who the media means when it says “we”
December 13, 2018
The pronoun ‘we’ assumes accountability, whereas the pronoun ‘I’ accepts it. When speaking for a platform, organization or industry, it’s always illuminating which pronouns and words are used to address the reader. The simplest choices serve as an autopsy of intention. Thursday morning, New York Times initially ran a headline that said somehow “We” did not do enough to spot the rise of the alt-right. The headline was quickly changed to point out “U.S. law enforcement” as the forgetful culprit.
The correction does not mean much to me, because we all know New York Times must speak on behalf of a white, neoliberal, male public before anybody else. Just like based off my speech thus far, it is obvious I am interested in speaking towards a Black audience so when I say us or we I am talking as a Black person to other Black people. And it is interesting that the editorial team knew that this particular white male segment of their readership would be okay with being conflated with U.S. law enforcement. I know that we would not.
Like most things in life, the answer is in the problem: White men are being empowered to harm and kill others in this country because it is theirs. White manhood sees America as something it birthed, so the culture of white manhood is giving itself permission to destroy its creation, which is no longer behaving the way white male ancestors anticipated it would. Or better yet—this country is the body and everything that does not assist in perpetuating the imperialist white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy is a cancer. The chemotherapy has only intensified over the decades.
We know that law enforcement evolved out of poor white people enlisted to watch and punish enslaved Africans. Upon the freeing of enslaved African people, those white people became the police as we know it. So, it is not surprising that there was a failure to address the rise in white American terrorism, but surveilling Black activists—and coding them as terrorists by labeling them Black Identity Extremists—was something that did materialize. This is proof that the machine of domination is moving masterfully.
When we look at white terrorism in America, we know that we are looking at an organism protecting itself. Deaths have increased because the white supremacist patriarchal structure is being threatened with each utterance of Black lives, feminist, and pro-queer efforts. Advocacy for the civil rights of marginalized people is the excuse white supremacy uses to terrorize and murder. Sadly, it seems like this trend will increase and the death tolls will only rise, especially if we are going to continue relying on the same law enforcement structure sanctioning those deaths.
When in 1968, Nina Simone was asked by Lilian Terry on her radio show about the world her daughter may be inhabiting, Ms. Simone responded, “She may see more bloodshed than I could ever even dreamed of. I have no way of knowing that evolution.” With more news unraveling, Simone proves to be prophetic and we must decide what we will do with that prophecy.
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