“If you hit someone in the head with a stick that’s considered violent, but if you hit all the Black people over the head with racism that’s not considered violent.” Society has always categorized people of color as violent but do Americans even really know the definition? Michael Harriot peels back the layers unveiling violence throughout our government and legal justice system that often leads back to the white community.
You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified.
Michael Harriot [00:00:05] One summer. I had to stay with my aunt, with my cousins and like my older cousin, Benard. He was going to teach me how to fight because my aunt, she just let us play. She used to live in this huge house in New Jersey, so she just let us, like all the boy cousins roam around all summer. So she bought us boxing gloves and I was the youngest and the smallest. But my cousin Bernard, who everybody knew had hands like bricks, said he was going to teach me how to fight. So we put on the gloves, and this dude just starts pummeling me, right? I just kept going with it because, like, I probably had, like, juvenile early onset CTE, but he just kept hitting me and I just kept taking it. Until one time, I all of a sudden got a licking. And this was a big thing for me because I almost knocked them silly. And this was a dude who could fight so good. Like I saw him knocked out a grown man, for, you know, stealing candy from the official neighborhood candy lady, Miss Betty Jo. And so I was so happy. And Bernard took off his gloves. He was mad. And he says, okay, lesson’s over. And I was like, nah why?
Michael Harriot [00:01:32] I want it to continue. So from then on, he started saying, there’s one thing about Mike, Mike will fight. And all of my life that saying follow me like if you go to my hometown now and I aint proud of this or, you know, bragging. But if you ask them about me and they say, like, there’s one thing about Mike, I promise you that they will follow it up with. Well, Mike will fight. But I’m not a violent person because violence is different from fighting. And I want to welcome you to theGrio Daily, the only podcast that is willing to talk to you about violence in the white community. I’m Michael Harriot, a world famous wypipologist. And this is theGrio Daily.
Michael Harriot [00:02:28] Now, according to Merriam-Webster, the definition of violence is the use of physical force so as to injure abuse damaged or destroyed by distortion, infringement or profanation. And is a second definition and intense, turbulent or furious and often destructive action or force. I think about this a lot. I think about violence a lot. It’s not like I like violence, but I’m consumed by how America characterizes violence. Like, for instance. Right. Like we think that it is violent to snatch money from a person or to punch them or push them down. But we don’t think of it as violent to take away their health care and condemned them to a life of poverty because they got sick one time. We don’t think it’s violent to subject children to unequal schools. But if those children are poor and robs somebody that’s considered violent. If you hit someone in the head with a stick, that’s considered violent. But if you hit all the Black people over the head with racism, that’s not considered violent. And it’s funny because all of those fit the definition according to that being. I read called the dictionary. Like, think about like the January 6th insurrection. The Ku Klux Klan. Attempted coup.
January 6th Insurrection [00:04:19] USA, USA, USA, USA.
Michael Harriot [00:04:23] Whatever you want to call the charge of the White Brigade that happened at the Capitol on January 6, 2020. According to the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, 98% of the 532 people arrested by federal authorities were non-Hispanic white people. 52% lived in counties that were more than 70% white. And the vast majority, 87% of them, had no connections to existing far-right militias or military groups. We were told like it was the proud boys.
Proud Boys [00:05:02] Glad to see you guys. You guys F***king patriots. Look at this guy, he got covered in blood. God bless you.
Michael Harriot [00:05:12] It was Republicans. It was people who were outraged who came from across America. But the only thing that these people had in common was whiteness. They live around white people. They work with white people. They are from white families and they are white. They were more white than they were Republican. Most of them identified as Republican, but not as many as who identified as white. It was just white people. But we can’t say that because there has to be a characterization of this event as a political action or people who failed for the big lie and not contextualize it as what white people have done throughout the history of this country. White people were mad when Black people got the vote. And it was resulted in a nationwide terrorist event called Reconstruction. White people were mad when their children were going to go to school with Black children. And it resulted in the segregation movement. It shifted the parties in this country. White people were upset when Black people protested police brutality and created a parallel All Lives Matter movement.
