In the wake of George Floyd’s horrendous lynching by cops caught on film, there are some equally horrendous things being said about his character. Candace Owens, the darling of the hate-filled far right among others, began disparaging him before his body was even cold. Owens is a talentless hack who merely provides a convenient black face for modern white supremacy, and she gets paid well for doing so. But white supremacists and apologists for police brutality have been working tirelessly to sling mud on Floyd’s character in an effort to disparage the justified rage and protests against state violence and institutional racism, and the ruthless response to them.
Some are focusing more on Floyd’s alleged crime of trying to use a $20 counterfeit bill than the murder itself, a risible obsession in a society where banks and corporations get billions in bailouts. There have even been a few saying he did drugs and appeared in a porn flick, as if they are justifications for what happened to him. Others are trying to play both sides saying, “well I don’t agree with what the officers did, but Floyd was not a good person either.” Such mealy-mouthed appeals to power are just as loathsome. All of this reminds me of when people attack a rape victim because she or he or they supposedly committed a petty crime, or because they “slept around,” or they were into BDSM, or they were a sex worker, or they were “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” or they were wearing provocative clothing. In another words, “they deserved what they got.”
First off, the “war on drugs” has always been a vile construct that was designed to crush communities of color, the working poor and marginalized people. It holds absolutely no moral currency. All of this is observable in its uneven metric. Black communities face far harsher punishment for the same “crimes” as their white peers. Second, the accusation of sexual impropriety has been used by the powerful for centuries as a moral bludgeon against anyone seeking justice, especially against Black people, women and LGBTQ people. Simplistic stereotypes abound as a means of justifying state violence against the bodies of those who are dehumanized. And as we can see, this vile legacy continues today.
Seeing all of this should enrage anyone with a conscience, but it most certainly enrages me. I’ve done a hell of a lot (and still do) that many would not approve of. Many would be shocked by some or a lot of it. In fact, if the police killed me today I know it would only be a short time before there would be allegations or photos and all sorts of mud slung the direction of my corpse. The point is to strip a person of their humanity. This is what power does to anyone who opposes it. It is what it has always done.
We should have no patience with the smothering, sanctimonious and sexually repressive legacy of white American puritanism. Its scratchy robes of suffocating conformity and piety are repulsive, and it has always been used as a vehicle for oppression. In every case, we should side with the witches, not those who burned or hanged them. We should not countenance anyone judging our worth or the worth of those who have been historically marginalized. And there is a greater solidarity that is achieved from jettisoning the constraints of a repressive society. Often it means people will part from you. Often it means you will lose status or standing in certain communities. But when you grow into your personhood and step out of the shell that a repressive society has hemmed you into, you must expect, and even welcome, the exit from your life those people who cannot walk with you on your journey as equals.
We will never curry favor, as Candace Owens seeks to do, from the powerful. Those who are eager to dehumanize or demonize the oppressed. Nor should we try. After all, they are a rather pitiful lot who live in ivory towers composed of endless corridors of closets, ones which are packed with dried skeletons. Their only concern is holding tight to their ill-gotten privilege, and they live in constant fear that their judgmental peers will discover them. It is nothing to envy. When they cast their shadow, they are merely attempting to deflect the light from their own deadened souls. So be careful not to emulate them. Because the shadow they project on others is the one that will inevitably, some day, fall back on them.