January 29, 2023 Abdul Haqq

When they see us, Fade to Black

“…there is but one destiny for the black man. And it is white.” [1]

As the US grapples with the death of yet another innocent black male, Tyre Nichols – this time, at the hands of black police officers – Franz Fanon’s observation brings to light an uncomfortable reality regarding what occurs when minorities aspire to assimilate into the very society that continues to marginalise and dehumanise them. They become a part of the same oppressive and institutionalised apparatus, once feared, to terrorise their own communities. What is worse than a racist white cop? A black one.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not confined to police and can also be found among the corridors of power (central government in particular), the corporate world and at various societal levels, where minorities that have achieved a modicum of success assume it equates to (white) societal acceptance or, conversely, that they have reached a sociocultural position superior to their ethnic group and/or community:

“Negrophobes exist. It is not the hatred of the Negro, however, that motivates them; they lack the courage for that, or they have lost it. Hate is not inborn; it has to be constantly cultivated, to be brought into being, in conflict with more or less recognized guilt complexes.

Hate demands existence and he who hates has to show his hate in appropriate actions and behaviour; in a sense, he has to become hate. That is why Americans have substituted discrimination for lynching. Each to his own side of the street.” [2]

Tyre Nichols is the latest black man to be lynched by the police and what makes this so alarming is that the perpetrators are also black. This should not be considered intercultural gang violence, or should it? Some consider the police to be the biggest gang across many societies – and there is an element of truth to this assertion.[3] Released video footage has revealed the extent of the brutality Tyre Nichols experienced and has drawn comparisons to the assault on Rodney King 32 years earlier by white police officers. Neither men resisted arrest as the police assaulted them. Fortunately, King survived. Unfortunately, Nichols did not.

Red Blood, Black Hands & Black on Black Crime

“But what about Black-on-Black crime?”

It’s a retort sometimes heard in the context of the protests surrounding the death of George Floyd…often as the idea that there is a rampant crime problem within Black (and mainly urban) communities that some are choosing to ignore in favor of focusing on police brutality.” [4]

This loaded phrase continues to cause controversy, in part, due to the lazy stereotyping that accompanies it during attempts to diminish or obfuscate what is clearly an endemic and disproportionate problem of black deaths at the hands, boots (and knees) of law enforcement. The efforts to inoculate police by deploying such diversionary tactics are frequent and multifaceted, with both government and media working in tandem to attribute these institutionalised killings to the victims and/or their communities. We only have to look at how the US and UK have portrayed immigrants to understand the extent of obfuscation, when what they accuse the latter of are already within our societal borders and being perpetrated by none other than the police:

“Hundreds of killers and rapists were among foreign criminals who slipped into Britain undetected, police figures show.” [5]

From a US perspective, Donald Trump garnered enough support to become president on the back of racist comments directed toward Mexican immigrants:

“You have people coming in, and I’m not just saying Mexicans – I’m talking about people that are from all over that are killers and rapists, and they’re coming into this country.” [6]

The above tangential referencing is necessary inasmuch as it underscores the duplicitous and multifarious strategies deployed at the highest levels (and lowest when considering the gutter press) to perpetuate stereotypes in order to protect institutions like the police. The killers, rapists and criminals exist among the police forces of both societies, so it is imperative to prioritise these for review, reform and, where necessary, dismantlement and/or eradication of particular practices.

Returning to the perception of black on black violence, it does exist, much in the way that white on white violence occurs. The difference, however, is that the latter seldom gets reported in the same manner. In addition to this, particular forms of white on black crime continue to be part of the fabric of US society to the extent that it is tacitly approved:

“African Americans and black neighborhoods had been robbed and plundered by white landlords and real-estate developers for decades…especially in Chicago.

These conditions certainly set the stage for the “black-on-black crime” that Ebony and The Defender bemoaned. It’s perhaps no coincidence that the term began appearing right when white flight was in full bloom in cities like Chicago. Of course there was black-on-black crime: Black people were mostly those left behind in these cities.” [7]

House Negroes, Uncle Toms or is something else going on?

The five black police officers responsible for Tyre Nichols murder will undoubtedly face their own reckoning on a number of levels, societally, communally and familial. How they attempt to justify their murderous actions will be witnessed in court and, whatever defence is mounted, the evidence is damning and unequivocal. There is no escaping what they have done in the court of public opinion. What is difficult to comprehend however is their flagrant disregard for an individual that was – in many respects – a mirror image of themselves. Perhaps the following explanation can go some way towards fathoming their behaviour on that fatal night:

“This has led to some questions about whether racial bias is really at play: Can a black cop be racist against his own racial group?

