By SUSAN K. SMITH
Crazy Faith Ministries
It is always unsettling to me to hear the media talk about Black-on-Black crime. Owing, they infer to the inherent violent tendencies of Black people. When in fact, it is White people in this country who have initiated and perpetrated violence – mostly against Black people – and have seldom been held accountable.
From the time White people from England landed in this country, they used violence to get rid of people – in that case, Indigenous Americans – who they decided were not worthy of being alive, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
The vigilante violence carried out by Whites against Black people – sanctioned by law – is a part of American history. What began at the birth of this country has only increased over time. White vigilantes – some in official capacity as “law enforcement officers,” have used violence to keep certain people in their place and under control.
Most often, racism has been the root cause. A racism which makes White people believe in the myth of their own superiority because of their color, and which simultaneously makes them very insecure about the privileges about which they boast. They have fought to keep Black people from gaining economic and political power. And have again, been largely supported not only by governments and state, local and federal judiciaries, but also by those Whites who call themselves “liberal” or “progressive,” yet who have remained silence as the violence of their White friends and family continue to be an ignored by “the law.”
Many “liberal” American Whites have not been helpful or forceful in criticizing the vigilante violence. Their silence has been deafening, and their capacity to care enough to actively and boldly fight the vigilantism has been disappointing. The outpouring of protest over the murder of George Floyd by a police officer was encouraging to see, but the capacity of White people into being frightened about “Black violence” showed its face when politicians began to talk about “defunding” the police.
They are not so afraid of the White vigilante violence that has been played out historically and was played out in the height of the protests over Floyd’s murder, but even the thought of no police officers being around if the “angry Black people” rise up is what scares them to death.
They support the violence of the police because they believe police violence is necessary because of the “badness” of Black people. By all means, protect the police; there would be no need for them if Black people were not deserving of what police give them.
With that kind of tacit approval, White vigilantism has gone on unabated in this country for hundreds of years. Black people were lynched, and nobody was ever held accountable. Black homes and whole communities were attacked and destroyed, and nobody was ever held accountable. White law enforcement officers attacked Black people with firehoses and dogs, and though some White Americans were horrified at what they saw, in the end, none of those law enforcement officers or firemen were ever held accountable.
We’ve always been a “cowboys and Indians” nation, with White people representing the cowboys and all people who are not White and male being the Indians. White vigilantes have operated with a certain arrogance, sure that they will not have to answer to anyone for what they are doing.
So, now we are on the brink of what feels like is going to be a very violent time. The vigilantes are not only flailing their guns publicly but are encouraging their friends to do the same. They are operating within the permitted guidelines of this American culture and society. They are not worried.
But perhaps they should be.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. She is available for speaking. And she is an award-winning author for her latest book, “With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in America,” available through all booksellers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.