Several weeks ago, Levar Jones, a black motorist, was shot by a white South Carolina state trooper named Sean M. Groubert while complying with the latter's request that he present his drivers license for inspection. This unwarranted and unnecessary use of violence by Groubert was recorded on video. He was fired from The South Carolina State Police and subsequently arrested.
In the United States, the black body is so imperiled and used to being the object of white racial terrorism and violence that Levar Jones, an innocent man, apologized to Sean Groubert after being shot.
If there was not a dashboard camera, Groubert would have concocted one of the typical lies told by police officers--the "criminal" was reaching for a gun; he lunged at me in a "threatening" manner"; it was a "clean" shot because I was in "reasonable fear" of my safety--and been given a commendation and left free to walk the streets where he (or she) would continue to harass and murder other innocent members of the public.
The news media has responded to the video recording of Sean Groubert shooting Levar Jones with surprise. Headlines read that the recording is "shocking" or "unbelievable". The largely white commentariat on TV and elsewhere seem genuinely dismayed at Groubert's actions.
I would suggest there is nothing shocking, amazing, or surprising about Sean Groubert's shooting of Levar Jones in South Carolina. Perhaps, this is a function of my blues sensibility and the common sense life skills that I as a black man have had to develop in order to navigate the color line in the United States?
However well-intentioned and sincere the concern and surprise by the (white) American public (and some in the chattering classes) towards the events in Ferguson, the shooting of Jones by Groubert, or the panoply of unarmed black men by the police ever 28 hours in America may be, their response is still colored by white privilege.
Black and brown Americans have been complaining about, organizing in response to, and publicly discussing police brutality and extra-judicial violence against their communities for several hundred years. Those concerns have largely been ignored by the white public.
The white racial frame deems that those life experiences must be invalidated as somehow exaggerations, lies, or a function of the "natural" irrationality of those who are not white--as compared to the natural "reason" and capacity for "critical thinking", "objectivity" and "rigor" which supposedly comes with being white and male.
It is also important to highlight the raw truth: many members of the white public are invested in white on black and brown police brutality and violence because of both their implicit, as well as overt biases against people of color.
Moreover, even when "habeas corpus" is, quite literally in these instances, in effect, where an unarmed or otherwise innocent black or brown person has been killed by the police or other white identified street vigilantes, and the events are recorded, white racial paranoia still finds a way to twist those events into a bizarre lie of a scenario in which the victim somehow provoked their own murder or abuse.
Eric Garner was killed by police and it was recorded on video. John Crawford III was killed by the police on video. Levar Jones was shot by police on video. And we cannot forget the recent recordings of a police officer beating a black woman MMA style on the side of the highway, throwing pregnant women on the ground, attacking street vendors, and the many other examples of police thuggery against unarmed, innocent people.
To be surprised by these events, given the history of the United States, and the many times that African-Americans and others have publicly protested police racism and violence requires cultivated racial naivete, willful ignorance, and the almost unique ability to ignore and dismiss the life experiences of the Other that comes with being a member of a privileged group in a given society.
Life in a white supremacist society exacts a high cost on the mental well-being, sanity, and overall health of non-whites. In such a culture, one of the most exhausting experiences is when white folks "discover" a truth that people of color have long known and communicated.
When white folks are surprised or shocked by anti-black and brown racism, I nod my head in acknowledgement of their discovery. I then respond, "did you previously think that black people were crazy? Were we lying all these years? Insane? Mad? Was there some concerted effort and conspiracy for us to lie about police brutality and racism more generally?"
The temporary disruption to white innocence and naivete by the "shocking" discovery that police kill and abuse unarmed people of color is a temporary emotional and cognitive state. Whiteness and white privilege are nothing if not a highly refined type of cultural and social amnesia.
By contrast, the white public and media's shock, surprise, and dismay at the murder of unarmed black men and women by police is a continual state of being for Black America.
White folks are just tourists in this world; we have to live in it.