Finding Black Joy Amidst the Depravity of a Culture of White Supremacy
In America, there is a reality that must be reckoned with: There are a lot of White folk have no limits to how far they will go to ensure White supremacy. While not surprising, it is astonishing to watch the limitless depravity of whiteness and the fierce defense of its stranglehold on the American experiment. James Baldwin wrote, “For the horrors of the American Negro’s life there has almost been no language.” I contend, there is almost no language to describe the depravity of the thirst White people have for White supremacy. The events of January 6, 2021 provided us yet another opportunity to see this thirst and the adjuvant racism in all of its horror.
The thing is, in America, White people planned a coup for weeks, announced it publicly online, coordinated their efforts through social media, committed federal crimes and insurrection in broad daylight, then went on national tv and got praised on Fox News for their actions, with no fear of being arrested or held accountable in any way. The attempted coup to overthrow the government has raised a truth that Black, Brown, and Indigenous bodies have long understood. White people have always escalated matters to violence when their perceived rightful place as superior human beings is threatened, and they do not get what they feel they are entitled to.
The past year and counting are a continuation of the two Americas in all of its hypocrisy. The double standard is a key ingredient in a racist nation. The evidence could not be made clearer than armed White nationalists storming the Capitol and overtaking it with little to no resistance. Only a few months prior, we saw how Black Lives Matter protesters were treated while peacefully assembling to declare that it should not be acceptable for police to indiscriminately murder Black bodies. They were met with the National Guard and armored troops who used tear gas, rubber bullets and an array of other violent methods to cause serious bodily harm.
The depravity of White supremacy is an astounding phenomenon to behold. The degradation of White Supremacy is embedded within the cultural DNA of America. I could never possibly begin to create such an exhaustive list of such, but what follows is a fairly good collection of examples that illustrate the lengths to which White bodies have gone to maintain power and control. Accompanying these excerpts is a national acceptance (culture) amongst White people who have not yet demonstrated the collective will to change.
Culture of White Supremacy
- White folk took Indigenous people’s lands by force and attempted to exterminate them.
- White bodies invented the nigger in order to scapegoat, dehumanize, and exploit Black bodies for profit.White folk used the technology of the whip to force Black bodies to become manufacturing machines.
- White folk in Abraham Lincoln’s Administration paid reparations to White former slave holders rather than former enslaved Black folk in order to “unify” the country.
- After the civil war, rather than try Confederate traitors for treason, White folk built monuments to people who took up arms against its own government-and some of the traitors who led the sedition were elected as Governors, senators, and congressmen.
- White folk made a deal with each other in 1877 that ushered in Jim Crow, devastating and despoiling Black bodies
- White folk terrorized Black bodies when there was any inkling of economic advancement in Black communities by burning down their neighborhoods, looting, lynching (burning alive), and eliminating any form of economic advancement such as in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Rosewood, Florida in the 1920s.
- White folk in authority have largely been agnostic to the fact that we have surpassed 400,000 deaths due to the Coronavirus.
- White men hunted Ahmad Arbery down as if on safari in Georgia.
- Officer Derek Chauvin (who also is out on bail) suffocated George Floyd with a knee on his neck for 9 minutes.
- White bodies raised a 2-million-dollar bond for arrested White teen killer Kyle Rittenhouse who was jailed for killing two people in Kenosha, WI. He has been seen flashing white power signs while being serenaded and applauded by the Proud Boys for defending White racial control because he committed murder with a killing machine. Conversely, Black teen, Kalief Browder was forced to suffer torture and brutal abuse inside Rikers Island Prison for 3 years for being accused of stealing a backpack that he never stole.
- White nationalists stormed the Michigan State Capitol and threatened to blow up a bridge and kidnap the White female Governor
- White folk in authority have done nothing about the poison in the water in Flint, Michigan. In fact, they withheld funds that could have helped
- White folk looked the other way as Brown babies were put in cages at the border. Young Latinas in these concentration camps are being sterilized by having their wombs removed
- White congressional leaders embraced QAnon cult members in their ranks and are lying and spreading toxicity within White America by claiming the election was rigged and stolen from their supreme leader.
