On Wednesday, March 19, 2015 Martese Johnson, a 20 year old black man, was arrested by white agents from the Alcoholic Beverage Control. Johnson was tackled to the ground and sustained many injuries to his face during the arrest. The white agents described Johnson as being “agitated and belligerent” however witnesses stated that the police acted with unnecessary force; a bystander quotes “He didn’t need to be tackled. He wasn’t being aggressive at all” (BBC News, 2015). This incident involving Martese Johnson is not an isolate event where a black person was targeted and abuse, and the white assailant escaped punishment, but rather a small picture into a much larger reality that is all to prevalent in modern day society. Earlier this year Michel Brown, a black man who was unarmed and surrendering, was shot and murdered by a white police officer that faced no legal repercussions despite Michel Browns death being ruled a homicide (The Washington Post, 2014). Also this past year, Eric Gardner was chocked to death by a white police officer, the assault was recorded on camera, in the video you can hear Gardner whispering “I can’t breath” however once again, the white police officer escapes punishment. These are all examples of terrible crimes that have been committed against black people, by white men in authority who escaped punishment, just in the past 5 years. These law enforcement officers all used Violence as a Lens through which to see the world. Violence becomes a lens through which individuals see and know black bodies, and thus make them victims of inflicted harm and injury. This is not a new occurrence, but goes all the way back to colonialism when people who were not white were viewed as people who needed to be civilized, as lesser humans. Even now in 2015 these prejudice mindsets are still far too common. People still have the same racist mindsets that they had when black people were in slavery, white people often still see themselves as more valuable, like they should be in charge, like they are untouchable and rules do not apply for them. Black people are viewed as less, as property as opposed to people. These are never ending systems of violence that have been occurring for hundreds of years, it’s the same violence and racism that is present in slavery, colonialism and now, in the 21st Century.
The racism in present day society can be deeply hidden; it is not only prevalent in black people being targeted by law enforcement, but also in our prison systems. In Angels Davis’ article Masked Racisms; Davis reveals the reality of the injustice among prison systems and imprisonment of people of colour. More than 70% of people in prisons are people of colour, prisons disappear people in order to portray the illusion of solving social problems (Davis, 2013). “the practice of disappearing vast numbers of people from poor, immigrant, and racially marginalized communities has become a business, but prisons do not disappear problems, they disappear human beings” (Davis, 2013). When using violence as a lens people of colour are often targeted, victimized, and the offenders often receive no punishments. This issue creates huge barriers within our society. White privilege blinds people from the needs and injustices that are so prevalent around us, the law enforcements white privilege protects them from receiving a fair punishment for their actions. This is so prevalent in the prison industrial complex; the prison industrial complex helps secure the authority of people who get their power through racial, economic and other structural privileges (White people, American citizens, people with property, people with money) by defending current power distributions. It benefits government and industry, as well as those individuals who already hold power in our society. (Herzing, 2005) This promotes cycles of racism and discrimination. Black people lives are used as pieces in a game to get more money for those in power. It dehumanizes people and locks them away; their lives are taken over by the powerful white people who are making more money off of destroying these peoples lives. This is the same thing that happened with slavery when black people were exploited to benefit the white man.
All to many people in present day society create an atmosphere of anti-blackness, people who are anti-blackness go beyond disrespect, it dehumanize people, denying their right to exist as humans. This is the case with some of the law enforcement on the Johnson, Brown, and Ericson cases. This ties into the idea of respectability politics, respectability politics are grounded in the idea that black culture needs to be fixed, it refers to attempts by marginalized groups to police their own members and show their social values as being continuous and compatible with mainstream values rather than challenging the mainstream for its failure to accept difference. It puts the responsibility on black people and blames them for the issues in society instead of the oppressors (Dolberry, 2013). The prejudice towards people of colour over rights their civil duty to keep people safe.
Black Twitter is a place people went to voice their opinions on the injustices present within each of these cases. Black twitter is an archive of black thought, it’s an area of twitter for social interaction, sharing knowledge, building community, commenting and criticizing black culture, and activism (Tolmie, 2015). Kimberley C. Ellis states, “For us, Twitter is an electronic medium that allows enough flexibility for uninhibited and unfabricated creativity while exhibiting more of the strengths of social media that allow us to build community.” Black twitter creates a way for opinions of the public on these serious issues of discrimination to be addressed. Hashtag activism is something that also occurs on social media to raise awareness and unite people for a common cause. Hashtags such as #blacklivesmatter allowed people to speak out and raise social and political intervention in a world where black lives are intentionally targeted. Hashtag activism contests a social system where black lives are seen as less valuable (Tolmie, 2015). Hashtag activism is part of a movement known as anti-racism. Anti-Racism is defined as “the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably” (NAC International Perspectives: Women and Global Solidarity). The solution to solving these huge issues hindering modern day society is not easy to come by. People must take on the mindset of anti-racism and value each person because they are human and have so much to offer the world. Discriminating for any reason, only hurts people and hinders society as a whole. The more people who can take on a anti-racist mindset the more society as a whole can benefit, and horrible issues such as Johnson’s beating will hopefully occur less, and when injustices like this do occur, the abuser will be prosecuted for their actions.
“Anti-Racism Defined.” Anti-Racism Defined. University of Calgary, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.
Davis, Angela. “Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex.” Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex. N.p., 2013. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.
Dolberry. “”I Hate Myself!”: What Are Respectability Politics, and Why Do Black People Subscribe to Them?” A Line in the Sand. N.p., 05 Sept. 2013. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.
Hackman, Rose. “‘She Was Only a Baby’: Last Charge Dropped in Police Raid That Killed Sleeping Detroit Child.” The Guardian. N.p., Jan. 2015. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.
Herzing, Rachel. “Defending Justice – What Is The Prison Industrial Complex?” Defending Justice – What Is The Prison Industrial Complex? N.p., 2005. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.
Somashekhar, Sandhya. “Was Michael Brown Surrendering or Advancing to Attack Officer Darren Wilson?” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 29 Nov. 2014. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.
Tolmie, Jane. Haughton Lecture Slides. 2015
“Virginia Governor Calls for Inquiry into Student Arrest.” BBC News. N.p., 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.
“Was Michael Brown Surrendering or Advancing to Attack Officer Darren Wilson?” Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2015