The Truth About America’s Slavocracy Is Too Much for Republicans to Bear
On this episode of democracy-ish, Danielle and Toure break down the current backlash against critical race theory –– during a week that marks the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
The 1619 Project and critical race theory are in the headlines yet again as award-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones is denied tenure from her alma mater, the University of North Carolina,
Why is this academic movement, which is simply a non-white-male lens through which to look at history, so frightening to Republicans?
A year after George Floyd’s murder, how far have we come in the fight for racial justice –– if we’ve made meaningful strides at all?
Republicans love to crow about “cancel culture,” but what Danielle calls their “illegitimate pushback to American history” continues apace.
This week, news broke that 1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah Jones, who the University of North Carolina recently appointed as chair of its Race and Investigative Journalism department, will not be offered tenure upon her appointment.
Toure and Danielle see it as the latest in a series of conservative attacks on critical race theory, which has “become a Boogeyman white people are afraid of,” says Toure. “And they're not even sure what it is. I can't even begin to imagine what they think it is.”
That’s really the core of critical race theory, says Toure. But it’s nothing new.
“It’s not a revolutionary concept that America has been deeply shaped by the institution of slavery. We would not have had enough money to afford the war against England if we had not had slavery. We would not have become a world power if we had not derived wealth from hundreds of millions of hours of free labor.”
And yet those who resist these ideas claim they’re not racist.
“If you're not racist, what is the problem with admitting that racism has a massive impact on America?”
Danielle thinks that the conservative argument against critical race theory comes down to this: For some part of our history to be deemed important, it needs to be framed through the lens of white men.
They think “anything outside of the gaze of white maleness is somehow inappropriate or illegitimate,” she says. “And that teaching the truth about American slavocracy, from which our capitalism was birthed, would make white kids hate themselves. That tells you everything you f**king need to know.”
Episode Highlights –– Critical Race Trauma
Off (tenure) track at UNC
Toure wonders what Nikole Hannah-Jones is doing right now.
“Probably working on something fairly important –– one of the many offshoot projects around the 1619 Project? Maybe another podcast? A book? Maybe there's a movie studio she's talking to.”
One thing we know for sure: She's not talking to the powers that be at the University of North Carolina. Apparently, the Board of Trustees “cares deeply about ‘cancel culture,’ and was too offended by her ideas about critical race theory and the slavocracy that is America,” he adds.
“I want to know what the Board of Trustees looks like,” says Danielle.
“Imagine Tucker Carlson times six,” Toure replies.
Danielle assumes they're mostly white men over age 60.
“Not as if it would be better if it was a bench of Karens,” she says. “But this definitely shows us how fearful white Americans are of the truth.”
The long reach of the slavocracy
White people's go-to argument, Danielle points out, is my family didn't own slaves –– even though it’s “impossible for every white person in America to say, but they all fucking say it.”
Hardly anyone admits it, but plenty of white folks do have slave owners in their family tree, Toure notes.
But even if they don’t, just because they didn’t descend from slaveholders doesn't mean they didn’t reap the rewards of the slavocracy.
So many white Americans do descend from families in the insurance business or law enforcement or other industries and institutions that backed and bonded slavery, he adds. Or from companies that made or sold or helped move cotton.
“If you benefited from the prosperity of America, then you benefited from slavery,” says Toure.
Dot dot dot matrix
When Danielle talks to her white friends about their backgrounds, often they’ll say something like: My grandfather (or my great-grandfather, or great-great-grandfather) came here with nothing and worked really hard and was able to start a business …
“It's the ellipses,” says Danielle. “To be able to dot-dot-dot.”
She tells them that if their grandfather or great-grandfather or great-great grandfather hadn't been white (and male), “they wouldn't have gotten the fucking bank loan that they needed in order to get the land, in order to build the house, in order to build the business, and on and on –– and be able to have something to pass down to you.”
For centuries white people have been told that the racial wealth gap in America has something to do with a work ethic or lack thereof.
“We weren't able to build off of shit,” Danielle adds.
“We wanted 40 acres and a mule, and your fucking great-great grandfather didn’t even fucking give us that. But [white people build from] a foundation that was given to them, based on legislation approved by white men, for white men, to build more white wealth.”
