“Dealing with White (Out)Rage”


So there was an announcement that the Missouri Governor has placed the state’s National Guard on alert in anticipation of the Grand Jury’s decision regarding the police officer who shot and killed Mike Brown, Jr. The Governor’s action presupposes that people–Black people–will riot if the decision is not to indict. Governor Nixon claims that “every Missouri citizen has a right to feel safe…” Oh really? Was feeling safe what Mike Brown, Jr. was entitled to? For that matter is safety ever the right of young Black man in our society?
The more I see how the authorities are attending to this shooting and its aftermath the more I am convinced that the real rage that we have to fear is not that expressed by Black people but rather that expressed by Whites. Over and over Black people have been made subject to White rage. Of course, theirs is expressed as “out rage”– a kind of justified response to a perceived injustice aimed at them. Black rage is almost always a kind of explosion that results from years (even centuries) of bottled up frustration. It is that feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that erupts and says, “I’ll bet you’ll listen to me now!” It typically results in some short term solution to pacify the masses. And then things build up again over time.
But, White rage is often the methodical, systematic plotting to inflict a hurt that will reach deep into the lives of people for generations. How dare Homer Plessy try to sit in the “White” section of a street car. We’ll get a Supreme Court decision that will teach him and all Black people where they belong. How dare people join with Black people to elect Barak Obama TWO times to the office of President! We will show them. We will win these state houses and re-district in ways that will make it impossible for them to have any say so in their political destiny for decades. How dare Black people attempt to make music to uplift themselves and develop conscious, thinking youth. We will take over the music industry and only push music and images that are destructive, violent, stereotypical and show the absolute worst of them.
White rage often comes off as “offense” (as in “I can’t believe you think that!”) but almost always results in far reaching policy designed to stymie Black progress. It will tell you that Affirmative Action is not fair and keeps “qualified” Whites from jobs and admission to colleges and universities. After all don’t we all believe in “merit” as the determiner of worthiness? White rage will exclude you from membership and participation in clubs, committees, and board rooms. But, if Black people have any such activities they will be seen as “segregation” and “exclusionary.” White rage says that urban housing projects that serve mostly poor Black people have to be eliminated. They are too densely populated and unsafe. Of course when they are imploded what goes up in their stead are luxury condos that are just as densely populated and there is no consideration for what happened to the people who used to reside there.
In 1989 when filmmaker Spike Lee released, “Do the Right Thing,” Whites claimed that the film would cause a riot. Why? What is it that Black people were supposed to riot over? The late actor and activist Ossie Davis said that Spike’s film would not cause a riot. Instead, it would allow us to vicariously have the riot we WANTED to have. For some reason White people are mad…real mad. And for the life of me I cannot understand why. They are living better than ever. Their unemployment numbers are dropping. Their graduation rates continue to rise. They are over represented in every social benefit the society offers but somehow that little slice of success a few Black people have been able to access offends them. No, it “outrages” them!

Stay Black & Smart!

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