The Thin Black Duke published this smart, thoughtful piece on Medium this week. I asked him if I could share it here, and he graciously agreed. ~WaterGirl
In White America, Vigilantes ‘R’ Us – An Injustice!
by The Thin Black Duke
Sometimes there is no goddamned bottom to how cruel white people can be, especially when you’re a dead black man in White America:
BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — A judge denied mistrial requests on Monday at the trial of three white men charged with murdering Ahmaud Arbery after defense attorneys claimed jurors were tainted by weeping from the gallery where the slain Black man’s parents sat with the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Sure, the defense attorneys are doing their job, but their motion for a mistrial was callous, idiotic, and reprehensible. And in spite of their ridiculous courtroom theatrics, black people aren’t going to forget the reason why this murder trial is happening:
Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael armed themselves and pursued the 25-year-old Black man in a pickup truck after spotting him running in their neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. Their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan joined the chase and took cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery three times with a shotgun.
Then again, the defense attorneys didn’t care about the black people in the courtroom, not at all. No, the targeted audience was the other white people in the crowd, and the distasteful and unsubtle implication the lawyers were trying to make was how awful it was that black people were openly expressing their grief in front of everybody.
They were speaking in code, a secret and ancient language that only white people in White America can understand, and when you read between the lies and translate the hidden message underneath, this is what’s really being said: How dare you try to make us feel guilty?
Trouble is, white people aren’t always innocent bystanders, and looking the other way most of the time when bad things are happening to black people makes them accomplices. That realization makes them uncomfortable.
Not surprisingly, that discomfort probably explains this:
Support for Black Lives Matter movement is declining, according to new poll
A new poll shows a decline in support among Americans for the Black Lives Matter movement, a year and a half after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other high-profile deaths of Black people in encounters with police sparked a global outcry.
Unfortunately, some white people are only comfortable being around with black people when they’re being entertained by them, and when black people aren’t singing or dancing or telling jokes or catching a football, white people get nervous. Especially when black people ain’t smiling.
And in White America, when white people get nervous, black people die.
As comedian and radio host D.L. Hughley commented, “The most dangerous place for a black people to be is in a white man’s imagination. We live in an America right now where we have evolved … but we inherently believe black people are criminal.”
And I’m sorry, but these are facts, not opinions. (What some white people call “paranoia”, black people call “common sense”.)
Tamir Rice was a child playing with a toy gun who was shot to death by a white cop. Breonna Taylor was asleep in her bed when three white cops rushed into Taylor’s apartment and shot her. Stephon Clark was in his grandmother’s backyard holding a mobile phone when he was shot twenty times by white cops.
So many unjustified fatalities, so little accountability.
However, the three cowardly white trash morons who murdered Armaud Arbury are going to jail because even though they’re white men, they made the mistake of shooting a video of the killing and, more importantly, they weren’t wearing police badges.
Still, thinking about black people in White America as target practice is infuriating, and it makes me sick to my stomach. It doesn’t help that expressing grief or outrage at this never-ending brutalization is either ignored or trivialized by too many white people.
It brings to mind a sign I saw at a BLM protest that clearly and powerfully expressed the frustration black people feel about the dilemma we’ve been stuck in for most of our lives:
“We march, y’all mad. We sit down, y’all mad. We speak up, y’all mad. We die, y’all silent.”
Conversely, white men in White America not only have permission to be vulgar, mean-spirited assholes in public, they’re rewarded for it. Worse, you can even get away with murder. The latest odious example is Kyle Rittenhouse, the stupid Pillsbury Doughboy of white male mediocrity and remorseless killer of two unarmed men.
I really hope I’m wrong, but I believe that Rittenhouse is probably going to walk out of the courtroom a free man.
Why? Because this punk is the embodiment of the hatred that White America has for black people, so Rittenhouse’s murderous rampage was inevitable, and the systemic racism deeply embedded in this country made it ridiculous easy for him to get a rifle and act out his violent fantasies.
(Hey, you’re gonna need a AR-15 when a savage horde of predatory jigaboos drive up in their Cadillacs looking for the white wimmen. Ain’t got no time for no nonsense like “background checks”.)
