In Virginia, 1630, a white man named Hugh Davis was convicted of “criminal” intimacy” for having sex with a black woman. He was sentenced to a public whipping for “abusing himself”, which would serve as an example to other whites who might challenge miscegenation laws.
By contrast, white laborers who upheld the new racial stratification of the colonial period were rewarded. They received schillings of corn and guns after finishing their tenures, gained racially mandated employment, were eligible for free land and property ownership, and became slave patrolmen in exchange for protecting the white elites.
Mayor Bill de Blasio may be learning similar lessons about both the incentives for white compliance, and the punishments for white betrayal.
I’ve said on Twitter that NYPD’s denouncement of de Blasio is a cautionary tale about the consequences of breaching racial loyalties on an institutional level.
Despite the mob of enraged white trolls in my mentions, I stand by what i said. And ironically, their indignancy helps solidify my point.
White supremacy largely maintains itself through obscuring racial oppression from the oppressed. Through revisionist history, victim-blaming myths, and erasure or derailment of radical anti-racist discourse.
In the remarks de Blasio made about his bi-racial son after the Eric Garner decision he violated the implicit contract of whiteness. That is, to be silent on an individual level about the ways one systematically benefits.
He did not say anything particularly radical. He just inadvertently failed to address racism in any of the neoliberal/colorblind ways that negate white accountability.
When he centered his statement around his bi-racial son (and not himself) it was an acknowledgement of racism with respect to power dynamics.
When he talked about the realities of teaching a black child to interact with police, that was an acknowledgment of privilege.
When he drew connections to the historical framework of racism and law enforcement (rather than couching it into individual anecdotes) it was an acknowledgement of white supremacy on a structural level.
It matters that de Blasio said this for the same reason it matters when anyone with power is vocal about the plight of those less powerful; because it is automatically more credible and valid.
As a white man and public official, de Blasio’s remarks can’t be as readily dismissed as uncritical racebaiting. They had to be realized, or at the very least, heard.
It was not that Patrick Lynch and others believed that de Blasio had “blood on his hands” for the deaths of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, but for the subsequent acts of black rage they believed were now authorized.
If there was ever a thing so threatening to white supremacy in a pseduo post-racial America it is the notion that black people have a legitimate reason to be angry. That this anger might breed formidable resistance to social control which law enforcement was created to maintain.
To say that state-sanctioned murder exists–to reify it as a tangible experience rather than a figment of the black imagination–is to say that black people can rightfully claim victimhood, that grievance is owed, that we may be theoretically human.
So it was crucial that de Blasio be sent a message. So crucial, that even after he caved under pressure of the police union and called for a break to protests, the NYPD still turned their backs on him.
Twice. And despite Bratton’s request.
The back turning confirmed what we already knew: the NYPD does not care about their fellow cops as much as they care about penalizing de Blasio for implicating the state as the oppressor. That Liu and Ramos were more useful as scapegoats in demonizing (black) protestors and redeeming myths of cop heroism.
I do not laud de Blasio for good “allyship” or suggest that he’s made some arduous sacrifice in centering race. In reality, his statements erased black womens’ experiences with state violence and he later regressed with pro-police rhetoric.
But he is emblematic of just how easy it is to illicit white backlash, and how effectively it coerces white silence. Just as it always has.