Consider how much death and destruction has been permitted that there is even a such thing as “the shooter,” in quotations. Terror has become such a commonly wielded weapon that “the shooter,” the terrorist, is now an archetype, ready to appear at any moment, anywhere, for the foreseeable future and beyond.
And every time he does, without fail, there is an overwhelming faction of Black folks who hope and pray he isn’t one of us.
By Hari Ziyad / Black Youth Project*, AFROPUNK Contributor
Last Wednesday, Congressman Steve Scalise, a white supremacist, queerantagonistic bigot was shot by a gunman. Scalise was the target of a politically-motivated attack, and many Black people awaited the reveal of “the shooter”’s race with bated breath, hoping and praying he wasn’t one of us (he turned out to be a white man).
Perhaps some of us Black folks distanced ourselves from “the shooter” by hoping he wasn’t one of us out of a sense of morality, but as Son of Baldwin writes, “We, the moral, are terrible at memory.”
When the white supremacist’s life was saved by a Black queer woman, the moral among us applauded this ironic feat, smug with a sense of righteous superiority––all the while that same white supremacist readies himself to take even more of our lives.“We are high on this notion that forgiving (bigots) after they slaughter our grandparents in churches, obliterate our siblings in the streets, and mangle our children in playgrounds makes us better people than (them),” Son of Baldwin continues.
Others distanced ourselves from “the shooter” because we have seen how terror is used to justify the hyper-surveillance, anti-Black policing, and other brutalities we face day in and day out, and we cannot imagine an escalation of these abuses in the form of retaliation. We pray that “the shooter” isn’t Black, hoping against hope that maybe, just maybe, if they hadn’t any more reasons to kill us, they might cease the slaughter.
We have forgotten, however, the way grand wizards conjure excuses from thin air. How they turn our teenagers into “hulks” with irrational death wishes who run through bullets, how they turn our twelve-year-olds with toys into grown men with guns who “give (cops) no choice” but to kill them, how they turn taking the life of a sleeping seven-year-old into no more than an honest mistake, without the honesty.
Many of us have forgotten that, for whiteness, the terror itself is Black.
We say, “fuck the white gaze,” because we know full well that when we agree to play a role in the horror films they watch, our character always dies first. But we have forgotten that the horror film is life for Black people, stuck thinking that our moments of comedic relief will last forever without changing the film.
Respectability does not work. Not even when it is in an effort to attain a respectable distance away from “the shooter.”
There is no excuse needed for anti-Black violence when Black people are not considered human, and no excuse required for violations of “liberties” when the state grants none to Black people to begin with.
When we barter our distance from “the shooter” as a white-flag-waving appeal to the state, we get nothing in return. But we do reinforce its ideals of an one-sided esteem for peace that gives the state a monopoly on violence.
Then we wonder why no one marches for Korryn Gaines. Gaines was shot with her five-year-old child in her arms after refusing to open the door for police officers who claimed to be serving her a warrant for a minor traffic ticket. She had a gun, so we had already hoped she, “the shooter” who had yet to shoot, wasn’t one of us. So we had already hoped her protection––her belonging to a community that would fight for and support her––away, too.
“The system continues to fail Black people. It will continue to fail you all (…) when they get done with us, they’re coming for you, for you, for you and all your interracial children” –– Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, on Friday after the acquittal of the police officer who murdered him while he sat in his car.
Consider who allowed the nature and pervasiveness of death and destruction that gave birth to “the shooter.” Consider that what gives birth to terror has also been fathering anti-Black violence here and globally for centuries.And it does not seem to be going anywhere despite our appeals to the state and prayers to “merciful” gods and hoping against hope.
Consider what would happen if Black folks were to get tired of the system continuing to fail us. What if “the shooter” just got sick of waiting his turn, waiting for the system to get through with the Castile family to then come for me, for you, for you and all your interracial children?
So what if the shooter is Black?
Do they hope their shooters away, too, or just make sure they face no consequences? Do they care if we shoot first? Or do they just shoot, acquit themselves, and shoot us again?
What if they want you to hope yourself away from violent resistance, to pray yourself into peaceful docility, to not be “anti-police” no matter how many times they prove to us they are anti-Black?
If hope has power, hope this anti-Black state crumbles by any means necessary. Hope there are many who are willing and working to bring it down, and hope they love Black people. Hope they have useful strategies and help create them, but if they must shoot, hope they are on our side. But even if he is not, “the shooter” is never the reason anti-Blackness works. So stop hoping “the shooter” isn’t Black.
Let them lie about their excuses for killing us because they are going to lie anyway.
We have work to do.
Banner photo via MSNBC
*This post originally appeared on Black Youth Project
Hari Ziyad is a New York based storyteller and writer for AFROPUNK. They are also the editor-in-chief of RaceBaitR, deputy editor of Black Youth Project, and assistant editor of Vinyl Poetry & Prose. You can follow them on Twitter @hariziyad.