Although the two men that Rittenhouse killed were white, don’t forget that the reason this wannabe Rambo traveled to Kenosha in the first place was to “protect” the city from BLM protestors.
Greg and Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan are going to jail because every once in a while White America needs sacrificial lambs to pretend that racism doesn’t exist. But if Rittenhouse is acquitted, he’s a role model for all the other copycat vigilantes in White America to admire and emulate, and the United States becomes a more dangerous place to live in, and not just for black people. Everybody.
(Killer cops don’t need anymore help killing black people. Seriously.)
Ironically, Kyle Rittenhouse is the homicidal sociopath that a delusional White America imagines black people to be. Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, Stephon Clark and Ahmaud Arbery weren’t criminals. Rittenhouse is.
Thank you for writing, and re-posting, this.
@Woodrow/asim: I had never seen a photo of Ahmaud Arbery, and I wanted to confirm that was a photo of him.
I googled “Ahmaud Arbery images”. I could find autopsy images. I could find images of the crime scene. I could find everything but images of the man. Everything but images of the person he was.
So then I thought, oh, I should have googled photos not images. So I googled “Ahmaud Arbery photos”. Same thing. Everything about the murder, the crime scene, the autopsy, but no photos of the person whose life was taken.
That speaks volumes.
Why doesn’t Balloon Juice report ANY of this??
@oatler: Perhaps we hadn’t gotten to it yet. The day aint over. Jeez
@oatler: put it on your blog
The Thin Black Duke
@WaterGirl: That’s odd. I had no trouble finding this photo of Arbery. But even back then, I saw Arbery’s high school photo. A handsome young man, blossoming into his prime. Now he’s gone.
@WaterGirl: I have seen this photo of Ahmaud Arbery.
At some point, I read an interview with the person who created https://goodblacknews.org/ about how hard it was to find nice photos of people to go along with their uplifting stories. There would be really positive stories, and the photos would be garbage.
There was something I saw recently involving candidates running for public office. The two white candidates had their publicity shots. For the black candidates, some unflattering candid shots were used. It was very bizarre. One of the black candidates called them out on it, and they switched his photo to his publicity shot.
When I tried to search for Ahmaud Arbery, I ran into some very terrible capitalism that I am not sure how to explain.
@oatler: Please take this in the nicest possible way, because I mean this as explanation, not as criticism.
Some things don’t get reported because most of us have jobs and lives and we don’t spend all of our time reading the news.
No one is paid to put up posts or for anything else we do for Balloon Juice. It’s an all-volunteer army, so to speak and it’s just part of what each of us does.
If readers and commenters like you come across things that are newsworthy, you can link to them in a thread. You are also welcome to email a front pager with a link and a note saying you would love to see that thing front paged.
People frequently send me information or links to things they think would be of interest on Balloon Juice.
@oatler: This is not a Proud Boys fan site.
Thank you, TBD, for this. Your voice is even more important in this monstrous time.
Very good piece. I hope the feds get Rittenhouse and the families sue him broke. I haven’t processed my feelings because I feel so raw.
@oatler: Why give them the attention? It’s what they want.
That’s the photo used on the news here.
@The Thin Black Duke: It’s a heartbreaking photo for exactly the reasons you say.
A: It’s not the job of the front-pagers here to serve as an aggregator of news. Many of them willingly and generously share news items that they find curious or interesting or pertinent to this group.
B: To the best of my knowledge, there are absolutely no restrictions on topics Jackals may bring up on this blog (within legal boundaries, of course). If you want to amplify a particular story or event that interests you, you can always call it to our attention in a comment. OH WAIT THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT YOU JUST DID.
Was it Proud Boys fan site when it reported the Jan 6 riots? I’ll go back to lurking, since I’m apparently a nasty troll who needs to start his own blog.
West of the Rockies
I hope the Georgia murderers go away for life sentences, no possibility of parole. May their corpulent bodies bloat and rot as they end their days in misery.
When I read things like this I always come back to the same thing. What can we do about it?
