There is an “ordinariness” to the police murders of Black men

                  By Earl Smith, PhD and Angela J. Hattery, PhD

 

Philando Castile

Since August 26, 2016 when Colin  Kaepernick (who at that time was a San Francisco 49er quarterback) started taking a knee during the National Anthem, police have killed approximately more than 780 people.  Approximately 193 of those killed have been Black.

And, while the numbers may not be complete, they alone do not tell the whole story.  Here we talk about the “ordinariness” of these killings especially those that involve Black men like Philando Castile in Minnesota.  Black men have been in America since the founding of the Nation State. Some are fathers; some are professionals such as lawyers, Wall Street bankers; some are incarcerated and some play NCAA and NFL football. What binds all these men together is that across all demographics that defines them – members of these categories have been killed by the police.

Just recently (June 14, 2017) officer Jeronimo Yanezthe the Minnesota police officer who killed Mr., Castile was acquitted by a jury on all counts. While love ones and others were looking for a conviction the outcome was not surprising.  In our data we looked at the 10 highest profile killing of unarmed Black men killed by police officers and all of them–from Trevyon Martin to Michael Brown to Sean Bell to Amadou Diallo–the officers were not charged.

Looking carefully at the prior activities of some of these men we learn that they were involved in simple, ordinary activities just prior to their deaths. In the case of Mr. Castile he was out with his girlfriend, her 4-yesr old daughter shopping for groceries.        The video of the death was widely circulated first on FACEBOOK then the police officially released it June 20, 2017.

The “ordinariness” of police killings of Black men does not stop unfortunately with Mr. Castile.  Young Tamir Rice was killed in a Cleveland playground November 22, 2014.  He was twelve years old.  And, like most pre-teens he was playing some type of boy-game with a toy gun.

These ordinary activities that lead to premature deaths are incredible for their ordinariness!  White males do not face death after completing ordinary activities.

Several commentaries have railed about the silence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) on the killing of Mr. castile who had a legal license to carry a concealed handgun.  Who, even telling officer Yanezthe that he had a gun on him was killed anyway reaching for his wallet.

This violence in not new.  Under JIM CROW (the system of law commonoly know as de jure segregation and the illegal practice known as de facto segregation both mandated the segregation of public schools, public places, and public transportation, housing and the segregation of restrooms, restaurants, and drinking fountains for whites and Blacks) often resulting in violence to maintain separateness between whites and Blacks.  The practices were heavily policed.

In all of the talk about “Constitutional Rights” the NRA over the years–and especially after the Columbine school killing (1999) it maintained that Americans have 2nd Amendment rights to arm themselves.  The NRA fights to make this message clear at every turn. In commentaries after the Castile murder it is being said that this right does not extend to Black people.  That is, had Castile been white he would have never been shot.  This sentiment was strongly echoed by

“an appalled Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton who said that police wouldn’t have shot and killed Philando Castile if he’d been white and called for justice with the greatest sense of time urgency.”  

Let us not fool ourselves, with all the police killings of Black unarmed men these murders are not random.  There is something going on in 21st Century America that renders ordinary Black lives less than the lives of other racial/ethnic American citizens.

For Black men it is, to be sure, the “ordinariness.”

 

To read more of our work, go to:

In Black & White: The Violent Sexual Predator Crossing the Colorline

Angela J.Hattery, PhD & Earl Smith, PhD (2017)

 

 

We have a theory.  Serial sexual male predators like Bill Cosby (1) Bill O’Reilly (2) and Darren Sharper (3) play out their violent fantasies often going after innocent women of a race different from theirs.  This predatory sexual violence is not about challenging norms of interracial relationships, it is about power.

 

Very few things in the United States are more heavily and strictly policed than the relationship colorline, and specifically the taboo on intimate relationships between Blacks and Whites.  Fifty years after the famous Loving v. Virginia case that declared anit-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, clearing the way for Blacks and Whites to legally marry, only 9% of marriages in the United States in 2010 involved a Black and a White partner, and fewer than 1% of Whites were married to a Black spouse (Smith and Hattery 2013).

 

When it comes to sexual violence, less than 10% of all rapes are intraracial.

 

It’s interesting then, that despite the fact that the relationship color line is heavily policed and interracial sexual violence is very uncommon, a significant number of the cases of high profile cases of serial (more than one victim) interracial sexual violence have been broadcast and discussed on our television screens and through other news outlets.

 

How can we make sense of this?

 

Intersectional theory requires us to look at phenomenon critically and come to conclusions only after we have examined various iterations of that phenomenon.  For example, how is the gendered wage gap also shaped by race?

 

When interracial sexual violence occurs, what is the context?  Who is doing the perpetrating?  Does it look the same if the rapist is Black or White?

 

Cases like those of Darren Sharper, Bill Cosby and Bill O’Reilly reveal to us the strength of the sexual stereotypes about interracial sex.  For example, in our work (2 books on interracial relations (Smith and Hattery 2013; Smith and Hattery 2009; two papers on athlete’s violence against women (Smith 2010); (Hattery 2010) and especially in our work “Cultural Contradictions in the South” (2010) we demonstrate explicitly that predatory men–black and white–are mesmerized with “the other.” (6)

 

What intersectional theory allows us to do is complicate the racial and gender contours of interracial sexual violence.

