Last week a local sports announcer in Oklahoma accidentally broadcast himself calling a team of high school girls the n-word. He blamed his actions on his diabetes.
On Wednesday, the Wisconsin State Assembly decided against recognizing Black History Month, instead opting to honor Rush Limbaugh.
Late Tuesday evening a 21-year-old white man killed eight people in the Atlanta area. Six of his victims were Asian women. He was, of course, arrested without incident.
During a Wednesday press conference regarding that last situation, Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spoke of the killer and his actions, “He does claim it was not racially motivated.”
Baker went on for a while, speaking more of the killer’s claims. Specifically, of the killer’s claim of sexual addiction as a likely motive, as though the over-sexualization of Asian women itself could have nothing to do with racism.
Baker, as the representative of law enforcement, seemed to think that the best thing for him to do—the most necessary information to announce and the prime method of reassuring a shocked and mourning public—would be to prioritize the voice of the killer.
If you’re wondering why a law enforcement officer might do such a thing as well as imply excuses for the lethal behavior and give far more than the benefit of the doubt, there is an answer. It’s at the end of the press conference when Baker, boosting the signal of the murderer one last time, said, “He was pretty much fed up and at the end of his rope and yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.”
Right now, perhaps you yourself are giving the benefit of the doubt to Captain Jay Baker. If so, I encourage you to let his anti-Asian, racist Facebook post dissuade you.
Regardless of what Baker and those like him would have you believe, claims of intent are not actual intent. You can’t actually know someone’s intent. Far too often claims of intent serve to distract, absolve, and persuade against accountability. And focusing on those claims is an act in controlling context, which controls all.
During the Obama administration hate groups multiplied; there was a rise in hate crimes and white domestic terrorism. The following president deliberately widened our divides and so hate groups multiplied again and hate crimes continued to rise as did white domestic terrorism. Then, as our former president began to blame China for his own catastrophic response to COVID-19, Asians became the primary focus of hate groups, hate crimes, and white domestic terror attacks. And, if the January 6 white domestic terrorist attack on the capitol has shown us anything, it’s that whiteness is more emboldened now than any other time in recent memory. All of this takes place in a country that’s economy, way of life, and general philosophies were born of and continue to rely on racism.
Now, either that is the context of these killings or, you know, a guy just had a bad day.
The response to these killings from lawmakers is as reliable as it is discouraging. They say we need more police, as though that could have stopped these killings. This shouldn’t have to be said, but more Jay Bakers have never been, are not now and never will be the solution to anything, ever.
They say we need more laws. I hate to have to be the one to tell you this, but murder is already illegal. Hate crime laws already exist and like I already said, they’re only escalating.
The truth is that we very deliberately make room for hate. I’m not talking about a figurative feeling in an ethereal place like our hearts. I mean a very literal thing functioning within our physical spaces. We make room for hate in our families and work places. We make room for hate in our police stations and our city halls. We make room for hate in congress and the White House. We even make room for it in our entertainment.
There are no killers like the one in Atlanta without authorities like Jay Baker to make room for them by normalizing and romanticizing white domestic terrorists. There are no Jay Bakers without law enforcement agencies like the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office literally making room for them within their ranks. There is no “China virus” or “Kung Flu” without the various hateful mechanisms within our government making room for our 45th president.
Unless we embark on a deliberate mission to not only stop making room for hate, but disallow it entirely from ourselves and our institutions, it will be all that’s left of this country and eventually, it’s memory.
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Image by Andre Hunter via Unsplash