Is it like climate change where we all think about the big things that should be done? Most of us aren’t like Martin – we don’t think about the little things to help with climate change that we could do every day that would help and build them into our lives.
It’s all so wrong I hardly know where to start.
i used Google image search and got a wide variety of images:
And now I can revert to commenting on the Thin Black Duke’s excellent essay. It’s a really good piece of writing. I’m a not-so-young white woman and I’ve worked hard for years to identify and eradicate all the subtle and insidious racism that I picked up almost by osmosis. But just as the goldfish doesn’t even know he’s wet, I realise there are always going to be bits of white privilege surrounding me that I’m entirely unaware of. I am grateful to you for helping define what Black and Brown people contend with every.single.day.
@oatler: Attempting to overthrow the government has an impact on us all.
When it comes to reporting on them, are we amplifying them and bringing them more attention, so they can recruit? Are we pointing out that they are generally armed and violent? Are we studying the number of COVID cases that occur at their events? How do we cover their antics without creating a forum for more recruitment?
Weren’t those “look at all these police protesting the vaccines” in NYC things events that amounted to nothing?
@WaterGirl: I think with climate change, people get too complacent with their little things and think it is enough when we need radical change to come from corporate and industry leaders.
Individuals conserving water is not a lot. Farms conserving water is a lot of water.
@phdesmond: I edited your comment to put the long URL under the word Link because long URLs break the margins on phones.
I can’t explain why it didn’t come up when I did the searches I did. I didn’t specifically go to images, but if I type “Adam Schiff photos” into google, I will always get photos of Adam Schiff.
You do that.
Look, that rally is just noise. Mandates are going to stay in place. Unlike the thoroughly politicized, law-ignoring Fifth Circuit, the Federal and State courts in New York will uphold them. All those folks are going to find out the hard way. And unless they are engaged in criminal activity, Proud Boys have the same First Amendment rights as you and me.
Major Major Major Major
Thanks duke, well put.
@oatler: personally I fail to see the point and would rather write about books in my non copious free time.
The Thin Black Duke
@SiubhanDuinne: Thank you.
James E Powell
Created an account solely to give you a clap TBD.
Endorse every word.
@Starfish: I wasn’t intending to change the subject to climate change. I am just trying to figure out what we can do every day to make things a little less awful while we wait for the big changes that require two functioning political parties instead of just the one function party we have now
edit: as Subaru Diane says, goldfish don’t even know they are wet.
Thank you for posting this. I am not going to have anything else to say on this thread. I will read what others have to say though.
@Major Major Major Major: I saw this little video of the Proud Boys. They should bring back reality television, so these dudes can get a job on the Jersey Shore.
@Omnes Omnibus: I know. I feel like everything I say on a thread like this is either clueless or wrong.
Major Major Major Major
@Starfish: but they’d have to resign from the NYPD and lose their sweet pensions!
@oatler: Maybe you should start over, come in again with a gentler tone.
for the last couple of nights, i’ve been posting clips about the Ahmaud Arbery death trial — in the late evening political thread that regularly occurs, whatever the topic.
i am motivated by the ridiculous claim that black pastors are scary. for my part, i am also impressed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s stamina. i saw him address a street rally in West Berlin in 1985, and 36 years later he’s still flying the flag of freedom.
@Major Major Major Major:
I’m confined to a nursing home in AZ currently on lockdown (can’t leave my room). I don’t have anything better to do but scan news stories all day. But if it offends people I’ll shut up.
Sister Golden Bear
Thank you TBD for writing this and resharing this. All true. Every word of it.
@oatler: Please don’t go back to lurking. Let’s just have a conversation on the thread.
@The Thin Black Duke: It’s a beautifully written piece. True and sad.
There go two miscreants
A powerful essay; I appreciate your comments here. The stark truth in your last paragraph is very striking.
@oatler: I’m sorry for your situation. Don’t shut up, it’s fine.
@oatler: Did you see my response to your question?
If you’re in a position to be reading and scanning news stories all day, then by all means share links to stories in open threads and send email to me or someone else if you think something should be front-paged.
@There go two miscreants: Yes, it’s sickening.
The Rittenhouse thing has me very depressed.