Hate ≠ privilege
So often, discussions about racism center on what could be characterized as microaggressions –– disrespectful, hateful and crude words said from one person to another, for example. But the deeper problems are systemic –– which is, again, a central tenet of critical race theory.
White people tend to think they can’t be racist if they have Black friends, says Toure.
“You may not have racial hatred within you. But you are benefiting from generations of white privilege and white supremacy, even if you love Danielle, dance to Beyonce and voted for Barack Obama.”
But that same person probably has grandparents who got a loan from the FHA in the ‘50s to buy a home, he points out.
“Yeah, he worked hard. I don't take that away from him,” Toure adds.
“But he had an opportunity to go through this door to create home ownership, which created wealth he was able to pass down to your parents and to your generation. Those government loans were not available to Black and Brown people. We were not lazy. The government didn’t give us –– what would be the word? A handout? A loan.”
In those days, people of color who served in the military weren't able to access the GI Bill either, Danielle notes. That was another way of building generational wealth –– and privilege that still resonates today.
Toure says that several people who are old enough to be his grandfather have told him that in World War II, Black enlisted men were “treated worse than Nazi prisoners of war.”
Raise your hand if you learned this in school. [No? Us neither –– ed.]
The notion that we cannot teach these stories, that we cannot look at the world through this lens –– because that's what critical race theory is: a lens, a way of looking at the world –– is to deny reality,” says Toure.
It amounts to “modern-era digital book burning,” Danielle adds. “This is what we’ve come to … We are trying to delegitimize facts and truth. Republicans want those six Dr. Seuss books that perpetuate racism and stereotypes on the bookshelves, but they want to remove the 1619 Project. Just walk with me in between that fuckery.”
‘Dead air’ reckoning
Rufo argued that we're all the same, so we don't “need to identify differences among races and blah,” Danielle recalls. Essentially, he claimed the 1619 Project is “teaching negativity about whiteness.”
The assumption, then, “would be that there’s something positive to be proud of,” she adds. So Hill asked Rufo what he likes about being white.
“There was dead motherfucking air,” says Danielle. “Hill re-asked the question –– this was not a gotcha –– but… nothing.”
If someone asked her what makes her proud to be Black, there would be tons of things to talk about, she points out: Culture, food, music, heroes. But it was ironic that this white man, who worries so much about what might happen if we look at history from a different perspective, couldn’t name one thing.
“Because there is no such thing as white culture as equivalent to Black culture,” Toure says. “There is no coalescing element.”
There are American cultures: New England, Southern, Californian, et cetera, and there are ethnic cultures: German-American, Italian-American and Irish-American, for example.
But white isn’t an identity. At least it shouldn’t be.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled reprogramming
Anti-critical-race-theory pundits love to tell us we’re all the same.
“It’s like, motherfucker, we are clearly not,” says Danielle. “Because if you get pulled over, you’re not afraid for your life. You can have your resume looked at and nobody's going to second-guess your fucking name.”
The assumption they make, she adds, is that they “can tell those of us who look different that race doesn't matter while they still benefit from it. It is the epic gaslight of centuries. And when faced with a mirror that says, look at what you have done; look at what you have upheld and benefited from, they're like, no, no –– we’ve got to ban it.”
That’s because, in order to uphold white supremacy, those in power recognize a need to perpetuate an uninformed majority of white folks who don’t ask questions. If they start to inquire about how and why they have certain privileges, “the entirety of the structure begins to crumble,” Danielle argues.
“If you teach the truth, then you're going to wake up a bunch of young people, and they're gonna be like, well, isn't that wrong?”
After all, we teach children to distinguish between right and wrong beginning when they’re very young.
“But then we reprogram them,” says Danielle. “That's what Republicans are doing right now with our education system –– reprogramming them into staying plugged into the matrix of white supremacy.”
Hundreds more hashtags that never were
May 25 marked the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police officers after they detained him for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill.
“Can we say the world has changed? I don't think so,” says Toure. “Can we say that another George Floyd situation couldn't happen tomorrow? No.”
Danielle adds some context: “In the 12 months since George Floyd was publicly executed –– lynched –– there have been 426-plus murders by police of Black and Brown people.”
