This is racism.

[Trigger warning for racism, violence, torture, eliminationism, white supremacy.]

For the past three hours, I've been trying to figure out how to write about, and what to say about, this horrendous story about a group of white teenagers in Mississippi who are accused of (and were recorded by surveillance camera) attacking James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old Black man, beating him while shouting racial epithets and white supremacist slogans, and then running him over with a truck, killing him. Anderson was not known to them; they reportedly just set out that night with the explicit intent to do harm to a Black person.

I can't seem to form a cohesive response from my jumble of thoughts.

I want to extend my sincerest condolences to Anderson's family, friends, and colleagues. Losing a loved one is difficult in the best of circumstances; I cannot begin to fathom what it is like to lose someone under these circumstances, to try to find a way to mourn through the reverberating fear and shattered security caused by hate crimes. To know that he is gone only because of violent hatred, to be reminded of that seething, murderous bigotry every time they remember that he is gone, to have to try to navigate one's way to some semblance of peace through that wrenching anger, is just one of the most horrible things I can imagine.

I want to express my sympathies to every person of color who feels this morning just a little less safe, or a little more cynical. I have written before about the lack of familiar and comfortable words we have to offer to survivors of violent crimes; we have none for members of communities targeted by hate crimes, either—because, of course, we don't have those sorts of conversations as a country, which is part and parcel of how we create the atmosphere in which those precise crimes are inevitable.

I want to scream about how badly we failed James Craig Anderson, by failing to communicate the simple idea that racism is wrong. I don't mean someone, anyone, just failing to tell his killers, straightforwardly and clearly, that racism is wrong—although that, too; I mean failing as a culture to practice the idea that racism is wrong, as opposed to constantly treating as if it's axiomatic the idea that racism is wrong while upholding institutional racism in everything from casual slurs and "jokes" to disproportionate representation in Congress. This shit doesn't happen in a void. It happens in the context of profoundly entrenched racial prejudice and white privilege.

I want to write something about that white privilege, which I have, and about how, when white people are provided, over and over, with irrefutable evidence that white privilege is the backdrop against which hate crimes like the murder of James Craig Anderson happen, to simply assert that not actively trading on that privilege, that not being an overt racist, is enough, is bullshit. There is no neutral. There is only actively working to dismantle white privilege and institutional racism, or abetting it with silence.

I want to note that being All In as an ally is hard, and sometimes you fuck it up, at least I do, but it's a lot about knowing when to listen and when to talk, i.e. listening to people of color and talking to other white people about privilege. I wonder who failed the young men charged with killing James Craig Anderson, who failed to teach them to listen, who failed to talk to them. And I remember my own childhood, and I imagine that it was pretty much everyone.

And I want to underline that this ghastly murder is why ideas that we live in a "post-racial" country are both foolish and dangerous, and why the Oppression Olympics are such utter, contemptible garbage. There are a lot of reasons, actually, why the Oppression Olympics are utter, contemptible garbage, but perhaps none so succinctly demonstrable as this: In the Oppression Olympics, the death of James Craig Anderson is the gold fucking medal.

RIP Mr. Anderson.

[H/T to @PeterDaou and Shaker The_Great_Indoors.]

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