The Kyle Rittenhouse verdict — in every way — points to how completely off kilter America is. “Self defense” now means you can provoke others to violence by threatening them with your gun but it’s their problem because their fists scared you into shooting them. Somehow hands grabbing a gun defensively equals bringing a gun to a fistfight in the first place. Of course that doesn’t add up. White privilege never does. And white people know it never has to. That’s the luxury of only ever having to look to your feelings for justification (while every other group has to bring facts to the conversation). Knowing you can get away with anything, well, that will a person think they can do whatever they want however they want whenever they want. Kyle Rittenhouse stepped onto the “playing field” that night in Kenosha with every advantage one could have.
If Kyle had had a bit more melanin in his skin, he wouldn’t have left that street alive. A Black kid firing a military style semi-automatic weapon wildly in a crowd? They’d have had to clean up what was left of him with a mop and a bucket. Not only did Kyle Rittenhouse walk away from the murder scene, he got waved on repeatedly by the cops! And in the immediate aftermath? Did Kyle weep for what he had done? Hell, no! Kyle went out drinking (he’s only 17)! He celebrated what he had done because he’s white and whiteness seems to entitle white people to all kinds of things they really aren’t entitled to. And every time they express that entitlement? We are rocked by its audacity.
What do we mean by “white people”? Let’s ask them. They’re always happy to share who they think is white and who they look at as an other. Perversely, white people really do behave like Dr. Seuss’s sneetches. Well, like one of the two groups of sneetches. The story is a good lesson about racism. But it’s not a great lesson. It’s kinda flawed actually…
Star bellied sneetches feel superior to sneetches without stars. But then a conman shows up and sells the star-free sneetches a machine that puts stars on their bellies. Suddenly, there’s no difference between the two groups. That offends the star-bellied sneetches. Good thing the conman’s machine can also remove stars from bellies. Suddenly it’s hipper to be without a star. And so it goes, backwards and forwards. stars off then back on again until the sneetches literally run out of money. The con man drives off, every penny every sneetch had now his. In the story, the sneetches realize they’re all alike and always were. A fine message. But pretty unfair. The sneetches who started the story without stars didn’t create the initial problem. The star bellied sneetches did. If they never behave like they were superior, the con man never has a way to take advantage of them.
Even Dr. Seuss didn’t realize how systemic racism works. The star bellied sneetches start the story with everything but end up with nothing. The non-star bellied sneetches begin the story with nothing and end up with nothing. The only consolation they get is the star bellied sneetches contrition at the end. That might improve their situation going forward, but it fails to address a long, terrible history of abuse, disrespect and mistreatment. History does not disappear just because we want it to. It’s very easy for a group that’s never been persecuted to dismiss persecution’s ripple effects on persecution’s survivors and descendants. Take this to the bank: if the persecution shoe were on the other foot? We would not be having this conversation.
The pecking order among the descendants of white Europeans in America seems to put WASPS (white Anglo-Saxon Protestants) atop the pile. Northern Europeans — Scandinavians, Dutch, Germans, French and English seem to think of themselves as Europe’s best and brightest. The Spanish also thought of themselves as players — and they absolutely were (ask any Native American population they encountered and decimated). But, the English more than any other group saw themselves and their ways as superior. More importantly, they saw their commercial interests as superior.
Every single European venture to North America after the Vikings’ brief sojourn in at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland in 1021 AD had one organizing principle: making money. Even the Pilgrims (who’d resettled in Holland before heading to Massachusetts) set sail for the New World in search of fortune not faith. See how even the history gets shifted to white peoples’ advantage? We’ve mythologized the Pilgrims into heroes in search of freedom when, in reality, they were economic itinerants who brought little with them except pathogens, violence and an unjustified superiority complex.
Want to talk audacity? You sail to another continent. You get off your boat. You step onto someone else’s land and you claim it as yours!
Yeah, it all starts there. “Manifest destiny” is pure white audacity.
White audacity is penning “All men are created equal” while meaning only white, Christian, land-owning MEN – like you.
Andrew Johnson strangling Reconstruction before it could get up to speed — that was white audacity. America’s entire westward expansion — white audacity. Every brutal attack on Native Americans whose territory we were seizing — white audacity. Basing the entire southern economy on slavery — stolen labor — white audacity. Declaring slaves to be but three-fifths of a white person — white audacity. Going to war to defend slavery — the whitest of white audacity. Continuing to fight the Civil War (in order to keep slavery alive even if “spiritually”) — that, it seems, is the whole point of white audacity. If white supremacists could bring back literal slavery, they absolutely positively would. And plenty of non-white supremacist white would shrug their shoulders and go along with it. Because they’re white and the audacity is now baked in.
Travis McMichael and his two co-defendants hunted Ahmaud Arbery down and shot him to death. Based only on their suspicions and crap information, these three racists deputized themselves as judge, jury and executioner because that’s what white privilege tells them they can do. Audacious, right? That they thought they could get away with “self defense” as a defense — wow! What audacity!
But then, every white lie is in service of The Big Lie. The fact that there even IS a “Big Lie”?
That’s the most audacious white audacity of all.