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  • Writer's pictureRegan Byrd

On the Covington Catholic incident

***Written in response and gratitude towards Michael Harriot's article in The Root***

Thank you Michael, and an excellent take on this entire incident. The national dialogue has been exactly what I expected, but seeing the same patterns and justifications emerge is always so amusing, if not frightening and sad. Most white people, even progressives, seem to have a hard time naming the ideological underpinnings of a conversation or how that influences their framing. For example:

1. So many white folks commented something like "Where were the parents? Where were the chaperones? Etc etc. The very fact you are framing this as a young, white high school adolescent in need of some guardian intervention to "stop" this behavior is biased. Black young men and women rarely get framed as just adolescents, as children who are just making mistakes. We are always full fledged adults, whether at 7 or 17, and we are expected to be "held accountable" for our actions, even when our protests are about justice and dignity, instead of misogynistic posturing as the Covington "protest" was. Who gets to be defined as a "child", and who doesnt? Whose gets defined as "responsible" for the conduct of another?

2. How the Native American elder, his drumming, and the Black Hebrew group, were framed as aggressive, confrontational, etc, through an entirely biased lens, especially without asking these groups, who frequently interact with crowds and do protests, to define their methodology. Agitation, spiritual chanting, music, marching etc, are apart of many groups' theory of change or practice, and yet those practices have been wantonly defined as aggressive by white folks and mainstream media...why? No one even bothered to intially ask to add this layer to the debate. I will also take this moment to say I categorically reject some specific insults used in the exchange, but my analysis on that has more to do with toxic masculinity than race, so I will leave that separate for now.

3. This whole disingenuous attempt at fact finding. "Let's wait to get all the facts", "Another video shows the full incident and we jumped the gun..." Ummmm, what counts as all the facts here? One video that shows a confrontation earlier in which supposedly the teens were approached first? Or is it the video showing the teens harassing other protestors as is linked in this article? Is it the fact the teens arrived in MAGA hats in the first place, which any marginalized person is well within their logic to view as inherently threatening? Is it the "build the wall" chant, that still had literally nothing to do with the incident other than being an intentional racist chant? Or is it the entire history of race and racism in this country, the power of these respective groups, and what they are actually protesting about (for someone rights, or to take those rights away)?

4. White folks often look at a racist incident and say, "What are the facts of this particular incident?" And that's it. End of discussion. Instead, try looking at the facts of the particular incident, AND the history, AND the power differentials, AND the baseline ideological assumptions at play. Maybe then, we can stop having the same predictable national "debates" that only serve to reinforce white supremacy.

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