Remember that editor I told you about last time? His "edits" included deleting this whole section of my submission because he thought that: "This section did not fit as I had believed it would be more of a demographic study. Instead, would you be willing to share your experience with race as a Black woman? If so, 4-6 paragraphs of narrative with a low amount of commentary."
My Brief Reactions To His Comments:
"demographic": Wrong jargon sir.
"...as a Black woman?": Ugh, this stuff...
"...with a low amount of commentary.": Explícame, por favor: ¿qué está hablando? (No, for real, because my commentary is the BEST part!)
YOU CAN BE LOKI IF YOU WANT—BUT STOP ASKING ME TO BE THOR.
“The Blacks represent a kind of insurance for humanity in the eyes of the Whites. When the Whites feel that they have become too mechanized they turn to the Coloreds and request a little human sustenance.” – Frantz Fanon
In June 2020, as the protests incited by the police murder of George Floyd raged, a mischievous piece of propaganda was released onto the internet via President Trump’s twitter page.
Complete with a fake CNN logo, it depicted two male toddlers: one Black and one White. In the video excerpt, the little Black boy (2-year-old Maxwell) is running down the block. A little White boy (2-year-old Finnegan) runs behind him. The captions? (You’re going to love these:)
“BREAKING NEWS: TERRIFIED TODLER RUNS FROM A RACIST BABY”.
(Yes. They misspelled ‘toddler’.)
Check out another one of the captions:
“RACIST BABY PROBABLY A TRUMP VOTER.”
The video excerpt then transitions to show the full video, which I describe as follows (feel free to look it up yourself):
Maxwell and Finnegan run up to each other from opposite sides of the block and embrace. They are smiling. Finnegan is holding a toy. Maxwell notices the toy and comments on it. Finnegan acknowledges the comment. Then, as toddlers do, Finnegan takes off: tottering along to an unspecified destination. Maxwell begins to run too. He passes his friend with a smile, seemingly racing him down the block.
The closing caption on Trump’s version of the video (which was taken down by Twitter) was as follows:
“AMERICA IS NOT THE PROBLEM. FAKE NEWS IS…IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING. ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FAKE NEWS DUMPSTER FIRES.”
Wow. I shook my head, because like so much, this video was taken (at least partially) out of context. I had seen the video weeks before it appeared on President Trump’s page. I knew that Maxwell’s (White) father was the one who posted the original interaction online. The original context was largely positive: a “aw, look how cute they are!” sort of thing. How did it become content that Twitter took down? Why did this situation occur the way that it did? Let’s unpack it first, and then maybe you’ll have some ideas.
When I first saw the video, I remember thinking that the video itself, as cute as it was, was a piece of “one race, the human race”/“get over it and let’s unify” propaganda. I resented that. Later, I saw clips of the father confirming my inkling that the original video was indeed such a “response” to “racism”. Of course, that’s not how he said it though. What Maxwell’s father said was cunning. He said: “With all the racism and hate going on, I think it’s just a really beautiful video…The reason that it’s getting so much attention is because it is with a little Black boy and a little White boy. And, you know, if it could change someone’s mind, um, you know, or just change their view on things, then it’s totally worth it.”
He spoke about “racism and hate” as if it was the weather: Something circumstantial that was just “out there” and nobody’s fault. The video was described as “beautiful”, which, alongside the agent-less “racism and hate”, simultaneously alluded to his impression of, and stance on, the racism and hate. In his commentary so far, there are two assumptions: 1) that beauty negates ugliness, and 2) that he’s taking a stance against the “racism and hate going on” by posting that video. The truth? 1) Beauty doesn’t necessarily negate ugliness. 2) He subconsciously posted that video in support of the “racism and hate going on”. As the saying goes, there are two types of evil: the evildoers and the spectators of evil.
Maxwell’s father was calling on the spectators to show themselves. He said that the video was getting attention because ‘it’s a little Black boy and a little White boy’.
Wrong. The reason that it got attention is because there are a whole lot of White people in America (and Black people, I might add) who want to let sleeping dogs lie. They pray for the (impossible) kind of racial reconciliation that would require no work or sacrifice. That video was a form of dog-whistle politics. But who was the candidate? The candidate was the status quo.
