The Other Pandemic: The Viral Spread of Racism in America
This week, democracy-ish hosts Danielle and Toure are more triggered than usual, which is saying a lot.
Just weeks after we learned of the brutal murder of Ahmaud Arbery, we’re faced with two more viral videos that expose just how dangerous, and deadly, being Black in America can be.
Christian Cooper was birding while Black in Central Park when he asked a white woman to leash her dog. What happened next was an epic Karen meltdown.
The brutal killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police has sparked outrage across America.
Police meet ‘rioters’ in Minneapolis with tear gas, rubber bullets and multiple arrests, while armed white MAGAts storm state capitols with no fear of reprisal.
Joe Biden got a little too comfortable with Charlemagne and said something stupid. But when the president says dumb shit every day, do we care?
First, there was Central Park Karen.
ICYMI: Christian Cooper, a Black man, was birdwatching in the Ramble when he encountered the Karen: angry entitled white lady Amy Cooper (no relation), whose cocker spaniel was off-leash and trampling delicate plants. He calmly asked her to leash her dog (which is required there). When she refused, he began recording video on his phone. Incensed, she called 911 and screamed that “an African-American man is threatening my life.”
Then, if that wasn’t enough, we saw a white Minneapolis police officer pin George Floyd –– who was already handcuffed –– to the ground with his knee on his neck, for eight minutes. Three other officers stood by and watched while Floyd cried out repeatedly: “I can’t breathe,” before losing consciousness. Floyd died in the hospital later that evening.
Floyd had been arrested on suspicion of trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store.
“There is a lot of pain going on,” says Toure. “We originally thought that we were going to talk about Joe Biden, who said, ‘you ain't Black if you don't vote for me.’ Then suddenly ––”
Danielle interrupts: “Didn't that happen last year?”
Nope. It’s only been a week. Let’s vent.
Episode Highlights –– On Amy Cooper and George Floyd
The performance of white fear
The Amy Cooper video went viral because a white woman was caught weaponizing her privilege.
If Christian Cooper didn’t have the presence of mind to hit “record,” we might have never known that her call was a performance, delivered about 12 feet away from her “attacker.”
“She did it in three different octaves,” Toure says.
Amy’s 911 call could have led to Christian’s wrongful arrest, or worse.
We know that because of what happened to 12-year-old Tamir Rice. “The police didn't even bother to get out of the car before they opened fire on him,” Danielle says. “That’s what the cops do … They come up with their guns locked and loaded, ready to bust a cap. They roll up like gangsters on black people.”
White privilege entitles women like Amy to the presumption of innocence. “Amy knew that. It may not have been conscious, but it was in her soul,” Toure adds.
Then, after the video went viral and she was fired from her finance job, Amy went into peak Karen mode and delivered an “apology.”
“I don't like to degrade women. But I'm angry. That bitch went on CNN and said that she was scared. As I was watching the video, I thought, does she look scared to you? As she was strangling her dog ... rolling up aggressively towards Christian?”
“Talk about white fear,” says Toure.
Black survival shouldn’t hinge on being ‘perfect’
The Central Park story has everything, Toure says.
“He is the perfect black man. He went to Harvard. He is on the board of the Audubon Society. He is gentle. He maintains his calm at an almost superhuman rate while she is approaching him … verbally assaulting him.”
Toure continues: “I can only imagine … if somebody said to me, I'm going to call the police and tell them that you are threatening my life, I would be scared to hell.”
Mark Lamont Hill tweeted this week:
Mark’s observation “got me to my core,” Danielle says. “Christian just so happened to be a model human being. But let's go back to Trayvon Martin and the way that Fox News and the conservative right-wing tried to paint him as a fucking thug. This is a kid that had gone to fucking Space Camp.”
Karen whips out her white race card
Amy was taking revenge on Christian, Toure notes: “How dare you question my authority and my place in the pecking order above yours, Black man?”
“Don't ever tell me there's not a white race card,” he adds.
“This is what Karening is,” says Danielle. “They don't only pull out their whiteness, though. They pull out their supposed virtue and femininity … the idea of white women as pure, as virtuous, as the prize, has been sold to us through our history.”