Enhanced Voting Techniques
They also try to punish us if we aren’t.
That, blacks are going to storm your house and rape all the womens is likely what drove Arebey murders, but I rather suspect Ritterhouses problem is more playing way to many FPS video games and the associated power fantasies.
thanks for the tip. i will have to learn how to do that.
@WaterGirl: There are so many things being done on climate change.
I have a friend who volunteers for the Citizen’s Climate Lobby. (Their website appears to be down right now.) They tried to press a carbon tax in some recent large bills. They are always working to get more people to promote a carbon tax.
There is also work being done on sustainable agriculture.
There are people pressuring various banks, retirement funds, etc. to divest from oil and gas. You can look at your own 401k holdings and just hold less oil and gas stocks.
Does your bank invest heavily in oil and gas?
@The Thin Black Duke:
let me add my congratulations to you on a well-written and timely essay.
i would have done that first thing, except for the distraction caused by oafler.
@oatler: When my old man would smack me he’d say “it wasn’t what you said, it was how you said it”.
That’s an excellent article.
This nails it. I’ve lived in America for a few years now and every I think I’m starting to get it something happens that is outside my experience it just flips the script*. This article throws light on quite a few things
*I’m not trying to do down the US in comparison to other places here. I lived in the UK for many and the amount of vicious racist pus that emerged along with Brexit totally blindsided me.
My perspective on a lot of this stuff is that I was raised to be the bad guy. I grew up in South Carolina and Kentucky. I was surrounded all my developing life with the worst messages. So much of the time, when I ask how bigoted assholes think, I just look at my reflex reactions, the ones life has taught me I need to be better than. That sentence got a jolt. Yeah, specifically when a black man stops smiling bigots get mad and scared, big time.
@oatler: Maybe a better approach would have been, “I saw this elsewhere on the internet and found it incredibly disturbing.”
Because that’s true, you saw it elsewhere and it is disturbing.
A person can’t demand that others feel a certain way, though I can assure you I find the PBs revolting. And I’m a little offended as a native New Yorker that they’re tromping through *my* park. Yuck.
There’s lots of issues I follow that don’t make it into Balloon Juice (mostly disability-related in one aspect or another), and there are things Balloon Juice can harp on that I don’t particularly care about. That’s just the nature of the place.
“Don’t look at me in that tone of voice!!”
Major Major Major Major
@oatler: everybody chill out, I’m sure you can understand why we might react like we did to the way you phrased it.
Stuck in a nursing home, that’s the pits. That could wreck anybody’s thinking. People aren’t meant to be confined, you are basically living in an unethical sensory deprivation experiment.
This makes the emotion of your first comment understandable to me. Proud Boys and their ilk are prolonging the pandemic, and you are suffering for that.
I’m sorry man, wish there was a way to make things better, faster for you.
Thanks for posting this excellent piece in its entirety. I missed the link in whatever thread it was in.
About 3 years ago, my RW brother told me he was tired of being made to feel guilty about being a white man. BEING MADE TO. As if his grown white ass had no agency at all. As if his shallow white ego could not bear any stain on his privilege.
Dorothy A. Winsor
Good post. This trial was depressing. I appreciate your insight
@oatler: Oh, that sucks.
To preserve sanity, you should figure out how to opt out of some of it. I opted out of Kyle Rittenhouse on Twitter five days ago. It was a great call. Opting out of the Proud Boys is also sanity preserving.
These folks are basically New Jersey tourists going to “the liberal city” to thumb their noses at its denizens. New Yorkers just try to live their lives and avoid the tourists. Nothing is going to come of this.
Can you opt for more obscure news, as in on particular topics you enjoy?
Here is a link to a Runner’s World story published in 2020 that won a Pulitzer Prize this year. It is a beautiful portrait of Ahmaud Arbery that includes anecdotes that break my heart as well as some beautiful pictures:
The world would be a better place if he were still alive on this earth.
@The Thin Black Duke: Thank you for your beautifully written piece. I think you would appreciate the article I linked to in Comment #57.
