Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Jeremiah Munsen Gets 4 Months For Hanging A Noose


That is the face of hate and ignorance.  Jeremiah Munsen hung a noose from the back of his pick up truck and then proceeded to drive by Jena6 protesters.  Time and Time again I have blogged about the noose and what it symbolizes to blacks. If I were to walk by this young man on the street I would never guess that his heart held such hatred towards me simply because I am black and he is white. To see him away from the symbol of hatred that he decided to terrorize protesters with is to view him as just another human being tying to get by in this world.  As I look into his eyes I cannot help but wonder what happened to make him decide that it was okay to threaten the safety of another in this manner, and what caused his pure and simple hatred for blacks?

He was born just as I was into this world with colour blind eyes.  Yes children can see that there are differences between us but they assign no difference to colour. That is a specifically learned behaviour.   Even if we  accept that he  was raised in a racist society or that he had been socialized to view blacks as less than by his family, at the age of 18 he should have been able to overcome these teachings and formulate for himself a more inclusive view of humanity.  Instead he choose to internalize messages from the hateful KKK. 

I fear as the economic disparity between the rich and the poor continues to rise we are going to see more instances of this kind of threat and intimidation.  One of the things the KKK regularly preaches about are POC taking away jobs from God fearing white people.  What these racial bigots don't realize is that they are dupes.  That is right dupes.  The ruling bourgeoisie have perfected the art of divide and conquer.  Instead of targeting them and the capitalist system which is the true cause of poverty, poor whites have internalized white privilege to the degree that they have learned to blame POC instead of the system.  They see whiteness as valuable enough to disregard our common plight as proletariats.  In accepting whiteness as a reward they are complicit in their own economic and social marginalization.

The ruling elite have wielded white identity as a weapon to forestall labour unity and any kind of economic advancement of the working poor. Today Natalist can be heard screaming about so-called illegal immigrants crossing the border to steal jobs.  Yes steal jobs even though no American citizen wants to work below minimum wage and receive zero health benefits.  What jobs are they actually stealing?  The key to this implied threat is that American stands for white.  As long as these forces continue to look outwards and see POC as a threat rather than inwards at the corrupt corporations that regularly flaunt the few labour laws in existence poverty will continue to be pervasive.

POC have never been the enemy. To accept us as such is beyond ridiculous.  How is it that a group of people that have historically occupied the bottom tier of the economic pyramid can be blamed for something as systemic as poverty? The answer is that people continue to value whiteness.  To be accepted as white is to be deemed a person of value.  That this privilege is routinely mitigated by class, ability, sex,  etc is oft overlooked to gain a form of power where none exists.  Power is at the very heart of this debate.  As humans we actively seek to wield it even when doing so places us at a disadvantage.  Think of the thousands and thousands of confederate soldiers who died defending the evil institution of slavery even though it was the planter class that had the financial ability to own. Who and what did they die for?  They died for the right to claim themselves as white?  Slavery did not benefit poor whites in any way.  By having a class of people that could be forced to labour indefinitely it reduced opportunities for poor whites to sell their labour power and yet when called to fight and risk their lives they readily signed up, such is the value of whiteness. 

Jerimah Munsen is a dupe.  he has internalized the idea that white power is the road to success and this has garnered him four months in prison.  While what he did was criminal, I believe that incarcerating him is only going to further entrench his hatred.  This kind of hatred is a learned behaviour, and can be unlearned.  Instead he should have been forced to learn about African  American history, economics, white privilege and power.  Jail should not only be about punishment, it should be about rehabilitation. Until we take active steps to confront racism and its causes it will continue to spread like a virus through our communities.


peanutbuttertoes said...

