White Supremacy: Who Controls the News?
Long before the Coronavirus Pandemic and the national uproar over racism in the US our local schools came under fire for disproportionate punishment, suspension and expulsion of children of color. The superintendent of schools replied to all these criticisms by asserting that her School Department had no problem of racism.
It is now a year later and Black groups in our town have been complaining about racist and unequal police practices. Following the shining example of the superintendent of schools, the police chief insists that there are not and never have been racist practices in our Police Department.
Members of the Black and Brown community complained about unjust and racist treatment of their children in the schools; members of the same Black community are complaining about racist behavior on the part of police officers. The leaders of the schools and the police deny that any such thing is true.
The town's leadership, the mayor, the city manager and the City Council could have responded in a variety of ways to this controversy.
They could have proposed an inquiry where each party to the controversy was given a chance to tell their side of the story and make some effort to find what is most likely closest to the truth.
They could've appointed an independent citizens committee to try to find out how we should think about fairness in the schools and in policing.
They could have encouraged public or private conversations between the leadership of the schools and the police and representatives of the people of color.
They could have appointed a group of religious leaders to encourage and manage such conversations.
There are many different ways in which the city leadership could have given every party to this disagreement the chance to tell their story and to make an effort to bring to light what is actually happening in our town. All of these would have been different ways of opening up important conversations about issues of race. They would have been genuine contributions to peace among all citizens.
Instead the leadership of the town chose to do nothing whatsoever. The complaints of people of color in our town have been rejected as baseless by the leaders of the town – the Chief of Police and the Superintendent of Schools two of the most powerful persons running the town, both of them white. The Mayor, City Manager and City Council implied that the spokesperson for the Community of Color are malcontents, persons who exaggerated or even misrepresented actual events. They took it for granted that the stories told by White members of the city leadership were more reliable than any of the critics. No attempt was necessary at finding out whose story was correct. Of course the White story was the true one.
Here is one more example of systemic racism and of White supremacy: wherever there is disagreement about facts, White leadership will put their full confidence in narratives provided by Whites. The story of people of color has intrinsically less credibility.
Whites reassert their power by controlling the news. Their view of the world is the correct one. Their message is clear: "We are still in power. We do not need to listen to your complaints. We may pretend to do so, but we do not need to take them seriously."
Nothing convicts officials more decisively of being racist than their denial that racism exists in their organization.