Not content to let an opportunity to be awful go to waste, Twitter trolls are out in full force since the release of the movie, Black Panther. What should be a celebration of a film that offers central characters that are black and powerful has been leveraged into an opportunity to accuse black people of being inherently violent.
‘Some people are trying to spoil the movie’s debut by claiming they were assaulted while watching the movie.’
Posts like this are being circulated amongst racists and the incredibly gullible:
If you're going to see Black Panther this weekend, be careful. This is an opportunity for racist black people to commit tacitly approved mass assault on white people who just want to enjoy a historic cinematic experience but are labeled as "racist" because of their skin color. https://t.co/srCahXR3E8
— ty (@typergiant) February 16, 2018
Quick research showed these photos to actually be from other incidents. In fact, the photo posted in the Twitter status above is actually from an assault that took place in 2013.
This incitement of anger towards black people, along with the portrayal of black people as uncontrollably violent, isn’t random. And it isn’t new.
In order to create an environment where slavery could thrive, those in power used the dehumanization of black people as a tool. If black people were not people, if they were subhuman, it would not be morally wrong to treat them as property.
White people need to learn why we see Black people as violent criminals. We need to learn that that perception goes all the way back to slavery. Another documentary that really details this well is "The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross." It's also on Netflix.
— Abbie Karlish (@KabbieArlish) February 7, 2018
This stereotype of black men has existed in media forever. And in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, these depictions of black men were the foundation for treating black men with incredible brutality and violence. If the rule is that black people are inherently violent, then people would be justified in treating black people with violence. It was reasoned that black people only understood violence, so they needed to be violently punished for any crimes (real or imagined).
See the following examples of book covers in the twentieth century:
The claim that black brutes were, in epidemic numbers, raping white women became the public rationalization for the lynching of blacks.
According to the Jim Crow Museum (WARNING, the following paragraph contains graphic descriptions of violence):
‘Many of these victims were ritualistically tortured. In 1904, Luther Holbert and his wife were burned to death. They were “tied to trees and while the funeral pyres were being prepared, they were forced to hold out their hands while one finger at a time was chopped off. The fingers were distributed as souvenirs. The ears…were cut off. Holbert was beaten severely, his skull fractured and one of his eyes, knocked out with a stick, hung by a shred from the socket.” Members of the mob then speared the victims with a large corkscrew, “the spirals tearing out big pieces of…flesh every time it was withdrawn” (Holden-Smith, 1996, p. 1).’
The incitement of incredible violence towards black men and women is impossible without the cultural depiction of black people as violent and sub-human. So, when instances like these Black Panther trolls pop up, it is important to remember the end game of this portrayal of black people.
This isn’t just a random troll, it’s an act to incite racists, emboldening them to treat black people as lower class and inherently dangerous.
I’m white, and I absolutely hate white people tonight. White people are trying to ruin a beautiful moment in black history with these “assault tweets” at showings of #BlackPanther LET. PEOPLE. BE. HAPPY.
— Unleash The Flutes (@ThisIsMyAtName0) February 16, 2018
Featured image: Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty