Professor Michael P. Jeffries’s Nov. 29 op-ed “Ferguson must force us to face anti-blackness” is sure to make some people uncomfortable, but I’ve often found leaning into discomfort is the only way to progress. It’s about time that we had an honest, candid conversation about the culture of anti-blackness that still plagues America. Perhaps the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., will lead to a crusade to tackle this important issue.
I teach a course to high school seniors called The Politics of Identity: Race, Class, and Gender in the 21st Century. Many of the case studies I use highlight the points Jeffries makes. The history of race in the United States in many ways is an examination of America’s anti-blackness propensity, and the media have always played a critical role in advancing what Jeffries calls “the debasement of black humanity.”
The O.J. Simpson case is an interesting example of anti-blackness. In 1994 Time magazine darkened the cover photo of Simpson’s face. The managing editor responded to the criticism of racism by saying that “no racial implication was intended, by Time or by the artist.” That cover is the personification of anti-blackness.
We seem stuck on trying to figure out what’s racist, but calling out anti-blackness will go a long way in getting to the root case of racism in our society.