Radio Derb Is On The Air: Black Skin Privilege In The Navy Yard Shooting

As a podcast on iTunes, listenable/downloadable onscreen at Taki’s Magazine, or as a transcript here.

The central issue arising from the Washington Navy Yard shooting is, to my way of thinking (and Ann Coulter’s) the way we treat severe mental illness as a Civil Right.  I say some words about that in this week’s broadcast.

Then I explore some of the peripheral sociology, in particular the ways in which the shooting illustrates Black Privilege.  I play the soundtrack of a Fox News clip from the day of the shooting.

You need to know that the interviewer is a black guy, and he's interviewing two witnesses, a white woman and a black man. Here we go.

You need to know that the interviewer is a black guy, and he's interviewing two witnesses, a white woman and a black man.

Black interviewer:  Could you describe the guy?  What was he dressed like?
White female witness:  He was tall.  He appeared to be dark-skinned.  He did not have, um, I don't think he had a hat on.  We were looking but, ah, he was down the hall far enough that we couldn't see a face, but we saw him hold the rifle then we saw him raise it and aim it in our direction.
Black interviewer: He appeared to be a black person?
Black male witness: A tall black guy, yeah.
Black interviewer: He was a tall black guy.
Black male witness: Tall black guy, yes.
Black interviewer: And did he say anything?
Black male witness: He didn't say a word, didn't say a word.
Black interviewer: You just looked at him? . . .

Just listen to the social dynamic there!  Standing next to a black guy, being asked questions by another black guy, the white woman goes into race cringe mode.  The shooter “appeared to be dark-skinned.”  He wasn't wearing a hat.

It's like watching a subatomic particle approaching another one of the same charge.  The repulsive force gets stronger as the moving particle gets closer.  It gets to within a certain distance—He appeared to be dark-skinned—then the repulsion is too strong and the particle bounces off the force field and flies away in a random direction: He wasn't wearing a hat.  Why should he have been wearing a hat?  Hardly anybody does.

The black witness, though, has black privilege—the privilege to speak frankly and honestly: A tall black guy, yeah.  The black interviewer likewise: He was a tall black guy.

It's a captivating little snippet, like something out of a Tom Wolfe novel.  You could use it as a classroom illustration to teach a group of visiting space aliens about racial etiquette in early 21st-century America.

You know what I mean by space aliens, right?  Those critters that . . .  appear to be green-skinned.

Listen to the whole broadcast at Taki’s Magazine.  It includes a brief tribute to singer-songwriter Jim Croce, who died forty years ago Friday.  Here’s another one, which came to mind—I can’t imagine why—as I was reading Steve’s posts about Smith College.