Rosa Parks, White Binaries, and How Media Protects White Families?

On this day as we celebrate the historical moments of Rosa Parks and all that led up to that point and thereafter, I want to celebrate with you and offer this reflection.

I would like us to ponder how we know next to nothing about the white people who were on that bus that day?

I know right, you probably never thought about it?

I believe we don’t think about it because white group behavior is often subsumed under binary categories; KKK or Quakers, bad white /good white people. My life has taught me that this binary does not capture all of white racial identity.

What did the white bus riders tell their families? What stories were told about that moment? How do their great great grandchildren think of that time? The White librarian, Juliette Morgan who supported the efforts of Blacks during the Montgomery boycott, did not fare well. She was shunned by the town and eventually she committed suicide, in part, we believe because of the anger and psychological torture she received from her solidarity or support of black struggle.

People who challenge their oppressors and the systems that oppress them are often psychologically tortured.-Dr. Brian L. Ragsdale

One of the toughest challenges we face in our country, as we pause to reflect on where we came from and where we want to go, is re-examining our historical moments. In addition to how we re-write history, we have to be mindful how history is being created in the here and now.

I believe that we need to be mindful about how we capture the White experience, I mean its conceptual representation and identity.  For example, the media has placed a tremendous amount of scrutiny on Black families who are victims and traumatized following these fateful lethal deaths (e.g., McBride, Garner, Martin, and on and on and on and on). The names and faces of the parents of color are etched into our consciousness.  I am not saying that we shouldn’t provide families a voice, a safe space for mourning, that is not what I am saying. We should offer all the support and care we can to traumatized families.  But these families are not victims at the hands of individuals per se, instead we could view these events across a larger expanded framework, a tragic collision of two families;  one white and the other black.  Yet we know nothing about the police officer’s family, their schools, their childhood, and perhaps how they may have gone astray. .Zilch.

This phenomena of foregrounding black loss while maintaining a background of white anonymity and invisibility, from my view, is White supremacy in action. The ways in which White social and interpersonal experiences are completely left out of public view or scrutiny, protected in many ways by our complicit non-investigations.  Whites then our protected, shielded in a sense, with a form of social privacy that is not afforded to Blacks and people of color in general.  The social status of both groups are then reinscribed with fixed, racially constructed social hierarchical positioning;  black pain and criminality contrasted against an amorphous, innocent, neutral whiteness.

By not investigating White families, we are left with a narrative that can only be maintained through our acceptance of a simple binary: good white/bad white.  Good white folks engage in peaceful protests along side Blacks and racist, white republicans decry how wrong and illegitimate are claims of injustice and unfairness.  We are left with only these two options and nothing in between. Far too often this silence perpetuated by the mainstream media then reinforces this binary instead of portraying, perhaps, a more nuanced and complex narrative that acknowledges fluid and dynamic identities that all humans possess.

I want to hear what family members taught (or didn’t teach) these men about the use of aggression, who seem to be transfixed in allowing aggression and lethal force to be used. Why should we not explore the underlying mechanisms, the messages they received about their identities?  Not in a way to shame their families but to begin a sensitive process that would help us unravel the specific points of how we might raise White boys and men differently.

Why do we so readily accept the underlying racist premise of discussing black on black crime, as an accepted psychological phenomenon and show great reluctance in investigating the interpersonal relationships in which these men grew up in?

Please feel free to share this postings with your friends/social network, we might get lucky and a TV producer might read this and do some investigative reporting on this topic.

Before I go I would like to thank you again for all the support you have given me over the past 20 years… I am just getting started, and feel so blessed that all of you have helped me to keep growing, intellectually, personally, and spiritually.

Listen to my narrated powerpoint presentation about “Who Were the Whites on The Bus with Rosa Parks” here

2 Comments Add yours

  1. brianlragsdale says:

    Hi Pheralyn, Thank you so much. To hear these words of “stellar content” just warms my heart and soul. I have so much to honor in the ways that I have been cared for throughout my life. Through my silent prayers, in these lonely but joyous dark days, my faith is being restored through witnessing peaceful Black (and some White) protest. I am heading over to your space to see what is going on there too. Thank you for your loyalty and comments. Sending out good vibes your way, and once again, thank you for lifting me with your words. Sincerely, Brian


  2. pheralyn says:

    You continue to deliver stellar content that I find informative and compelling. Thank you so much for providing us with this platform. Congrats on all the success with your subscribers.
    Peace & Blessings Always.


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