A long time ago people got tricked into thinking ownership was a thing. Maybe it started with greed. One person wanted to take exclusive possession over something another person needed. In order to do that they needed violence and so the idea of ownership was created to justify that violence. Ownership as a concept is a tough sell because it’s a bit of a pyramid scheme. The more people you exploit, the more you get to have for yourself. You can make up some bullshit hierarchies around identity for an incentive, but you’re still going to need violence to keep it all together.
Of course, the one big problem here is that ownership is a lie. You can’t really own anything. At best, you’re just renting and even that depends on what you can get away with. But if you’re going to believe in the particular lie of American ownership, you’re going to have to believe in all the other lies built off of it.
Take slavery, for example. Enslavers wanted exclusive possession over something Africans needed—themselves—and they justified that want with “religion” and “science” and used violence to achieve and maintain that possession. But since you can’t actually own anything, you sure as shit can’t own a person. Go ahead and dig through some of the 200,000 “runaway slave” ads from that era if you need further convincing. But there’s also a lie about Black violence. You know it’s a lie because there were 317 enslaved Black people working on George Washington’s plantation at the time of his death and only five overseers. It’s not that I’m saying Black people aren’t capable of the same violence as white people. I don’t have to. Toni Morrison already said it much better than I ever could.
The start of this country is another example. The founding fathers not only used the lie of ownership to take land from the Indigenous peoples here, but they also stole their plan for governing that land. They also stole the eagle as the symbol for that government. And they employed genocidal violence to sustain that lie. They also went out of their way to lie about Indigenous violence in the Declaration of Independence, writing of the, “… merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”
Over time, as the lies sustained by violence sustained by lies grow and fester, the white products of this culture can be less and less grounded to reality. While there are certainly some white people who believe Black folks to all be ultra-violent, there are many others who believe us all to be complaisant targets.
And that context and all, dear reader, is how one gets one’s fuckin ass whooped.
So, here’s riverboat co-captain Damien Pickett Back on August 5. He’s moving a pontoon boat some white people left in the spot reserved for the riverboat. Now, this is in Montgomery, Alabama, and it’s got a certain history stretching way past the bus boycott. In the 1800s, the Alabama River in Montgomery was where thousands of enslaved Black folks were brought inand sold off. Now, a certain cultural memory is clearly alive and well down there because when the pontooning whites (PWs) saw Pickett, apparently one said, “fuck that nigger,” threatened use a gun and attacked Pickett with a weird punch sort of thing. Pickett then threw his hat into the air and the proverbial bell rang. I’m not going to go into all the details because you can see the best summary of the fight here, but it was like someone whistled Dixie. Seven of the PWs swarmed Pickett and this is when I go back to the context. The PWs must’ve really believed in that complaisant target stuff. They really thought they were going to jump this man at his job in the middle of the day and all the Black folks were just going to watch. The PWs should’ve listened to P.E. when they had the chance.
If you don’t know what happened next, you couldn’t possibly guess. A young brother jumped off the riverboat, swam over to the fight and started body slamming fools. Ol’ Grampy started swinging the folding chair like he was Koko B. Ware. PWs were trying to talk their way out of it, jumping in the water, getting their asses whooped. One PW ran away so fast his crocs were up around his shins when the cops caught him. It was beautiful and poetic and hilarious. But then the cops did come, but guess what? Most of them were Black and they didn’t shoot anyone. They didn’t even strangle anyone to death, if you can even imagine such a thing.
It looked like the perfect summer day and I can’t remember the last time the internet brought me such joy.
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