OCCUPY WHITE SUPREMACY: What UC Davis Pepper Spraying Tells me about the racialized politics of sentimentality
So, let’s talk about another OWS….
Occupy white supremacy… and the machinery of whiteness…and structural racism…
When are we going to start talking about why the mainstream media is so ‘horrified’ and concerned, when certain people are ‘victims’ of police violence over others?
So, you say that “We are the 99%” is a particular socioeconimc class who have, thus far , possessed only 1% of the wealth and resources…
But what about those of the 99% who are getting represented in the media who have been victims of police violence? Why is it that it takes police violence against seemingly ‘peaceful’ and ‘non-threatening’ white students at a predominantly white university campus for the mainstream to suddenly ‘wake up’ to the police and state sanctioned violence that us brown, black, red, and/or ‘Muslim’ folk have been trying to get mainstream America to give a sh*t about for decades? I think what happened at UC Davis (which is my school by the way), needs to be part of a larger conversation about how the machinery of whiteness (as phrased by Steve Martinot a critical race scholar) still plays out.
Why are so many in the media giving so much attention to, and are horrified that, this particular group of “innocent” and “peaceful” protestors were pepper-sprayed?
Can we please have a conversation about how white bodies/white campuses/white middle class spaces are almost always constructed more as “innocent” and “non-threatening” than non-white racialized people who are collectively seen as ‘threatening’, even if they are peaceful ?
I am not diminishing what has happened at my school, but I think there needs to be this conversation, in general, and talk about the racialized politics of sentimentality, and whose suffering is worth more to the media than others. UC Davis and the town of Davis has had its share of racially profiling black and brown people and it seems like no one has really given a care, or that much of a care to address how traumatizing it is to come to university, only to be read as a ‘threat’ and ‘other’ by police, simply because you AREN’T WHITE.
Why does it take pepper spraying ‘unthreatening’, ‘peaceful’ and mostly white/light (because not all who look white or/are lighter are necessarily identifying as ‘white’) people for the USA (well, mainstream) to realize that the police can and do use ‘violence’ against human beings who aren’t physically threatening or violent?
Once again, I’m not diminishing what has happened at my school, but I am bringing up questions that aren’t just in my head, but are shared by a plethora of my black, brown, and/or Muslim friends and family; most of which who have been racially profiled and/or recipients of police brutality when they have done absolutely nothing wrong… but when we tell most of our white colleagues, friends, acquaintances, they can’t believe that the police would do something like that, unless we had done something “wrong ” or “threatening.”
I don’t think we can really begin to talk about Occupy Wall Street as only a socio-economic class ‘war’ until we hear the mainstream media also becoming horrified by how the machinery of whiteness operates.
If people want the chancellor to step down, this is not going to resolve the larger problem.
There are plenty of people in high administration and/or faculty positions at universities who have used the “taken for granted narrative” that “white” bodies are “innocent” and “non-threatening” while darker bodies are the opposite. They have felt “threatened” and use police and/or some component of the criminal justice system to assault this “dark” threat, even though this racialized person has done nothing wrong. Most recently, a black male student at University of California was trying to get into a building for a job interview, couldn’t get in because it was locked, and knocked on another door to have access to the building. A white administration woman working there thought he was a ‘criminal’ and told him to go away numerous times or she’d call the police. She called the police. Well, so much for him trying to be judged by the content of his character, and not, what Frantz Fanon calls, “historico-racial schema” that his skin color conveys to most white women he will encounter in his life… Let’s be straight up and say that she would not have done that if he had been a conventionally beautiful young white female college student. This is not disconnected to what happened the other night at Davis (pepper spray) but part of a grand and intricate narrative of police violence, how criminal justice system is used within the machinery of whiteness, and how a plethora of white people may intellectually know it is WRONG to be racist, but nonetheless respond to “dark” people in a somatic and dysconsciously racist way; yet, simultaneously, would not have such a deeply “threatened” and somatic response to someone who looks like Paris Hilton.
I love that Occupy movement is happening. I love the growing number of people who are sick of being without basic needs, because the greedy 1% don’t want us to have food, water, clean environment, a home, etc that we should be able to get… But I feel like I can no longer be quiet about how the racialized politics of sentimentality operate…