White Apathy to Black Pain

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On April 18, 2019, a video was released of Sergeant Greg LaCerra and Officer Christopher Krickovich pepper spraying and punching 15-year-old Delucca Rolle in the face.

According to a witness of the event, more students than usual had come to a McDonald’s near J.P. Taravella High School because “somebody was going to get jumped.” Records from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office showed that police had been called to said McDonald’s an astounding 85 times since August of 2018. Vandalism, trespassing, and “suspicious people” were the most common reasons why they were called.

According to other students of J.P. Taravella, two fights occurred at the school earlier in the day of the April 18th incident. This is an explanation why the police showed up in their best robocop gear to “deal with” hyped up teenagers. An unnamed teen was involved in a fight there a day earlier. Delucca was assaulted and arrested after reaching to pick up the aforementioned teen’s phone. According to Officer Krickovich, Delucca disobeyed Sgt. LaCerra’s order to stay away and then had an “aggressive stance” toward both officers.

Krickovich wrote these things in his report:

“Again, the three of us were outnumbered by a large group of students who were yelling threats and surrounding us.”

“I had to act quickly fearing I would get struck or have a student potentially grab weapons off of my belt or vest.”

[Referring to punching Delucca’s head] “as a distractionary technique” [to free his right hand in order to cuff him].

“The technique was successful and I was able to place him into handcuffs without further incident.”

The two deputies were later suspended in full after initially being relieved of duty by Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony. Both LaCerra and Krickovich are charged with using excessive force during the arrest. The cases are still pending.

Obviously, this was an egregious miscarriage of “the law.” However, that wasn’t what I was focused on. My eyes turned to the comments people were leaving on the video and articles about the altercation.

“Not so tough after getting pepper sprayed it seems.”

“Seems like basketball Americans don’t know how to act in public without breaking the law.”

“Job well done”

“Should have listened.”

“beat that punk”

“This is really satisfying I was impressed”

“He must had done something!”

“Totally deserved it! They’ll never learn.”

“like always, their is always other side of the story. I know black youth, they can be quiet violent and disrespectful”

“I love these videos, go police officer”

“Next time the police should open fire 👌”

“black women beat there kids worse than that…gimmie a break”

“We need more cops like that 100% America would be a better place”

And the longest one I found:

“the truth is if the boy had a father that taught him to respect authority it would not have happened. Heartbreaking. Yes you should respect the police and all authority. If it takes fear for you to have enough self respect to follow the rules without a babysitter so be it. We cannot afford to have the police attempt to parent these throw away children. My daughter would never disrespect authority like we hear these kids in the video doing. Sad — lack of parenting will destroy their lives. Praying for them as i think they are beautiful and amazing. We may need to have classes in our schools on self respect and respect for the law.”

Wow.

A 15-year-old was violently assaulted by two grown men damn near dressed in riot gear, and people were pleased with the officers’ actions?

I purposefully avoid the comments on videos like those because I treasure my peace of mind and my sanity, but I can’t avoid talking about this any longer.

The overarching issue here is the masses being apathetic towards black people in pain.

I use Delucca’s case as an example because when I look at him, I see a 15-year-old child. A child that is probably going to be scarred for life due to this assault. I could never view that video so flippantly. I’m disgusted that so many people were in favor of violence against a child. And those were just the people who commented. What about those that watched the video, nodded silently, and went on with their lives?

Anytime there is an incident like this, there are two main sentiments that arise from white people and some non-black people of color.

1.) “What action did the [black] victim do to provoke this violence?”

2.) “They deserved it.”

Why is this?

It is an old, racist trope that black people experience pain differently than white people do.

In a survey of 222 white medical students and residents, about half endorsed false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites. And those who did also perceived blacks as feeling less pain than whites, and were more likely to suggest inappropriate medical treatment for black patients, according to the paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

There were many false beliefs espoused all around. But for white respondents specifically, those false beliefs correlated with their belief that blacks feel less pain, on average.

- IKE SWETLITZ in StatNews.com

This is James Marion Sims, the “father of modern gynecology.”

Sims used enslaved black women for his experiments and medical testing. He did not give them anesthesia for any of the procedures, saying “the procedures were “not painful enough to justify the trouble.”

I’m not going to act as if they had clinically tested anesthetics back in 1846. Still, I can assure you that people were trying their hardest to find an adequate combination of ingredients to provide relief. Opium, morphine, or nitrous oxide were all viable options. Sims just didn’t give that option to enslaved girls he treated as lab rats. Enslaved black people had no autonomy, so I highly doubt they would be able to refuse any form of testing or medical treatment.

