A Terrible Beauty

White Denial in the Face of Overwhelming Evidence

First of all, spare me any #notallwhites vitriol because you haven’t personally lynched any black people today. (Incidentally, it may be a frivolous aside, but can there be any more depressing harbinger of non-change that this–Lynch–is the last name of the newly installed Attorney General?) If that is your initial reaction, you have already missed the points I haven’t even made yet. You might want to stop reading here (though you in particular should probably read the whole thing). It is a thing of sheer beauty–terrible, evil beauty to be sure. But beauty nonetheless in the way that a near perfect, almost poetic conflation of hubris, hyperbole and hypocrisy can be admired for its boldness and bluster: Resistance to oppression is required to be polite, and to conform to standards of politeness set by the very oppressors themselves and their allies, witting or not. Fuck you. The youth of Baltimore are rising and expressing a pent up rage that is centuries in the making. It is not for me to tut tut and impose my idea of political organization. The left needs to watch, and learn. Look at who is protecting whom, who is threatening whom, who is siding with whom. Judge the media. Judge the police state. Judge a white supremacist society in all of its tentacles that shape our perception and experience in so many fields. This is the lens through which to understand what’s going on.

As one friend sardonically observed, “White people care more about white property than Black lives, which is ironic, considering Black lives used to be white property. Through memes and social media, friends probe the irony of white people rushing to defend the property rights of a megacorporation whose greed for profit has destroyed more local businesses in Baltimore than ‘looters’ ever could, spawning the hashtag #jesuiscvs and ‘White people be like #AllStoresMatter.’

The rising body count from what seems to be unchecked police violence is old news to those raising black and brown children in this society. These tips of the iceberg that gain national attention are a window into the daily worries of our communities, shedding light on what a challenging and scary proposition it is–some of the dangers and fears parents of white children rarely have to confront. This is probably why outside observers completely miss the significance of the now viral footage of the black mother beating her son in public in Baltimore. Police and media tout her as a model mom, implying that she was against the protests or thought her son should respect the police. The simple fact was far less dramatic–in her own words she just didn’t want her son to be another Freddie Gray–a fact immediately obvious to those in the community, but perhaps lost on those who thrill at the idea of someone–anyone–beating down a young black man. For our own part, we want our son to be focusing on first year finals next week, not out posing as target practice for killer cops. Parents tend to be a bit conservative when it comes to kids’ lives–can you blame us? That is why we also need to watch, listen and learn.

While we were right in the middle of tweeting, texting, and sharing about what police brutality’s Enabler-in-chief called the ‘senseless violence’ in Baltimore, it happened again like clockwork. Unarmed 20 year old TerrenceKellum was shot 10 times by Immigration police (working jointly with Detroit police) in his parents home just a few hours ago. But please tell us again about ‘bad apples’ and ‘isolated incidents,’ and how ‘some police officers did the wrong thing.’ Really, I’m all ears. My cousin was taken in by these same people a few years back. Guess we’re lucky he made it out alive.

What is also shocking (to some of us) is how invisible this internalized perspective is. The white jury watched video footage of Rodney King and just couldn’t see police brutality. White observers see footage of a black mother running in the street with toilet paper and diapers. Instead of a desperate mother trying to provide for her family at the end of a month (thanks for the cuts in food stamps btw) they see a violent thug. And in public, many whites aggressively pursue and defend this point of view. I was in a bar recently and had to try to keep my composure while a patron droned on and on about how the cop who drove into that kid at 50 mph had “no other choice.” And all the while I’m supposed to worry more about a killer cop’s twisted ankle than the survival of my own son and brothers. Are you kidding me? On what planet? This stands at the very core of white supremacist thought–even when the “thinkers” are ignorant of it.

We need to amplify our collective voice and speak out–and encourage and support those kids on the front line who are speaking truth. We are up against the most sophisticated propaganda matrix the world has ever seen. Remember Malcolm: “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” Above all, we need to be careful. But not in the way politicians and handwringers like to think: My people have been killing you for centuries. But please, let me tell you how to resist. Or lead your movement–even better.

The utterly depressing thing about the now ubiquitous comparisons to the ‘riots’ of the 60’s is that, 50 years later, conditions are actually more hopeless. Inequality is measurably, tangibly worse. There is no talk of a national commission or legislation to address the elephant in the room. No opposition to the status quo of the police state is tolerated from any quarter taken seriously; there is no organized dissent or political force to push back. Moreover, and even more dangerous, the increased repression is part and parcel of a global assault on all the peoples and countries of the Global South–a worldwide Jim Crow, as it were–by an ever-more-bloodthirsty unipolar war machine. Scary, depressing shit.

This is a global struggle, folks. The fight to eliminate broken windows police terror at home is inextricably linked to the struggles of our global south peoples to push back against the systemic and overwhelming violence that fuels endless imperial wars. They symbolic and real juxtaposition of Palestinian and American youth, cast in rock-throwing positions side by side, raised the tag ‘Baltimore Intifada.’ What they use against these kids is what has been, is being, and will be trotted out to repress dissent not only against them, but any of us who try to resist. Cartoonist Matt Lubansky penned a hilarious and pointed piece titled “Great Moments in the History of Peaceful Protest.”


It is a brilliant prebuttal to all the fools who can’t repress the need to preach to the next generation of revolutionaries how they would get much farther if they would just calm down and circulate a few petitions. And vote for Hillary!

Writer, singer, linguist and activist Daniel Patrick Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School. Read other articles by Daniel Patrick, or visit Daniel Patrick's website.