Chauncey DeVega, black writer, podcaster, and self-proclaimed “ghetto nerd,” shared an essay on Daily Kos in which he reminds those that are horrified by the brutality of ISIS burning Lt. Muath al-Kasasbeh alive to remember that white Americans did the same thing to blacks in the past.
“American Exceptionalism blinds those who share its gaze to uncomfortable facts and truths about their own country,” wrote DeVega. Adding that just like their Islamic cohorts, “white lynchers” practiced their own “unique cultural ritual” that was just as “gruesome” and “medieval” as ISIS “for almost a century.” And instead of making a video of the crime and posting the propaganda on the Internet as is done today, whites of old shared “the spectacular lynchings of the black body” through postcards and “other media.”
In fact, the burned to death images of the black body were one of the most popular types of mass culture in 19th and 20th century America.
The rendering of spectacular violence against non-whites paid a psychological wage to white people that helped to create a type of social cement for White America, one that covered up its own intra-group tensions of class, religion, and gender. This racial logic continues in the present with a racially discriminatory criminal justice system, the murder by police of black and brown people, and how white Americans support such unfair treatment.
This all leads DeVega to pose several rhetorical questions:
To those American politicians who have denounced ISIS’s torture tactics: “Would they apply the same standards to white Americans who committed mass violence against African-Americans through lynchings, racial pogroms, and other like deeds?”
“Would they support reparation as a material gesture of apology for such crimes?” he asked. “Would white folks…condemn their ancestors who participate in such types of violence?”
And finally DeVega asked, “Will White America ever be willing to fully own its historic ISIS-like behavior against African-Americans and other people of color, and how such violence created the present, where neighborhoods are hyper-segregated, there exists a huge wage and income gap along the color line, and by almost every measure, black and brown Americans have significantly diminished life chances relative to white people?”
Many on the left share DeVega’s outlook against America, which he claims “has conducted master classes in violence and barbarism both before, during, and since its founding…and yes, much of this violence was against people of color whose labor, lives, land, and freedom were stolen to create American empire.”
Like-minded leftists posted those thoughts to Twitter:
But even with all of that support from his fellow lefties, DeVega felt it necessary to post a separate defensive essay to Daily Kos two days later after reactions poured in. He titled this one, “Liberal Racism: 25 Things I Learned After I Wrote About ISIS and White Racism at the Daily Kos.” This time he aimed his focus beyond his typical “de facto White identity party” target — namely, the Tea Party — and calls out those liberals who commented on his first story who apparently have “their own possessive investment in whiteness” and “reproduce white supremacy as a lived ideology.”
From those “liberal racists,” DeVega said he has learned much and wanted to share those observations. Some of them include, “white people are very sensitive,” “Whiteness is ahistorical,” “right-wing racists are much more honest, and thus easier to deal with, than liberal racists,” and “white supremacy’s reflection is very ugly to most white folks—especially those who have not disowned Whiteness.”