‘It was them versus me, and I was terrified.’

This is a very interesting take on Officer Wilson’s testimony provided by legal scholar Patricia Wiliams:

Wilson aired a series of stereotypes that pluralized Michael Brown. In the Renisha McBride case, Theodore Wafer, who was convicted in her killing, kept saying “them,” kept talking about “them.” It was them versus me, and I was terrified.

There was that stereotyped plural in everything he said. He was describing not even a human being, he was describing a terrifying shape onto which all kinds of historical fear [about the black body] were projected.

Dehumanizing. Beastializing. Cartooning. That’s precisely the danger of prejudice and stereotypes. That you don’t see the human being in front of you, you see a template, a projection, a hallucination of your worst fears that makes the fear greater than the situation that you’re actually in.

This take on the officer’s version of events reminds me very much of writings on the stereotypes of the ‘brute’ and the ‘savage’ in African American history scholarship, linking our fear of the unknown as well as the need to dominate the African Americans (for economic benefit, fear of being overruled, etc.) with a lack of civility. As Williams says, such a stereotyping is harming to the stereotyper and well as the stereotypee since it begins to dominate and doctor your vision. This dehumanising and beastialising experience that began with the first point of contact and exacerbated with the enslavement of Africans has filtered through generations, causing modern whites to replicate and often misplace fear that originated centuries ago.

Are we still afraid?

Katie McDonough, “A hallucination of your worst fears”: Legal scholar Patricia Williams on what Darren Wilson’s testimony reveals about racism in America, 26th November 2014, <http://www.salon.com/2014/11/26/a_hallucination_of_your_worst_fears_legal_scholar_patricia_williams_on_what_darren_wilsons_testimony_reveals_about_racism_in_america/&gt; [accessed 27th November 2014]

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