By Fefe Hargrow
Racism and hatred have plagued this country from its creation. Over the years it has shifted around, taken on different shapes, and grown ever more complex in its vicious ways, but one thing that never changes is the suffering Black people and people of color must endure at its hands. The brash and impalpable wave of prejudice fueled hatred, finally set free again from the chains of intelligence and logical reason that held it, continues to rear its hideous head.
On February 23, Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man, was gunned down by 34-year-old Travis McMichael. Ahmaud was jogging through the Brunswick neighborhood in Georgia when Travis, who was accompanied by his father and former police officer Gregory McMichael, chased him down in their truck. The McMichael’s claimed Ahmaud “fit the description” of a robbery suspect and tried to detain him, when he wouldn’t comply with their demands a scuffle ensued and Travis shot and killed him. Recently it was revealed that there had not been any robberies reported in that area, the McMichaels had lied. This notion of fitting a description has been notoriously used as a justification to accost and harass people of color, when the only description that fits is African American.
Ahmaud is just one of many victims to be slaughtered for being Black, as is also with the cases of Jordan Davis who was killed because him and his friends were playing rap music too loud, NYC resident Timothy Caughman who was stabbed to death with a sword by a white man whose sole intentions were to kill Black men, lest we not forget the Charleston Church shooting where nine African Americans were killed while they prayed, along with countless others. Being Black is not a crime but according to the white supremist who commit these acts of terror it is a justifiable reason to be killed. White supremacy and nationalism are ever growing trends in this country, and with the election of Donald Trump to fuel this fire it shows no signs of slowing down. As per the article “This is America” reported by James D. Walsh in NYmag there are 148 white nationalist hate groups currently operating in the United States. While 148 may not seem like a large number their pension for violence is remarkably high and 2019 it was stated that 175 people were killed in attacks motivated by white extremism.
These dangerous ideologies and deplorable acts are not specific to the US, in fact numerous premediated acts of hatred have taken place in Canada, New Zealand, Germany, and Norway just to name few. The perpetrators of these attacks are often referred to as loners or acting alone in their action but in an article for The Huffington Post Vidhya Ramalingam, the founder of a counter-extremist software creation company said, “These attacks are symptomatic of basically a very powerful global movement that is just not adequately captured by describing these perpetrators as lone wolf actors.” The New Zealand mosque shooting that took the lives of 51 people, the terrorist, Brenton Tarrant was said to be inspired by the Poway synagogue shooting in California. The common thread that connects these crimes is the slew of racist propaganda, direct relationships with known nationalist sites, and the deep seeded belief in white supremacy.
Understanding these types of illogical and irrational thoughts and getting to the very root of the human condition could be key to curing this malignant tumor that has been allowed to metastasize. Emile Bruneau, the director of the Peace and Conflict Neuroscience Lab at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication and lead scientist for Beyond Conflict Innovation Lab, studies cognitive neuroscience, intergroup relations/conflict, and conflict resolution. He is among the many that have dedicated their careers to understanding and dismantling hatred. In research conducted by Bruneau and his collegues at University of Granada and Northwestern University it was discovered that by calling out the the hypocritcal notion of collective blame (Blaming an entire race for the actions of one) it greatest decreased the ill sentiments toward the specific group. On a vastly different perspective New York Times best-selling author Ibram X Kendi discusses his take in his book titled “How to be a antiracist”. Kendi explores the beginning of racial prejudices and a means to combating it. Instead of looking toward the racist mind for answers we must adjust our own to being antiracist as referenced to by a quote from his book, “What’s the problem with being “not racist”? It is a claim that signifies neutrality: “I am not a racist, but neither am I aggressively against racism.” But there is no neutrality in the racism struggle. The opposite of “racist” isn’t “not racist.” It is “antiracist”.
In a time where making America great again is often synonymous with reverting back to old prejudices and discrimination it is imperative to understand that proactive action is required. Educated thinking, fact, and logical reasoning do little to counter ideals that were never rooted in them to begin with. Sitting on the sidelines only stokes the fires that so many have died fighting against, neutrality is no longer an option. White supremacy must be cut from this society in order to truly make this country great, everyone has an inalienable right to life and it’s time we made sure extremists understood that.