In the United States of America, abstract liberal universalism is objectively pro-white. For instance, take the all-too-common white response to the slogan “black lives matter” — “all lives matter.” Yes, to me all lives matter. To God or nature, all lives matter. But all lives manifestly do not matter to the American law enforcement apparatus. The life of a white cop matters so much more than the life of a black person that the system is willing to let the white cop kill a black person with impunity so long as they claim to have perceived even the vaguest threat. In the face of that, the empty generality “all lives matter” is actively obscuring what is in fact going on.
Similar is the liberal “hypocrisy attack” against the Ferguson PD’s calls for peace while they were clearly planning on committing violence. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think? Well, here’s a news flash: the powerful always define peace as the status quo that empowers them. They regard their power as stemming from the natural order of things, so that any challenge to that power is a violation of that order — hence protestors we recognize as not engaged in any significant literal violence can appear to the powers as “violent.” Meanwhile, for the oppressed, the day-to-day reality of the status quo is the real violence. The implicit claim of the hypocrisy attack is that there is some neutral concept of “peace” that both sides can abide by. There is not. The battle is, in part, over the very meaning of peace and violence.
Another popular hypocrisy attack is that the police are using violence against blacks when they should be “protecting” them. The police in America — the nation that imported slaves, that was founded by giving huge concessions to the slaveholders, that persisted with enforcing laws related to slavery for nearly a hundred years and only gave it up after the most destructive war in human history up to that point, and that then embarked on a centuries-long campaign of legal discrimination and extra-legal terrorism against blacks, and that responded to the modest gains of the civil rights movement with a campaign of ghettoization and criminalization — do not exist to protect black people. They exist to protect white people from black people. The criminalization of black people is not some accidental product of outdated prejudice, but the absolute core of the police’s strategy to maintain its legitimacy in the eyes of the white majority.
That criminalization is figurative, in the sense of constantly portraying every black person as a potential criminal to be feared. It is also all too literal, in the form of systematically subjecting black men in particular to the prison system at a disproportionate rate and a very young age, when it is known for a fact that contact with the prison system increases rates of criminality — not to mention de facto segregation that traps many black people in an environment of greater criminality while depriving them of any other meaningful life alternatives.
Another popular formalism at this point is the invocation of “free choice.” Weirdly, however, this concept is never deployed equally with regard to the oppressors and the oppressed. The oppressors constantly have no choice, and that is what legitimates their actions, however regretable. The oppressed, by contrast, “had a choice,” and hence are blameworthy. In the last analysis, whatever they “choose” to do renders them culpable — as in the incoherent claims that Michael Brown would be alive today if he had not “chosen” to run away from the police officer who was shooting at him for no apparent reason. The only legitimate “choice” is absolute submission. Anything else disrupts the natural order of things and is hence violent, hence a threat, hence a candidate for a tragic-but-not-criminal response.
White people need to recognize that their feeling of safety and security, their sense that the police are “on their side,” requires entrapping blacks in a claustrophobic dystopia from which only the most fortunate and remarkable individuals can extricate themselves. Yet not completely — as Henry Louis Gates saw, even reaching the pinnacle of the nation’s intellectual elite at Harvard doesn’t save you from being viewed as a presumptive criminal. And as a final insult, when a black person does penetrate into the elite, many whites instinctively regard them as a coddled “affirmative action” case, definitionally displacing a “more qualified” white person.
In Django Unchained, Leonardo DiCaprio’s repulsive slaveholder character asks, “Why don’t they kill us?” Tellingly, he doesn’t ask why he enslaves them — that’s taken for granted. If I could venture an answer to his mostly self-serving question, however, it is that blacks have intimate knowledge of what a political settlement based on violence looks like, because they live it every day. Whites like to claim that whoever’s in charge would be just as bad as them, but that just naturalizes their own violence. And let’s look at the evidence: even in the very worst cases, have any post-colonial regimes committed crimes against whites that even approach the level of gratuitous horror that whites have imposed on indigenous peoples throughout the world? Do leaders like Malcolm X and movements like the Black Panthers really measure up to Richard Nixon or the KKK?
They don’t kill us because — regardless of their individual failings — they’re better than us. The black community in America is on the side of justice, objectively. They’ve seen what evil looks like on a systematic level by living in the machine we’ve built around them, and overwhelmingly, they reject it as a model. Hence at the time that the white community had produced the “best and brightest,” the architects of the Vietnam War, the black community produced Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement. At the time of the Civil War, when even the most liberal whites were still racist and viewed the abolition of slavery as the end-all of justice, the black community produced Frederick Douglass, who could see beyond his own immediate struggle to advocate for women’s rights.
The real question is why we kill them. And the answer, at the end of the day, is that they represent a standing accusation against us. Their survival against all odds reminds us that even the most powerful human power reaches its limit and cannot fully extinguish the call for justice. We kill them because they are the truth of America, and we hate the truth.