Do You See Now Why Critical Race Theory Matters?
Walls, the law, America
Not guilty, you see, is an indicator of how a person has worked within the constraints of law not how they have behaved within the limits of morality, decency, and humanity.
The law, you see, has been built over time through layers of irregular stone on a foundation of cultural views we recognize through the lens of time are clearly flawed at minimum and quite often explicitly racist and, certainly, were they to be proposed now would be opposed by any decent human being.
You see, it’s like that one photo you may or may not have seen, of an art installation that’s a wall of brick and there’s a thin book at the bottom of the wall of brick and you can see how that minor deflection from plumb at the root of it all creates a distortion wave that runs continuously through the wall, and you can see the massive deviating disturbance at the top, and you can see how it doesn’t get better when you add more straight and true bricks atop, instead you see that in fact it gets worse, and the only way you can make the wall straight is to actually tear down the wall and remove the problematic core issue then rebuild. Maybe with the same good bricks, but certainly without the object that ruins the wall.
You can see that art installation as hopeful: as the power of one small idea changing everything. And you can see it as a warning, that a distant long ago flaw or a minor jurisprudential hiccup that is, in fact, legal can create catastrophic impact that will prevent true-ness in perpetuity.
This is Critical Race Theory, you see, a commitment to examining not just the obvious ways that people are racist when they wear hoods and burn crosses and deny people jobs and shout epithets and murder wantonly but to looking for those tiny parts of the entire system that throw it out of whack and make true justice impossible to achieve and recognition of our failures of justice hard to locate. Critical Race Theory lets you see where deviations are hopeful and where they are disastrous, so you can see where you need to build and where to rebuild and what to remove before you do so. Critical Race Theory is hard because sometimes things you think are hopeful or central or core or valued are actually the disastrous distortions. You can’t see that without looking. You have to look to see.
It is legal, you see, to illegally transport and possess an AR-15 and visit a town under uncomfortable and, indeed, violent protest against the indignity of the extra-judicial murder of Black Americans, and to visit that town toting the illegally-possessed AR-15 pretending the presence of the AR-15 is a defense of some idea of freedom and the force of law when, in fact, showing up with that AR-15 — making a point of traveling into a protest zone with a weapon designed to kill — was motivated almost assuredly by a deep-seated fear of Black America rising up to refuse the perpetually broken wall of American policing that bears, at its core, a distortion that makes it absolutely legal to shoot a Black boy holding a toy gun because it could have been a threat and absolutely legal to show up with an AR-15 at a protest with a loaded real weapon of human destruction then shoot other people who recognize the holding of a real gun with real bullets and real intent is a threat.
And, you see, the law is about self-defense, and the specifics of that law make it, in fact, legal to determine that someone trying to wrestle a gun away from a person brandishing a gun that he brought to a protest because he opposes the protest and believes himself to be protecting something — what? a storefront? — is threatening the holder of the AR-15 by trying to seize the AR-15, so the provocation of the AR-15 creates a condition where the holder of the AR-15 inspires a situation where he is now threatened, within the eyes of the law, so he can gun down two fellow human beings and main a third, legally, because he is now legally defending himself, according to the state of Wisconsin.
Do you see how justice and the law are not the same thing?
You see, what happened in Kenosha was extra-judicial killing which we think is against the law or should be against the law but actually, in this case, is fully consistent with the law, because what happened in the Wisconsin courtroom on Friday was, in fact, the accurate application of Wisconsin law. The killings were, legally, self defense.
And that is precisely the problem, you see, the tiny aberration at the bottom of our pile of bricks that creates a crumbling building that can never be saved until we actually address our core foundational problems, which requires the restorative masonry of Critical Race Theory, because in Kenosha some people were on the streets because they believe Black people when they talk about oppression and violence and other people were on the streets because they don’t believe Black people when they describe the violence and oppression they experience because, in fact, so much of the violence and oppression Black people experience continues to be explicitly legal, because the foundational deviations of American law and culture make it so, and too many people who don’t experience the violence and oppression would rather believe the lie of “impartial” legal systems than look into the ways our legal systems are built of layer upon layer of partiality until that partiality seems like a smooth wall, and because many live where the resultant cracks and fractures don’t show up, thus the smooth parts of the wall are all they think exists, and Critical Race Theory says, no, there are cracks and, yes, those cracks are embedded with the entire structure of our wall, and too many people say, again, their part of the wall is fine and if you tear down this wall just to fix that old thing then maybe their part of the wall will shift, almost imperceptibly, but that’s too much. For them.
So, you see, that’s a courtroom. That’s this courtroom. That’s this absolutely legal outcome which we have to see as a signal of the cracked foundation.
You see people, though, responding by saying “our jury system works” and “we have to respect the outcome” even though we can clearly see the outcome is to offer no consequences for the killing of people in a situation created by the person doing the killing.
You should see this, also, in the acts in the very same week of a dominant wing of ignorant Pennsylvania legislators who voted to make it legal for everyone to carry guns hidden in their waistbands, a scenario that without a doubt would make it easier for more Kenoshas to happen, for more people to feel suddenly threatened and pull out the guns from their waistbands and brandish then and for other people to try, perhaps, to take those guns because they are afraid, and for those guns to be fired, and for the firing to be called self defense, and for the carrying and the firing and the killing to be, as it were, legal.
That’s not a smooth brick, you see. That’s a wedge of iron shoved into the foundational deviation because some want to read a Constitutional amendment without seeing how that Constitution is sometimes a document of hope — indeed it is, yes for sure — but also sometimes a document of destructive deviation, and it is this latter thing when we refuse to think about how the culture that wrote the document was not the one we imagine for our children, and that sometimes it’s hard to fix a wall without looking at the whole wall, and that always the wall will remain crooked if we don’t actually step back and look at the whole wall, and particularly if we aren’t willing to repair the parts of the wall that lead to a courtroom in Wisconsin acting within the constraints of the law that leaves two people dead and one maimed and the killer not guilty and America ready to show up to protests they don’t like with guns shoved in their waistbands so they can start shooting when they feel threatened. Legally.