Josha Alston writes an insightful article in the Washington Post today on the importance of the idea of personhood in interpreting the Michael Brown shooting. I find his comparison of racism and terrorism particularly compelling, especially against the “but not me!” or “most people aren’t racists” arguments that sometimes surface.
In this way, racism is a lot like terrorism. Acts of terrorism committed against a few members of a society can still affect the broad majority by making them bear the psychic burden of knowing that their essential personhood is a subject of debate. Likewise, although most black men and women won’t experience racism in the incredibly violent way that Brown, Martin, Garner and McBride did, those deaths extract a large mental toll: Even if you aspire to greatness, you can die on any given Saturday.