God Shed His Grace?

That ominous feeling we all had when Trump began to gain momentum in the primaries, has gone from just a feeling, to a palpable reality. The “polls” the “experts” will try to act as if they were shocked by the results,  but we know better.  We heard Trayvon plead for his life… We saw Mike Brown’s lifeless body left for hours in the August heat… We witnessed Eric Garner’s last breath… We watched our sister Sandra Bland get tossed like a rag doll. But We never saw justice.

But things have changed right?  We had a black president; for two terms at that.True.  But race relations in America are as bad as they have been since Dr. King’s assassination.  It seems like Obama was able to do some great things for America, but not for Us. He bailed-out Wall Street, brought our troops home, shook Castro’s hand, lower the unemployment rate and killed Bin Laden. Okay, cool. But how has that changed anything for Us? We still exist under the thumb of racism and prejudice in this country.

Something that continued to annoy me during the election, was the birth of a new demographic in America,  known as “non college educated white men.” They are the ones to blame for the sophisticated,  systematic,  school to prison pipeline and ambushing the ballots in Trumps favor? Give me a break. The very educated, wealthy and powerful have always been responsible for the outcome of elections in this country. Poor white folks never owned slaves, they never had any real power. Don’t blame them for Trump’s ascent to the presidency.

There are some very wealthy,  sophisticated and well educated folks  who wanted Trump to win. They may pretend to not like his approach or rhetoric,  but fundamentally,  their elbows are locked with his. And secretly they voted for him. The Klan used to wear white sheets to hide their identity. They have traded their sheets for the ballot box. Old trick new method… that’s all.

I’ve played sports my entire life,  but never shared a locker room with Donald Trump. I’ve had dinner at many tables,  but not with Donald Trump. There’s obviously a deeper dialogue happening among white America. These are conversations that I will never be a part of. I cannot control that reality. I and millions of others in this country can only wait by the proverbial door, in hopes of hearing good news.

Election night had millions of us feeling like one of our loved ones were in critical condition. As time went on, the updates became less promising… Florida…brain dead,  Michigan and Wisconsin…kidney failure…North Carolina…liver failure…Pennsylvania….lungs collapse. .. Ohio… the heart stopped beating… flat line. “Sorry,” the media said, “She didn’t make it.” A hush of silence rushed across the country. Some were in utter disbelief. While others were satisfied, but did not want to reveal their true beliefs.

More than ever, America exists in two realities… One man’s progress, is at the expense of another man’s plight. This is Donald Trump’s America. This is the Make America Great Again that he speaks of. This is democracy?  A bitter pill it is. This is what makes America great huh?

ferguson
Duane Merrells walks with an upside down flag in a protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown’s shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. Credit: AP Photo/Charlie Riede

“America, America, God shed hid grace on thee,
And crown thy good, with brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea”

As a little black boy raised in America, I had to learn the lyrics of America the Beautiful for our school’s end of the year musical performance. I was the only black boy in my kindergarten class and I was chosen to sing the solo. Years later I can only laugh at the irony. I did not know any better. The words are sketched in my mind for ever. I just sang it, because I loved the melody and I loved to sing. And now look at how our country has voted….God’s grace might be shedding on thee, but it damn sure ain’t shedding on me.

Thy Kingdom Come: Hidden History and the Fall of Haiti

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The story of Haiti, is the story of a fallen champion. Today, Haiti is tagged as, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. However, this tag it is unfair, incomplete, inaccurate and therefore misleading, as it proclaims Haiti’s present, without giving a full scope of its past.

