Day 3 in Stockholm. I woke up to the news of the Ferguson verdict. I was in shock, but not really. I remember reading Golden Gulag by Ruth Wilson Gilmore in grad school and finding this quote: "Racism, specifically, is the state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death." Racism, then, is state-sanctioned young black bodies laid dead on the street. Racism is a system that creates, facilitates and rewards officers that fear young black bodies. Racism creates and perpetuates premature death.
I was so sad and outraged for this boy Mike Brown, for his family, for every person who is harmed by the institutions that rely on racism. And yet, I recognize how easy it is for me as a white woman to see this from the outside. To be safe in the knowledge that my anger is not layered with fear of these very same institutions.
I was sitting in Stockholm watching American social media explode, and I was struck by the secret prejudice, ignorance and anger bubbling out of so many white commentators. I was horrified to follow the #ferguson hashtag on Twitter (not even linking to it, it was so bad) and to actually see people write and speak these racist thoughts out into the world. This article says it better than me: 12 Things White People Can Do Now Because Ferguson.
As hard as it is to connect what is happening in Ferguson with what is happening here in Stockholm, I think there is something important going on here with the idea of secrets. In Janessa Clark's piece, flaskpost, she's looking at the ways that a narrative of a location is created by the accumulation of centuries of anonymous secrets and stories. She is looking at how a collection of anonymous confessions can give you a sense of a place, its taste, flavor, language. These underground microcodes of culture can come together to transmit history, behavior, belief, and viewpoint.
What are the microcodes of culture that could let something like Ferguson happen? Reading Darren Wilson's testimony is like reading a 1910 description of the "Giant Negro"--big, scary, crazed, and violent. How could these secret codes or stereotypes still be living in our bodies today? How could they still be transmitting?
flackpost makes me think about the ways that art can shine a difficult light on these secret narratives.
I found this statue in the middle of a courtyard in Gamla Stan, the oldest part of Stockholm. It was in a courtyard, Brantingtorget, surrounded by rounded buildings. It felt like a secret to discover. It was dark and hidden around it, then the statue itself was lit beautifully from three sides. Not sure how it all ties together, but the poignancy of this statue felt resonant to me as I think about all these issues.