I'm Dunn (But Not Really) With This: A Few Notes on Strategic Apathy and White Supremacy

Many people have asked me how I feel about the Michael Dunn case and the troubling verdict. I am quite vocal about race issues and general human equality so these inquiries come as no surprise.
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Many people have asked me how I feel about the Michael Dunn case and the troubling verdict. I am quite vocal about race issues and general human equality so these inquiries come as no surprise. What is surprising, however, is my response to their questions: NOTHING. I feel absolutely and unapologetically nothing, and yet I simultaneously feel everything. In a world where White supremacy is wreaking physical and psychological havoc on people of color I, at times, choose what I term "strategic apathy" as a means of dealing, of coping, and as a means of living a full and happy life.

Strategic apathy is not a lack of care or concern, but it is a political choice to not fully engage as a self-preservation mechanism. It is a specific kind of momentary withdrawal where groups or individuals chose to live, laugh, and love in spite of all the reasons not to.

In the cases of Michael Dunn, the White man who was not convicted for the murder of Jordan Davis, Theodore Wafer, the White man who shot Renisha McBride when she knocked on his door looking for help, Randall Kerrick, the White officer who shot Jonathan Ferrell when he was looking for help post a car crash, and the too many others before them, I checked out. I was unable to emotionally invest in McBride and Ferrell in the same ways I had for Trayvon Martin and Megan Williams. But more than inability, I have been unwilling to subject myself, that is my emotional and mental health, to investing in a justice system that is both unable and unwilling to seek justice on behalf of Black people. The idea that Black life is only valuable as some(dangerous)THING to be propped up in service of White safety is not only problematic, played out, and physically dangerous it is downright psychological terrorism. And, that is the reason I, and I am sure many other Black folks, simply just CAN NOT at times.

I honestly hate the fact that I check out so frequently, but I am not sure how I could keep on (doing the work I do) if I stay plugged in. If these killings, which are troubling enough and the absurd trials teach us anything is that, in the words of African-Americanist Ashon Crawley, "White supremacy is dangerous, it's killing folks, [and] it is a psychosis, to use Morrison's claim, that is fucking up Black livability." It is one thing to hate me because I am darker; it is another to completely deny me a fruitful and safe life. In 2014 we still do not have equal education or employment opportunities. More, we cannot even to listen to music, buy iced tea, wear hoodies, or chew skittles. It is appalling that the same system that taught me about Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs is denying me the most basic of them.

Even more, the killings and their aftermath teach us that this justice system was built in a way that simply can and will NOT work towards keeping Black people safe, nor can it or will it seek justice on our behalf. Contrary to popular belief the system is not broken; it is working just as it has been made to over time, which means we must continually work towards new worlds and new systems that is capable of valuing Black life for more than punch lines, devoiced athletes, viral videos that everyone apparently do have time for, and, even worse, the thing that is always on trial and (almost) always guilty.

When I read about the Dunn verdict I was with one of my nephews (he is 4 years old but claims he is 5). I had just taken him on his first flight because he loves airplanes. He had just fallen in love with a White pilot who showed him the cockpit and answered his questions about the various controls on the flight deck. He saw me fight back the tears and asked, "What's wrong, Uncle?" I responded by kissing him on the forehead and said, "You know Uncle loves you, right?" He answered, "Yes." In moments such as these I choose to love because the alternative is frightening. In this way, love is more than a feeling; it is a political act, a moral and ethical choice we make to lead more connected lives. It is the only way I can continue to go on believing we can remake a world where Black people are understood as loved, of love, and lovable. Shortly after my nephew asked, "Can we fly all the time?" Little does he know how much I wish ALL black folks could be above it all.

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