The murder of Michael Brown and the police intimidation and brutality that followed has pulled today’s mainstream discourse back into ascertaining how this country’s race problems could be resolved. Resolution of this historically American issue implies a sort of eradication of racism from American society. But how could this be achieved? Modern racism (as we know it today where people of African descent are often the victims) is not some pile of excrement that could be shoveled away and replaced with fragrance. It is in our language, in our culture, in our education, in our instincts. It is an important component of this country’s origins.
It is a social behavior first employed by Europeans 500+ years ago as a political strategy to conquer and subjugate a large population of people. It has evolved through time becoming central to American life while descendents of African slaves struggled to make sense of living comfortably in this country.
The truly awesome progress of technology and the increasing cosmopolitanism of American culture, due largely to the Internet, have created the illusion that people have progressed and evolved socially parallel to these relatively recent technological advances. Evidently, social or moral progress occurs at a much slower rate. In the context of modern American racism, social progress would render racial differences irrelevant such that regardless of the skin color, people have the equal opportunity to live as free and respected Americans. But this is ideal.
Given the documented history of institutionalized racism that has spanned over 500 years in the Western Hemisphere (beginning, among others, with the testimonies of Bartolomé de las Casas) and with respect to the balance and symmetry prevalent in nature, there is logic in believing that racism as a social behavior will exist in this country for another one, two or three hundred years. If the recent past be the fulcrum of the time in which racism has existed, then we shall expect a lengthy future of more racial tension. It seems difficult for this long endured and accepted social norm to just evaporate after a century and a half of legal freedom from slavery, after half a century of supposed complete civil/social freedom and after the election of President Barack Obama.
We must remain aware that a great number of black people in the Western Hemisphere today are descendents of a very large diversity of Africans who were not invited here, who did not choose to settle here but were forced to come here to build the great famous cities to which this country lends its charm.
(*A common misconception of which to beware is the assumption that ALL black people in the Western Hemisphere come from lineages that were completely enslaved until legal abolition. There were significant populations of free black people before the American Civil War and even before the Haitian Revolution. Also a black person today could have come from a lineage of white people that ‘became’ black as a result of genetic mixing throughout the generations).
Still, this country and its laws were not established for or by people of African descent. How could this initial relationship between this country and its black people evolve into one where descendents of these Africans hold a status completely equal to the whites of this country? How could this inequality foster any sort of easy compatibility between the two races? Granted there are many black people with white friends and many white people with black friends. And as aforementioned, throughout history, there has been a profound presence of mixed raced people born out of the marital union of black and white lovers. (For the sake of argument, I am not including the mixed raced people born out of the lustful union between figures such as the white slave master and the young black slave girls). In defiance of this country’s ugly history, many have figured out how to get along with members of different races and this is truly beautiful.
Throughout the history of racist behavior, agents of this behavior have orchestrated a grand niggerization (or a chronic race-based disparagement) of people of African descent to the extent that even the rich and dynamic history of the African continent is surprisingly believed by many to consist of nothing prominent or progressive. Due to this niggerization, racist and prejudice police officers feel justified in taking the life of a black person because they inherently believe this life to be worthless. The fact that these law enforcers are often acquitted of their actions further supports the notion that a black person in America often lacks the respect due to citizens of this country and is ineligible of the personhood and individuality popularly attributed to American people.
So with this in mind, how surprised are we at the murder of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Bobby Hutton, Martin Luther King Jr., Medger Evers and the plethora of other black men killed by members of the law enforcement community?
I hope that I can live to see my projection as detailed in the title of this piece proven wrong. I do love this country. I am truly proud to represent it here and abroad. But it is easy for young black men to feel like outsiders when they have to worry about catching bullets from a suspicious police officer who thought they were a suspect. It is easy for young black men to live in fear of the officers who choose to shoot first and ask questions later.
P.S. For a simple start to learning more about African history, please click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheikh_Anta_Diop
P.P.S. Click here as well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musa_I_of_Mali