The “woke jokes” are the flip side of the Rittenhouse murder coin in that these seek to isolate & delegitimize antiracist & antifascist white politics as “the real” threat as opposed to, you know, actual racism & fascism.
This genre is adjacent to the racist joke phenomenon in that the underlying goal is to reinforce white supremacy by ridiculing & dehumanizing those who oppose it.
This is why folks in my field argue that racist speech from minstrelsy to the n-word promotes white suprematist violence. The underlying goal is to show the targets of that speech as deserving of state sanctioned theft, violence, & even extermination.
The historical relationship btwn these "jokes" & literal white vigilante/state violence is unmistakable. I will share a few political cartoons below that illustrate the point, but again, the historical record is replete with this stuff.
The 1866 "Freedmen's Bureau" cartoon is a famous example in which white supremacists celebrated racist caricatures of Black Southerners. Images & "jokes" like this supported a white paramilitary campaign that murdered tens of thousands of Black Americans during Reconstruction. Image
White Americans likewise used anti-Chinese "jokes" to justify anti-Chinese violence like the 1877 San Francisco "Riot" as well as the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act banning Chinese migration. Image
This famous 1899 "School Begins" cartoon has all the hits, celebrating white America's expanding empire as well as the permanent exclusion of Black, Chinese, & Indigenous people from the "school" of Americanness. Image
This 1899 "joke" coincided w/the passage of new Jim Crow laws, Native dispossession, & colonial violence that killed hundreds of thousands at the hands of white Americans worldwide. Image
And of course we can't forget this 1942 racist Dr. Seuss cartoon depicting Japanese Americans as an enemy within used to justify Japanese Internment Camps (…). Image
White Americans used these explicitly dehumanizing racist jokes to justify white supremacist state & vigilante violence alongside what we might call "woke jokes" meant to discredit white support for democracy & equality.
White support for emancipation & Black rights, according to the woke jokes of the 1860s, was really about a desire for interracial sex. White supremacists used this rhetoric to justify the murder of perhaps 1000 white supporters of Black equality after the Civil War. Image
Another of the genre, "honest" white men threaten violence while the devil of multiracial Fusionist politics tries to lure unsuspecting white men. ImageImage
Cartoons like this helped inspire the 1898 Wilmington Coup & Massacre which overthrew the interracial government of Wilmington, NC & murdered an untold number of mostly Black residents.
And although the post-WWI genre often combined red-baiting & race-baiting, we can occasionally glimpse white supremacist anxieties around potential racial solidarities that animated the postwar Left. Image
And finally, another from the racist Dr. Seuss vault in which he alleges that failing to dehumanize the Japanese promotes the murder of white Americans. Strong Blue/All/White Lives Matter vibes right there. Image
So what's the point of all these? Aren't they just jokes? Well, no. White Americans shared these "jokes" to support explicitly racist state/vigilante movements against racialized groups & their white allies. The "woke joke" works w/racist "jokes" to promote racist violence.
Historically, the racist & "woke jokes" accomplished precisely that--violence against racialized groups & white folks who dared to support them.
We have a situation where white paramilitaries & Republican politicians are working together to kill & disenfranchise their opponents, passing laws & (now) judgements promoting violence against anti-racist protesters. An extremely & increasingly dangerous fascist movement. /end
*white supremacist. My phone is the worst thing ever.

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More from @wihorne

25 Nov
When I was doing my dissertation research, I came across an account in the 1860s where local officials had ruled a brutal homicide of a Black farmer death by natural causes — heart failure. As so often happens, only mass Black protest & pressure revealed the crime.
Without the risks & sacrifices made by those Black activists in the 1860s, we wouldn’t even know that a crime occurred.
And the thing is that there are THOUSANDS of examples like this & countless thousands more we’ll never be able to identify. Local cover-ups of anti-Black violence like the ones we saw in the Ahmaud Arbery & George Floyd murders are a defining feature of the U.S. legal system.
Read 4 tweets
20 Nov
One thing I emphasize with my students is that we see the deadliest white backlash mvmnts in response to instances of interracial solidarity. The state endorsement of the Rittenhouse murders in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests fits that historical trajectory.
From Elijah Lovejoy, Charles Sumner, & Anthony Dostie to James Reeb & Viola Liuzzo, white supremacists targeted white activists who dared to challenge the color line. White paramilitaries likes the Proud Boys *literally* embraced Rittenhouse for precisely this reason.
As we look back at the ways that interracial solidarity inspired white supremacist violence against mvmnts of interracial solidarity, we can see clearly one of their weak spots in public white rejections of the supremacist banner.
Read 4 tweets
19 Nov
White vigilantism remains a defining feature of the American state & a key engine of white suprematist backlash.
That it remains in essence legal for white vigilantes to murder civil rights protestors & activists, just as Byron Beckwith’s assassination of Medgar Evers was sanctioned by the state, is meant to signal that white America will not permit the BLM protests of 2020 in 2021.
And as others who study & counter white paramilitarism & extremism note, Republicans have already embraced the likes of Rittenhouse & Babbitt as *models* for recruitment & future vigilante attacks. THIS WILL GET WORSE.
Read 9 tweets
19 Nov
Thinking this morning abt how white American perceptions of proximity to racialized groups lead white supremacists to initiate an expansion of the racial state.
We see this form of backlash quite clearly in the 1910s-20s, when the northward Great Migration of Black Southerners & immigration of racialized southern Europeans inspired a white hysteria campaign that led to a truly national 2nd Klan & a tidal wave of apartheid legislation.
The threat-narrative coverage of Black protest & racialized immigration of the last decade seems to have inspired a similar expansion of white vigilante groups & state-level anti-protest & anti-democracy apartheid laws.
Read 5 tweets
17 Nov
A good portion so-called liberal academics want nothing more than to simply *describe* the oppression of others. Once you understand this as a particular form of extractive labor done at the expense of marginalized communities, its white supremacist nature becomes unavoidable.
This is why I spend a good chunk of time talking praxis with my graduate students, bc critiquing systems of oppression w/o actively addressing them means practicing a different form of exploitation.
What especially troubles me right now is the way that colleges & universities have become sites of debt-peonage over the last generation for students, faculty, & staff. An extremely dangerous situation!
Read 4 tweets
3 Nov
For the confused kids in the room, white Americans refused to desegregate after Brown & resorted to redistricting, privatizing, rioting, beating, & lynching rather than accept integration. Their multifaceted subversion campaign eventually negated Brown.
I know this probs isn't what you learned in school & I'm sorry abt that, but there's LOTS of research on this. Read Mothers of Massive Resistance for a lovely presentation of this despicable white bipartisan post-Brown segregationist campaign.
Anyway, now white parents discover, much to their amazement, that although they segregated opportunities, their white nationalist mythology didn't create an alternate reality. We can still disseminate information to students on the relationship btwn racism & the state.
Read 9 tweets

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