To twitter search Michael Vick’s name on Saturday, March 22, 2014 after it was announced he would be the Jets’ new quarterback was to get a view of (white) America’s underbelly. This is same America that has made George Zimmerman into a celebrity, and can barely muster sadness, let alone perpetual outrage when you’re talking about non-white non-male human bodies being brutalized. I knew what I was getting into before searching, but curiosity got the best of me. Here’s a small sample of what I saw:
“@Nike my friends & I will no longer buy your products as long as you partner with scum like Michael Vick.”
Translation: This tweet is me taking a strong moral stance that I will not buy this product – likely made by brown people, often, children, a half a world away toiling away under horrendous conditions whilst making $1 per day – not because of the inhumane ways in which this product was produced (b/c I mean, whatever), but because I do not approve of this other more famous brown person associated with it.
“Shame on @nyjets for signing dog killer #MichaelVick pic.twitter.com/2oMaOoW6lp“
That twitpic shows dogs with signs around their necks that say “Jets Suck.”
“I can honestly say I will never watch the Jets again! #hate #MichaelVick”
This one’s more recent, circa Sunday afternoon.
“Can’t believe michael vick got another gig. He should b given to a pack of hungry rabid dogs and let them give him what he deserves.”
This one speaks for itself. This special nugget was made by a songwriter and retweeted over one hundred times, most notably – by Peta to their over 400K followers.
Peta’s own tweet, it should be noted, where they stated “at least Michael Vick can’t drown, electrocute, hang, or shoot a football the way he terrorized ‘man’s best friend.’ #smh #Jets” was retweeted almost 1000 times as of this writing.
It’s been over five years since Michael Vick has been released from prison, and yet I can’t help but wonder if the scores of (mostly white?) people who have protested, virtually or beyond, his employment and association with brands such as Nike, have put any energy into the myriad of social issues that stem from the system of white supremacy: police brutality, stop and frisk, redlining, an increasing black/white wealth gap, deplorable international labor standards, etc. You know, the same system that makes a young black person with no criminal record as likely as a white man fresh out of jail to obtain gainful employment. How many of those same Vick protesters – some of whom call for the forfeit of his very life – share a fraction of that passion for any of the issues I just named?
Were those same Michael Vick protesters there for Aiyana Jones, the 7 year old young black girl shot and killed by Detroit police on her grandmother’s couch? The family of Sean Bell? Abner Louima? Are they there now w/ the same level of vitriol for the state of Florida w/r/t Marissa Alexander, who was defending her safety and that of her child from an abusive husband, but now faces 60 years in prison – while George Zimmerman, who actually killed a young black man, walks free? If that same level of passion from white America has exists and continues to exist in defense of their fellow countrymen, I have not seen it. And the truth is, I would like nothing more than to be proven wrong. But seeing a lack of outrage at black and brown death on the part of white America, in my opinion, leads many black people to the following, disheartening conclusion: in America, the life of a dog is worth more than the life of a black person. Period.
Even if we are to keep it to animals, both my friend Scriyl and writer-RTed-into-my-timeline Jamie Kilstein raised an interesting point – how many of the people who actively fix their fingers and mouths in protest of Michael Vick on the basis of animal rights, also regularly fix those same hands and mouths to tear and EAT other animals that made their way to their plate from a factory farm with a terrible animal abuse record?
Another thing – for a fun exercise, Google “Michael Vick scum” and see what comes up. For some reason, over the years, both in real life discussions and through simple social media observation, the name “Michael Vick” and the word “scum” are consistent bedfellows. I think that’s interesting when taking a broader view. For example, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once told a reporter that the death of one million Iraqi children due to US sanctions was “worth it.” Before you gloss over that, consider what the general – and might I say, appropriate – reaction would be if Michael Vick, for example, was responsible for the death of one human child. Kill one human child – monster. Be responsible for the torture and/or death of several dogs – scum. Be responsible for the death of one million Iraqi children – celebrated politician?
You have high level wall street executives who were responsible for the recession where the hard-earned wealth of countless Americans was pilfered, walking the streets, back to their old giving a big end-of-year-bonus to themselves ways. Black body after black body, police officers seem to rarely get any real punishment for their crimes. There are highly paid consultants within the World Bank and IMF who coerce third world countries into agreements that leave them with little to no ownership over their own resources and means to escape poverty, still doing their work well after the questionable deaths (*cough* assassinations) of Allende, Roldos, and Torrijos. Photographer Terry Richardson is still gainfully employed by many fashion magazines even after the record of sexual assault allegations against him continue to balloon. And so on. Now I don’t mean to conflate a host of issues, nor do I mean to tell people exactly what to do with their energy, but what I’m saying is that if you’re looking for actual scum of the earth, you can do a lot better than football player Michael Vick.
I distilled my feelings on the matter into what you now see as the title of this post on my Facebook page, right before making a quick dinner and cueing up the sure to be problematic 300: Rise of an Empire (sidenote: not quite as blatant as the OG 300, but still didn’t disappoint w/r/t its xenophobia) on my shady streaming site of choice. Before I clicked the post button on “White people still mad at Michael Vick. lol” – I wondered, how long before someone (probably white) informs me that I am mistaken? The answer, before I even return to my seat, I hear the alert ding, signaling precisely what I anticipated. I was fortunately corrected by a young male who fwiw, I believe is biracial, and informed me “I don’t think it’s just white people. Anyone who believes in animal rights are mad at him.” Of course. Someone to remind me that not every single white person on Earth feels that way (because that would make sense). Someone to remind me that the notion of race isn’t entangled within the fabric of the exceptional vitriol spewed since news of Vick’s crimes broke. My mistake. His correction by the way, interestingly, was liked by two straight white males soon afterwards.
While not completely analogous, I couldn’t help thinking back to a line of thought I believe I’ve seen espoused by writer Ayesha A. Siddiqi, more or less saying that it’s almost impossible to bring up a thought/issue/discussion of patriarchy without some man piping up, adjusting his glasses and saying “hey! hey! not all men are like that ya know!” – attempting to effectively transmute the conversation from that of institutionalized, deeply embedded injustice to that of his own feelings and any notion he may hold, real or imagined, of his individual exceptionalism or that of his close associates.
White people (every single last one of them, because that makes sense) are indeed still mad about Michael Vick, but I knew that. More interesting to me – some people also apparently treat the term “white people” like it’s a four letter word.
Ahmad Julian is a producer, songwriter and selector in NY based music duo Old Money and a member of the Dutty Artz collective. Old Money’s debut, Fire In The Dark, was released last year. Follow Ahmad on twitter: @OLDMONEYCRIME.