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In These Tweets is a weekly cultural dive into trending topics on Twitter. A collection of snapshot analyses on a variety of moments impacting our world. Sometimes serious, sometimes light, always substantive. We outchea, #InTheseTweets.
The very small town (population 2,800) of Bethel, Ohio was recently a host site of racial animus for a planned Black Lives Matter protest. According to Buzzfeed News, a small crowd of 50 Bethel residents consisting of teachers, councilmembers and retirees who mobilized for a demonstration was met with opposition from hundreds of biker gang members hell-bent on disrupting the gathering.
Per the Buzzfeed article, the protestors were met with great levels of hostility and threats of violence. “You can hear a man yell ‘you came to the wrong fucking town,’ a woman scream ‘you’re supporting the goddamn niggers,’ another man threaten to ‘break your fucking jaw, bitch.’ You can see rifles and handguns and a literal bag full of baseball bats,” according to the report.
As uprisings around the nation have populated the social landscape of early summer 2020, many Black citizens who live in small rural communities and their non-Black allies, have been made to choose between being vocal advocates for the movement for Black lives in historically racist towns and quietly supporting the cause out of safety concerns. A few weeks ago, the “sundown” town of Vidor, TX held a rally in honor of George Floyd, and I was deeply concerned about the well-being of anyone who opted to participate, as Vidor has been a Resthaven for the KKK for decades.
We know that major metropolitan areas can be simultaneously accepting and combative of these demonstrations, but it is the small towns that exist in the crevices of American geography that exemplify the kind of racist brutality that has caused many of Black bodies to go missing without a trace.
I commend organizers in places like this for their bold efforts, as it was the tiny towns of the Civil Rights south that moved the needle of progress a generation ago. I wish them continued safety in their advocacy and pursuit of liberation.
In news of rich folks scamming the government while running the government and/or having aspirations to run the government, it appears that businesses run by Kanye and the Trump mafia received multimillion-dollar loans that were intended to assist small businesses during the pandemic. Kanye’s YEEZY brand received over $2 million through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) as it reported being able to save 106 jobs amidst the pandemic.
But YEEZY is nowhere near a small business, as it has boasted annual sales that eclipsed the Jordan brand in sneaker sales!
I’m not gonna even get into the fishiness of businesses owned by Jared Kushner getting the benefit of PPP, but suffice to say there are thousands of actual small businesses who have struggled to receive adequate funding from the federal government. This is one very exact measure in which the wealthy hoards wealth and resources.
Yay, corporate welfare!
No one ever said that dismantling systemic racism would be a fair fight. This nation was built on deep-rooted inequality and lionized the men (and women) who enacted crimes against humanity. So, it is no surprise that in retaliation for monuments of white supremacy being taken down, that we would begin to see monuments to freedom fighters be torn down or defaced because that’s how racism works. And so on the anniversary of his famed “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July” speech, a statue of Frederick Douglass was vandalized in Rochester, NY.
This of course is not the first time that a monument to a historical Black figure victimized by American racism was desecrated. A memorial to Emmett Till in Mississippi had to be literally bulletproofed after being riddled with bullets on multiple occasions. The recent removals of symbols of white supremacy in the public sphere are the reaction to people who are outraged by the continued disenfranchisement of people of color. The attacks on monuments of Civil Rights icons or important historical Black figures are emblematic of the same type of structural violence that shortened their lives in many instances.
Personal cultural hero of mine, Nikole Hannah-Jones, broke down what is often an intentional cognitive dissonance between the pathology of “Black on Black” violence vs. anti-Black violence at the behest of the state. “When a black person murders another black person, the expectation is that person will be charged & punished,” Jones tweeted. She continued by writing, “People are protesting bc they expect that same accountability when armed agents of the state kill. It’s not hard to understand unless you’re invested in not understanding.”
The counterargument of “what about Black on Black crime” is for some Black folks the equivalent of “All Lives Matter.” For white folks, it’s a means to excuse the very real epidemic of state-sanctioned violence. We know that gun violence is a general American problem. We know that Black communities are often disproportionately overrepresented in stats around violent crimes. We also know that there are scores of Black folks in prison for the crime of killing Black people and that there are tons of officers who committed extrajudicial homicide that receive tax pay dollars to vacation.
And let’s not even get into how overly policed communities of color correlate to higher levels of criminality…
NAACP’s President & Director-Counsel of its Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Sherrilyn Ifil, tweeted a needful declaration around symbolic gestures of racial unity.
“It’s not a win if this time next yr we have Juneteenth off; politicians are saying ‘Black Lives Matter;’ Lift Every Voice plays at NFL games, & MS has a new flag, but we have no new tools, laws or investment for ending voter suppression & educational, economic, criminal injustice,” Ifil posted, and there is a great deal of irrefutable truth to this statement.
Performative gestures are light work. They are the appearance of something equitable but really does not require much of those who are practicing this brand of ‘equality.’ The hard work of change is the overhauling of systems and the disruption of comfort levels for anyone who has been beneficiaries of said systems.
Holla at me when substantive measures of dismantling really start happening.