Back to the original post, just like everything I’ve read by The Thin Black Duke (when I see them, I always follow your links to your essays published elsewhere), it’s beautifully written, authentic and unarguably on target.
The only hope I can hold onto is cell cameras, that the murders of Black people by sociopathic whites is being documented in a medium that is easy to distribute, and those videos are being seen. It’s not a big hope but it’s a hope.
@oatler: I think it’s more constructive to talk about people pushing for vaccination, and other vaccination success stories. Often talking about something even in a negative way makes people more sympathetic to it.
Better would be stories about people getting vaccinated because of mandates. Lots of those possible.
@The Thin Black Duke: This is great. So true. Still searching for a way to improve this problem.
The truth encapsulated.
Now, may we please start calling this sniveling disgusting terrorist Rottenhouse? It may be immature, but it’s also about as vicious as I want to be.
@Kathleen: I think that story is going to simultaneously break my heart and send me into a rage.
Thanks for sharing it. I am saving it for tomorrow.
@The Thin Black Duke:
Thank you for your essay.
What I can do, I will.
@WaterGirl: I understand.
Ben Cisco (onboard the Defiant)
Thank you TBD.
Too angry to say much else.
Not as immature as my own soubriquet for him: Shittenhouse.
Yes, I am a 12-year-old boy.
@Skepticat: It’s what McQarthy called him in his speech!
@WaterGirl: Yeah, can’t read it right now. The picture up top is enough for now.
The Thin Black Duke
@Kathleen: Thank you.
Yeah. I’m actually in a D&D game and keeping an eye on the old/sickly kitties while my Partner is off on a photo shoot, so I’m really lacking time to engage here, much.
But I will tie this to what oatler just did. Oatler, I know it’s important. Trust me, me and The Thin Black Duke? We’re gonna be up against the wall well ahead of others, when it comes to what the Proud Boys are doing and saying. We’re not ignorant.
And yet, a Black man is trying to speak. Was given the floor, here. We’re not seen in a lot of these debates and discussions to begin with; I just had to write my heart out a few hours ago to someone I considered a friend, who tried to “both-sides” journalists who actually speak against White Supremacists, with people like Tucker Carlson.
That’s the kind of crap that made Dr. King, over half a century ago, yell about “white moderates” — and more than once. When the debate/discussion becomes about nothing but White reactions to White Supremacists, which is exactly what the Rittenhouse discussion has become in many spaces, it risks pushing out what the Black voices (in all our own beautiful diversity) are trying to say. It’s an example of centering not the Black experience in this, but the White one that isolates its allyship from the very people they claim to be concerned about.
It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person to do it, but it does mean you’re risking — risking — implying that you know what’s important to pay attention to, over the Black man who made a critical guest post. And at a point where a lot of Black folx are in pain.
Black people already have to navigate all the images of Black dead people, Black folx in distress, Black bodies dropped on the street and those pics passed around like so many trading cards from hell. We would like to share what we can, in ways that allow people to understand a bit of what we go thru.
Having to navigate people choosing — in all honestly goodness and decency on their part, concerned on the right of White Supremacists and their hangers-on — that what we’re saying might not be the most crucial thing right now,is…uneasy on me, at least.
I think anyone here can understand that’s not a great look, even if coming from the best of intentions, which I’m certain you have.
Thanks for reading. I have cats and games to get back to, so any responses might be delayed, if at all.
@The Thin Black Duke: Thank you for writing this.
@The Thin Black Duke: You are welcome.
oatler would benefit from reading your perspective. i did.
@Woodrow/asim: Thank you for writing this.
@phdesmond: As did I.
@Woodrow/asim: Thank you and The Thin Black Duke for your perspectives.
Ooooh, yours is better and much more spot on.
@WaterGirl: On climate change, Michel Mann’s book The New Climate Wars is intended to answer that question. His theme is urgency and avency. If you give in to gloom and doom, the fossil fuel companies win. Don’t let them.
@oatler: Not only did they hold the pathetic march but afterwords the shame-boys barged through the big emergency exit door to get on the train. The NYPD usually like to beat up people they don’t like who do this, so I guess this means our boys in blue like the unlawful thugs who cheated the MTA. Comply for thee, not for me.
