There used to be a time where your neighborhood racist was easily distinguishable. Well, not your neighborhood, but the white neighborhood that still just so happens to be close enough for you to see the crosses burning in the back yard and the black bodies still hanging from the “party-down-at-the-square.” This racism, this overt racism, has been arguably destroyed. Arguably, because the black population still sees that symbolic cross burning over futures left standing in the flames of poverty, institutional racism and white supremacy, and covert discrimination in housing markets, conflict governmental policies, and school-to-prison pipelines. Arguably, because black bodies still hang from white police chokeholds, spinal breakages, and white nationalist gun shells; because black bodies still hang from their social death, their status of fungibility, and what is essentially, the hazardous de-facto unlawfulness of that black body. Nonetheless, we will say, arguably, American racism in its former form has diminished.
But does this mean that racism has? Now, I can hear conservative pundits with their fist-raised and their cheeks glowing that disdainful red exalting, “Of course! No one is hung any longer! No crosses burn any longer! And your argument that ‘crosses are burning over futures’ or that ‘bodies are hanging from police bullets’ is not only an inflation of contemporary reality, but a negation of the truth.” And I can hear the left and the black nationals contemptuously refuting their claims with piles of evidence to support that it is not an inflation nor a negation, but a fact that conservatives aren’t willing to acknowledge. Since this is the case and the articles are piled high with people trying to prove or disprove that either racism exist or that it may exist, but its “getting better,” I wish to redirect the conversation for a moment.
For the most part we can agree that racism exist in America. The problem, however problematic this problem may be, is identifying the quantity of the racist practices or the reality of white love for black folks. How can we tell definitively if we have a race problem in America, if we live in a nation of “racism without racist” as Eduardo Bonilla-Silva calls it? Lewis Gordon stated in his lecture Living Thought, Living Freedom: A Lecture on Black Existential Philosophy, “We live in the great age of the post . . . postmodern, postcolonial, postracism, posthumanism, a lot of post, but all post these days ultimately means is that you continue doing the same except your admitting that you’re ashamed of it . . . Post-racism essentially means racism in a world where people are ashamed of being racist.” Even if this is true, a conflict still arises when shame becomes denial. When denial permits the continuing practice of post-racial racism and ultimately, all the maledictions of the past transfuse into contemporary forms under the guise of shameful faces and white guilt.
What results from this post-racial racism is Kendrick Lamar’s truly philosophic inquiry in The Blacker, The Berry, “You hate me don’t you? You hate my people your plan is to terminate my culture?” What is so philosophic and significant about this inquiry in our age is that it is the race question of our age. Do white people hate black people still? How pervasive is this hatred? And why do we feel all too often as black persons in America that are lives are secondary, our existence is fungible, and our body is an absence-desired-presence? Why do we feel like black lives don’t matter? The question bring us to Du Bois. Whereas Du Bois was asking, “What does it mean to be a problem?” We are forced to ask, “What does it mean to exist as a problem while living in a world ashamed and unwilling to admit that we are one?” Du Bois didn’t have to ask if white people hated him. It was clear that they did. He wasn’t blind to the bodies, to the cross, to the segregated cities, to the howling souls of black folks scratching with bleeding nails on the stern walls of white supremacy, begging for acknowledgement, opportunity, and humanity. Kendrick isn’t blind either; however, the bodies Kendrick are seeing are hidden behind a cloak of shame, guilt, and relentless dismissal of his reality, the crosses being burnt are churches with “bad electric wiring,” the segregated cities are poverty stricken enclaves dominated by the “lazy” and “thuggish,” the howling souls are hip hop artist “poisoning the youth” with notorious tales of their reality. How can we know if the white Other is not racist, apologetic to racism, or silent and submissive to racial realities?
Black Lives Matter! That is how we know. The discontent this phrase raises in the white Conservative right is a discontent of black lives. It is an uneasiness on behalf of the right to face the cries of black persons in this country. It is a wish to return to silence, to the swept-under-the-rug racism of post-racial America. The importance of this phrase for white people is truly in its opposite. Black Lives Don’t Matter!
This is the articulation of those who remain silent in fear of saying, “Black Lives Matter.” For when your sister cries, “I feel insignificant. I feel worthless. Do you love me?” And you stare at that broken black body and dismiss her, you would have done better just saying, “I don’t.”
This is the articulation of those who say, “All Lives Matter.” For when sorrow reigns in the heart of your brother, and he says, “I feel insignificant. I feel worthless. Do you love me?”
And you say, “I love everyone.” Your brother will spurn your inflated humanism as inconsiderate to his current condition and situation.
What Black Lives Matters is saying truly is, “I love you,” to a group of oppressed persons burned by the weight of historic oppressions, suffering under the disaster that is post-racial racism. When Kendrick Lamar asks, “You hate me don’t you?” And you answer with silence or you answer with, “I love everyone,” you are unwilling to say you love him. Put plainly, you are unwilling to say you love or care about black life. And that is how we found out. That is how we know how bad racism is in Post-Racial America. We discover the secret racism in post-racial America in its unwillingness to be outspoken in its love for black life and its unwillingness to be considerate to black suffering. And the dreadful silence that has occurred in the aftermath of the Dylann Roof shooting, the dreadful silence that has occurred in the aftermath of the burning of 8 black churches in America, the dreadful silence that has occurred in the wake of mass incarceration, on the school-to-prison pipeline, on the cases of police brutality, on the rise of rape cases to black women, on the rise of black suicide, on the decline in opportunities for black persons, all make it painfully clear, that the post-racial America is just as racist as the racist America of the past.