We must never forget how White people codified racism into law
To understand why Black lives are undervalued in American society, you must start at the root. While European colonists did not invent slavery, they did create a unique, cruel brand. Throughout the Roman Empire, enslaved people were often indistinguishable from enslavers, but in American society, the chattel slavery system was race-based. As a result, laws designed to control enslaved people targeted Black people.
For instance, the Casual Killing Act of 1699, which the Virginia General Assembly passed in October of that year, “declared that if a slave died while resisting his master, the master would be deemed not to have acted with malice. The law effectively made it legal for masters to kill their slaves at will in the process of inflicting punishment.” This law also distinguished between the punishment of Black enslaved people and White indentured servants. While killing a White person as a penalty for non-compliance would be illegal, Black people could be killed casually by enslavers without fear of reprisal.
Non-compliance is still used to justify police brutality that disproportionately targets Black people. “If only they complied with their instructions,” or “responded quicker,” or “differently” is the type of racist commentary we often find under postings discussing police brutality. This racist blame-the-victim culture attempts to explain away the brutality we see Black people experience and normalize the violence. American policing, which punishes any non-compliance with brutality or death, dehumanizes Black people, depriving them of the basic fight-or-flight response. As I wrote in Momentum, “Black folks are expected to resist the urge to freeze, run or fight back and are rarely given the benefit of the doubt when mishaps occur.” The same anti-Black racism that inspired The Casual Killing Act of 1699 to become law persists in police culture. Qualified immunity paired with the blue wall of silence typically protects officers from consequence, allowing them to kill Black people casually.
While Americans often gawk at the horrors of lynchings during the Jim Crow Era, they rarely peel back the…