wow i feel sorry for the kid, your right about the ignorance. I don't think a kid of this age should necessarily get jail for this even though this is a horribly crime. But at his age alot of his actions are formed from peer pressure and taught descrimination. Rather I feel this kid should be forced to live with a black family for say three months on electronic house arrest and forced to get to know them and be able to see them as equal human beings. Jail is almost never the solution to a problem but for some reason it is always the answer. I hope someone reaches this kid, I too am white and had extremely racist grandparents, my parents however are hippies and were the opposite LUCKLY. Seeing this type of hatred makes me physically sick, im glad to have met my friend greg ligon when i was eight, he is black and luckly he became my best friend. I learned a lot sleeping over at his house and even taught others in my community that racism is one of the lowest things one earth. GOD I WISH I COULD REACH OUT AND SLAP THAT KID AND HAVE TEN MINUTES TO JUST EXPLAIN LIFE TO HIM LIKE HIS PARENTS SHOULD HAVE. I don't blame the kid, i blame his parents friend and community!

Thutmose Fela KMT said...

I think all sentient beings have value and should be treated as such however I disagree with you PBtoes I feel as if his punishment is not severe enough for the crime he committed. To wield a noose in my presence is the equivalent of pointing a gun or knife at me. A noose is a WMD and I wouldn't hesitate to kill that young man if it was pointed at me or any other person that I felt couldn't defend themselves. It has been used for one purpose throughout history and that is to kill. Jeremiah Munsen's actions communicated that he wanted to kill protesters. By virtue of his whiteness he gets 4 months instead of what he should have received.

Renee keep up the good work. I love what you do.

zobabe73 said...


"Rather I feel this kid should be forced to live with a black family for say three months on electronic house arrest and forced to get to know them and be able to see them as equal human beings."

What horrific offense would the black family have had to commit to deserve such punishment? It's hard to imagine one that would take a noose swinging bigot into their home willingly.

Donna said...

White people imagine that we are like them with the same motivations and ideas. Do you remember the Obama interview with Jon Stewart where he asked something like, "Are you going to enslave white people?" I laughed, but found out later that there are white people who are talking about this seriously, who think that black people want retaliation for slavery like that. It's also some of the motivation among the fear mongering about how eventually brown people will outnumber white people in the US. Why else would people even care, what difference does that make? We are seen as a threat so the "rules" must be changed or made up any time it appears we are getting equality or worse getting ahead to keep us in our place.

I'm sure that is some of the things this boy has been taught in his home. He thought he was threatening the threat to himself and those like him.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

This is a great post!

On the contrary I believe we can all be the face of hate, anger, racism, sexism, injustices. If our nation was truly an enlightened nation injustice would not even be a word. I feel no one is scott-free, that we are human and much of our current consciousness is fear which is hate, anger and leads to doing things like this man has done. Unless we work to consciously change this and live this in our everyday lives many of us are still operating out of fear.

On a personal note as someone who has Native heritage it has often been judged that I am white numerous times and my Native heritage was "not seen," so to speak. I have been doing much inner work and personal work on this issue. I do it in honor of the generations past who really felt "unseen," in the world. Like my Grandfather who came down from the reservation to work in Detroit and could pass as white but denied who he was on so many levels. That is also a part of annihilation, the colonized mind and just trying to survive in a harsh society.

I really like this quote...

"We are all potential criminals, and those who we put into prison are no worse, deep down, than any one of us. They have succumbed to ignorance, desire, and anger, ailments that we all suffer from but to different degrees. Our duty is to help them recover." --H.H. the Dalai Lama

Mekhismom said...

At some point in his life he is going to have to re-think things and when racist ideology is ingrained at a young age this is difficult. He could attend classes but until he is ready to change it won't happen. And I am not optimistic that a change is gonna come for him. He will be bitter and stew in prison about the "blacks that caused him to be there" rather than reflect on what he did.

Debateur said...

I think the only way to combat racism is through education and I agree that the prison system should also be about rehabilitation as well as punishment. Ideally I would like to see people leaving prison who have learned enough about their crimes not to repeat them. In this case I think he will leave with more hate in his heart than he went in with.

sardonic sister said...

Renee, I love the way you analyzed this from a systemic perspective. Brilliant.