After the revelation of the video of the horrific treatment of a special needs white man by four black men and women, spinners spun to characterize the beating, knifing, toilet-water-drinking, and abuse in a way that somehow would distinguish it from the hypocritical rush to vilify others. The tables turned, the races reversed. Neither gender nor race fit the paradigm, and an intellectually challenged 18-year-old just to make everything worse.
Jones’ post was about Oregon Lawprof Nancy Shurtz’s boneheaded decision to wear blackface to a Halloween Party. But it wasn’t a post from the perspective of an academic. Nor a scholar. Not even a dean. In fact, Jones’ post had nothing to do with law at all. Rather, Jones wrote as a black person because, he explained, the racial barrier can never be broken.
Somehow, I am made to feel defensive by calls for her punishment. It just makes me very uncomfortable and I don’t want her stoned in the public square for my vindication. If I were on the faculty at Oregon I would feel compelled to protest the crowd’s outrage ostensibly expressed in recognition of my heritage and feelings. But I might just sit, quietly grinding my teeth and hoping that the whole thing would just die down. It is the punishment, the demand for this poor woman’s head on a platter that makes me uncomfortable. There are clear dangers in an African American saying so. I imagine that some colleagues might shake their heads in disgust at my own lack of outrage. There is always the danger of being labeled an “uncle tom” or an apologist for racists if one doesn’t adopt the hot tone of indignation. Or just plain ignorant.
So you aren’t outraged? You don’t think her blackface belongs on a platter? But you’re too much of a coward to say so because they might call you mean names?
Once it is accepted that she intended no offense (though that was the result) but rather wanted to bring attention to a book she clearly must have enjoyed, so much so that she felt like she was “one of us” and wanted to prove it, the response ought to move from retribution to dialogue and education. She made a huge mistake and in doing so likely exposed what?
So she was really one of the
good guys allies who just didn’t get it, that as passionately as she believed in the eradication of racism, she would never be invited to the black sleepover party?
But history distorts her actions and makes it as if she uttered the N word amongst her closest friends who happen to be African American, thinking she has crossed the cultural divide. The rules require that she take a beat down and that those of us who ought to have been offended by her mistake participate in that beat down. From now on, she won’t forget and we won’t let her forget; no matter how much she admires our culture, the fortitude with which we have earned our rights in this society, no matter how much she secretly wishes she too had participated in civil rights marches, or had been the pioneer in a literary worthy racial struggle, she will never be one of us.
So what you are trying to say, but lack the courage to admit, is that you really favor the beat down, but don’t want to personally get your hands dirty by admitting such a vulgar desire, so you dance around it, but really want it.
Everyone ought to be sadder for that fact. Meanwhile I don’t want to participate in the beat down even if the rules say I must.
Of course you don’t. You’re a black man who sits in the deans office of a law school, You go to faculty teas and stick your pinky in the air to be just like all the other scholars, pristine and above the nasty fray. But you want the beat down, even if you’re not man enough to say so. Hell, are you even man enough to say “man enough”?
These four black defendants in Chicago may be 18-year-olds, but they’re stupid kids. Who did an evil thing to a white kid who suffers from an intellectual disability. That’s your beat down. And they’re entitled, under your race rules, to use “the N word,” as if calling it “the N word” somehow made it less of “the N word.”
So they get to come to your black sleepover party and Nancy Shurtz is excluded because, as well-intended an ally she may be, she can never be black, she can never violate your race rules. These four black defendants will never share a glass of sherry with you at a faculty tea.
Do they really care about Trump or have their ears been filled with voices like yours decrying the end of times? Is it entirely different for them, because they come from a race that suffered historic and systemic discrimination? That makes their hate less hate then someone else’s hate? If Shurtz deserves the black beat down, even if you don’t have the balls to be the one to do it, what do these found kids deserve?
It’s your race rules that have given rise to the Newest Jim Crow, the good segregation on campus, where black students are entitled to their safe space at lunch so that no white person be allowed to sit at their table. Same deal as the lunch counters of old, except this time it’s your rules so it’s entirely different?
Sorry, Daryl Jones, but the only real difference between these four kids in Chicago and you is that they have the guts to do what you want to do but are too “refined” to admit. And if what they did was wrong, and it’s insanely, horribly wrong, then it’s just as wrong for you to maintain that secret desire to beat down your whitey ally for violating the race rules you have in the back of your head.
And if it’s unacceptable that some white lawyer is telling you this, too bad. What are you going to do about it? Beat me?
If there happens to be a black sleepover on 143rd Street tonight, chances are a whole lot better that I’ll be invited and you won’t. It’s not that they aren’t black like you, but they would rather have someone there who will have their backs* than someone with whom they only share skin color. For a while, we were getting beyond race, and here you are, blocking the bridge so people of that other race can’t pass.
*While you chose to teach tax law, I chose to stand in the well next to criminal defendants. Want to guess which one of us has spent his career doing more for blacks and Hispanics, not to mention whites and women and gays and trans and every other flavor of humanity?