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.