President Barack Obama has spoken more bluntly about race in the wake of a group of police killings of African-American men. www.nbcnews.com/politics/barack-obama/wake-police-shootings-obama-speaks-more-bluntly-about-race-n278616
The list of cities where unarmed African-American men have died after confrontations with white police officers is growing, and the latest furor in Baltimore places President Barack Obama back squarely in the middle of the race issue. http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/ken-walshs-washington/2015/04/28/obama-…
Recently, a friend of mine expressed her concerns too. She fears for her husband’s safety while he is driving. She indicated that she and her husband worked out a plan of action if he were stopped by law enforcement. Their plan involves strategy on how to reach for his identification, how to exit the car, and how to emerge without incident or injury. She lamented about the number of police shootings that have besieged black men over the past several months.
I too am sorrowful over the plight of African Americans but I do understand America is a nation of contradictions.
Technology and the law
At one time, “driving while black” was the personification of unwarranted stopping and ticketing or arresting of black men. To be sure, black men can get a driver’s license– but do not get caught driving while black. Yet, the recent incidences of black men being killed do not entail driving while black, but are committed on the streets just for being black–shootings by police officers, chokings by police officers and other bodily injuries inflicted by officers that result in death.
Contrary to my friend’s comment on the number of killings of black men being on the increase by law enforcement, the numbers may be within a consistent range. Incidents of racial killings have been staple in lives of African Americans for decades; what has changed is the manner in which the killings are publicized. Iphones, FaceTime and other technological advances have put the crimes of law enforcement in our faces twenty four hours a day without a hiatus.
We no longer have to wait on the television news’ coverage or newspapers to slant what they want the public to visualize. Technology has given the public an eye at the scene and oft times news’ stations depend on the publics’ visual images of an incident for broadcasting.
North Charleston officer, Michael Slager, shot Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man in his back at least eight times and the shooting was caught on a camera phone by a passer-by. The death of Eric Garner, as he was choked to death by police officers on the streets of Staten Island was caught on video. There are many other killings that are suspect but the truth may never be known by the public.
I, too, sing America: Langston Hughes
My late aunt use to tell of walking the back roads of Plummerville Ark. with her brothers to avoid the Klu Klux Klan. Or how black men would hide in the woods for days to avoid being lynched. As it is today, people of color have often had to devise a plan of action to keep out of harm’s way.
For decades it was unlawful to teach a black person to read. In his autobiography Frederick Douglass details how the slave owner’s wife would sneak and teach him how to read books.
Brown vs. Board of Education has to yet to be fully enforced, as public education is still very unequal in America. Whether the culprit is a tax base, red lining, or a digital divide, the fact still remains that public education suffers from racial inequality.
One of my white brothers asked, “What else do black people want? They have a black president”. And if one has to ask that question, then one is part of the problem and not the solution.
In Classics of American Political Constitutional Thought: Reconstruction to the Present, the authors saw it quite befitting to quote James Baldwin in his 1961 publication, Nobody Knows my Name. The quotation is a prophetic commentary:
“The white policeman…finds himself at the very center of the revolution now occurring in the world. He is not prepared for it — naturally, nobody is — and, what is possibly much more to the point, he is exposed, as few white people are, to the anguish of the black people around him… He can retreat from his uneasiness in only one direction: into a callousness which very shortly becomes second nature. He becomes more callous, the population becomes more hostile, the situation grows more tense, and the police force is increased. One day, to everyone’s astonishment, someone drops a match in the powder keg and everything blows up. Before the dust has settled or the blood congealed, editorials, speeches, and civil-rights commissions are loud in the land, demanding to know what happened. What happened is that Negroes want to be treated like men.” James Baldwin, 1961
Accordingly, the biggest contradiction of all is that a black man is still not treated like a man.
Hammond, S., Hardwick, K., & Lubert, H. (2007) Classics of American Political and Constitutional Thought: Reconstruction to the present. Hackett Publishing. Vol I.