Death demons of whiteness

Not literally rising from the red clay in which they were interred, but speaking in the mouths of politicians, pundits, and everyday 2020 citizens acting like it’s the bad old days. Walking – yes, Dead Racists Walking – alongside protests, screaming “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter,” or some such bullshit. Suiting up, killing unarmed people of color, assaulting peaceful demonstrators, acting aggrieved, voting for fellow white supremacists, all with insatiable zombie-like appetite.

It’s all hauntingly, and depressingly, familiar to me, as I was raised in what I thought were the waning days of Jim Crow. My Deep-South youth – in Atlanta, Georgia, to be precise – immediately followed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. My single mom, who’d been raised racist (because one cannot be born racist), had not only renounced her upbringing, she was stone counterculture, fist raised in the streets, helping put my home town on the path to becoming what George Clinton referred to as a “chocolate city,” which rapper/activist Killer Mike recently called “the closest thing to [fictional African techno-utopia] Wakanda.”

“The niggers are takin’ over,” crusty old white folks would moan in my youth. [I hate the word, it hurts so much, but that’s what they said.] They were terrified. Their president had resigned in disgrace, and the country had elected an affable former peanut farmer (and war hero) Democrat from Plains, Georgia to the nation’s highest office! He put solar panels on the White House, and admitted to seeing a UFO! What was the world coming to?

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Who could blame me for thinking it was all going to work out great? I attended integrated schools, was surrounded by black culture, made music with black folks, convinced Jim Crow days were forever in the rearview. My grandparents’ time and my mother’s first 25 years cast a long shadow, but damn if it didn’t seem to be receding, even as the monuments still stood tall. That should’ve been a tipoff.

Of course 1980 was the wake-up call. Reagan. Thatcher. Crack. War on brown people. But I was a teenager. In my extreme naivete, it seemed a mere setback rather than a harbinger. My Atlanta was a gorgeous, often funky mosaic. I’d acquired the skills to infuse my life with color, skills I retain.

Those circumstances may have blinded me then, but now, in memory, they give me strength and hope. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

My Seventies and early Eighties Atlanta youth is now a reservoir from which I draw, as an ally, to fuel the fury needed to ultimately beat back these re-animated death demons of whiteness. I was there when their time ran out last time, and I will be there when we send them back to the shadows again.

Read more installments of Village Voices by Robert Burke Warren.

There are 6 comments

  1. Bill H

    Powerful, bold writing. Thank you. I just saw in the news today a video from a peaceful organized Black Lives Matter march in New Jersey. On the sidelines of their march where white people with Trump banner reenacting Big George’s killing. As one man simulates kneeling on his prostrate friend’s neck (this was a planned reenactment) he yells, “If you don’t comply, this is what happens.” As if that was not enough, “Their cameraman yells, “Black lives don’t matter.” Yes, demons is a good word for these folks.
    This on the same day that the U.S. Army discusses changing the names of those installations that are named after men who fought to defend slavery, our dear President Trump tweets that he is adamantly against dishonoring these so-called great men.
    I stand with those seeking justice and serious change, and against those striving to perpetuate their own brands of racism. Time for them to go back into their demon holes.

  2. No one in particular

    Let’s stop naming anything, after anyone, anymore. It is really a useless waste of resources. And, remember, one man’s hero, is another man’s also-ran. As, all men and, of course women, fall short, and are flawed human beings, just like all the rest of us. We need too stop glorifying man, for doing what life and fate, had them do, as a matter of course and momentary decisions. We are all ‘heroes’, and we are all fools, just depends on what day, and we all matter. Stop naming things after humans! Stop all the “labeling” of humans, now! All life matters!

    1. Bill H

      Saying “all lives matter” suggests that you do not understand the meaning of “black lives matter.” Perhaps it would help if you read it as “Black lives matter, too,” because that is the point. Black folks are not treated as equally to whites in this country, and therefore the statement needs to be asserted. In American society, all lives have not mattered, and that needs to change. Black peoples live are less valued in our society. Black folks are much more likely to be killed. More likely to be denied the same rights and privileges as whites.

      On Twitter, Arthur Chu says shouting “all lives matter” in response to “Black live matter” is the equivalent of interrupting a cancer fundraiser shouting, “There are other diseases too!”

  3. Jim R.

    Please don’t imply that anyone who says “‘All Lives Matter’ or ‘Blue Lives Matter’ or some such bullshit” is a racist. That would be narrow-minded on your part. We don’t all have to think alike, or act alike, as long as we respect each other and avoid violence, which, by the way, includes throwing bricks and bottles and burning businesses. What about a compromise: I’ll just BELIEVE that all life is sacred, but I won’t say it out loud. Will that keep me on your good side?

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