But social psychologists and criminal justice experts say this question fundamentally misunderstands how institutional racism affects everyone, regardless of race. Racial bias isn’t necessarily about how a person views himself in terms of race, but how he views others in terms of race, particularly in different roles throughout his everyday life. And systemic racism, which has been part of the US since its founding, can corrupt anyone’s view of minorities in America.

In the case of police, all cops are dealing with enormous cultural and systemic forces that build racial bias against minority groups. Even if a black cop doesn’t view himself as racist, the way policing is done in the US is racially skewed — by, for example, targeting high-crime neighborhoods that are predominantly black.” [8]

Does this go some way towards explaining why five black uniformed officers, whose duty was to protect and serve, behaved in such a manner? Was their behaviour antithetical to their responsibilities to the public? Some would claim it was, but this is an increasingly easy assertion to counter due to the number of killings and the institutionally racist platform upon which police are able to escape justice. It is important to continue with the above-mentioned report as it sheds even more light on the pervasive nature of systemic racism insofar as it affects the black psyche once the latter has become part of the institution:

“These policing tactics can also create and accentuate personal, subconscious bias by increasing the likelihood that officers will relate blackness with criminality or danger – leading to what psychologists call “implicit bias” against black Americans.

Combined, this means the system as a whole – as well as individual officers, even black ones – by and large act in ways that are deeply racially skewed and, potentially, racist.

“The culture of policing is one that’s so strong that it can overwhelm individual racial differences…”

Over time, police officers are effectively conditioned toward implicit bias. When cops are thrown into situations every day in which black people are viewed as criminal suspects, they begin to identify people’s race as an indicator for crime and danger.” [9]


Conclusion: When they see us, Fade to Black; A Survival technique for black men?

“Fade to Black is used in stage performances to note the end of a chapter… In the practical sense, this is when the crew changes the set and the actors change costumes. But, in a symbolic sense, the fade to black concludes the entire scene.” [10]

Reimagining the above theatrics allows for a more realistic scenario whereby police are the crew, changing sets – from the point of apprehension of potential suspects (victims), on to the police vehicle, or morgue. The additional grotesque element of this must be their portrayal – rather, their dehumanisation of our black existence, consigning us to costume wearing participants, but we are far from that. Our skin colour is not a costume; it encapsulates who we are, our history, our struggle and our future. When the officers tasered, punched, kicked and murdered Tyre Nichols, they were also inflicting these crimes on our (and their) fathers, brothers, sons and ultimately, themselves. They closed Tyre’s chapter. This is what self-loathing looks like:

“Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair?

Who taught you to hate the color of your skin, to such extent you bleach, to get like the white man?

Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips?

Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet?

Who taught you to hate your own kind?

Who taught you to hate the race you belong to so much so that you don’t want to be around each other?

…you should ask yourself, who taught you to hate what God made you?” [11]





[1] Fanon, F: ‘Black Skin, White Masks,’ (Penguin Modern Classics) (p. x). Penguin Books Ltd.  Kindle Edition

[2] Ibid

[3] Shakur, T: ‘America is the biggest gang in the world,’ 2Pac interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuy7HyMEvSc [accessed 28th January 2023]

[4] Lyn, S: ‘Black on Black crime’: A loaded and controversial phrase often heard amid calls for police reform,’ ABC News, 1st August 2020:  https://abcnews.go.com/US/black-black-crime-loaded-controversial-phrase-heard-amid/story?id=72051613

[5] Hill, P: ‘Hundreds of killers and rapists among foreign criminals who entered UK undetected,’ The Mirror, 25th September 2021: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/hundreds-killers-rapists-among-foreign-25073237

[6] Sky News: ‘Five Insults Donald Trump Has Fired At Mexicans In The Presidential Race,’ Sky News, 1st September 2016: https://news.sky.com/story/five-insults-donald-trump-has-fired-at-mexicans-in-the-presidential-race-10559438

[7] Mock, B: ‘The Origins of the Phrase ‘Black-on-Black Crime,’ Bloomberg, 11th June 2015: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-11/examining-the-origins-of-the-phrase-black-on-black-crime

[8] Lopez, G: ‘How systemic racism entangles all police – even black cops,’ Vox, 15th August 2016: https://www.vox.com/2015/5/7/8562077/police-racism-implicit-bias

[9] Ibid

[10] McGregor, L: ‘On Fading to Black: The Hows, The Whens, and the Whys,’ Premium Beat, 22nd December 2021: https://www.premiumbeat.com/blog/how-when-why-fade-black/

[11] Malcolm X: ‘Who taught you to hate yourself?’ Genius, 5th May 1962: https://genius.com/Malcolm-x-who-taught-you-to-hate-yourself-annotated

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