My Facebook is a steady stream of Sandra Bland, Samuel DuBose and Cecil the lion. Many of the posts are expressing frustration at how universally accepted the outrage over Cecil is in comparison to the loss of Black lives in this country. The conversation, whether intentional or not, often times ends up being an exercise in futility and blaming. But it need not be that way. Many people who have remained silent about the state sanctioned stealing of Black lives have taken to their social media to express outrage over Cecil the Lion, and that is a problem. What I hope to get across to these people tonight, and what I hope you can get across to these people in your network, is this simple truth: the same depravity that led to Walter Palmer’s hunting Cecil the Lion is the very same depravity that took Sandra Bland’s life, and Samuel DuBose’s life, and Trayvon, and Rekisha, and Aiyana. It is the same depravity that has kept the media from reporting that in the last month four other Black women, besides Sandra Bland– Raynetta Turner, Kindra Chapman, Joyce Curnell, and Ralkina Jones– have been found dead in their jail cells. It is the same depravity that keeps us ignorant of the violence the USA continues to perpetrate on the indigenous people of this land at the hands of the police. This depravity is whiteness. Not white bodies, whiteness. It must be named, confronted, and destructed.
Prosecutor Joe Deters, when talking about the murder of Samuel DuBose, pondered that he suspected that Ray Tensing was upset because Samuel DuBose didn’t get out of the car. Everybody has seen the video of Brian Encinia absolutely freaking out after Sandra Bland didn’t immediately follow his orders. What sent Eric Casebolt over the edge in McKinney was young Black people not following orders. This is whiteness, this need to dominate, to be in charge. Whiteness tries to make this the natural order. It tries to hide it behind the faux authority of a badge, but we know that’s bullshit: George Zimmerman didn’t have a badge. The real authority in this country is supposed to be whiteness. That is how order is maintained.
When folks who believe they are white (to borrow Ta-Nehisi Coate’s saying) they have to feel like they are dominant. The best form this can take is in a cis-gendered white male who can use his physical, intellectual, and social power to make the rest of society genuflect. When that’s not enough you go hunting lions. This is depravity. It is sickness.
Many will say, but the lion was innocent and those others broke the law. Really? Tamir Rice broke no law, and his murders are free. Are you really comfortable saying that selling single cigarettes, or driving without having your physical license, or changing lanes without signaling is enough to lose your life? I challenge you, dig deeper. You will find whiteness there. There is no escaping it, not in this country. There is, however, a purging that can begin. We can each, those of us who are supposed to be white, do the work of examining our conscious, our ways of knowing, and interrogate these for this depravity. Once we find it, and we will, we must remove it, swiftly and without hesitation. That means delaying your immediate response and asking “wait, why haven’t I shared a single post about Sandra Bland?” Or, ” wait, “why is the name of this lake Calhoun?” Or, “why don’t I know who Fong Lee and Terrence Franklin are?” We have been taught we don’t need to know these things, or these people because we are dominant and they are lesser. That is the terrifyingly simple truth of the matter. We struggle to see it because whiteness covers us with asinine mythologies about criminality and personal responsibility which evidence shows us is false and hypocritical, but we buy it anyway. Why?
When Walter Palmer sent that arrow through Cecil he was affirming his dominance. When we make apologies and rationalizations for whiteness we are trying to affirm its dominance. If you are pissed about one, be pissed about the other, and do something about it!