It is, I think, a marker of my own white privilege that I’ve not yet posted about recent incidents of racism in America on this blog. The time lapse that it took to reflect and act on my reflections, to realize that I’m not doing enough to count myself among those who are actively advocating for Black lives and situating themselves on the right side of history, amounts to an idle chunk of time that I fear I wouldn’t have wasted if I were Black – if I faced the prospect of being murdered in the streets at random, and especially by officers of the law. This blog is, of course, a horror blog, and a small, personal one at that, but it’s one of the only “platforms” I have, and its articles receive enough hits that I thought it important to join, openly, the voices that condemn the United States’ current violence and injustice toward Black individuals by turning this site’s topic of interest, at times, to real life horrors instead of what Noel Carroll calls “art-horror,” and by stating clearly and explicitly where I stand on many of the “debates” that have arisen because of recent racist events in this country.
I will state, before I go on, that I try to be vigilant for signs of my own bias, prejudice, and ignorance regularly. I believe strongly in the urgency of ending violence against Black lives, but I know I’m not immune from incorrect assumptions or problematic thinking, even when I don’t realize it’s happening. I don’t proclaim, thus, to know as much as the people (Black people) who are experiencing this violence firsthand, or to be able to understand, to the least degree, what their experiences are like; I may sometimes be wrong when I try to write posts like these. Along those lines, I’ll try to make a concerted effort to keep the posts I write about #BlackLivesMatter centered around questions of injustice and racism – in the form of systemic racism and microagressions – instead of erasing or obscuring the issue at hand with too much focus on myself. I will do my best, while realizing that my “best” could still be, at times, quite flawed – could still miss the mark.
With that in mind, I’ll be explicit, in this post, about what this blog believes and promotes. As this title states, Just Dread-full condemns not just the brutal death of George Floyd but the recurrent police violence and the general racism that continues to make the United States so dangerous and inhospitable for Black people. This blog post, however, will emphasize the belief that such a statement is not a thorough enough proclamation of support for the Black community. So here are a few other supporting beliefs that I’d like to express:
- This blog not just rejects but condemns the phrase #AllLivesMatter. Of course, all human lives do matter, but the implementation of this phrase, this hashtag, originated as and continues to be an antagonistic response to the Black community, a tactic often used by those who defend and justify police brutality. The hashtag’s implicit argument, in our current social context, is that Black lives don’t need or deserve special attention or advocacy. Saying that #AllLivesMatter is the same as saying that the killing of Black human beings should not be understood as a problem that everyone has to work together to prevent. Replacing #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter cruelly takes the focus off the oppressed group that needs protection the most (Black people) and combatively rejects that group’s efforts to attain rights, protection, and freedom—under the law, and in the less formal code that governs daily social interactions.
- This blog even more emphatically rejects the phrase #BlueLivesMatter. First of all, responding to the #BlackLivesMatter movement with this phrase is another technique that, in our current cultural context, delivers a tacit (or, not so tacit) message: it implies that police are killing Black people because Black people are endangering police officer lives (the suggestion seems to be that the lives of those “bad” Black people can’t be as important as the lives of those saintly police officers who work to protect us). In other words, “BlueLivesMatter” underscores and emphasizes the exact racist line of thinking that has caused the killing of so many Black people – that Black people are “dangerous” and that sometimes, killing them is warranted. Beyond the obvious racism of this phrase, this line of thinking, it’s important to remember that police officers have chosen a job that puts them in dangerous situations. They change in and out of their uniforms every day; they were not born wearing a police uniform like Black individuals were born with black skin. Yes, police officers protect us (or, at the very least, are meant to protect us), but it’s an occupation, a way to make money that they can step away from, to a considerable extent, when they’re at home. Black people in America today have no choice but to be in situations that put them in bodily danger–pretty much all the time. The phrase #BlackLivesMatter highlights the indisputable reality – that in interactions between Black individuals and police officers (and especially in interactions between Black men and police officers) Black individuals are those who are negatively and unjustly impacted; those trained and hired to serve and protect them often present the biggest threat to their livelihoods.
- Along those lines, this blog supports improved training periods to prepare police officers, specific training on prejudice/race-related biases, the use of body cameras to monitor police action, and not just the job loss, but the criminal prosecution of police officers who use violence against Black individuals. In one of the most recent acts of police violence, the police officer who leaned on George Floyd’s neck for eight and a half minutes to end his life should have been charged with second degree murder (unplanned but intentional murder), but instead faced less severe charges. Police are professionals who should be carefully trained to do their jobs without injuring people. Their mantra should be the same as the doctor’s cardinal rule – do no harm. When harm is done, there must be consequences.
- This blog will waste no time condemning riots, though I recognize the importance of emphasizing the fact that the majority of protesters aren’t engaging in riots. But I also recognize, as a white person, that when I condemn “rioters” who are Black (and we should note that in many cities, white people played a large role in riots, despite the fact that the blame fell on Black shoulders), I’m being condescending and borderline infantilizing. Resistance of all forms is the natural result of 400 years of enslavement, murder, oppression, and other forms of violence and racism. Black individuals have repeatedly and persistently fought for the rights and equality that our country consistently denies them. Martin Luther King advocated peaceful protest, and he was assassinated for it. So often, condemning those who riot, instead of condemning the violence and racism that sparked the riot, is a tactic used to invalidate and delegitimate a broad scope of movements and efforts to end racism. The act of condemning riots creates an opportunity for whites to portray Blacks as the dangerous, violent, “other.” This blog believes that Black lives are more important than any property that riots might destroy, and that all efforts should be focused on how we prevent the killing of Black individuals, not how we silence the dissention that occurs when we fail to prevent such acts of murder.
- This blog is not only concerned with the killing of innocent Black people (though indeed, most of those who are killed in acts of police violence are “innocent”); this blog is concerned with the killing of all Black people. An individual may be suspected of a crime, may appear guilty, may even run from a police officer. These decisions are not apt reasons to condemn a person to a sudden, violent death. We have a legal system for a reason — despite the fact that it, too, often works against the best interest of Black individuals.
I remain open, of course, to suggestions about how to improve my attempt to use my voice and advocate for Black lives and rights. Furthermore, in the coming months, I plan to feature more Black voices. I am joining a book club with a group of people who are dedicated to reading the words of Black voices and learning more about racism. I would like to feature some of these books on my website, to intersperse my examinations of art-horror with an acknowledgement of the real-life horror that surrounds Black individuals right now. I will not use, of course, the same methods I use for reviewing horror movies. It should go without saying that as a white woman, I am in no position to “review” works on racism written by Black voices. But I’d like to highlight some books on this web outlet that might be useful for other readers to examine, and to situate the messages in those books within the United States’ current socio-political context. Where appropriate, I may also share what I learned, as a white person, from the books we read, and how they help me understand things I didn’t understand before. Beyond that, I will look for the ways that race is relevant in the horror movies I review, and will pay more careful attention to addressing it in the analyses I post on this blog.
Above all else, I believe that racism is alive and active in our country. Rejecting this proposition by asserting things like “I don’t see color” only further hurts those most affected by racism’s wrath. As for myself, I will continue to try to learn, and to remain open to the voices most affected by systemic racism and institutionally sanctioned violence.