If you want to look at the state of race relations when America was founded, look no further than the Constitution, which detailed how Black people would be counted as three-fifths of an actual human. Want to look at the way Black folks were treated in the 19th century? Just look at any of the many court cases (i.e. Dred Scott v. Sandford) as part of the country’s insistence on legislating the lack of humanity for Black people. Jim Crow laws are a perfect starting off point for understanding America’s obsession with anti-Black violence.
But when it comes to the 21st century, if you want a look at how white power functions in America and how racism conspires to uphold white supremacy at the expense of everyone else, then you can read the redacted version of the Mueller Report*.
Like most people, I had naive hopes that an investigation into Donald Trump and his dealings with Russia and obstruction of said investigation would garner some sort of tangible and groundbreaking consequences. I thought that with all the evidence out there before an investigation even really took place, even a cursory dive into personal records and testimonies would end this hellscape. Again, I was naive. I had faith that white men, even white men with the best intentions, would police white supremacy, despite the fact that there’s no evidence to support that ever happening in America. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Trump and his team’s wrongdoings isn’t a document that will have any real consequence for the presidency; instead it is a document that details how racism can be weaponized in America; how powerful men can avoid real consequences for the most blatant and reprehensible offenses; and how white supremacy is ingrained in the fabric of this country.
One overlooked aspect of the report was the fact that Russian intelligence – with the intention of making Trump president – ran an organized misinformation campaign targeted at stoking racial tension and inciting violence against black folks. The Root reported how, as detailed in the Mueller investigation, Black activists were unknowingly paid to teach self-defense classes only to have the pictures used to raise the fears of white folks. Fake Black Lives Matter accounts popped up online to create anti-Hillary Clinton sentiment disguised as pro-Bernie Sanders support – all in the hopes of discouraging Black people from voting at all in the election and getting white folks to rally behind their white savior. This is another example of how race relations work in this country in the 21st Century; just as it worked in the 20th century and every century before that going back to when Africans were kidnapped, enslaved and first brought to this country.
It doesn’t take much to get America to remember how it feels about us. Misinformation is just a tool to awaken the feelings of anti-Blackness that are just below the surface from coast to American coast. The way the Mueller report outlines this fact will live for generations to show what hating us looks like.
While Mueller seemed dedicated to finding and uncovering as much truth as possible, he still approached the information through a white gaze. And that gaze allowed privileged white men to go unpunished; namely Donald Trump, Jr.
“The Office ultimately concluded that, even if the principal legal questions were resolved favorably to the government, a prosecution would encounter difficulties proving that Campaign officials or individuals connected to the Campaign willfully violated the law,” the report said about the president’s son after it was pretty clear he was involved in a collaborative effort with Russian adversaries to rig an election.
Twitter responded with jokes about how Don Jr. was simply too stupid to be implicated in collusion, which essentially was Mueller’s argument here. However, Don Jr. being let off the hook because Mueller thinks he’s too harmless or stupid to commit a real crime is the height of white privilege. Black people don’t get this benefit of the doubt when they accidentally step outside of a corner store with a bag of candy in their hands, let alone defraud the entire American political system. By essentially pardoning Don Jr., Robert Mueller reminded us that he’s still working within the framework of a white power structure that lets men like Don get away in the same country where ten-year-old black kids are getting handcuffed in the street. But Mueller wasn’t concerned with actual human lives as much as he was concerned with political processes, which is the central failing of his report.
Mueller stopped short of calling for an arrest of Trump or even suggesting impeachment. Instead, he left “bread crumbs” for Congress to impeach if they see fit. It’s all bogged down in political minutia and indirect language as if this were all a game. Real lives are at stake. Marginalized lives are at stake. Loyalty to a political process and not these lives goes to show how those least affected by this administration lack the urgency to create real change.
That’s also essentially why the Mueller Report and its ultimate inability to stop Trump makes it such a time capsule for how whiteness works in 2019. When people look back on the Mueller report, they’ll see that we live in a time where an unqualified white man with zero expertise or skill set can commit the most serious political crimes this country has ever seen – all in plain view – while joining with a foreign power to stir up already latent racism and anti-Blackness to his benefit; and face zero consequences because so many in power in this country are willing to watch everything burn down in order to maintain their white power. That’s what the Mueller report gave us, because it damn sure didn’t give us any justice.
*You can also read any police union contracts to see the depths of codified anti-Blackness in America, but that’s another story for another time.
David Dennis, Jr. is a writer and adjunct professor of Journalism at Morehouse College. David’s writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Smoking Section, Uproxx, Playboy, The Atlantic, Complex.com and wherever people argue about things on the internet.