She continues: “You put Black women naked on fucking slave blocks because we're inhuman. You rape us in the fucking field because we're animals. But this is what you hold up as the trophy. What white men will kill for, will lynch for, will burn down buildings for, will blow up churches for, will walk in like Dylann Roof and shoot nine people, because you're raping our women?”
A racial split-screen: ‘protests’ vs. ‘riots’
Atlantic writer Jamele Hill made the link this week between Monday’s incident in Central Park and what happened 1,200 miles away in Minneapolis: “What happened to George Floyd is what Amy Cooper hoped would happen to Christian Cooper.”
That hit deeply for Toure, because while white folks assume the police are there to serve them, Black people know their lives are at stake when cops roll up.
The four police officers involved in George Floyd’s death have been fired, but none have been charged with a crime. [Ed. note: on Friday, Officer Derek Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter].
The Minneapolis Police department continues to claim Floyd was resisting arrest, even though a new video shows otherwise.
“The impulse in this country to believe the word of the police as gospel is insane,” says Toure. “The police lie all the time.”
Meanwhile, protests in Minneapolis have been met with tear gas, rubber bullets and a CNN crew being arrested live on air.
It’s a heart-wrenching split screen between the COVID-19 lockdown protests attended largely by white folks, many of whom are heavily armed and screaming in cops’ faces.
“Why didn't anybody call that a mob or a riot?” Danielle asks.
“We are not even allowed to protest the death of our own. We're just supposed to continue to take it. You kill us with your capitalist structure that has us living in poverty and in ghettos,” she adds. “But you don't give a fuck about our lives. Reopen the economy on our backs. The ways in which white supremacy kills us –– it's amazing any of us make it to adulthood.”
‘Black snuff films’ on an endless loop
It was just three weeks ago when we added Ahmaud Arbery to the ever-growing list of tragic killings of Black people caught on tape: Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Laquan McDonald, Eric Garner.
Breonna Tayor, who was shot dead in her own home by police in Louisville, Kentucky, where protests broke out Thursday night.
Now, George Floyd.
“All these I could just call up at a moment's notice,” says Toure. “What deep pain in the soul does it have on us that we have all these black snuff films in our mind all the time?”
Danielle thinks “we hold on to trauma on a cellular level.”
And if it weren’t for the pandemic, we’d all be expected to go back to work even though we just saw someone die on Facebook and become a hashtag.
It requires quite a bit of self-medication to get through, she adds. “Whether through alcohol or weed … Marijuana should be free for black people. Because existing in our skin is fucking hard.”
Joe’s ‘Breakfast’ blunder
Last Friday, Joe Biden called in to The Breakfast Club for an interview with Charlemagne tha God and said that “if you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't Black."
Yup, that happened.
“It's a gaffe,” says Toure. ”He shouldn't have said it. But most Black people say the same shit.”
“Why did we spend days on it, when Donald Trump has called African nations shithole countries? Why the fuck are we talking about it? … It’s this false equivalency.”
But Democrats, being the party of, well, reason –– feel the need to “unpack what Joe Biden said,” she adds. “Yeah, it was fucking stupid. He got too comfortable. Like, I'm stopping the fucking cookout invites … You have one Black friend. That doesn’t mean you're in for life. I just don't understand why Biden is held to the standards of yesteryear, but the media just allows Trump to say and tweet and do whatever the fuck he wants … He’s treated as a perpetual adolescent at the ripe old age of seventy-hundred.”
Just admit it, Uncle Joe: you fucked up (the crime bill)
Biden’s gaffe was in response to Charlemagne pressing him on his proposed policies for Black people –– “the notion that we need to get something out of the deal,” Toure says. “We can't just show up and give Joe our votes because Trump is a monster. We deserve more than that.”
That’s true, Danielle says. She wants to see Biden’s plans as well –– if he has any.
“I don't want fluff. I don't want jokes. … I'm done with that. We're living in Dante's Inferno. I'm fucking over it.”
But one thing did really rub her the wrong way about Biden’s interview: That like a lot of white men, he’s seemingly unable to admit he did something wrong. She thinks it’s something he has in common with Trump.
“Charlemagne said, you know, Hillary Clinton came on the show, and she said that had she had the opportunity to do the crime bill again, she would have done things differently.”