Either America will Destroy Ignorance or Ignorance will Destroy America “W.E.B Dubois”
I am truly saddened by the extreme level of violence that exists in America, which I believe has become a big part of our culture. America has had a long history of exhibiting extreme levels of violence specifically when it comes to Black and Native American people. Even though violence has always been a part of American culture, the domestic violence we are experiencing in America today is at an all-time high. If not addressed, it will continue to wreak havoc and ultimately work to undermine and weaken our civil liberties. Unfortunately, the violence affects the Black community at an alarming and disproportionate level.
All Americans of goodwill must ask ourselves, what cost will this level of violence have on our society if it continues to go unchecked? We must ask ourselves who are the beneficiaries of this type of violence and who benefits from the uncertainty and discord that it creates? We live in a state of ignorance that permits the exploitation and politicization of hate and indifference. If this violence is not immediately addressed, (we can no longer kick the can down the road) it will further embolden the domestic “cancer” of ignorance and continue to destroy America from within; and it will ultimately threaten America’s ability to maintain its global leadership around the world. This ignorance will handicap future generations of Americans if not addressed now!
Let me go on record by saying that I denounce violence of any kind including bigotry, structural racism, ignorance, and poverty. These are the foundational pillars for the development and the spread of violence. I wholeheartedly denounce the assassination of the five police officers in Dallas, Texas; the killing of hundreds of unarmed Black men primarily by White police (Center for Disease Control now classified as “legal intervention” that refers to police killing Black men which is the ninth leading cause of death among Black men); and I equally denounce the thousands of Black deaths that are perpetuated by other Black men living in America.
Guess what America, we are all in this together whether we like it or not. Blue states, red states, democrat, republican, liberal, conservative, and Black and White. If America is to thrive and continue as the leader of the free world, it cannot continue to harbor and promote ignorance. Ignorance that is steeped in polarization and race baiting; ignorance that supports racism; ignorance that further divides the haves and the have nots; ignorance that is void of basic common sense; ignorance that is void of being morally right; ignorance that is void of charity and being your brother’s keeper; ignorance that is without respect for your fellow man; ignorance that is void of truth; and ignorance that is supported by White supremacy and White privilege.
The call for “Black Lives Matter” is because they never have in this country. There are some amongst us who, by their words and actions, represent that White life is greater than all other life. That White life is more important than Black life, therefore, violence is acceptable if that violence is aimed at Black people versus White people. This is an absurd position that is absolute ignorance. I denounce all types of violence and the loss of any life except when absolutely justifiable. All life is precious and valuable. The men that died last week, two unarmed Black men at the hands of White police officers and the five police officers that died at the hands of a Black man are all “victims” of violence.
Why are they victims? They are victims because they were all fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, and husbands (part of a nuclear family and community) and each one of them left home that morning, like all other mornings, expecting to return home safely to the families. They did nothing, absolutely nothing, to justify being murdered. They were innocent victims of senseless violence. Their deaths represent a serious and significant level of pain and loss incurred by their families and communities, that each family and community must mourn going forward. This level of trauma might always remain with them. Is one life more important than another is?
When it comes to the violence that happens on a daily basis, Americans have very short memories. This has allowed these atrocities to happen more and more frequently. We do not seem to be able to do anything about it. Ignorance is at the forefront of many of these acts. We endure challenge after challenge. We become outraged for a few days or a few weeks and then we go back to our normal behavior and we forget the carnage that these violent episodes create. While we might forget, those families and those communities do not (i.e. Dallas 5 dead, 7 injured; Orlando, 53 dead, 60 injured; San Bernardino, 14 dead, 22 injured; Charleston, 9 dead, Newton, 27 dead).
