The Power of Socializing

Friends, do you remember last Summer when we talked about socializing and Darren Wilson and what might have motivated him to shoot an unarmed Black kid?   Here’s the paragraph I wrote in the post last August

Was Darren Wilson thinking, “oh, look, a black kid… my white skin is superior to his black skin so I’m going to gun him down?”  I don’t know.  I highly doubt it.  It’s seems more likely that he, like you and like me, like white folks and brown folks and black folks, had been socialized in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways to see black men as criminals.  To see white skin as normal and safe and dark skin as dangerous, unknown and scary.  I know I have been socialized to think that way.   And it takes time and concerted effort to change the way that one has been socialized.

I read an article today on the New York Times website about domestic violence and the image they used is a perfect example of this sort of socializing.  Check it out:




The article is about a connection found between mass shootings and domestic violence.   The piece itself is enlightening and perfectly interesting but I was distracted by the image they chose to illustrate it.  Here’s what I see:

  1. A woman in distress.
    She is white. 
  2. A man coercing her.  Strangling her.  Pinning her arm.  Taking her by force.
    He is black.

It could be argued that the woman’s gray arms and the mildly Asian connotations of her facial features could indicate that she is all races at once; that she is every woman. But the overall effect is that her skin is light and it’s hard to argue that the man is anything but black.

Even if we throw the artist a bone and give him the benefit of the doubt (maybe the perpetrator was supposed to symbolize the darkness of domestic violence?) the effect is still the same and this is what it tells us:

White = Innocent & Good
Black = Violent, Scary, Bad

That is what the image is selling and that is what we are buying.

Come on!   It’s just one image!  What’s the big deal?

It’s true; this is just one image.  But if we look around, we’ll see many other places where this narrative is playing out.  It’s everywhere.  We have been compounding and retelling this story in every conceivable way for generations and the New York Times image is but a minuscule top-off in an already over-brimming tank.   And that is why “non-racist” White people keep managing to kill Black people.  Why wouldn’t they?  It’s part of the script.


 Other posts on Race

Feeling Your Skin
Can I Get An Amen… from the Awkward White Lady?
A Song Of Lament
Fury in Ferguson

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