Reflections on the Killing of a Black Boy

13 thoughts on “Reflections on the Killing of a Black Boy”

  1. Beautiful article. I appreciate the sharing of experiences by those considered academic professionals that shows black teenagers are not some different species from black professionals, one becomes the other. More needs to be discussed of the existence of white rage instead of pretending it does not exist in American society. Anthropologists shining a spotlight on these issues in our own country can do much to temper our denial.

  2. I am an anthropologist. I am not pleased to be, twice in a week, lectured by other anthropologists, who have access to media coverage, about the necessity to express publicly an
    “anthropological” outrage about racial conditions in the United States, based on the events surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin, and the trial of George Zimmerman. Last week, the President of the American Association of Anthropologists, Leith Mullings, posted a long offensive message concerning the issue of racism in America, which was, in tone and perspective, not different from street outrage among some black activists. And now, just a few days after, here is again, published on the blog page of the American Anthropologist Association, a message by a Dr. Steven Gregory, Professor of Anthropology, African America n Studies, Columbia University. The link to that message is:

    I gasped when I read the following words, which I felt must come to the notice of the people named by this individual:

    “There is no question that anthropology has done a great deal to change the way that some Americans think about race and racism. And that work needs must continue. But the racist does not act out of ignorance; he acts with willful ignorance. Ignorance, mendacity and white rage are weapons for the like of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Don West, and all those who believe that black life has no value. And this, in my opinion, is the battlefield upon which we must struggle for justice for all. And that battlefield begins right in our backyards.”

    I profoundly disagree with such words, denoting a totally unnecessary indignation. and feel that such language indeed stains the profession and ethics of anthropology.

    1. Thank you, Helene, for a welcome burst of sanity on this topic. I am ashamed to be a AAA member after reading this blog post and the message from Dr. Mullings.

      Both of these rants seem designed to incense the reader and the final words from Dr. Gregory are easily interpreted as a call to commit violence.

      Dr. Gregory is particularly uncharitable in his caricature of Limbaugh et al. and clearly makes false statements that can only be meant to antagonize those with views that differ from his own and thereby further inflame an already tense situation. For example, if you ask Limbaugh or the others Dr. Gregory mentions whether or not “black life” has any value, would they truly answer in the negative?

      So much for trying to bring people together and promote peace and understanding.

      I do not agree with the politics or views of Limbaugh, etc. but if the AAA is willing to publish inflammatory and obviously false statements from Dr. Gregory about these people, perhaps the AAA should also provide a forum for Limbaugh and others to defend themselves?

      I could not agree more with Helene that the language and tone of Dr. Gregory’s blog post and Dr. Mulling’s message “stains the profession and ethics of anthropology”.

    2. Dr. Hagan,

      I feel that you may have misunderstood Dr. Gregory’s point. As I understand his words (though it should not be seen as me speaking for him), he was suggesting that though we may be anthropologists, we are people. Action for change must be appropriate to one’s idiom and circumstances, and sometimes, anthropological responses are less than useful. Some of us don’t have the luxury of not feeling targeted by racial regimes. If he argued the point of view of “human rights”, might you have felt more comfortable with it? In short, he wasn’t expressing “anthropological” outrage. He was expressing his personal outrage.

  3. This article hit the mark and addressed truths about this case, and about what it means to black in America that I had never considered before. Most poignant, ” the fragile, fictive bubble of normalcy,” that black people are forced to live within. That idea is gonna keep me up thinking tonight for sure. Thanks for this!

  4. A moving piece. We should not act toward each other as anthropologists, but as ethical human beings. It was very clear from Juror #B37’s comments that she failed to see Trayvon Martin and Rachel Jeantel as fully human. The work that needs to be done is in civil society as the essay points out. Trayvon Martin’s death should not be in vain.

  5. Thanks Steven Gregory, a well-written, well-thought-out and timely peice. I’m very surprised at the strength of the push-back against folks who speak out against the verdict. It tells me that there is something powerfully cultural at work behind the denial of racism in this country.

  6. “I profoundly disagree with such words, denoting a totally unnecessary indignation. and feel that such language indeed stains the profession and ethics of anthropology.” Really? Then what would totally necessary indignation sound like in this case? Or, lest others feel offended by cries of pain, must the outraged “other”, whose views may elicit personal discomfort, be silenced? And calling Gregory’s reflections on the need to struggle for social justice antagonistic, uncharitable “rants” that call for violence? Please.

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