There are at least that many, Toure adds, because if not for a bystander with a smartphone, we wouldn’t even know who he was.
“Those 426-plus people would all be hashtags if there was a Darnella Frazier nearby. But because there was not, they just faded into obscurity.”
Crime is on the rise, say the usual suspects
And so, after a tumultuous year of sorrow and protest, we're still struggling to pass police reform, remove qualified immunity and prosecute most of the cops who have committed these crimes. Now, says Danielle, we’re told crime is on the rise in urban America.
“Is that because we're defending the police? We haven't defunded any police.”
“And the police do not stop crime,” Toure adds. “Intervening in ongoing violent crime is less than 5% of what they do. The reason why violent crime is up this year is because last year we were all in our homes.”
Plus, he points out that even though the economy came to a crashing halt in March 2020, many people weren’t “broke-broke” until months later. Now, people have been broke for a while.
“Crime is up because millions of motherfuckers lost their jobs during Covid-19,” says Danielle. “Crime is up because nobody can work.”
That’s if crime is actually up, because the statistics come to us from the police, says Toure.
“They are highly manipulated, and manipulatable. When we accept the word of the police without critique, we are giving them far too much power. We know they lie all the time.”
Law enforcement agencies tend to produce crime statistics that “make themselves look necessary,” he argues. “If crime is suddenly up. I would move, because we have not defunded anything, that it actually suggests that police are not valuable and not necessary. Maybe we should try something else entirely.”
Even still, Blackness isn’t defined by trauma
At this point, it seems like the police themselves are criminogenic, says Toure.
Danielle agrees: “How many times since George Floyd's murder have we heard reports about lies in police reports? How about the video that was just released, that was hidden by the police, by the lawyers?”
Toure admits he hasn’t watched it. He’s gotten to the point where he can’t consume every post, feed and channel that “feeds us constant trauma against Black bodies.”
So now, he avoids watching anything unless there's “a critical mass” of interest on social media.
“I can't watch all these videos,” he says. “It's too much. But I feel like a bad Black person if one passes by and I don't see it.”
Danielle thinks that’s okay. We have to actively “protect our mental health, to continue to exist and live in an environment that is literally filled with people trying to kill us,” she says. “We don't take in every bit of injustice, every bit of trauma.”
That’s not just a matter of maintaining our sanity as individuals.
“My Blackness is not defined by how many Black traumatic incidents I can roll off of my tongue,” Danielle adds. “There are many. But that's not how my Blackness is defined.”
Toure agrees: It's not.
“So why do I feel guilty?” he asks.
Our souls to keep
We feel guilty because we know that, without media attention and plenty of people to consume it (and sometimes even in spite of it), “their deaths are being erased,” says Danielle. “Which means their humanity is being erased.”
Often, the viral videos seem like the best way to keep the memories of victims alive –– like “we can't fight unless we know,” she explains. And to remind us they are worth knowing. But you can know without consuming the actual videos. You do not have to watch their killings to honor them. You honor them by living –– by fighting.”
That makes sense to Toure.
“In a way, the videos are so similar. I don't have to watch every single one. I've seen this movie before … and I think it’s corrosive to our souls.”
It absolutely is, says Danielle.
“It's generational trauma that I really hope that at some point we're able to break. But the purpose is to break us.”
Take time for self-care –– and joy
In the midst of so much trauma, mindset is more important than ever, says Danielle.
“I think that Black joy is so fucking important,” she adds. “Because everywhere you look, they are telling us we don't matter. Our lives don't matter. There’s absolutely nothing we can do while being Black and know we’re safe.”
Toure thinks that because “we’re so much at war right now, taking those moments of self-care can feel like we’re letting people down. Like we’re not doing our part for the mission and the movement.”
The mission never ends, which is why it's important to take time. It's important to rest and recharge, says Danielle.
“It’s not selfish. Our foremothers and forefathers told us that rest is a part of the revolution.”
So have a restful holiday weekend, folks.
“Take one,” says Toure.
Danielle adds: “Pray about it. Hang on. I don't know. Light a candle. It's the lunar eclipse. Do something.”
Check out the frustration, rage and absurdity that was the 2020 election on democracy-ish as Danielle Moodie and Toure discuss the current state of the political climate and our country from a Black perspective.