White, Hot Rage

Written By Myles E. Johnson

“Why do you hate me?” the Black man asks before forcing a white supremacist, decked out in swastikas and other racist regalia, into a hug. The racist stiffens his back. He’d come out to hear Richard Spencer speak, not to be embraced by a beautiful, dark Negro with dreadlocks.

 Aaron Courtney Hugging White Nationalist

Aaron Courtney Hugging White Nationalist

The black man, Aaron Courtney, continues to press on. “Why do you hate me? What is it about me? Is it my skin color? My history? My dreadlocks?'" The air is filled with an intense and awkward resentment. You can feel through the screen the white man wanting to explode from being touched and the desperation from the black man. Finally, an answer:

“I don’t know.”

It seems unfathomable that a man no younger than 21 would march with a decidedly anti-Black crowd, draped in regalia that was designed to intimidate Black people to hear an avowed opponent of Black people speak without understanding just why he would do such a thing. Of course he knew why—I reckon he thinks about the ‘why’ every morning. But in that moment, he didn’t have the courage or pride or decency to explain himself.

Presented in pageantry or spectacle, hatred might be mistaken for hard work. It may even look exhausting. Yet, hatred is terribly easy, lazy even.  

I have hated before. Not an indiscriminate hatred that rounds people up by race, religion, sexuality, or gender—the kind that would bring you out to a rally, to perform your hatred alongside other haters—but hatred nonetheless. I have hated lovers who have wronged me. I have hated employers that made me feel insignificant. I have hated existing when I lost someone I had not prepared to lose. Hate was the easiest emotion to access and somehow gratifying, in the moment at least.

For me, however, hatred has typically come with an expiration date, because I recognize its limitations. Hate does not move or inspire me in the way that forgiveness, love, anger, and even jealousy can, it would rather render one ignorant, still, and rotting. Once the high of being enraged, and filled with no accountability and exclusively self-pity was no longer enough, I found the power to move into more productive states of being.

Perhaps that’s because my experiences with hate were all personal. You see, for hate to truly move and inspire, it requires community and culture. It must be continuously fed and connected with others to survive like a forest fire unable to grow without the accompaniment of other trees. While love and sorrow can perform in solitude and in solidarity, hatred needs a stage, a team, a gallery to be fully realized.

September 28th until October 15th, walls of the Hubei Provincial Museum in China were lined with side-by-side photographs of Black people and animals. Wang Yuejun told Agence France Presse the exhibit was attempting to “show the harmony between man and animal in Africa.” The curation invited viewers to see the similarities between the two, perpetuating ideas of animality that have shadowed Black people since we were raced. The exhibit, closed in on October 15th thanks to public outrage at the tone deafness of the exhibit. It affirms a thought we often try to distance ourselves from, but we know is the truth: there are cultures, art, language and businesses built off a global hatred of Black people. The Hubei provided yet-another-visceral reminder that anti-Blackness is always en vogue.

Gao Changli released the rules of who can and can not appear on television in China on January 19, 2018: “Absolutely do not use actors whose heart and morality are not aligned with the party and whose morality is not noble. Absolutely do not use actors who are tasteless, vulgar and obscene. Absolutely do not use actors whose ideological level is low and have no class. Absolutely do not use actors with stains, scandals and problematic moral integrity.”

By most press outlets this new rollout of what can and can not appear on television in China was understood as a clear ban on Hip-Hop. Once Chinese rappers that have appropriated our culture took it a step too far, there needed to be clear rules around what separates “us vs. them”; the line between wearing blackness as a way to be provocative and subversive, and becoming the barbaric, explicit blackness itself was beginning to blur. Like many artists like Miley Cyrus and Justin Timberlake do after using black culture for personal gains, China returned to a more respectable core that distances itself from the very entity that was used to profit and revitalize images. It is interesting to think about how many things produced by China is for black folks and the Hip-Hop culture, and yet the people buying these products would now not be able to appear on television to sustain their own images and economic status. The disdain is disgraceful and dazzling.

Be you black, white, brown, Native, or Asian it seems we all can have access to this white, hot rage against blackness.

We can attempt to prove that Blackness does not grow fangs and isn’t a gnarly beast, but that is useless. Aaron Courtney’s hug was a move of desperation that perhaps by performing love, others will not feel the need to perform hate. However, love does not transform someone who is not interested in being transformed, it simply makes it possible. In order for that possibility to be met with any action, the ones we wish to transform have to find it beneficial and must be willing. And in a white supremacist world, rejecting anti-blackness will never be seen as beneficial. In a world on the brink of nuclear war, rejecting hatred will not be beneficial. Hatred is lazy, and it is all too easy to strip away the humanity of others in order to validate yourselves via the comparison.   

Aaron Courtney was interviewed shortly after the white supremacist hugging that would trigger a widely negative response from a large part of the anti-fascist public. When asked about the “I don’t know” he received, he replied “I believe that was his sincere answer. He really doesn't know."

I disagree. That man does know the answer behind his white, hot rage. There are existential realities that humans have to go through that are not pleasant: rejection, death, loss, sickness, failure, lack of resources (resources can be material, immaterial, and often both). People deal with these realities in a plethora of ways, some more productive than others. This man found an excuse for the realities of American life through hatred.

White supremacist rhetoric, easily accessed via media and literature, told him that none of these realities belong to him, but instead are the fault of marginalized people—and, perhaps, that even if he doesn’t know those challenges well, that he is susceptible to them so long as those marginalized people have any access, power or identity whatsoever. He was told and chose to believe the only way to gain a happy state of being is by accessing power through hatred, although his gender and race grants him immeasurable amounts of power simply by existing.  And this was easier than working through life, loving through life, forgiving through life, or being accountable through life.

Hatred allowed this man to be lazy and collapse into the lowest level of humanity while avoiding all responsibility for his reality. This is an analogy for the American empire. This is difficult, and maybe even embarrassing to reveal, I’d imagine. So, instead of saying “I hate you because I was told to. I hate you because it is easier than practicing responsibility.” He chose to say “I don’t know.” He took the easy way out, once again. Finally, America is great again.


Myles E. Johnson

Myles E. Johnson is a black, queer writer and editor existing at the nexus of race, sexual identity, gender, feminism, and justice through content creation and cultural critique.