Black America’s Intimate Relationship with Conspiracy Theories

In 1952, a white Montgomery woman cried rape after a nosy neighbor caught her undressing with her sixteen year-old black lover, Jeremiah Reeves. Shortly thereafter, Montgomery police arrested Reeves and beat a confession out of him. The lower courts found Reeves guilty of rape and sentenced him to die…In the years that Reeves sat in jail, several white men in Alabama had been charged with rape, but their accusers were Negro girls. White men were seldom arrested, and if they were then they were soon released by the grand jury. No one was ever brought to trial.

— “At the Dark End of the Street” by Danielle McGuire

The thousands of cases that paralleled Reeves’ misfortune taught Black folks to, in the words of the late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., “ fear and mistrust the white man’s justice.” The relentless nature of White American assaults on not only the Black Body but the Black Psyche sowed a seed of Black mistrust in the concept of justice as it pertains to the Black community. This seed grew into a full-blown tradition that is indoctrinated into the minds of the Black masses by our cultural authority figures.

Since the times of slavery, Black people had to constantly witness their assailants move freely without facing the conventional definition of “justice.” In the pre-Civil Rights era, if a Black person could muster up the courage to take a White person to court for being conventionally unjust, in 30 minutes or less a court room would usually find the pale defendant to be not guilty. The inherent justness of white skin made them immune to the assumed objectivity of litigation.

The meaning of the word ‘justice,’ for Black people, had transformed. What did that word truly mean when White slavers could deliberately destroy Black bodies on a whim and still be seen as good, just, hard-working men. What was the definition of ‘justice’ when disgruntled, White Southerners could freely form impromptu, vigilante squadrons in order to punish Black men for ‘rape’ with very little evidence. Based off of nothing more than poorly-founded rumors, these men gathered by the hundreds to publicly execute Black men, women, and children in the most brutal and humiliating ways.

White America’s relationship with Blacks has always been mired in absurd, cartoonish brutality and cruelty. From the start of institutionalized, chattel slavery to Reconstruction and Jim Crow to even now in the post-Civil Rights era, Black Americans have been constantly bombarded with blatant brutality upheld by paradoxical racial codes.

The ‘just’ racial codes of Jim Crow dictated the rigid ways in which Black people needed to carry themselves so as to not stifle White Superiority. If Black folks were even a little bit uppity, they could easily be killed. Black men could be killed for even looking at White women in the eyes. Race-mixing was unjust — that is unless White men decided to race-mix with innocent Black women and girls (usually through coercion or brute force). The infamous, pre-Civil Rights Movement case of Betty Jean Owens, the FAMU student who was brutally gang-raped and maimed by a motley crew of White youths in 1959, is a very clear example of that. The young men were never questioned about why they decided to break the “color barrier” willingly. Instead, it was assumed that they were tempted by Betty, a typical Jezebel, by almost everyone in the courtroom. Betty nearly lost the case due to extreme racial and sexual bias. It was not until one of her assailants confessed to being a rapist, that she finally won her case.

When shit hit the fan, is you still a fan?
When shit hit the fan, is you still a fan?
That nigga gave us “Billie Jean”, you say he touched those kids? When shit hit the fan, is you still a fan?

-Kendrick Lamar

The idea that “evidence” is not absolute. The idea that “evidence” can be perverted and manipulated in order to affirm, or justify the prevailing White agenda is an idea that is ingrained within Black society. It is the rock we cling to for dear life in this 400+ year storm we call White Supremacy. The perpetual malevolent violence that Black people in the United States face at the hands of White society compels our community to hold on to Conspiracy Theory as not just a belief, but a self-evident science.

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