Even Godwin’s law has its day.
As awful as it is for people to deny the Holocaust, and in many countries it is a hate crime to do so, imagine what it would be for Germans to accuse German Jews of not only making up the Holocaust, but actually baiting the Nazis and the mass murders if they bring up the Holocaust. Not only are they denying history and the real victimization of an entire class of people, but blaming those people for creating the problem Nazis had with Jews by accusing them of Jew-baiting.
That’s what the Right is doing when they accuse anyone trying to discuss the very real problem of racism of being “race-baiters”.
The practice of transatlantic slavery was genocide. The death toll from four centuries of slave trade is estimated at around 10 million. (2) Between 1.2-2.4 million Africans died on their way to becoming slaves.(3) That’s not even including the numbers who died due to the harsh working conditions or the massive numbers murdered in the “gathering” and procurement (theft) of them from their homeland. So, it is appropriate to make this comparison to the Holocaust.
I say this repeatedly, but apparently not enough. Racism is not something that white Americans can claim as equal to racism experienced by black Americans, and other minorities, but specifically in this case, African Americans and black Americans.
Racism is more than prejudice. An honest discussion about racism will include historical context, just like an honest discussion of discrimination against Jewish people will include the lead up to the Holocaust, and the atrocities of the Holocaust itself. You see, suggesting that all Jews run the banks doesn’t seem so bad without the historical context, just like suggesting that black Americans are violent criminals without the historical context that they were the victims of massive, unspeakable crimes perpetrated by white Americans upon them doesn’t sound so bad.
To speak about Trayvon Martin’s hoodie making him a thug (thanks Fox News) is not only ignorant for modern day reasons, but it also obscenely ignores the fact that if things were really equal, then African Americans and black Americans would not statistically be more likely to be impoverished than white Americans. Because it’s poverty, not skin color, that increases crime rates.
However, Trayvon Martin was not a criminal. He was a kid, not yet 18, doing things kids do. Wearing a hoodie like kids do. He got shot down because George Zimmerman profiled him as black and therefore possibly a criminal.
When this fact is brought up, the Right screams “race-baiting!”
So, a Jewish person walks by a bank in a German neighborhood and a Neo-Nazi who collects military costumes because he was rejected by the actual military and police stalks the Jewish person, saying “they always get away”. Neo-Nazi kills Jewish person out of fear that Jewish person is runs a bank and is therefor trying to take over the world.
Neo-Nazi and friends then accuse anyone who calls them out on this hate crime of being Jew-baiters, thereby both denying the Holocaust and denying the results of the Holocaust. That’s the equivalent, morally, of cries of “race-baiting!”.
In this country, we have yet to face our shame over slavery. We do not force citizens to face it, the way they do in Germany. Have you ever seen records of slaves bought and sold? In the South, they’re everywhere. They are a part of life, but not in a way that faces the sins of our recent past. What does this mean to our country, and to an entire race of people that we wronged?
How do we blame those people, this short while past their enslavement, for not being as privileged as European whites? No, it’s not about giving free passes or “race-baiting”. That’s an obscene denial of our history.
It’s unforgivable, it’s disgusting, and the only reason it’s allowed is because African Americans as a group do not seem focused on guilt tripping white America, as they could, and because the privileged whites in charge of the media, history, etc do not seem very interested in exploring their guilt. Imagine that.
A young boy was shot down for no reason, and our legal system exonerated his killer. Oh, but we don’t have any problems with race in this country. Sure, our legal system goes after black Americans more than whites, and women more than men, and on down the food chain – but according to the very white males in charge of judging y’all, there are no problems here.
Judging African Americans for their grief and accusing them of “rioting” is just another way segments of white America exemplify their white privilege. Only whites dressed in ridiculous costumes and carrying loaded assault weapons are allowed to protest, apparently. They are not “dangerous”. Oh, no. The dangerous “rioters” are the folks carrying SIGNS. So even this freedom is to be denied based on skin color, from the very people utilizing “race-baiting” as an attempt to bully the victims into silence.
There’s nothing more stomach-turning than an abuser accusing his victim of doing what he is doing to the victim, and kicking him while he’s doing it. Who made this about race? George Zimmerman did, when he profiled an innocent boy because of the color of his skin.
It’s called DARVO (h/t to commenter Reynardine, who cites DARVO in many of their comments):
DARVO refers to a reaction perpetrators of wrong doing, particularly sexual offenders, may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior. DARVO stands for “Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.” The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the true victim into an alleged offender. This occurs, for instance, when an actually guilty perpetrator assumes the role of “falsely accused” and attacks the accuser’s credibility or even blames the accuser of being the perpetrator of a false accusation.
The author wrote, “…I have observed that actual abusers threaten, bully and make a nightmare for anyone who holds them accountable or asks them to change their abusive behavior. This attack, intended to chill and terrify, typically includes threats of law suits, overt and covert attacks on the whistle-blower’s credicility, and so on….. [T]he offender rapidly creates the impression that the abuser is the wronged one, while the victim or concerned observer is the offender. Figure and ground are completely reversed… The offender is on the offense and the person attempting to hold the offender accountable is put on the defense.” (1. Freyd, 1997, p 29-30)
The “race-baiting” charge in response to the “not guilty” verdict for George Zimmerman is DARVO in action. It is a cultural betrayal of the experiences of African Americans and our history, and as such, is meant to hurt so much that they shut up about it.
It’s not going to work. Too many people are disgusted by the obvious racial animosity being deliberately provoked by the Right in order to divide this country and point fingers at their “targets” (black Americans, in this case). Their audience knows who the “target” is, and that’s their objective.
But America is watching, and Americans are not tolerating this kind of seething political evil. Accusing African Americans of race-baiting because they are grieving over the absolute injustice of Trayvon’s murderer being found not guilty is the act of morally depraved cowards who refuse to take responsibility for themselves and their ancestors, and the depths to which their greed allowed them to sink.
1) Freyd, J.J. (1997) Violations of power, adaptive blindness, and betrayal trauma theory. Feminism & Psychology, 7, 22-32.
2) Rubinstein, W. D. (2004). Genocide: a history. Pearson Education. p. 78. ISBN 0-582-50601-8.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.