My Writing on the Little Rock Slasher Was an Exploration of Policy, Violence, and Blackness
Despite what white people want you to think, it has been the state that has visited the most violence upon Black personhood.
Earlier this week, I published a story I’ve been researching and writing, in a sense, since I started blogging in 2016. In Little Rock, Black Power and White Supremacy Clash in Hunting a Serial Killer responded to the recent news of a murderer haunting my fair and Black city. But I had been developing the argument for years about how policy and political decisions create a society where killers become a natural byproduct.
In Little Rock, Black Power and White Supremacy Clash in Hunting a Serial Killer
In Little Rock, Black political power struggles against white supremacy in hunting a serial killer.
I wanted to highlight a few lines, assertions, and evidence sources from the piece to give insights into my craft and also make the argument that following a hyper-specific beat for years will make you a stronger storyteller. Endurance does matter.
Black personhood, however, understands that crime is a social construction. The crook emerges in opposition to whatever laws government passes and enforces. The weed dealer is only a crook because weed is illegal; white people are now changing laws to make weed dealers entrepreneurs. My people’s folklore inspires questions of justice and social structure when white people change up their behavior.
Arkansas Is a Suppressed Blue State
The state’s recent legislative session shows how deeply Republicans fear Black voters will once again turn Arkansas…
I wrote a story in GEN some time ago about the passage of medical marijuana in Arkansas. The law remains a bright spot in Southern democracy. Despite intense effort from the Republican statehouse to avoid a vote on the issue, citizens and advocacy groups managed to get the initiative on the ballot. The people’s will won out, and now you can buy your joints and edibles with a “green” card.
The initiative’s victory solidified a thesis bumping around my cerebrum. Arkansas is a suppressed blue state. I wrote a follow-up piece highlighting the evidence I needed to support my argument further. And I applied that intellectual framework to Little Rock, which led me to argue that Rock Town is a suppressed blue and Black city.
A Visual Guide Regarding How Arkansas Is A Suppressed Blue State
Black writers — we live in an age where social science has caught up with our folklore.
Serial killers exploit societal cracks.
My intellectual inspiration for the story was James Baldwin’s The Evidence of Things Not Seen. Playboy commissioned Baldwin to report on the Atlanta Child Murders. Baldwin came back with a book-length essay that not simply told the story of parents who lost their children, but how white supremacy begets serial killers. One of the Prophet’s lines stuck with me:
It is terribly boring to have to say it — again — but it is the White flight and not the Black arrival that alters, or demolishes, property values…A Black neighborhood is a “high-risk” area because it is Black and because the bulk of the population is trapped there.
All Black people know that our presence enriches this nation. We have provided for white people, and for people who aspire to be white, the only truly American forms of food, music, and language. I have lived in segregated, majority Black communities my entire life. Even here, in a suburb outside of Little Rock, my block is nearly all Black.
White flight is what withdraws tax dollars and thus political attention. Their fear is their responsibility, though my people have to live with the consequences. Baldwin’s insight led me to examine both the ward maps of the city and the exact levels of segregation via the Racial Dot Map. Comparing the ward maps with the segregation map confirmed my hunch that the statewide gerrymandering also happens at the city level, and led me to Vice Mayor Lance Hines’ red-meat comment about the money raised from Mayor Frank Scott’s sales tax increase going to people “east of I-430 and south of I-630. Guess who lives in that section of town?
Though I did not grow up in the 80s, my family has always passed down tales of the dark age of crack cocaine. Addicts piled around the block. Dealers populated every corner. These fiends were lost in their white powder dreams; the pushers, trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents. The war for customers tore many Black communities apart and led in the 1990s for broad support of a crime bill. But we now recognize from hindsight that these people needed mercy. Instead, they got guns, handcuffs, bars, and billy clubs.
One of the reasons I write is to explore the folklore of Black personhood. As a child, my mom and grandparents talked about needing more police to arrest the violence of the projects we lived in. It didn’t work. We all now support the Movement for Black Lives and realize that police are a reactive measure that we must replace with preventative policies.
I want to do more research and write about the crime bill and how we first supported it, only to become cement shoes on politicians such as Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. James Foreman Jr’s book lies on my bookshelf, begging for me to read. I hope to get to it over the summer.
For Black people, murder is longitudinal. We are mainly concerned with keeping our souls. White people have made our physical suffering elemental to the American experience.
I think of how children remember their whippings. They hold on to that fear of violence. Sure, they grow up and may joke about it to their parents and peers. But violence perverts relationships we have with each other.
One cannot understand Blackness without studying or knowing the relationship we have with violence. Despite what white people want you to think, it has been the state that has visited the most violence upon Black personhood. They will lie and say we do it to ourselves mostly. Such a lie means ignoring the horrors of slavery, convict leasing, sharecropping, lynching, and mass incarceration.
It also shows in the statistics regarding the LRPD’s use of force in arresting Black folk. Such distrust, I feel, would make it harder to catch a killer on the loose. We fear death, but death is final. Why would we countenance talking to a state power such as police with a history of brutalizing us?
Please let me know if there are any other portions of the article you want me to clarify in the comments!