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Tue Sep 3, 2013, 01:59 AM

Walking While Black in the ‘White Gaze’

By GEORGE YANCY

“Man, I almost blew you away!”

Those were the terrifying words of a white police officer — one of those who policed black bodies in low income areas in North Philadelphia in the late 1970s — who caught sight of me carrying the new telescope my mother had just purchased for me.

“I thought you had a weapon,” he said.

The words made me tremble and pause; I felt the sort of bodily stress and deep existential anguish that no teenager should have to endure.

This officer had already inherited those poisonous assumptions and bodily perceptual practices that make up what I call the “white gaze.” He had already come to “see” the black male body as different, deviant, ersatz. He failed to conceive, or perhaps could not conceive, that a black teenage boy living in the Richard Allen Project Homes for very low income families would own a telescope and enjoyed looking at the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn.

A black boy carrying a telescope wasn’t conceivable — unless he had stolen it — given the white racist horizons within which my black body was policed as dangerous. To the officer, I was something (not someone) patently foolish, perhaps monstrous or even fictional. My telescope, for him, was a weapon.

In retrospect, I can see the headlines: “Black Boy Shot and Killed While Searching the Cosmos.”

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/01/walking-while-black-in-the-white-gaze/?emc=eta1&_r=0

17 replies, 1304 views

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Arrow 17 replies Author Time Post
Reply Walking While Black in the ‘White Gaze’ (Original post)
MrScorpio Sep 2013 OP
raging moderate Sep 2013 #1
DeSwiss Sep 2013 #2
Spitfire of ATJ Sep 2013 #3
MrScorpio Sep 2013 #4
Spitfire of ATJ Sep 2013 #5
Supersedeas Sep 2013 #14
Spitfire of ATJ Sep 2013 #15
joshcryer Sep 2013 #7
Enthusiast Sep 2013 #8
malaise Sep 2013 #9
ismnotwasm Sep 2013 #6
JustAnotherGen Sep 2013 #10
DLevine Sep 2013 #11
Supersedeas Sep 2013 #16
Grateful for Hope Sep 2013 #12
Liberal_in_LA Sep 2013 #13
struggle4progress Sep 2013 #17

Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Tue Sep 3, 2013, 02:25 AM

1. Thank you for this magnificent article.

It is well worth reading. The author shows such a wide range of knowledge and huge depth of understanding. One thing I noticed: the prohibition of a black person looking a white person in the eye. Long ago, it was poor white peasant people who were prohibited from looking their aristocrats in the eye, or questioning orders, or "stealing" some of the food they had produced but were required to give to their masters. When they got the chance, they turned around and did it to others, as though that would make them safe at last.

We white people are, as a group, encased in a rigid stifling suit of armor. Each of us must keep chipping away at the small portion within our reach. Our ancestors built it out of unreasoning terror, but the suit itself will eventually kill us, if we can't break out of it. We must learn to accept ourselves as we are and connect with other human beings. Articles like this one are very helpful to us in this struggle.

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Tue Sep 3, 2013, 03:18 AM

2. Excellent.

- He describes the experience extremely well.

K&R

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Tue Sep 3, 2013, 03:34 AM

3. Look at the comments. White people all claiming the article is "racist"....

See? There's only ONE kind of racism in America,...reverse racism.

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Response to Spitfire of ATJ (Reply #3)

Tue Sep 3, 2013, 03:40 AM

4. Which is where Wanda comes in...






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Response to MrScorpio (Reply #4)

Tue Sep 3, 2013, 04:44 AM

5. Meanwhile...

Who knew?

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Response to Spitfire of ATJ (Reply #5)

Thu Sep 5, 2013, 06:42 PM

14. harsh

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Response to Supersedeas (Reply #14)

Thu Sep 5, 2013, 08:43 PM

15. Naw,...this is....

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Response to MrScorpio (Reply #4)

Tue Sep 3, 2013, 05:22 AM

7. Louie-CK, Being White:

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Response to joshcryer (Reply #7)

Tue Sep 3, 2013, 05:43 AM

8. That is funny!

I do not think Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck or O'Reilly would like it. Tough shit.

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Response to MrScorpio (Reply #4)

Tue Sep 3, 2013, 05:46 AM

9. Freaking perfect

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Tue Sep 3, 2013, 04:48 AM

6. K&R

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Tue Sep 3, 2013, 05:52 AM

10. He really clearly

States the experience. And he does it in such a way that to argue against the actual experience is to do exactly what Yancey discusses in this essay.

This - this explains how it is as old asthe fore fathers:
David Hume claimed that to be black was to be “like a parrot who speaks a few words plainly.” And Immanuel Kant maintained that to be “black from head to foot” was “clear proof” that what any black person says is stupid. In his “Notes on Virginia,” Thomas Jefferson wrote: “In imagination they are dull, tasteless and anomalous,” and inferior. In the first American Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1798), the term “Negro” was defined as someone who is cruel, impudent, revengeful, treacherous, nasty, idle, dishonest, a liar and given to stealing.

My point here is to say that the white gaze is global and historically mobile. And its origins, while from Europe, are deeply seated in the making of America.

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Tue Sep 3, 2013, 06:02 AM

11. Powerful. K&R. nt

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Response to DLevine (Reply #11)

Thu Sep 5, 2013, 09:27 PM

16. Professor Yancey would have a field day with the lockdown of a black university

which resulted from a black man carrying an umbrella (telescopes, umbrellas...and the gaze of others--though not always the white gaze)

See:
http://triad.news14.com/content/news/692881/new-evidence-says-umbrella-may-have-caused-a-t-university-lockdown

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Tue Sep 3, 2013, 08:05 PM

12. A big K&R!

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Tue Sep 3, 2013, 08:30 PM

13. kick

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Response to MrScorpio (Original post)

Thu Sep 5, 2013, 10:24 PM

17. This has specific historical roots IMO: just as slavery required an elaborate ideological

justification, involving notions such as the intellectual inferiority and uncivilizability of "black" savages, the successor to slavery -- which was chain-gang labor -- required ideological justification, involving notions such as the inherent criminality of black males

http://www.democraticunderground.com/1017131999

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