Why don’t headlines ever talk about how Haiti was once, one of the most prosperous colonies in the world and one of the world’s leaders in coffee and sugar exports? Why don’t headlines emphasize how it was the first Black republic in the world and for that, it was isolated, punished and blackballed by its former colonizers and their slave-holding allies? Why don’t the headlines report how Haiti was occupied by the United States military for nearly 20 years and how the Haitian people were exploited for cheap labor against their will? Why don’t the headlines mention how the United States government sponsored Jean- Claude Duvalier, also known as “Papa Doc,” one of the most ruthless and notorious dictators of the 20th century with money and arms to rule Haiti for decades under pure fear and terror? I don’t hear many headlines tagging Haiti for having its already fragile economy destroyed in the 1990’s by Bill Clinton’s backdoor deal, that bankrupted and pushed out Haitian rice farmers, while subsidizing farmers from the Clinton’s home state of Arkansas. And more despicably, the hundreds of millions of dollars of humanitarian aid to Haiti in response to the 2010 earthquake that the American Red Cross used to build gated communities for its workers, instead of homes for the victims of the actual earthquake. Oh yeah! What about the United Nation “peace keepers” who have impregnated hundreds if not thousands of Haitian girls and women, while leaving them to raise a generation of children on their own.  Did I mention how those same “peace keepers” brought cholera to Haiti, by contaminating the Haitian water supply with their human waste and feces, leading to the deaths of thousands of people?

To continue to simply tag Haiti as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere is like watching Mike Tyson’s last fight against Lennox Lewis and deciding that Mike Tyson’s legacy would be cemented from the results of a fight, that should have never happened in the first place. Tyson had been far beyond his prime and to say that he was damaged goods, would have been a compliment. Tyson was merely a shell, a shadow of what his name meant to millions, who watched him in his prime destroy anything that dared to stand in the square with him. And let us rest assure, that his fall from glory, was not by happenstance. The untimely death of his mentor, coupled with his exploitation by the infamous Don King among others; lead one of the greatest fighters the world has ever known, to his back on a canvas mat, in an arena filled with perplexed eyes, pitied hearts and the realization, that this once great boxing warrior-god, had been reduced to a mere mortal. But still, in his downfall, Tyson will always be recognized as one of the greatest. We do not honor hour heroes in their defeat, but in their glory. We should do the same for Haiti.

Haiti has been down for quite some time now, but its true historical and cultural narrative, still outweighs its current calamitous present.  The black sheep, the dark child, prodigal son, the underdog. All these metaphors hold the real story of a nation that continues to fight for its rightful place in the history books and in a world that is quick to forget and dismiss the mighty legacy of the land where black people actually came together to achieve the unspeakable and the unthinkable… FREEDOM.

Many nations have built tremendous wealth on the backs of the oppressed. Just over 200 years ago in 1804, when New World slavery was at its relative peak in places like Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia, 1000 miles away, nearly half a million slaves had flipped the script. Greater than any March on Washington, Million Man March, Emancipation Proclamation, Thirteenth, Fourteenth Amendment or Black Lives Matters hashtag… Just as the Patriots had defeated the British, the Africans on the island of Hispaniola had defeated the French army.  Inscribed on the Haitian flag you will find the quote, L’union fait la force, In unity there is strength; which is a kin to the motto of the Thirteen Colonies during the American Revolution… “Join or die.” To be Haitian is to know that you come from the same ilk of the only nation on earth to ever lead a successful slave revolt and to know that running in your veins is the same blood of men in women, who were the original freedom fighters. This is what Haiti should be known for. Because if not, then to be fair, accurate and transparent, we must tag those countries responsible for Haiti’s economic demise … France, the country that still owes Haiti billions in reparations. England, the country that colonized and enslaved millions of people and bled their resources dry until the mid 20th century. The United States, the wealthiest country in the world by inheriting a lucrative slave economy from the British and continued to profit for nearly a century from free labor and has yet to provide reparations to the families of former slaves, while the families of former slave owners continue to thrive from generational wealth.

With the recent landfall of Hurricane Matthew, today, Haiti is clinging onto the ropes. The combination of natural disasters, political and economic sabotage have taken its toll on Haiti. Her opponents have hit her with every hook, jab, uppercut and combination imaginable. She is hurt, wounded and bloodied. And though she has been knocked down and knocked out, she continues to pick herself up and fight again. What a mighty people! What a mighty nation! Haiti, the strongest country in the world, the champion of the people. 

