Not a ‘Brawl’, but a Vicious AttackJulianne Malveaux, Ph.D. / August 18, 2023
We need to watch our language.
The debacle at the Montgomery Pier, where enslaved people were once offloaded and sold, is described as a “brawl.” The dictionary says a “brawl” is a “fight or quarrel in a rough and noisy way.” The Saturday, August 5 attack on a Black dock worker, Damien Pickett, who attempted to do his job should be described as a vicious and racist attack, not a brawl. To be sure, thanks to the vigilant Black people who defended a conscientious worker, an attack descended into a brawl, but let’s not make it a mutual thing. According to the video I saw, three White men attacked a Black man, and others attempted to defend him, with one swimming across the water to protect him.
Language is essential, especially in a racial context. The massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921 was described as a “riot.” But Black folks weren’t rioting. They were trying to live. Economically envious White people attacked Black people and property on a ruse. Even today, though, the events of Tulsa are described as a “riot” without attributing the genesis of the violence to White people. Indeed, thousands lost their homes and were incarcerated in a so-called “riot” that was nothing more than White people hating the reality of Black wealth.
So when at least three probably drunken White men attack a Black man, don’t call it a brawl. Call it what it is. A manifestation of antiblackness. An attack on a man just trying to do his job. A justified defense of others who loathed how a senior man was kicked and stomped by unrestrained idiots. An attack, and then perhaps a brawl.
Language is important. I am exhausted, for example, from hearing people talk about “White supremacy.” There is no White supremacy. If the Montgomery debacle is any example, there is White unrestrained drunken inferiority. Whenever we say “White supremacy,” we promote the myth of White delusions. Structurally, a system has been developed to advance Whiteness and its twisted attempts at supremacy. Every time we use the term “White supremacy,” we reinforce the myth. Can we call it White delusions, White myopia, or White ignorance? Every day I breathe air, I am reminded that there is nothing supreme about White people except the legal structures they use to prop up their predatory capitalistic tendencies.
Black supremacy is such that a Black man, Nathaniel Alexander, invented the folding chair used as a defense instrument at the Montgomery Wharf. Black supremacy is such that we are still here, despite the Caucasity and the ignorance of some White men who so resented a Black man in authority that they chose to attack him. Black supremacy is such that, in the words of Dr. Maya Angelou, “Still we rise.” But Black folks aren’t asking for supremacy (although we exhibit it daily); we are simply demanding equality.
All Mr. Pickett was trying to do was his job. White delusionalists seem to strongly object to a Black man instructing them to move their boat. There was no supremacy in their attack on an unarmed Black man, and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Jail time is a mild penalty for their absurd behavior.
The African Americans who attempted to defend the dock worker and boat co-pilot are to be commended, and the community is to be commended for its spirit of “no more.” No more will people stand by and allow a Black man to be attacked by White thugs. No more will people stand silent and accept White delusionalism. Enough.
Watching the Montgomery madness brought me to tears because it reminded me of the many times Black women have swallowed White insults and, careful for their survival, refused to say anything. They took it because they had no choice in the 1950s and early 60s. We have a choice now. There was no brawl; it was madness precipitated by an unwarranted attack. When referenced, this incident should be a response to an attack, not an equal brawl suggesting both sides had a grievance.
A man was attacked. His community fought back. Enough.
Julianne Malveaux is an author, economist and a former president of Bennett College.