The Troubling Thing This Road Rage Video Says About Racism in the U.S.

November 8th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

Race is a huge topic this election. Black Lives Matter continues to be at the forefront of the national discussion, and the Ku Klux Klan has jumped into the election by giving an endorsement to a major candidate. (Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign called the KKK's support "repulsive".) In the midst of political climate, a black driver had a heated confrontation with a Trump supporter, and the viral video reveals an important aspect of racism in 2016.

The central theme of the white driver's rant is that black people have to prove their lives are worth something.

On Sunday, Brendon Levston, who is black, took video of a road rage incident between himself and a furious white man; some sort of traffic incident reportedly occurred near the Wolfchase Galleria in Memphis, Tennessee, prior to the video being recorded. Levston told a local news station that the white driver — later identified by WMC Action 5 News as Neil Thompson — became angry following a lane change. ATTN: has not been able to independently verify Thompson's identity, but the station reportedly spoke to his brother and neighbors who identified him.

When the video starts, a white man walks over to Levston and shouts at the camera phone: "Trump! Trump all the way!"

The man then begins to outline his case for why Levston and other black people should prove that their lives matter. He implies that Martin Luther King Jr. was a respectable black person, but people who wear flat-rimmed baseball caps and have saggy pants are not. He also implies that the latter are the majority of black people.

"You tell me why black lives matter? Because people say so? Tell me why? How? You know what would matter to me? If something makes a difference. And let me tell you something, check it out...Martin Luther King died for a purpose and you need to watch the very first episode of 'The Boondocks' because he walks around ashamed of the people with the flat-billed hats like you and the people who can't even keep their pants up. Put it on Facebook I don't care!"

The white man repeatedly calls the black driver a "n*gger" throughout the video.

"Was there anything of anybody's past or are you just another n*gger that doesn't understand anything?"

The driver also explains that white Americans got the short end of the stick in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade.

"Black people were bought by contract and we got ripped off because y'all should have got returned when there was evidence and proof that y'all couldn't do anything."

He repeats that black people have to prove they're worth something to be valued by American society.

"I'm looking at the camera now, not you. Black lives do not matter because black people walk around and say it. It doesn't mean anything. I can walk around and say Elvis is still alive but does it mean he's still alive? No. You have to prove something with your life for once. You've got to prove something buddy. Go out and do that."

At the end of the video Levston flips the camera around and tells people to go vote.

"That's exactly why y'all need to get out and vote. You ever needed proof of why you need to get out and be heard, go fucking vote."

The more than four minute video contains many offensive racial epithets and assertions about why blacks and other minorities are inferior. There is also a moment where the white driver, identified as Thompson, yells at a woman in a car. She tries to make her own arguments against the black driver by yelling out of the window. Thompson tells her to be quiet, that he'll handle it, and that she should act "like a woman."

Despite the extreme amounts of hate and offensive speech in the viral video, Thompson touches on a common ideology in the U.S. — the idea of respectability politics.

Respectability politics is the idea that black people need to prove to white people that they're good enough.

The Root's Damon Young wrote about respectability politics and how both black and white Americans have ascribed to the idea.

"...it’s a concept that has existed within black America since black people have been in America — the idea that if we walk a little straighter and write a little neater and speak a little clearer, then white people will treat us better. This belief has resulted in some of the most forgettable parts of black history. The Black History Month lessons we really, really, really, really don’t want to be taught."

You can watch the entire confrontation on YouTube:


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