In The United States the rhetoric that leads to fear of unarmed Black males and negative stereotypes fear of homeless people has embolden the rise in white vigilantism. Unfortunately for Jordan Neely, he was an unarmed Black male and reportedly homeless. It was two strikes and you’re out. It’s time for some REAL TALK!!!
Advocacy groups and civic leaders like Rev. Sharpton – founder and president of the National Action Network (NAN) – are demanding justice for the killing of Jordan Neely as he allegedly experienced a mental health episode on the subway. Supporters of Neely are requesting social services for people with mental health issues and calling attention to local policies that, they say, further marginalize unhoused communities in the city.
Shelly Nortz, deputy executive director for policy at the Coalition for the Homeless, said negative stereotypes and rhetoric about crime stokes an unfair fear and a general disdain for unhoused people, which leads to violence against them.
“When this population is demonized, it is tantamount to giving vigilantes the opportunities and the blessing to take the law into their own hands,” Nortz said. “This poor man was standing there in desperate need of food and water and was so emotionally overwrought by his need that he was expressing it loudly, but in no way endangering other human beings. The person who used his military skills to kill him needs to be held accountable for that,” Nortz added about Daniel Penny, the 24-year-old Marine who allegedly put Neely in the chokehold.
The killing of Jordan Neely also reinforces the fears and stereotypes that led to Black men and boys like Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery and Emmett Till being killed in America at the hands of white people taking the law into their own hands.
NBC News reported,
For Donald Grant, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, the deadly act represents a white vigilantism that has become an ever-present threat to Black Americans, manifested in the killings of many men and women whose names have made up headlines and hashtags over decades.
“It reignites the terror in the souls of Black folks when we witness these killings of our people without trial, without jury, without adjudication,” said Grant, author of the book “White on White Crime: Old Lies in Contemporary Times.”
“This vigilante activity is really a reminder of the dangerous conditions that Black Americans exist in now,” he added.
It’s not enough that Black people are killed, Grant said. It’s that each killing requires “public outrage for our humanity to be recognized in a way that doesn’t allow us to be murdered like animals in public spaces.”
Jordan Neely’s death also reflects the inhumane consequences of being homeless in America. The killing of Neely reveals a wide societal belief that “any homeless person is likely to be violent or likely to attack them,” one expert said. The same narrative thrown around as an excuse for killing unarmed Black males in this country.
White vigilantism, which has been embolden by the rhetoric of the former president and his supporters, groups like the Proud Boys have only been elevated, but this is not new but any stretch of the imagination. In 1984, ‘Subway Vigilante’ Bernhard Goetz shot four Black teenagers in New York City. The case divided the nation, but the killing of Neely has us fighting the same fight for justice 39 years later.
Rev. Sharpton who fought for justice in the Bernhard Goetz case, is again calling for justice for Neely.
“The National Action Network demands the District Attorney and police investigate this horrific incident as a potential case of manslaughter – if not murder. Thirty years ago, I fought the Bernard Goetz case and we cannot end up back to a place where vigilantism is tolerable. It wasn’t acceptable then and it cannot be acceptable now.”
The Ku Klux Klan. Kyle Rittenhouse. The extrajudicial killing of Black people by the police. Dylann Roof. George Zimmerman. They show up under different names and labels, but the premise is always the same: white people, mostly white men, exacting violence on Black people. It’s time to call it what it is, white vigilantism. When we say white vigilantism, we are talking about extrajudicial punishment.
A Daily News poll in 1985 found that of 515 New Yorkers surveyed, 17% would award Goetz with a medal for his actions and 58% disagreed with the attempted murder charges. Despite his documented confessions to enact harm, public opinion still penned him as the “Subway Vigilante” as he garnered support. Like Goetz there have been many who feel 24-year-old Daniel Penny who strangled Neely to death should not be charged.
Let’s be honest White Vigilantism is as American as apple pie. Its America’s History since this country’s founding, white people have taken the law—that they created—into their own hands to terrorize and brutalize Black people.
White vigilantism and incidents like the killing of Jordan Neely only reignites the terror in the souls of Black folks when we witness these killings of our people without trial, without jury, without adjudication. The excuse is always they feared for their lives, but the truth is we are the ones being killed, so who should be the ones fearing for their lives?