AFRICANGLOBE – In his celebrated speech at the 2004 Democratic Party Convention then senator Barack Obama said, “There is not a Black America and a White America — there’s the United States of America.”As Americans react to the Grand Jury decisions to “no-bill” in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases and struggle to come to grips with the most recent shooting death of 12 year-old Tamir E. Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, the shooting death of John Crawford, III in Dayton, Ohio and the shooting death of Victor White III in New Iberia, LA, it is obvious that the system is failing.
There are different Americas for ethnically different Americans.
The reasons that Africans in America, other ethnic groups and now Whites from differing backgrounds are protesting these killings are very complex. Among the major factors are 1) the misperception of Black men, as inherently threatening, leads to too many White police officers engaging in the extrajudicial killing of these unarmed citizens 2) America’s criminal justice system fails to hold these officers accountable.
Then senator Obama’s assertion in 2004 that there is “One America” was wrong. The Kerner Commission was correct in 1968 when it opined, “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one Black, one white—separate and unequal.”
We see this playing out in economic, health, education, mass incarceration statistics and the focus of this article — unarmed victims of police shootings.
Many are asking, “How has America come to this point?” I submit that this is not a new phenomenon. We are today where America has always been. These systemic failures must be examined within the context of a recent history that has become all too familiar.
The solution to these extrajudicial killings is not a matter of body cameras it is a matter of psychoanalysis. It is not a matter of “more training” it is a matter of psychotherapy. In order for America to move forward and correct its ongoing racist trajectory Americans must look back, examine and accept how its racist history has become a controlling element of its nationalist psyche.
Since the first Africans set foot on the shores of Jamestown, VA in 1619 the lives and humanity of Africans in America have never been respected by America. For example, a Virginia Slave Code from 1669 read – “If any slave resist his master and by the extremity of the correction should chance to die, that his death shall not considered a felony, and the master should be acquitted from the molestation, since it cannot be presumed that prepense malice should induce any man to destroy his own estate.”
Today’s translation: White police officers can shoot unarmed African American citizens with impunity.
Ask yourself this, if Eric Garner or Michael Brown had been White, would officer Daniel Pantaleo, who choked Garner and Darren Wilson, who shot Brown multiple times have felt so threatened?
Would the police officer’s patterns of perception, logic and symbol formation have been different reacting to a White suspect vs. a Black suspect – perhaps resulting in their lives being spared?
America has a history of extrajudicial murders. In The Negro Holocaust Robert Gibson wrote, “According to the Tuskegee Institute figures, between the years 1882 and 1951, 4,730 people were lynched in the United States: 3,437 Negro and 1,293 white. The largest number of lynchings occurred in 1892. Of the 230 persons lynched that year, 161 were Negroes and sixty-nine whites.”
Even though not all of these victims died at the hands of the police, it was not the practice of local law officials to arrest the perpetrators and bring them to trial. The message to Africans in America was loud and clear, “The American system of justice does not apply to you”. Neither Michael Brown nor Eric Garner was afforded the opportunity to face a jury of their peers for their alleged crimes. “Justice” was dispensed on the street by law enforcement officials.
It is ironic that as people fill the streets to protest these latest murders, December 4,th was the 45th commemoration of the murder of Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton and his comrade Mark Clark in 1969.
Hampton and Clark were summarily executed by Chicago police officers during a predawn raid of the apartment that they shared — while they slept.
America has a long history of extra judicial killings.
The so-called “War on Terror” has now turned inward. Domestic forces are being militarized and trained in combat style tactics by and with Israeli security forces.
Too many police forces and officers view Black citizens that they have sworn to “Protect and Serve” as enemy combatants to be “Feared and Eliminated”.
The most recent grand jury “no-bills” have sent the very clear message that the lives of Black men are worthless.
This is eerily reminiscent of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney’s Dred Scott decision in 1857. Africans in America “were not intended to be included, under the word citizens in the constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States.”
Those facing the oppressive forces in this country and being disaffected by the outcomes of its injustice system must engage the very system that oppresses them.
They must engage in the streets, courts, and legislatures in concerted efforts to bring about substantive change.
Too many people have placed unrealistic expectations on the Obama Administration. There is no way that one man or one administration can undo 395 years of oppression and racial terrorism and their legacies. With that being said, President Obama has failed to use his bully pulpit to forcefully articulate and advocate for the interests of the constituents that sent him to the White House.
As Americans react to the Grand Jury decisions to “no-bill” in the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases they must come to realize that we have to look back in order to move forward.
Based on this racist history, to paraphrase Langston Hughes Let America Be America Again — America never was America to me.
By: Dr. Wilmer Leon
Dr. Leon is is a political scientist and host of the call in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon” on Sirius/XM channel 126. Go to www.wilmerleon.com