The Right to Remain Violent

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It is in America’s DNA to mistrust and be fearful of black people or anyone who speaks out against the poor treatment of blacks. When the early boatloads of enslaved Africans reached the shores of the Americas in the early 1600’s, there was already a social order in place, that forced black people to the bottom of society. A century later, The Making of a Slave ( A speech that was said to have been delivered by Willie Lynch on the bank of the James River in the colony of Virginia in 1712.  Lynch was a British slave owner in the West Indies. He was invited to the colony of Virginia in 1712 to teach his methods to slave owners there) became the official blue print of how to totally destroy the black spirit and mind through physical violence. Since virtually every black person that arrived in the Americas or born on American soil during the first 300 years were considered slaves, essentially, the foundation of the New World was rooted in a social order that promoted and sustained itself by means of subjugating black people. Just think, slavery existed in the Americas for four centuries, while blacks have only been emancipated for 151 years in the United States.

With 300 years of psychological and physical damage to the minds of blacks and whites, who were programed to believe that the black man, woman and child were inherently inferior, makes the very difficult task of unlearning the systematic racism that exists deep in the pores of our culture, our laws and our everyday existence. Though we have made tremendous gains in technology and science; socially, we are still at an impasse. America still struggles and struggles terribly to treat black people as full citizens. It still does not give black people equal representation, opportunities, protection or privileges.

When we continue to see unnecessary force being used on black men, women and children by law enforcement, it is simply the reminisce and vestigial components of a time when to be black, meant that the black body belonged to someone else. As unfathomable as it may seem, unfortunately the laws in America continue to be enforced in this archaic fashion. A runaway slave did not get to determine his or her own path or plot in life. If a slave ran away, they were considered a fugitive. Depending on the values, economic standing or mindset of the slave owner, the fugitive slave might be spared upon capture, so that they could continue to produce and be profitable. However, there were times when an example had to be made. Black bodies were beaten, battered, crushed and torn on public display, so that anyone else who thought to runaway would surely be aware of the inevitable consequence of physical torture and in some cases death. These were the original policing practices of black people in America.

Centuries later we are still witnessing the outcomes. When the slave did not comply, they were beaten back into submission. In 1816, to comply was to acquiesce to being nothing more than an ox or a mule; a beast of burden. To be noncompliant meant to want to be free, to be human and to actually act upon those notions of freedom and dignity. Slavery in the United States was legally abolished in 1865 with the Thirteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment  in 1868, granted black people equal rights and protection under the law. However today, blacks are not asking to be freed. Black people are asking for equal protection. If a white man can sit in a parked car and not be approached or questioned or searched, then a black man should have that same right. Nonetheless, it seems as if law enforcement are still being trained in the ways of America’s barbaric past; under the philosophy that black people are inherently criminal.

The spirit of Willie Lynch and the Fugitive Slave laws are still entrenched in the social and cultural fabric of the United States and are alive and well within the legal system. Without equality, there can never be justice. Black people in America have been emancipated for well over a century, but in 2016, America’s ghosts continue to haunt her, one dead unarmed black body at a time.

 

 

The Good Negro

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When Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel, instead of stand during the playing of the Nation Anthem, he positioned himself and changed his status from “the Good Negro,” to “a Problem”. Immediately, his critics became historians, patriots and defenders of all things American. Well, at least from the dominant culture’s perspective. When Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner during the War of 1812, people who looked like Colin Kaepernick would have been considered slaves, chattel, property, 3/5 human being or at best, byproducts of infidelity manifested through the rape of enslaved black women. A little more history will reveal that during the war, that thousands of black people actually fought against the United States on the side of the British, as they were promised to be liberated, if they fought for the British crown. Ever heard of Freetown, Sierra Leone? Look it up.