Michael Harriot [00:06:51] No matter what Black people do, whether it is protests because the Black Lives Matter protests were characterized as violent, whether it is peaceful, because the Civil Rights movement was characterized as violent, whether it is serving our country, because after World War II, we lynched Black people. After World War I, we lynch Black soldiers for staring white people in the eye. They called it the Red Summer of 1919. But we don’t characterize that as violent. We call it reconstruction. We call it the, quote unquote, Red Summer. We call it pro-segregation. We call it states rights. But Black people, we’re violent. But we really do need to talk about violence in the white community. For instance, why do so many white people have to own guns. You know if you even talk about common sense gun control, white people will lose their sh–. And there are polls that show that most Americans, Black people, Hispanic people, Asians, brown people in general believe that we could prevent mass shootings by enacting common sense gun reform. Most Americans, except for white Americans, support that.
Michael Harriot [00:08:21] But we don’t like to say that white people are promoting violence. Most. People in America support a woman’s right to choose. But we don’t characterize forcing women to carry out a pregnancy by using government laws to incarcerate the ones that don’t. We don’t characterize that as violent. But we incarcerate violent criminals who sell drugs to people who want to take drugs. That’s not violent according to America because it protects white people. So we should rethink the idea of violence because that is a destructive force. The health care industry is robbing people of their right to live. The criminal justice system is a destructive force that disrupts Black lives and communities all over America. It’s violent to stab someone in the chest. But if you poison are Black communities drinking water. That’s just something that happened. And on the end of all of these disparities, there is always Black communities and Black people who suffer the consequences of white people saying It ain’t my problem but my fault. How is that not violent? So let me tell you a story. Right. So in Alabama in 2015, this 16 year old Black kid went with his friends to break into a house and rob it. And the kids come out. All of them are teenagers. They come out and the police are waiting for them. One of the teenagers raises his gun at the police. So they said. And the police shoot the Black kid did.
News Reporter [00:10:43] Washington remembers his son as a quiet kid who dreamed of playing football for the University of Florida.
Father of Son [00:10:49] Full of energy when he was young, just full of energy. After high school he wanted to go to like the Florida Gators.
Michael Harriot [00:10:58] Now, you can argue whether or not the police should be incarcerated for that. You can argue whether or not he feared for his life. But you can’t argue about what they did. See, they didn’t charge the police officer. They charged the kid’s friends with his death. And one of the kids decided to fight it and they sentenced him to 60 years in prison, using the logic that if you are involved in a violent crime, just robbing someone’s house and someone dies from that crime, then you are responsible.
News Reporter [00:11:42] He did commit a crime.
[00:11:43] He did. And he should have got the proper time for the crime he committed the burglary and the stolen property. 65 years old, syoung guy, 15, who didn’t kill no one. Didn’t kill no one and didn’t shoot at no one. Alabama.
Michael Harriot [00:12:05] So the police wasn’t responsible for that death. His friends who decided to go robbing with him were incarcerated, and the longest sentence was 60 years. How was that not violent. How is that justice? How is the lack of equality and opportunity in America not violent, but when a child or an adult tries to subvert the law and equal out the institutional discrimination against him, it’s all of a sudden a threat to America and a violent act. And I’m not saying that there aren’t criminals who aren’t violent. What I’m saying is that according to the definition, America itself is an act of violence. If you want to stop the violence, which is a great song that Black people have been talking about since the eighties. Then you can’t just focus on the Black community. You have to focus on the violence and the silence of the white community who whine about violence but do nothing about the systemic, institutional thing that we call white supremacy. We have to ask the white community to address the violence in their community. And we have to ask you to download theGrio app, to subscribe, to listen every day on your favorite platform and to tell a friend about it. And as always, will leave you with a famous Black saying. Bad boys move in silence, but white people move in violence. We’ll see you next time on theGrio Day. Thank you for listening to theGrio Daily. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app, subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at theGrio.com.
[00:14:39] You are now listening to theGrio is Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:44] You’re watching The Blackest Questions Podcast with Christina Greer. In this podcast, we ask our guests five of the Blackest questions so we can learn a little bit more about them and have some fun while we’re doing it.
[00:14:55] Okay, so this is a trick question.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:58] We’re also going to learn a lot about Black history, past and present.
[00:15:01] Beautiful. I learned a wonderful fact today. Great. So here’s how it works. We have five rounds of questions about us. Black history, the whole diaspora, current events, you name it. With each round, the questions get a little tougher.
[00:15:14] Oh, you got me. You got me. Let me see. Let me see.
[00:15:17] I have no idea.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:18] I knew you were going to go there, Dr. Greer.
[00:15:20] Subscribe to the show wherever you listen to your podcast and share it with everyone you know.