- White bodies have sacrificed themselves to fight against having to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID 19. Further, they hold “super spreader” events to demonstrate their willingness to die at the hands of their own Whiteness as long as it means that Black bodies gain nothing and are kept in their place.
There is a twisted logic in the lies White folk tell themselves to publicly claim and convince the rest of us that their rage is not rooted in their thirst for White supremacy. These lies include some version of “we are better than this” and “this is not who we are.” Several explanations for the way White people are behaving have surfaced. For example, White fragility or economic anxiety are often brought up. White media and talking heads keep telling us that economic anxiety in rural White America was the cause of this insurgence of radicalized White nationalists. This completely ignores real economic, psychological, physiological, and biological anxiety that Black, Brown, and Indigenous Americans experience.
I don’t buy it. I think Carol Anderson is right. It is White Rage. I see this rage in White people who call themselves liberals; call themselves moderates; call themselves conservatives. It just looks different. Those differences manifest in how White people of all stripes attempt to negotiate peace. Some want colorblind peace. Some want peace that is absent of tension. Some want full blown fascism. When people of color who are not White challenge any of these particular groups, the response ranges from passive aggressive rage from white liberals to mob violence and terror from White nationalists.
To be clear, there are White folk who are experiencing a reckoning with their rage. Just like Black folk are not monolithic, neither are White folk. So, when I say White people like White supremacy, I am speaking about a plurality as evidenced by our separate and unequal outcomes.
The reckoning that is occurring among white people is exhibited by how the “good” White people who have done nothing to be anti-racist, are not only coming to terms with this fact, but also are now wanting to do something. They are doing so while living amongst other White people who do not want them to come to terms with their own whiteness. The point I am suggesting is that all of this talk about how divided we are is problematic and is not quite true. I contend it is White people who are divided. Black people are in solidarity with other people of color and some Whites. This division we are seeing in living whiteness, is one of the consequences of the thirst for White supremacy. During the siege at the Capitol, White men beat another White man to death with a fire extinguisher. A White police officer was beaten by a White man with a blue lives matter flagpole. Oh, the irony of it all. If that ain’t some depravity, I don’t know what is. Many are asking the question, what can be done?
It turns out the antidote to the depravity of White supremacist culture is Black joy and Black love. While all this turmoil, corruption, and violence has been taking place, Black joy and the love of democratic ideals has continued to save us from complete collapse and give us a chance at true democracy. As we hang on by a thread, Black joy brought voters out in record numbers in Detroit, Philadelphia, Flint, Milwaukee, and Atlanta! Black joy had people dancing and singing in those long lines as the attempts to suppress their votes mounted. Black joy celebrated the newly elected Vice President, Kamala Harris, produced by an HBCU! The love of country and commitment to the Constitution shown by a Black Capitol police officer drew a White mob away from the senate chamber, saving members of congress from White bodies looking to harm them. Eugene Goodman is his name. He then escorted the new VP at the Inauguration! Black love and joy combined in Georgia to do the unthinkable. Black women lovingly led a movement to mobilize votes all across the state to send two historic candidates to the US Senate!
There is a gospel song that says: “This Joy I have. The world didn’t give it to me.” This is something Black folk have long understood. It epitomizes Black joy at its deepest level. Joy is a spiritual act, embodiment, and meta-cognitive understanding that reaches the depths of our being. It allows us to love a country that has not loved us back; exemplified by the brilliant recitation of poetry by Amanda Gorman! To know that faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen. It allows us to stand against the culture of White supremacy. To White brothers and sisters in the struggle that want to find a way forward as this racial reckoning continues; pay attention to Black joy. Not as a means to elevate a Black savior to do the heavy lifting for you, but to understand that the foundation of this kind of joy comes with a fundamental understanding of how suffering and salvation are intertwined. This is what Black folk know. Don’t just look for salvation without being willing to know what it is to suffer. Our democracy depends on it. Ending White supremacist depravation demands it.