After all, Britain had abolished slavery by 1808, nearly 60 years before the American Civil War (1861-65). So any historian or person of color might naturally be inclined to believe that the Star Spangled Banner was not a song about justice for all, but a song of preserving the rights, freedoms and liberties and the union of a nation that was built on the oppression of black people; so much so, that they fought to preserve the union, as well as slavery. So to any well-versed and well-read person, black, white or any other label, can clearly see, why someone of color, or any American for that matter, might be dissatisfied with the content, context and history of our National Anthem.

Many have argued that Kaepernick is dishonoring, or disrespecting America and especially its veterans. Well, they have the right to believe that, but up until the 1950’s, our military was still racially segregated. And it was not until the Obama administration, that being openly gay in the military was legitimately addressed, protected and recognized by our government. And if you truly understand our history, America has always been a land of protest and freedom of expression. After all, the Bill of Rights, protects the very actions that Kaepernick has decided to exercise. The first amendment gives all United States citizens the freedom of speech, which also includes freedom of religion, press and peaceful assembly. This means that even organizations built on the foundation of using terrorism to intimidate black people from voting in the late 1800’s, known as the Ku Klux Klan, can have parades, demonstrations and marches, while being protected under that same amendment. This means that Neo-Nazi groups can pass out white supremacist literature and rhetoric to the public and they have the right to do so, under the same amendment. Our unique principles of individual freedoms that are protected by the U.S. Constitution, were supposedly built on these same rights.

However, when I see someone who looks like Colin Kaepernick being attacked for exercising his freedoms, I become suspicious. I begin to question whether my contemporaries really believe in justice for all, or are they just as short sighted as our founding fathers were, when it comes down to race and gender equality. Are they upset because of his complexion, or his privilege as an elite athlete, who just happens to be a person of color? If you feel that not standing for the American flag is un-American, then you must have the same sentiment towards the Confederate Flag, which was a direct dis against our United States. Then you should be just as passionate about the Ku Klux Klan being able to continue to operate after going on a reign of terror that lasted 100 years, as they hung innocent black, men women and children and any brave white folks who dared to stand for justice and equality for their black brothers and sisters. You should be outraged at how the 2nd amendment continues to be the same device used to allow almost anyone over 18 years old to purchase an assault rifle, that was only designed to do one thing —-and that is to destroy human flesh.

However, I do see why some people may be upset with Colin. They are upset because Colin Kapernick has gone from the conventional role of the unassuming, quiet in the storm of injustice, Michael Jordan silent, endorsement filled “good negro” to “a problem.” Our history has always been fine with people of color who simply conform to the system, even in times when the flaws of the system have direct negative impacts on them. We can look at the Trail of Tears, under the Indian Removal Act of 1831, under Andrew Jackson’s presidency. As long as the people of the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Seminole and other nations did not resist leaving their ancestral land and being forced to march 1000 miles to Oklahoma, then they were fine. But if they resisted or protested in any way, they were eradicated. As long as black folks in the South did not show up to the ballots on election day during the Jim Crow years (1877-1965) they were fine. But as soon as a negro tried to exercise their right to vote, they were eradicated. Do you know who Medgar Evers is? Look him up.  As long as immigrants work under the table, doing menial jobs for impoverished wages, it is not a problem. But as soon as they begin to get involved in the political process, send their children to school and demand higher wages, “they need to go back to Mexico, because they are taking all of our jobs, committing crimes and leaching off our healthcare system.”