Sims wrote in a request to the owners who owned the female slaves he was after:

“a proposition to owners of negroes: If you will give me Anarcha [a 14-year-old mulatto slave] and Betsey [an 18-year-old slave] for experiment, I agree to perform no experiment or operation on either of them to endanger their lives and will not charge a cent for keeping them, but you must pay their taxes and clothe them. I will keep them at my own expense.”

The 18-year-old enslaved black girl named Lucy (who Sims had recorded as “[childbirth] leaving an opening between the vagina and the bladder, at least two inches in diameter or more,”) had a fistula procedure. A nearly deadly injury from childbirth that, back then, was believed to have no cure.

It was an hour-long, excruciatingly painful, and Lucy screamed in pain the entire time. Sims wrote in a journal entry about performing the surgery:

“That was before the days of anaesthetics, and the poor girl, on her knees, bore the operations with great heroism and bravery. I had about a dozen doctors there to witness the series of experiments that I expected to perform. All the doctors had seen my notes often and examined them, and agreed that I was on the eve of a great discovery, and every one of them was interested in seeing me operate.”

“Lucy’s agony was extreme.”

“I thought she was going to die…it took Lucy two or three months to recover entirely from the effects of the operation.”

The fistula surgeries took years to perfect. The aforementioned slave named Anarcha underwent 30 procedures before Sims reached success.

What makes this even more abhorrent is the fact that Sims wrote about experimenting on enslaved women so…causually. There was nothing about the practice at the time that would have given anyone true pause.

There are, unfortunately, more examples of this blatant disregard for black bodily autonomy throughout American history like the Syphillus Tuskegee Study and the purposeful irradiation of black cancer patients throughout the Cold War.

And this is just addressing the physical pain.

Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, speaks scathingly about black people in his 1781 book Notes on the State of Virginia saying:

They seem to require less sleep. A black, after hard labor through the day, will be induced by the slightest amusements to sit up till midnight, or later, though knowing he must be out with the first dawn of the morning.”

Their griefs are transient. Those numberless afflictions, which render it doubtful whether heaven has given life to us in mercy or in wrath, are less felt, and sooner forgotten with them.”

Black people forget trauma easily, anything of malice done to them will be forgotten at some point by their feeble brains.”

So according to the brilliant white minds of the 1700s and 1800s, physically and emotionally speaking: black people are equivalent to the X-Men. Our powers include being able to be cut open with no anesthetics, forgetting traumatic things because we’re stupid, being extremely moody, and being able to operate at full capacity on less sleep than the average American.

But seriously, though.

There is always a sense of inherent guilt placed upon black people. This comes (shockingly) from ideals created during slavery. A slave’s word against a white man? Guilt doesn’t even need to be discussed. Black people were seen as naturally dishonest. Lazy, gluttonous, stupid, impervious to pain, but great at child-rearing and manual labor. This “inherent guilt” is what causes the majority of people to see black people as less than and not deserving of mercy or justice. We must have done something to deserve said abusive treatment.

When you combine the ideology that black people can handle more pain with simple not caring about black struggles, you have a recipe for blatant dehumanization.

Black calls for justice are outrightly ignored until hell is raised about the injustice.

This country fought a whole ass war to keep their slaves (or to maintain their states right to own slaves for all you historians out there). Segregation didn’t end because black people told white people “they were acting mean.” Black people didn’t get our right to vote by gingerly waiting for our turn. Black people don’t get treated fairly by asking for rights nicely.

A common apathetic approach to black social issues I’ve seen is the:

“Do ya have to be so angry?”

A lot of black people have absolutely zero interest in making black struggles more palatable for white ears. If you think we as black people are about to make a coalition called the C.D.M.W.P.U. (Coloreds Determined to Make White People Understand) you are sorely mistaken.

If we sound angry *gasp* maybe its because we are! Wow! Imagine black people being upset at the 400 years of neverending oppression and violence being done to their people! Wouldn’t that just be so totally zany?!

It is not our job to sugarcoat our struggles to you just so you can feel comfortable.

I know that sharing videos of black people being murdered by the state or being brutalized allows there to be pressure for accountability. I know this. I want people to look at what is being done to us and feel sad, angry, and hungry for change. I don’t want this cycle of violence to go on forever. However, I don’t agree with the sharing said videos with the sole purpose being “LOOK AT THIS INJUSTICE!”. Why?

Police brutality against black people is nothing new. The dehumanization of black people is nothing new. The assault on black bodies is nothing new. People know that this is happening to us. The hardest part to come to terms with is the fact that they just don’t care.

And I honestly can’t say if any of them will ever start to.

“Please Massa, don’t separate my family!”

“Please sir, don’t let that dog tear me apart!”

“I can’t breathe!”

When have the pained pleas of black people ever softened the hearts of racists?

Written by

Writer. Womanist. Worrier. Alliteration Enthusiast. #AllBlackLivesMatter #TransLivesMatter

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