The western (White) world operates primarily on temporality, that is, time moving in a linear fashion. The western world includes the United States. Eras and objects of the past (especially unpleasant ones) in temporality are treated as distant, irrelevant, and disconnected to the future.
What is the ultimate (tangible) source of the recurrent racial turmoil in America?
You’re right: slavery.
But it’s not just the atrocity of slavery. It’s also the all the compounded injustice of White Americans repeatedly failing to make amends for it. Maxwell’s father dropped this video online to de-stress and look for support for the “one race, the human race”/“get over it and let’s unify” argument. Subconsciously, he wanted this conversation on race to go back to the obscurity from which it came. He wanted this conversation to STOP. And so, he provided some evidence that it is theoretically possible that Blacks and Whites can “get along” at this point in (linear) time, despite all that happened so long ago. He wrapped this message up in those children. He evokes the following, generally agreed upon concepts as a garnish: Children are innocent. Children are not as intelligent as adults. Children don’t see race, or rather, children can get along in spite of race. Children do not discriminate.
Of course, children are innocent (at first). That’s because they haven’t been taught guilt yet. It’s true that many children may not be as intelligent as adults, but their capacity to learn surpasses our own. That must count for something. When children see other people that look different than they do (and there is a TON of evidence that children notice race as early as three years old, google the Clark Doll Experiment), they interact with “the other” to gather information about them and test hypotheses about how they are expected to treat them. They organize their actions to comply with the directives of the nearest, most consistent authority figures in their lives (ex. parents and/or teachers). They do this repeatedly to “get in where they fit in”, until they don’t need instruction on how to do it anymore.
Let us plug all of that in:
A White man who fathers a Black boy feels anxious about the racial unrest. He fears any kind of revolution or serious reform because it would affect his petty, painstakingly maintained equilibrium as a liberal White man in America. These unsightly protests look like they’re taking a turn for the worst. There’s no end in sight.
Yeah, Black people were getting killed.
Perhaps, deep in his mind, he flirts with empathy, considering the matter as “hitting close to home” since he has a Black son. Perhaps he felt that having a Black son meant that he had to be “speaking from the heart” as these thoughts marched their way through his subconscious.
He cannot say these things aloud to others or even himself. So, these feelings manifest themselves as him whipping out his phone to inject his anxiety into the interaction of the two children. Unwittingly, these kids have just become an invitation for like-minded, complacent, lazy cowards, or racist people to respond to his distress signal to show him some support. With this video, he takes a survey. The number of likes, comments, follows and re-tweets will translate into two things: 1) peace of mind (for him), and 2) information about whether a sizable number of other people want to maintain the status quo. After all, he’d rather not fight (because his ancestors have fought for him. He’d rather not get his hands dirty to defend his inherited spoils.) He feels everyone ought to just…behave themselves. Internally, he’s like:
*Cue white tears*
‘Do we really want the kind of violence and destruction that would ensue if we fought about this (race)? (Wouldn’t even more people die???)
Let’s “stop” the violence. Let’s just get along. Look, it’s easy! Even little kids can do it! And if they can do it, so can we!’
Is that so?
I wonder how many more times they’ll point to “childhood innocence” as the answer? How many more times will they invoke the psychological defense mechanism of regression to censor (justifiably) angry Black people? I wonder how much more regression they’ll engage in to remind themselves that they, too, were good once? How much longer will they attempt to profit from exploiting the historic infantilization of the Black race? Why must we hold their conscience for them as they slander us (call our protests “riots”) and steal our potential (kill us in droves)??? Why must we keep giving any of them the benefit of the doubt, when they all speak the same language (racism)? I mean, with all this talk of “increasingly polarized” politics, and how nobody can “agree on anything”—how can a right wing-conservative pick up a liberal’s video and run with it pretty much as is? Why would he do that?
1) He was invited to do so, of course. The right-wing conservative was bored with the civil unrest too. He wanted the Black race (and company) to stop too. That was already the point of the video. Are we really surprised that President Trump amplified it?