David Koch Is Dead And It Is Perfectly Moral to Celebrate His Death

Home News & Politics David Koch Is Dead And It Is Perfectly Moral to Celebrate His Death

White people, as they exploit and uplift mechanisms of racism and white supremacy, have posited themselves as arbiters of morality.

Last week, the explosive 2010 Jane Mayer investigative report on the covert operations of Charles and David Koch trended on The New Yorker. As an unfortunate yet learned reflex, derived from years of associating the Koch surname with bona fide evil, I remarked, “They must have bankrolled yet another environmentally destructive or racist initiative.” That also seems to be the learned response for many — to see any half of the Koch duo under ‘trending.’

I came to understand soon after that David Koch, 79, died. And, I smiled. Reports that the billionaire Republican donor, ‘philanthropist,’ et cetera had passed were a welcome addition to an otherwise bleak newsfeed. In fact, I shamelessly scrolled through my iPhone camera roll — trying to find the perfect picture. A picture that summarized unadulterated joy. I also wanted to caption it, “when david koch dies!” At that point, I debated the number of exclamation points that would follow.

My own jubilation reflected with ease in the celebration that erupted in Black and brown Twitter over David Koch’s timely demise. Yet, the only factor that mellowed my deep desire to post a picture of rejoicing for a death that I received with open arms — the predominantly white moral police.

Never skipping an opportunity to be loud and wrong, White feminist Alyssa Milano tweeted: 

White people, as they exploit and uplift mechanisms of racism and white supremacy, have posited themselves as arbiters of morality.

As George Yancy elaborates in Black Bodies, White Gazes: The Continuing Significance of Race in America, “When white bodies look out upon the world, they not only see what has been put there for them to see, and see it in a specific way, but they cooperate, consciously or unconsciously, with broader processes of normative and epistemic accretion, in assisting to bring certain objects into view in particular configured ways.” 

From that gaze arises “whiteness as the transcendental norm: a norm that takes itself to be fungible with ‘daylight,’ ‘truth,’ and ‘virtue.’”

Normative whiteness can “seem invisible, transparent to those who are white” but “makes itself hypervisible to those who are not white,” writes Maureen Redding in “Invisibility and Hypervisibility: The Paradox of Normative Whiteness.” “Because white heterosexuality is treated as the norm, identical to humanity, whiteness and heterosexuality do not get marked as categories in most white, heterosexual people’s lives,” Redding moves further to explain, “Lack of consciousness about whiteness is a central component of performing whiteness.”

The insult in Milano’s tweet is not in the content, because it is poorly developed, but in its implied morality. That she, as a white person, is the decider of what is moral and amoral. And, in her role as a white person, it is her prerogative to explain that to those who do not act by her predefined morality. 

It is ‘moral’ to treat the deceased with respect, says whiteness. Therefore, so says Milano. Her whiteness, or whiteness in general, is law and the moral code that delineates it, and people of color are required to abide by each. 

Milano and kin treat death as a sanitizer — it absolves the deceased of their oppressive legacy. So, we too are expected to. Because when whiteness is equalized to a humanity, the act of bypassing what whiteness classifies as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ feels more diabolical than Koch himself.

David Koch, in his 79 years and with the help of his brother, Charles, was a notorious climate denier and actively purported climate denial research via think thank after think tank. Koch Industries, his commercial behemoth, is a destructive polluter, more so than General Electric and International Paper. Koch also funded anti-union initiatives, which resulted in A) the plummet of union membership and B) the ever-rising inequality of wealth. In his support of the Tea Party, he sowed the ideological foundation that Trump reaped in the 2016 election. Koch’s trademark evil is even more so reflected when as a board member of the National Cancer Institute, he sought to cease the classification of “formaldehyde” — an undisputed carcinogen — as a carcinogen. 

When I heard that David Koch died, I texted friend after friend. I was elated; I still am. I did not and will not provide respect to David Koch, in his life or in his death. I slept, yesterday, in the safety that Koch does not have more life from which he can exact his megalomania. And, that joy is not immoral to relish in. That moral policing is another aspect of the very white supremacy Koch benefitted from, that Milano and kin perpetuate, and I refuse to heed to its call.