THE BLOG
11/25/2014 04:33 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2015

The Pathology of the Magical Negro Narrative in Mike Brown Ruling

In a recent research study titled A Superhumanization Bias in Whites' Perceptions of Blacks by Adam Waytz, Kelly Marie Hoffman and Sophie Trawalter, researchers have found that Whites attribute supernatural, extrasensory, and magical mental and physical qualities to Black people. This cultural logic in the United States is a pathology that has plagued and permeated the psyche of White Americans since Africans were brought to this country.

Today we are still trying to work against an American cultural logic that has been a historical fixture in our consciousness since the first African slaves were brought to the North American colony of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. Negating this logic seems like a futile attempt at restoring the perception of humanity for Black people in this country, especially as we try to grabble with the grand jury's decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson.

During the Reconstruction Period (1866 -- 1877), many Whites argued that free Blacks were a danger to society because they were animalistic beasts and savages that needed to be tamed by White slave owners. In 1901, the writer, George T. Winston stated, "The black brute is lurking in the dark, a monstrous beast, crazed with lust. His ferocity is almost demoniacal. A mad bull or tiger could scarcely be more brutal. A whole community is frenzied with horror, with the blind and furious rage for vengeance". These sentiments are eerily consistent with the ways in which Officer Darren Wilson describes Mike Brown as a "demon" in his testimony.

Since the 1930's scientists have been trying to generate evidence of superhuman physical features that characterize Black people to explain their exemplary success in sports. The century old-debate of the "slave gene" seems to resurface every four years, particularly when athletes of African descent outperform competitors at the Olympics, -- most notably in track and field.

The 1989 movie Glory won Denzel Washington an Oscar, as such the most moving scene in this movie was when a union soldier finds out he is still a slave. Denzel's character is positioned as a spectacle and is whipped several times as he stands stoically taking the beating and severe whipping. Denzel's character sheds one tear. This emotionally charged scene reinforces the then century old logic of the Magical Negro that can withstand austere torture, particularly in the face of injustice.

According to a Salon.com article published in 2012, Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder (in)famously stated that the prowess of African-American football players in 1988, could be traced to slavery, saying "the black is a better athlete to begin with because he's been bred to be that way ... [They] jump higher and run faster."

Much of the focus in the George Zimmerman trial focused on Martin's use of MMA style punches and presenting Zimmerman as a man with a lack of athletic and physical ability. In fact, Zimmerman's trainer testified that Zimmerman was "physically soft" and that his athletic skills and fighting prowess were quite low. Therefore, even though Trayvon Martin weighed in at 158 pounds and stood 5 feet 11 inches tall, his physical prowess and Magical Negro capabilities presented deadly threat to the human physical attributes of Zimmerman, who weighed 185 pounds.

In the Mike Brown case, the David and Goliath trope and narrative was employed to criminalize Mike Brown and justify the killing of the unarmed teen because the Magical Negro somehow was able to charge towards Officer Darren Wilson despite an array of bullets being fired in his direction. The Magical Negro is somehow able to tap into his super human powers, which then justifies an unordinary use of force -- because lets face it, humans do not stand a chance against Magical Negros.

Officer Darren Wilson articulates this narrative and admits this pathology is at play here when he describes Mike Brown as a "demon." Officer Darren Wilson states "And when I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan ... that's just how big he felt and how small I felt just from grasping his arm." This is consistent with the cultural logic that makes it okay in America to use brutal force when confronted by a Black villain. Thus, how can a grand jury indict Officer Darren Wilson when he was battling The Hulk? The Magical Negro had to be shot 12 times because American cultural logic justifies it.

This cultural logic is why we are supposed to display extraordinary stoicism in the face of obvious antipathy, this cultural logic is why we are supposed to "move on" as one of my Facebook friends suggested in reference to the Darren Wilson ruling, this cultural logic is why we are expected to protest peacefully for 109 days without incident; this cultural logic is why verdict after verdict excuses white authority figures when they kill unarmed Black men; this cultural logic is why excessive force is needed when dealing with Black men; this cultural logic is why the Magical Negro is expected to sustain unfathomable abuse; this cultural logic is why any cultural alternatives will be negated. It is so deeply embedded in the American pathology.