Election Day Meditations Part 2 – Overt and Covert Racism

Any of you who thought I was gonna give Hillary a pass, be ready to be disappointed.  Rest assured I’ll be goin in on Killary for the duration of her administration.  As for tomorrow, simply not pulling the lever for Trump tomorrow does not absolve us of our sins or responsibilities as a nation.  We should turn our concerns away from the election itself, and instead focus on the morning after.  A loss tomorrow will only make Trump’s rabid base even angrier, and more desperate.  Many of them have already threatened violence, from an individual interracial level to a national uprising.  They are already planning their next moves and so should we.

Contrary to what most Americans think, racism is more than some idiot skinhead standing on a street corner screaming “white power”.  In the wise words of Kaiser Soze, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.”  Racism comes in many forms, mainly overt and covert.  Overt racism resides with the fringe white supremacist nut jobs like neo-nazi’s, the KKK, and attendants at international white nationalist conferences.  Overt racism also takes the form of interpersonal racism, interpersonal interactions ranging from racial epithets to hate crimes.  This overt racism is easy to identify.  It’s the white boys who called me and my friend’s niggers at a bar in Boston as they ran out the front door.  It’s the Confederate flag on the rear window of the old red pickup parked on Myrtle Ave in Albany that greets me every morning as I walk into Albany Medical Center, reminding me each day as I walk into this sanctuary of learning and healing, that I cannot escape hate, that there are always forces lurking that wish to destroy me.

Covert racism is a different beast.  It thrives in the subconscious of everyone who has ever said “I’m not a racist but…” “All Lives Matter” or “I can’t be racist, you’re dating my black cousin and I accept her”.  As if to say “I accept her in spite of her blackness.”  Covert racism feeds on stereotypes, unfounded fears, the vitriol of conservative pundits, and coded racist rants about “taking our country back” and “making america great again.” Covert racism is the loyal handmaiden of capitalist oppression and white supremacy, legitimizing systems of oppression and acting as a pressure valve for the built up psychological tension that comes from bearing witness to the innumerable contradictions of our society, namely the contrast of our lofty ideals with the dismal lived reality of millions of poor and minority Americans.  Both covert and overt racism act to keep poor Americans divided and in conflict with each other rather than raging in unison against the social forces that oppress them both.


The overt racism of individuals and white supremacist extremists doesn’t scare me.  For that violence to affect me it first must find me, and meet me head on, to which I say in the spirit of Malcolm X, Che Guevara and Huey P. Newton, “Try me.”  The violence of covert racism is quite different.  This violence is more insidious, woven into the fabric of our very institutions and culture.  It shaves years off of millions of black lives with health disparities, stops and frisks us, plants false evidence on us, biases juries of “our peers” towards guilty verdicts and adds years to prison sentences, associates blackness with criminality leading to police brutality, murder and unjust incarceration, labels blacks as “superpredators”.  It redlines us into ghettos, suppresses our electoral voice, suspends our children from school and diverts them to the prison industrial complex, and passes us over for job promotions.

This covert racism compels otherwise compassionate people to say things like “we don’t have all the facts”, when another black person is murdered by police, or to place the victims of murder on trial rather than their killers, employing sociological fictions like “black on black crime” to silence black cries for justice while simultaneously circulating petitions and calling for justice for Harambe the Gorilla.  This covert violence lurks around every corner in America, buried deep within the souls of every American (black and white), as well as in its institutions.  It’s in all of us.  How we handle the diagnosis is what sets us apart.  Covert violence is what fuels the basal level of rage that boils beneath the surface in the hearts and every mind of every conscious black person… the rage that keeps me walking around my house muttering to myself in anger or looking off into space pensively sometimes.   Covert and overt racial violence are not isolated incidents of bigotry or hatred, but the links in an unbroken chain of Black death stretching back centuries.  The edifice of white supremacy will only be dismantled through mass action and education, aimed at the destruction of the specific psychological, social, economic, and political constructs of white supremacy, brick by brick.

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