In 2015, there were an estimated 600 cases of Black deaths at the hands of police in America and it looks like those numbers will be repeated for 2016. What makes this so astonishing is that many of these deaths happened when the men were unarmed. This is not something new for the Black community. This has been going on forever and the trauma incurred by the families and communities of the victims has not only ever been treated, but never even acknowledged. This trauma generates a “built in” defense mechanism that is passed to and inherited by the next generation. This type of violence by police against unarmed Black men has sparked a national movement for police reform (i.e. Mike Brown, Ferguson; Freddie Gray, Baltimore; Eric Garner, New York, and just recently back-to-back deaths of Alton Sterling, Baton Rouge and Philando Castile, Minnesota).
For Black people, this violence is just another form of oppression. There are some prominent White leaders who call “Black Lives Matter” a racist group that further divides our community. These are blatantly ignorant statements. Malcom X once said, “The oppressor will never feel the pain of the oppressed.” When you have study after study that show that Blacks in America are in a real crisis and showing that Blacks continue to lose ground in nearly every category with “positive” demographics decreasing and nearly every “negative” demographic increasing. To identify those who protest as racist is irresponsible. It is clear that the Black community in America is oppressed and has been since the enslavement of Black people nearly 550 years ago. It is equally clear that the oppressor is White America.
Today, nearly 50 years after the historic Civil Rights legislation of the 60’s, the economic conditions and structural poverty for too many Black people threatens every aspect of life that will continue for untold generations. I contend that, like wealth, poverty is inherited and where one starts in life is extremely important. Black people have never had the opportunity to not only inherit wealth but to create wealth because they were enslaved and their labor was never compensated. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated that the worst form of oppression is poverty and by this definition, the Black community in America is oppressed. The more I study the conditions facing the Black man in America, the more Malcolm X’s quote rings louder and louder in my head.
The descendants of the slave owners and the descendants of the enslaved must be able to argue around a set of “truths” not “ignorance,” if we are to make progress in this country. America must come to understand how the current White generations have benefited and are “privileged” as the result of the massive disadvantage (oppression) orchestrated against Black people, which continue today. It is time for the White community to get out of denying what they already know. It is time that the White community accepts that their inherited benefit (privilege) came at a cost to Black people. In fact, they are participants in a major crime in receipt of stolen goods.
After countless struggles, marches, riots, demonstrations, and the passing of civil and voting rights legislation, Black Americans have entered the new millennium the same way they entered the previous four centuries – impoverished. Blacks still bear nearly ten times their proportional share of poverty and all of its nasty derivatives (i.e. broken homes, drug abuse, incarceration, unemployment, etc.). The redistribution of wealth and power has never been achieved. What we really have seen in America is social integration not economic integration. As Dr. Claude Anderson stated, “It is extremely difficult for Black people to progress when the same hands that held the whip still hold all of the wealth and power.” Maybe this is why the oppressor will never feel the pain of the oppressed.
If we expand our description of violence to include all forms of oppression, the Black community is under siege in America. If anything positive can come out of the recent rash of violence events it is that we can finally begin to place the discussion about America and her future on public display with the hope that we can come up with real and tangible solutions. Today in the media, you hear of people wanting to address this violence not with a Band-Aid, but with solutions that address the root causes. This is something that America has failed at miserably because we can talk about the outcomes that we see until the cows come home, but we rarely talk about the root causes.
The root cause relates directly to the role that the White ancestors played and overwhelmingly stacking of the deck that confronts most Black people today. We can no longer downplay this reality in that White America has amassed trillions of dollars in wealth and an economic system that protects those with wealth, while the Black community was inheriting poverty. White America must come to understand the economic disadvantage that Blacks have inherited even though not all White people are rich, or that White do not have to compete daily to maintain their advantage. White people must compete amongst each other and with other groups, but they have no competition when it comes to Black people.
We have a major problem with race relations in America. We will not be able to overcome through police force or incarceration. This is just another form of violence and oppression. This problem has its origins in a past that we must address through critical dialogue, or we will never be able to fix the problem. White supremacy and White privilege is alive and strong. In my upcoming articles I will elaborate further on why America must come to grips with its past in order to move forward in the future.