The Ixnays say yes. The TBD should be front paged. We thank you.
Gin & Tonic
I thank both TBD and Woodrow for sharing their views. They are important for us white folks to read.
@banditqueen: NYPD is a Nazi organization.
This is coming from someone whose nephew/godson is a 20 year Sgt. with 24 excessive use of force complaints against him.
I am ashamed of him.
Thank you, Thin Black Duke–I will never stand down, aside, around, or anything else, in the face of the racist, fascist right in this country. And yes, everyone deserves a defense, but not a racist defense: the 3 murderers on trial for Ahmaud Arbery’s horrible death have already pulled the crocodile tears ploy, and their defense team has tried and failed twice now to get a mistrial because there were black ministers present.
@The Thin Black Duke: Good essay. Thank you. I agree with everything you say and Zappa
What a great post .. thanks for posting it here.
Sister Golden Bear
@Woodrow/asim: Thank you as well for your patient and illuminating reply.
Thanks for sharing this, TBD. Even knowing that the lived experiences of white people and black people in America are two vastly different things, doesn’t mean a white guy like me can really understand what that means. Thanks for helping us see how it looks from the other side.
Thank you for writing this eloquent and powerful essay.
@The Thin Black Duke:
You are a great writer.
Thank you for this and I’m so very sorry that you had the opportunity to put it to paper. The young man had a bright future and people who only know hate took that away from him. That this happens, and happens far, far too often is inhuman and horrible.
As white people we may think we know and understand, and it’s possible we really can. But whiteness is ingrained in our culture, in our upbringing and in our daily lives. When I was 12 I worked in my fathers business and he had a black man working for him named Richard. He was old enough to be my father and he took me under his wing and treated me like any other person, and I did the same to him. I give him an immense amount of credit for this small gesture, that has stayed with me my entire life. But, even with all of that, I can not truly know or even understand the constant strain white people in general give black inhabitants of this world, the perspective is just too screwed up. I can appreciate how fucked up it is, how it needed to end a very long time ago, and how it won’t in my lifetime, it is too immense and deeply ingrained of a problem. But it is wrong and that wrong will not be righted at speed, as it should have been long, long ago.
The Thin Black Duke
Thanks, everybody. Blessings to you all.
@The Thin Black Duke: Bless you for writing this for us.
I’m like that goldfish, but every time I think I’ve figured out the water I find there’s more water than I imagined.
Thank you for this piece TBD.
Having seen this movie since the early 60’s, I look around and realize that nothing has really changed in the decades. What will we do when we all see that racial justice may never come to America? Does anyone have a Plan B for saving our neighbors? Our country?
We can’t wait for the bigots to die off – they’re teaching their children to hate. We can’t teach the history of race in America – they cover their ears and storm the school boards.
Thank you, TBD. Hearing your voice makes it better.
@The Thin Black Duke: Sorry to be so late but I need to thank you Duke for this very timely essay. I don’t stand by anymore!! I just can’t. When grown friends show their true racist colors I tell them they are wrong then walk away from them and leave them out of my life. I’m just done with the shrug of the shoulders or worse the lies they tell.
It’s 2021! It’s well past time for even old white guys to make a stand somewhere!!
Just wanna say this is a really great post and essay. Thank you Thin Black Duke, for sharing these powerful words.
Thank you for the beautifully written essay, and for providing it to us for a wonderful discussion. Woodrow/asim I appreciate your gentle education on lifting black voices.
Great essay. That’s all I got to say, TBD.
Thank you, Thin Black Duke, for your essay. I read it last evening and again this morning. Different things struck me, different thoughts were provoked.
and Woodrow/asim, thanks to you too for your comment.
i hesitated to thank both of you in one comment, but wanted to say that, whenever I see either name at the head of a comment, I pay particular attention. I appreciate your thinking, knowledge, and writing. And I appreciate the different ways that you approach issues, the differences in issues you raise, the ways that your two different personalities shine through.
So say we all.
No One You Know
Loved this essay. Bleak. Spare. Powerful. Necessary. Thank you, Thin Black Duke.