Those three videos.
You saw them.
First, the blatant murder of Ahmaud Arbery by two white men as he jogged through suburban Georgia.
Second, the blatant use of deadly force by a Minneapolis police officer, leading to the death of George Floyd.
Third, the blatant racially-charged accusations of a white woman toward a bird-lover who asked her to leash her dog.
All of them blatant.
Blatant (adjective) /ˈbleɪ.tənt/ very obvious and intentional, when this is a bad thing.
Yep, blatant, as in flagrant, glaring, unconcealed, overt, brazen.
The white police officer who buried his knee in the back of George Floyd’s neck as he lay handcuffed on the road was oblivious not only to Floyd’s pleas for mercy, but also to the many witnesses who begged him to release Floyd. He even looks directly into the camera of the bystander filming the incident.
He doesn’t direct the witness to move away.
He doesn’t appear to be panicked.
He doesn’t shield his face.
Likewise with the death of Ahmaud Arbery. It wasn’t captured on film by a shocked bystander, but was blatantly recorded by Roddie Bryan, a friend of the father-and-son killers, Greg and Travis McMichael. In fact, so complicit was Bryan in the killing that he has since been charged with felony murder along with the McMichaels.
In New York’s Central Park, Amy Cooper wasn’t being subtle when she threatened Christian Cooper (no relative), a bird lover who had asked her to leash her dog: “I’m taking a picture and calling the cops. I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.”
And that’s just what she did. She even feigned distress while on the phone to the police.
It’s as if racism isn’t anything to be ashamed of anymore. You can be openly and brazenly contemptuous toward black people, even if someone is filming you.
Speaking of blatant racism, earlier this year, the Emmett Till Commission in Mississippi was forced to erect their fourth sign at the place on the Tallahatchie River where the body of 14-year-old Emmett Till was recovered nearly 70 years ago.
That was because three earlier signs had been stolen or vandalized.
In 1955, two white men from Money, Mississippi, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, brutally tortured and murdered Till after Bryant’s wife Carolyn falsely claimed the boy had acted inappropriately toward her. In a courthouse close by the river, an all-white jury acquitted both men – who never served time.
Till’s mother, Mamie, elected to have an open-casket funeral to reveal to the world the horrible extent of her son’s injuries. The case garnered international attention and Emmett Till posthumously became an icon of the civil rights movement.
In 2008, a simple sign was erected to point tourists and pilgrims to the site where Till’s mutilated body was dragged from the river three days after his murder.
Locals tore it down and threw it in the river.
Just like Bryant and Milam did with little Emmett’s body.
The replacement sign was riddled with 317 bullets or shotgun pellets before it too was removed.
The third sign was hit by 10 bullets before three University of Mississippi students posted a photo of themselves posing with guns in front of the vandalized sign in July, 2019. The photo was liked nearly 300 times within a day of being posted.
Emmett Till’s cousin, Deborah Watts was reported as saying, “It’s not surprising because of where we are in our country today. We are experiencing an uptick in terms of hatred, violence and people feeling emboldened to take that kind of action.”
Emboldened. As in willing to be blatant.
But the Emmett Till Commission were indefatigable. They raised the funds to purchase land near the site, and had it protected by a gate and security cameras. They then commissioned a 500-pound, bullet-proof memorial sign to replace the previous versions. These are the lengths you need to go to in order to protect a civil rights monument in 2020!
It’d be nice to imagine blatant racism is confined to the behavior of white nationalists with their tiki torches marching through Chancellorville. It might even be comforting to some to dismiss the flagrantly racist attack on Ahmaud Arbery as coming from Trump-supporting Georgian rednecks who know no better.
But Amy Cooper is a New York City liberal who claimed she wasn’t a racist at all.
And as for those Ole Miss students who shot up the Emmett Till sign, their fraternity president wrote, “The photo is inappropriate, insensitive and unacceptable. It does not represent our chapter.”
So, these incidents are being perpetrated by people right across the socioeconomic spectrum. Heck, even Jimmy Fallon was caught in blackface this week!!
Are we any more racist than we were a decade ago? Or are we just more willing to be blatant about it?
Dr Eddie Glaude, professor of religion and African American studies at Princeton, has suggested that after the successes of the civil rights movement, Americans split into three camps on the subject of race. On the one hand, there were those who openly and enthusiastically embraced reconciliation and full racial justice. On the other, there were those Americans who remained openly racist. But between these two groups there was a large number of Americans who harboured racist beliefs beneath the surface but had learned how to be discreet about them.
Glaude thinks President Donald Trump changed all that. He writes,
“Trump broke the consensus that America would keep its racism quiet. He has unwittingly cracked a pernicious impediment — one we still hear in those who in one breath decry his explicit racism and then accept policies and positions that stoke the flames of white racial resentment.”
But, he cautions, it’s not a simple as blaming President Trump for all these instances of blatant racism. Glaude continues,
“What has for so long been hidden — or willfully ignored — is now in the open. Americans will have to decide whether or not this country will remain racist. To make that decision, we will have to avoid the trap of placing the burden of our national sins on the shoulders of Donald Trump.”
That burden belongs on everyone’s shoulders.
A black friend of mine recently posted this comment on one of my Facebook posts: “Thank you for grieving with me, friend, and acknowledging the pain we feel. Here’s a few great next steps for White allies since I know you’re an ally of action with the passion to fix our unjust systems…”
She then shared these challenges from an Instagram post by Rachel Elizabeth Cargle. Maybe they’re a good way for us to start taking responsibility for change.