Thank you so much for this, Autumn Allen, your article has given me new perspective and empathy, and enhanced my ability to step outside of the white supremacist system.
“Mark’s defiance (the intention to steal) can easily be misconstrued as a lack of morality. But what if it is exactly the opposite? An intense sense of morality that drives someone to resist an unjust system by any means necessary?”
This point, so skillfully illustrated in your post, has completely rocked my world. I never really got it, that “bad” behavior from black teens could stem from a moral, righteous defiance of a rigged system. It makes perfect sense, and I’m shaking my head that I haven’t understood it before. I could see and relate to that kind of defiance when watching movies about historical racial injustice, but I was missing it right in front of me as expressed by the youth of today.
I can also see how, in not understanding this aspect of non-compliance, I’ve been opperating unconsciously in the role of a “good” white girl, to the potential detriment of black people. I’ve been buying into the story of non-compliance as always being “bad.” And that is freaky. I’ve never called the cops on a black kid before, thank goodness, but I’m realizing how much more likely I have been to do it, while opperating under that illusion of defiance being bad.
That ignorance is the dynamic of the white supremacist, patriarchal system. This is how it sustains itself and works. It needs me to buy into that story of defiance as bad, in order to sustain that system. My unconscious role in that system is to be afraid of defiant black people and then call on “heroic” oppressive forces to supposedly protect me — but more accurately, to keep the defiant oppressed.
If the defiance is moral, and not immoral — if rebellious black teens can still be seen as good and not bad — then the whole good/bad narrative is turned on its head, and the bolts start falling out of the whole system of racial oppression. At least from my perspective they do!
Thank you for this gift of a much firmer footing outside of the white supremacist, patriarchal system!