Chris Dorner, Black Folk & What America Needs To Learn

February 13, 2013  |  

On Tumblr, I follow some very militant black folk. Yesterday, and really for the past week and a half, I’ve seen some very extreme posts in support of Chris Dorner. In a series of posts, one woman said she wanted Chris Dorner to win, to get away, that those people, his victims, deserved to die. No, baby. If we can all agree on one thing, it’s that Dorner’s victims did not deserve to die.  That’s not the answer. Chris Dorner killed the daughter of the police chief who defended him in his case against the LAPD and her fiancé. That’s in addition to the two police officers he killed. If the LAPD fired him unjustly or for some racially motivated vendetta, they don’t deserve to die. And even if they did, it’s not Dorner’s decision to make.

In all of this, it’s clear that Dorner is mentally unstable, a sociopath who succumbed to evil in an attempt to avenge himself against what he claimed was years of racism. All of that being said though, I couldn’t help but empathize with him. While I would never defend Dorner’s method, being black in America affords you the “opportunity” to identify, in one way or another, with his story. How many of us have been mistreated, overlooked or blatantly disrespected simply because of our blackness? In his manifesto, which Dorner wrote to explain his actions, he said that since elementary school, he’d grown up in predominately white environments where he was often the victim of racism. Though the media has said that Dorner’s manifesto was an extensive rambling, full of incoherent thoughts and media shout outs; how many of us can relate to that story of growing up in or coming to work in a racist environment?

I have a friend who, in high school, transferred to a predominately white, private school and went through all types of hell, culminating in one of his classmates spitting on him in the hallway. It sounds like something from the ‘50s or ‘60s, but this was in the early 2000s. Would he have been wrong to retaliate? Maybe, who knows? But if he decided to strangle his classmate, (He didn’t.), you would understand his reaction. Racism is still very much alive in this country. It’s not a stretch for me to imagine the LAPD, or any other law enforcement agency for that matter, being discriminatory. They have plenty of history to support that claim. Like Dorner, I don’t believe the racism and discrimination against blacks stopped with Rodney King.  And over time, these repeated incidents of disrespect, unfairness and human indecency can work on a sane person’s nerves, patience, and compassion. It can gradually enrage you.  Yet, despite centuries of enslavement and subsequent racial injustices, black folks are expected to just endure it, forget it and move on, be above it. It was Audre Lorde who said, “Oppressors always expect the oppressed to extend to them the understanding so lacking in themselves.” That was just too much to ask of Chris Dorner and I get it.

I get it the same way I can understand Nat Turner rising up. It’s the reason I loved Django as much as I did. (Who wasn’t rooting for him to win?)  True, Dorner has been afforded far more opportunities and didn’t have it nearly as bad as the men I just mentioned. But the attitudes that contributed to Dorner’s mistreatment are akin to the mentality that made it okay to enslave blacks in this country, to legally consider them less than human and then torment them once they were freed. They’re the same attitudes that make the killing of an unarmed, black teenager remotely arguable in the court of law.

There’s a lot this country has to learn about racism and its detrimental effects to not only its victims but also its perpetrators. And in a completely unnecessary, sick, twisted and immoral way, I think that’s what Dorner was trying to do.

Joy DeGruy, an educator and author who writes and teaches about “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” said that even Thomas Jefferson, who is widely regarded as racist, knew that Americans, both black, white and people in between, would struggle with the effects of slavery. In an interview with “Like It Is,”  a local, public affairs television show DeGruy explained Jefferson’s position:

Thomas Jefferson was fully aware of what the impact of—the long term impact of enslavement would be—on white people and black people. He talked about the horror associated with what slave masters did. And that their children imitated the behavior among their friends and younger children that were enslaved. And that that built into a sickness on the part of Europeans and a hatred and antipathy on the part of Africans. And his greatest fear is that it would end in the extermination on one or the other race. He says because God cannot side with us, meaning Europeans, in this contest. He cannot side with us which means God will side with them. He says ‘Indeed, I tremble for my country when I consider that God is just and that His justice cannot sleep forever.’ So Thomas Jefferson not only knew at the time the wrongness associated, but recognized the long term impact.”

What saddens me most about this whole Dorner incident is that innocent people died in his attack against institutionalized racism. And not only did innocent people die, I fear that because of the way he went about accomplishing his mission that America will simply disregard him as an angry, crazy, dangerous big, black man instead of an extreme representation of the feelings, sentiments and grievances black people in this country have been harboring for centuries.

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