Why Doesn’t Holder Do Something. The question comes up why don’t black people in positions of power do things. The answer I have to this is they pretty much can’t. And that sounds horrible and shitty but that’s the country the USA is.
When Barack Obama compared Trayvon Martin to a son he didn’t have, people went bananas. The press went on about how this was stoking racial resentment, how it was out of his place, how Barack Obama was embracing a criminal, etcetera, and yes that’s all very racist and horrible of them but should that stop him?
Statistics on violence against black folk are pretty hard to find, since most of the people talking about ‘black folk’ and ‘violence’ are white folk arguing their hardest that they’re the real victims here. The statistics show that black people are still assaulted regularly in hate crimes – about six a day (christ, three a day?!). Anyway, those statistics go up in correspondence to events, they go up in the summer (more people are outside), but they don’t go down much in the winter (more people wearing hoodies/concealing clothing, jumpier cops). But there’s a media knock-on effect here: when the media stokes fears over a thing, people are afraid of the thing. Consider how Americans are afraid of Ebola (two deaths a year) and how many are afraid of Heart Disease (600,000 deaths a year).
If the media talks about terror of black folk for three days in response to the President mentioning a black crime victim, how likely do you think it is that Paranoid America will kill more black kids?
It doesn’t even have to actually happen.
Think about it from Obama’s position: If he speaks out in the name of this injustice (that’s like all the other injustices that happen, about five a day), it might fix one of them, and in the process increase a number of other injustices. He might have one person in one state – where he barely has long-term influence – properly indicted for their crimes, and in forty-nine other states, more black kids are attacked.
And the thing is, in this chain of action, everyone can point down the chain at someone. The media can blame Obama (they’re just reporting on what he said), the criminal can blame the victim or the media, and this is acceptable and normal.
Why doesn’t Obama do anything?
What could he do?
Remember, this is a country that bullied its president – ITS PRESIDENT – into showing them his papers. In 2011.
Racism is not just individual words and actions. Racism is about big, structural, systemic things – it’s about engines that, mute and blind, can execute actions without any single person in them feeling like they’re doing anything unreasonable, because the pattern of exploitation and oppression is only visible in wide patterns across whole populations.
This is the ultimate tragedy of the United States: The country as a whole is so racist – racist in its power structures, racist in its culture and racist in its history – that when the highest veto in the country is owned by a black guy, that black guy cannot really talk about race thanks to other power systems binding his hand.