White Tears Matter: The Internet Death of a Young Racist

ON MARCH 9, 2018 THE combined forces of the internet and changing societal norms killed a 34 year old (white) man named Andrew Dodson. The question is how? The answer is: through suicide. Because this method of death is self-inflicted, an explanation is needed to explain how the internet and society conspired to place so much psychological pressure on Dodson that the only way he found to relieve said pressure was to end his existence.

Mind you, providing this explanation is a difficult personal experience for me. As someone whom American police forces will execute upon the command of a distraught citizen who looks like Dodson, it is emotional labor to, first, process my own emotions, then enter compassion and feel his pain. It doesn’t matter that the challenge before me is exactly what the teachers of humanity demand, it hurts. Thanks to social media, in my lifetime, I haven’t borne witness to many (white) persons doing what I am challenging myself to do.

It’s All About Thinking Errors

The motivating factor behind the angst I feel as an African American citizen is the inherent injustice of my social position. As Jay-Z opined in his 4:44 album, it doesn’t matter what quality of person I develop into. The quality of person I evolve into doesn’t inoculate me from the lived experiences of systemic racism. I’m “still [a] nigga.”

Just like any vulnerable person, it is difficult for me to put myself in the shoes of my abuser(s). I already have to manage my abuser’s emotions, lest he or she abuse me in the moment. I’ve learned to tolerate microaggressions as a matter of personal survival. (Feminists can relate.)

If I complain, I mean, stick up for myself, and state how the microaggression makes me feel, I am shut down as the originator of my own suffering. Cue any controversial, politically charged issue, like police brutality and the clapback is to deflect any responsibility on society and place it on me.

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A Prominent Police Brutality Counter-argument: What about the Black people who are killing other Black people in Chicago? There is a reason why the police are being called into these areas. It is called crime. Stop the crime and there will be no need for police presence.

What I hear is: because Black people kill Black people, white people are allowed to kill white people.

That argument confuses me. When I state that this argument is weak, the white citizen I am speaking to dissolves into irrational emotion, i.e. fear, fight or flight.

I know why. My social position demands I agree this argument is a sound one. Truth is secondary to obedience.

The colonizer could not suffer such dissent. The refusal of a Native person to speak the language of the colonizer, dress like the colonizer and act like the colonizer meant immediate death. From the perspective of the colonizer this was a logical conclusion. Natives outnumbered the French, English or Spanish colonizer. It took the fear of death to keep the Natives from harming the colonizer. The only way the colonizer knew he or she was safe was absolute, dictatorial control over the Natives.

It took a lot for colonizers, slave masters and segregationists to feel safe, for their nervous systems not to be on edge all of the time.

So, explaining why Dodson took his own life is emotional labor because it baffles the imagination that the abuser is so committed to his or her worldview the most logical, common sense conclusion escapes them. The abuser is seen by the abused as exactly what he or she is: an abuser.

Inferiority Complexes Run Amok

Because the abuser does not like himself, this revelation inspires a psychological collapse.

Remember the tiki-torch white nationalist parade in Charlottesville last August [2017]? Andrew Dodson marched in that little display. He shouted the words, “Blood and soil! Blood and soil! You will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!”

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A photograph of Dodson was taken and posted onto the internet. He helped the identification process by wearing his favorite shirt. Dodson was doxxed, meaning, he suffered emotional consequences for his promotion of white nationalists viewpoints. [1]

Thanks to the Civil Rights Movement, the popular response to Dodson’s “white tears”, or emotional pain, is indifference.

“That’s what he gets.”

“This is how growth happens. It has to be so painful to be racist that you choose to stop being racist.”

As of right now, American society has not developed a more effective response to racism than to merely distance the individual from the group. The majority of White America (not a monolith) intellectually agrees racism is wrong. Few wish to openly associate with its symbols. Thanks to Dr. King, racism now comes with a cost.

And, that is what hurts. Dodson no longer felt safe. Well, better stated, he did not feel safe enough. For the first time in his life, Dodson was authentically not being judged by the content of his character – as an individual – he was being judged as white nationalist, racist person.

Racists, thanks to the Civil Rights Movement, means psychopath. It is someone who can do a Dylann Roof, meaning kill innocent human beings in cold blood, inside of a church and show no remorse.

Such a person is toxic – the very definition of toxic.

He, or she, is irredeemable.

And, their tears, their emotional pain is not heard. No matter how contrite they are, it is not enough to remove the brand of being racist.

It is in this space that I imagine Dodson received a glimpse of the vulnerability a Black male feels when a white person calls the police on him. “I have no way of escape; society is going to kill me and not care.”

Nor is he alone. Several young men who were doxxed following Charlottesville expressed complete and utter confusion in the face of the public backlash to their participation. Most recanted the chants and views expressed in Charlottesville. The apologies, similar to the ones New York attorney Arthur Schlossberg recently delivered, fell flat. [2] Last August, when pressed to defend President Trump’s reaction, media personality Melissa Francis, broke down crying during one debate on-air saying, “I know what’s in my heart.” [3] She felt judged and unable to defend herself.

Trapped, with no effective solution, Dodson achieved suicide. Just like the young Native men, who find themselves trapped on reservations achieve suicide.

Because the “white male brand” lost a lot of currency under Obama’s administration, a strata of White America intimately feels Dodson’s pain. As I’ve been told in the countless social media debates I have conducted, there is a movement in America to shame White people for being White.

Each mass shooting lowers the brand. Each conviction for sexual harassment lowers the brand. Each act of governmental overreach lowers the brand. Each mistake by a corporation lowers the brand.

Everything that is bad in America is labelled White people’s fault.

And, that hurts. It hurts so much, the idea that White people are being discriminated against and denied leadership positions in society is firmly planted in the minds of at least 63 million Americans. They voted for Trump. Why? Because they are unpopular.

It doesn’t matter that societal numbers do not match said feeling of unpopularity. Congress is still 78% white male. But what does that mean? It means white tears are not be honored. Feeling unpopular, despite evidence proving otherwise, is called “white fragility”, as defined by Dr. Robin DiAngelo. [4]

So, those on social media trying to use Dodson’s death to communicate their own feelings feel muted. (Or, so, I discern from their comments.) No language exists in America to describe how they feel which is not already the intellectual property of Dr. King and Black people.

The question becomes, what do we do now? What direction does America take? I have a few answers, however, I charge $75 per hour.

Words by Kokayi Nosakhere

 

  1. https://www.scu.edu/ethics/focus-areas/internet-ethics/resources/social-efforts-to-id-charlottesville-marchers/
  2. https://nypost.com/2018/05/22/racist-lawyer-i-am-not-a-racist/
  3. https://youtu.be/1yji-zi0y70
  4. http://libjournal.uncg.edu/ijcp/article/view/249