Will America ever recover from its original sin? For all practical purposes, the answer to this existential question remains as elusive as ever. The recent high profile police killings of young black individuals can only exacerbate a struggle that seems to be reaching a dead-end. From bondage to precariousness, life has always been unpredictable at best for black Americans and parlous at worse—in many instances—for young black folks. If the coastal baracoons and public lynching are long gone, they have certainly been replaced by mass incarcerations, a sustained marginalization of minorities, and the ever police presence in African-American communities, morphing them into occupying territories.
Slavery ended more than 150 years ago, but the circumstances that led to its abolition were not powerful enough to deliver the whole sale justice that newly freed blacks truly deserved. Today, despite the fact a black man occupies the highest office in the land, it did very little to assuage the instilled sense of white supremacy, the feeling of European-dominant culture and the preconceived negative attitude against blacks. This is an attitude so ugly and so unspoken that it forces white America to always question black patriotism with regards to service duty. When the wrong is so prevalent and very little has been done to correct it, it is a recipe for disaster.
From Ferguson to Summerville to New York to Charleston to Sanford to Austin etc…, these senseless killings of young black folks by racist cops have utterly exposed institutional racism in America. And the media’s grotesque responses to these awful acts can only enflame an already burning fire. For instance, The New-Yorker magazine published recently a lengthy interview with the officer who committed cold-blooded murder on Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and who was later exonerated by a grand jury. The interview was videotaped and paraded across the “mainstream” media. CNN brought in experts to philosophically analyze the cop’s words to try to find justification for his exoneration. This was done out of total disregard for the family of the victim, which has yet to recover from the loss.
In this era of corporate media where sensation—not fairness and objectivity—drives ratings, ushering a murderer to stardom, no matter how shameful it might be, is the living proof of how white America thinks of black lives. In every instance, the victim would not have been killed if he were of a different race. To show how precarious is the life of a young black person is to revisit the death of Sandra Bland, the beautiful young woman who was pulled over by a racist cop and yanked out of her car to later be found dead in a jail cell.
The “Black Lives Matter” movement and the politics of resistance
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 which banned discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin did not come out of the blue like a gift from heaven. It was the direct result of well-concerted struggles in the quest to achieve genuine racial equality. At every moment in history, whether in 1875, 1957 and 1964 when some social gains were achieved, it was always conceived through a half-hearted contrition that quickly catapulted into the understanding that more needed to be done to push black citizenship to an equal footage. But every victory was done through consensus building, not through outright resistance.
As we understand more must take place to secure and empower black lives, it seems like we have yet to grasp how to get to the Promise Land. Will protest alone do it? Will the call to have an honest conversation do the trick? I believe neither of these will be strong enough to bring to bear the poetic justice BLM is advocating for. Protests are muscles behind political demands. They are the testament of a political force—a force that cannot be ignored. To this end, BLM and other protest groups have been doing a marvelous job in raising awareness about the importance and the significance of black lives in America—their contribution to America’s culture, history and economic achievements.
Raising awareness alone, however, is not enough to deracinate institutional racism in this country. Even if 50 million white individuals were to quickly align behind the black cause in a proactive fashion, which is highly unlikely, we would still need a game plan. Minority empowerment can only be achieved through the rebuilding of institutions that will guarantee equal opportunities under the law—with the means to enforce those laws when they are deemed violated. As I understand it, while we are protesting, the focus should also be on forging alliances in the quest to achieve this awesome goal.
To this understanding, what was done to Bernie Sanders last month was a serious blunder in the fight for racial equality. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was shut out on the stage during a BLM conference as he was trying to explain why all lives matter. Bernie may be white, but his political repertoire and views are colorless or colorblind. I rarely say this with regard to an American politician, but Bernie Sanders is THE rare exception among both black (conformists) and white(arrogant and sleazy) politicians alike. He speaks from the soul, and there have never been any condescendence in his actions.
How helpful could the public rebuke of Bernie Sanders be to the very cause we claim to champion? How can an action like this further the cause? Shutting Bernie down was a major faux pas on the road to minority empowerment. This can only strengthen the hands of the adversary, as the corporate media quickly jumps on the ugly act to marginalize Bernie Sanders and also to portray BLM as a fringe group stemmed from political expediency and anarchism.
We need to have the wisdom to identify who could help us along the way—when an alliance can be tactical or strategic so that we will someday be able to master the clout and the wherewithal to bring justice to bear for every black soul in America. As a black man who fathers black children and who watches them grow under his eyes, I know unfair treatments await them at some point along the path to manhood—unless we find the magic formula to fight not just with our might, but also with our God-given cognitive reasoning.
Finally, the focus should be in changing institutions, not minds and hearts. Millions of white Americans have long sympathized with the humble cause and few millions more will probably rally behind the cause along the way, but until we acquire the means to force those in power to rebuild institutions that will address the issues of mass imprisonments among African Americans, entrenched poverty, police brutality, job insecurity etc.., ten years or perhaps twenty years from now, we will still be in the streets, protesting.
Note: Dr. Ardain Isma is author and educator. He is the chief editor of CSMS Magazine. He is a scholar and an active eyewitness to complex problems of society. His latest novel Midnight at Noon can be purchased at all book retailers. To order a copy, you can click here: Midnight at Noon
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