 

White men have been sexually violating Black women’s bodies since the first slaves arrived on American soil after having been kidnapped from Africa.  Historically we have to look no further than Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, Third President of the United States, a known predator of his Black female slaves.  Was the initial encounter between Jefferson and Sally Heming rape?  (3)

 

How can a White man who believes that Black people are inferior, as Jefferson did, or as Bill O’Reilly might, sexually violate Black women’s bodies?  The answer is simple: because sexual violence is not about relationship built on love and respect. No!  It is violence perpetrated against the objectified female body.  In the O’Reilly’s case, it seems any woman’s body would do.  A “pussy” is a “pussy.”  O’Reilly is a serial sexual harasser, with at least a dozen victims.

 

In contrast, as a result of the lynching’s of tens of thousands of Black men for the mere accusation, almost always false, of raping a White women, very few Black men have any sexual relationship with White women, consensual or violent (Blackmon 2009).  The average Black man who rapes a White woman serves decades in prison for his crime.  In fact, many Black men have served decades in prison after being wrongly convicted of raping a White women .

 

That being said, intersectional theory allows us to explore what appears to be an exception to the rule of gender and race hierarchy.  Black men who have power—as athletes and entertainers—and who engage in sexual violence against White women are almost never held accountable.

 

Bill Cosby drugged and raped more than 50 women.  The majority of whom are White.

Darren Sharper (4), who was finally convicted of 16 rapes, is a serial rapist whose many victims aren’t just similar in terms of their allegations—they are also similar in appearance: white women, most of whom had long blonde hair.

 

Where as White men sexually violate Black women’s bodies because they can, under the rules of patriarchy and racial domination, some Black men may engage in sexual violence against White women because in this inverted race and gender hierarchy they, too, have more power.  And, the sexual violence may in fact be perpetrated precisely because it threatens the power of White men.  In these cases, White women’s bodies are selected by the serial abuser because their bodies are the object that allows Black men to express their power.

 

There is no better case than that of the violent thuggery of Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver is well known. (5)  He spells this all out in his book Soul On Ice (1968) telling us that his victims were White women –although he practiced his rapes on Black women first before crossing the tracks to White neighborhoods–and infamously said he was getting back at the “man” by raping his women.

 

Only when we examine the sexual violence perpetrated by men who at first glance seem as diverse as Bill O’Reilly, Darren Sharper and Bill Cosby through the lens of intersectional theory, with a focus on the intricacies of race and gender hierarchies, can we see that not all serial predatory sexual violence across the color line is the same.  But, one thing is always the same: it is always about POWER and it is always about treating women’s bodies, regardless of their race, as sexual objects on which to demonstrate masculine power.

Postscript: On June 20, 2017 Judge Steven T. O’Neill declared a mistrial.

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To see more of Angela J. Hattery and Earl Smith work go to:  http://www.smithandhattery.com

 

 

Further Reading

  1. com Reporter, “Shattered! Bill Cosby’s legacy on The Cosby Show questioned by controversial Ebony Magazine cover.” 17 October 2015     http://dailym.ai/2pOGvwG

 

  1. Steel, Emily and Michael Schmidt. 2017. “Bill O’Reilly Is Forced Out at Fox News”, April 19, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/19/business/media/bill-oreilly-fox-news-allegations.html

 

May, Charlie. 2017. “From ‘hot chocolate’ to triumphant: Woman whose account may have been final straw for Bill O’Reilly speaks out.” Salon   http://bit.ly/2owm4U1

 

3, Wiencek, Henry. “The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson.”

SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE, October 2012

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-dark-side-of-thomas-jefferson-35976004/?all

 

  1. Freeman, Mike. 2014. “Who Is Darren Sharper? Date-Rape Allegations Raise Serious

Questions.” Bleacher Report,   http://ble.ac/2pnWZyT

 

  1. CreWisdom, “Being Anti-Black woman is NOT new. Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver admits to hating and raping Black women.”   CreWisdomDecember 7, 2015

http://bit.ly/2p6ar9D

 

  1. Halsell, Grace. 1999. Soul Sister. Crossroads International Publishing.

 

  1. Smith, Earl and Hattery, Angela. 2013. Interracial Relationships in the 21st Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.

 

  1. Smith, Earl (ed). 2010. “Violence in Sportsworld.” Journal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education, 4(2):101-108.

 

  1. Hattery, Angela. 2010. “SportsWorld as a site of violence against women.” Journal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education, 4(2):109-122.

 

  1. Smith, Earl and Angela J. Hattery. (2010). “Cultural Contradictions in the South.” Mississippi Quarterly Vol 63 (2): 145-166.    http://bit.ly/1mwQu34

 

  1. Blackmon, Douglas. 2009. Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. New York: Anchor; Reprint edition.