Crucial Race Theory

The title of my post, Crucial Race Theory, is a play on critical race theory, which, according to Wikipedia, is “an academic discipline focused upon a critical examination of society and culture, to the intersection of race, law, and power”. Critical race theory holds that white supremacy is maintained over time and that the law has something to do with it, and works at achieving racial equity and anti-subordination.

 

What happened on Saturday, January 24, 2015 at Forsyth and Central in Clayton, MO must be seen through the lens of racial, social, and cultural history. Our actions, behaviors and thoughts are shaped by our past and our environment, and this is the context we must bring in order to understand what we see, and often do.

 

There are people who insist we are all the same. Then why do some have such a different experience of the world, and they happen to be black? So the inferiority and pathology explanations fill the void, in their understanding of the world.

 

Two friends of mine, using their right to free speech, attempted to unfurl a “Ferguson Is Everywhere” banner at the pro-police rally at St. Louis County Police Headquarters. One, Misty, is dark and heavy. The other, Elizabeth, is petite and may be seen as “white”.

 

As they tried to keep the banner unfurled, a tussle ensued. I was standing right there. I did not see any punching, or kicking, or spitting, anything like that. Here’s the video of that portion of the incident:

 



 

Between being egged on by the crowd, and trying to decide between physically abusing a small white woman or the larger black woman, the police appeared to tire of the scene, and grabbed Misty. They sort of trip-dumped her to the ground, and then marched her away by neck-hold. The neck-hold appeared to be quite painful and unwarranted. (The whole “arrest” seemed unwarranted.)

 

After they got past the kiosk and at the car, I was able to get more video. Here’s that one:

 



 

So, to be didactic about it, we have a rally in which 100% of the people roaring for the police on scene are white. Most of the law enforcement officers are white. By putting their hands on Misty, the police relied on past custom and historic power relations among ethnic groups. By inflicting pain on her, they make her anonymous and singled out, simultaneously. She is hurt. She is in trouble. And the voices bay even louder.

 

This is why we hammer “Black Lives Matter” and bat down “All Lives Matter”. This is one incident of degradation that can be analyzed and understood through “crucial” race theory. This involves empathy, the ability to see something from the viewpoint of another, writ larger.

 

People are treated differently, in part of a hierarchy of privilege that, admittedly, is in flux, waxing and waning and intersecting according to context and milieu. However, white supremacy still generally rules the day. Though socially complex, a pro-police rally such as this one is pretty easy to understand ON THE GROUND. It’s one of the ironies of street showdowns involving generations of history and cultural practice. No one is in favor of chaos and disorder.

 

Would the crowd have cheered so lustily if the police had treated any of the pro-police folks that way? Would the struggle with police have been as violent had they chosen to drag off Elizabeth? If you don’t know the answers, you don’t get it. Do get it. Black lives matter.