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Dear White People: Don’t Use Deviance or Crime to Cover Your Racism

by Wen Guan - M.A. in Sociology, George Washington University

Twisted logics are all over the place right now.

When you talk on Black Lives Matter, someone will talk on All Lives Matter.

When you talk on anti-racism protests, someone will throw you domestic peace and public safety.

When you talk on defund the police, then “law and order” philosophies will lead their way.

When you talk on housing inability and building a shelter, they will talk about how much they cherish their quiet neighborhood so “Not in My Backyard”.

When the police brutality obviously targets black people, someone always jumps out, “let’s take a moment to pray for all those who are suffering regardless of color”. Why do All Lives Matter people avoid confronting the problem? What indeed freak them away? What secrets do they hide? Most importantly, why they always act so quickly to universalize the care towards all lives, which never includes black lives during the past and present?

The hard truth - “When you’re accustomed to the privilege, equality feels like oppression”.

These people never give up using deviance or criminal behaviors to portray the people of color for “threatening the public safety and violating social order” while white people in the US has been implementing violence for centuries in political, socioeconomic, law-making and law enforcement aspects. They insist spreading that protesters are violent but never shed a light on the institutional injustice embedded in the current administration and the historical hierarchical structures.

When it comes to deviance, which initially describes the behaviors violated shared norms, racial exclusion might be one of the most deviant behaviors during human history. Segregated by design, hinder the intergenerational mobility, racially disproportionate mass incarceration… all of them contribute to social control and punitive processes on the destruction of the black bodies. The all-lives-matter people, however, with their twisted logics, ignore the broader systemic inequality but point the protest and recent civil movement as deviant behavior. They love to apply “deviant” as a judgmental tool to portray the otherness of black people but never emphasize the labeling process and stigmatization.

People in power positions also love phony wars. War on Drugs, War on Coal, War on Terrorism, and etc., all about maintain dominance and social control. Building all the collective artifice and delusion discourses within the conflicting norms, laws and law enforcement is their career. So today, we can still see a black man with no weapon trying to walk away from Kenosha Police got seven shots in his back while a white teenager with an AR-15 shot three people and convoyed by the armed Kenosha police to go home with a bottle of water triumphantly. Racism is always seen as the proverbial elephant in the room. To capture its intergenerational impacts towards people of color, it is necessary to understand how economy, geography, media coverage, public perceptions, political opportunism, and misdirected laws, and policies frame the marginalized identities altogether. One example of “radical and deviant protesters”, media coverage only focuses on the worst behaviors, and then amplifies it, repeats it. In practice, it certainly plays a role in how the public perceived the protest. The truths of creating narratives are using crime and deviance to trigger public anxiety to overshadow other social problems. This “myth production” never ends. From the scary black felon with supernatural sexual potency, to the myth of “super predator” depicting black and Latino youths as naturally evil. Media injustice intertwined with the systemic criminalization kept killing black people. Of course, the byproduct of these series of dehumanization myths is to carry the message that, only White people can hold the full personhood and deserve the proper treatment.

What should we do?

People need to stop squabbling and step out of their self-centered cult for a moment. Stop mourning about “I, me and myself” all the time but open their eyes to see what is happening in the world. It is important to build the anti-racism narrative to fight against social inequality in the intersection of race, gender and class. Non-racists are not going to address the complexity of racial injustice, as long as they keep silent and still benefit from the current system. Also, being kind to people who are still at the bottom will not change their situation. Similarly, being kind doesn’t prolong black people’s lifespan in poor neighborhoods, nor provide them better education resources, employment opportunities or medical treatments.

All Lives Matter will not bring people together to prompt social changes. Calling peace from “both sides” (as if both sides in a power-equal status) will not stop police killing black people. It only consolidates the existing social structure and empower the power relations and make people in power more powerful while people in disadvantaged more disadvantaged. Because change must come not from politicians, but from the hearts and minds of everyone. We all need to empower ourselves and fight back towards the social constructed dynamics, because it not only represents black people, but all people of color, and people who are under suppression. Because only when black lives matter, can people of color lives matter, women lives matter, LGBTQ+ lives matter, disabled lives matter, immigrant lives matter and at that time, there might be one chance to say, all lives matter.

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