I’m sure that Harriet Tubman was an excellent slave. They say that she was a strong as any man. She probably worked as hard as any slave during her years of bondage; and her masters benefited greatly from her production- as a slave. But when she ran away, she was no longer helpful to them. And when she began to free others, she became a problem. By no means am I saying that a multimillionaire professional athlete is a slave in today’s society—- at least not from a materialistic stand point. But if our argument is that because Colin Kaepernick is wealthy then he has no worries or place to speak out or protest the unjust treatment of some of his fellow Americans; then what is the point in becoming wealthy; to only remain wealthy and not use your influence or platform to change the things that are flawed with our system?  May he should just continue making millions and keep his mouth shut. Paying a few black athletes millions of dollars does not even begin to address our country’s battle with racism, discrimination and inequality.  And just because Colin was raised by white parents does not mean that he does not understand what it is, feels like to be black in America or that he is not somehow, immune or protected from the same unfair treatment of those who do not have the implied protection of white privilege.

So does the first amendment apply to everyone or does it only apply to some? If you agree that it applies to everyone, then Colin Kaepernick is just as American and patriotic as anyone who has ever spoken out against injustice. He is just as patriotic as Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, while owning hundreds of slaves on his Virginia plantation at the same damn time; not to mention becoming elected our 3rd president, not to mention fathering at least six bi-racial children with his mistress, Ms. Sally Hemings. These documents were a direct response to the injustice that Americans faced under British tyranny. We were a country born out of a social revolution. But if we are going to have a double-standard about who can fight and speak out for freedom then the flag means absolutely nothing.

 

Guns and the City

Guns and the City
guns, pistols, rifle, revolvers, and ammunition

The second amendment gives U.S. citizens the right bare arms. This was essential during the American Revolutionary Era, when the British and Native Americans posed a realistic threat to invading our newly formed United States. However, hundreds of years later, we may have to revisit the amendment. It was originally intended to protect us from our foreign enemies, but now it seems as if  guns are  actually killing our nation from within. I wonder if the risk is worth the reward?

Over the past week in my hometown of Miami, Florida, there have been several fatal shooting deaths of children.  The most recent and probably the most tragic was the loss of of 8 year-old Jada Page. She was too young to have done anything to warrant such an untimely and unnecessary death. And even month before, because of the recent rash of gun violence in Miami, I had my  7th grade students in Brooklyn, write letters to students at Holmes Elementary in Liberty City, in show of support and encouragement, as they lead a protest against gone violence because they no longer felt safe enough to play outside, due to the constant threat of shootings in their neighborhood.

When 6 year old King Carter’s life was stricken down by a stray bullet, I, like many others had hoped that we would see a change or some type of reduction of senseless killing, but it seems as if our hopes have been dashed again. I prayed that these so called “revenge-seekers” would have more dignity and honor when it came to settling their beefs. But it is plain to see that there are far too many cowards with guns in Miami and around our nation for that matter, because it is not just a Miami thing. Gun violence is running rampant all over America.

But when I received the phone call from my sister, I was no longer simply reading about these killings in the newspaper or watching the reports from a screen. This time it was my family. My little cousin Christopher (19 years-old) was shot and killed last Friday. He was my cousin Rosita’s youngest son. She had already lost her only daughter Precious, to cancer 8 years ago. And now this? When I think of Chris, all I can think of is his infectious smile, his wit, his humor and good nature. I remember a bright and talented young man. Now he is gone. Days later, I am still in denial. You often read about this happening to someone else, but you never think it will happen in your own family.

Since receiving the news, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my cousin Rosita  and the pain she must be experiencing. I think of the hundreds of the other parents around the nation who have had to bury their children. I think of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Tamir Rice’s mothers. I think of parents who have children in the military, who receive that call from the U.S. government relaying the message that their child died, while serving their country in some foreign land. I think about the families of police officers who wake up to hear that their loved ones never made it home. And I think of the parents of the hundreds of children all around the nation in cities like New Orleans, Chicago, Boston and Brooklyn, just to name a few. I think about the yellow crime scene tape, the body bags and the visits the the morgue to identify the bodies. I think about the doctors, first-respondents and good Samaritans that did all they could do to stop the bleeding, but to no avail.

When it is all said and done, there is no coming back from death. There are no words to comfort a grieving mother or father who has to continue living beyond the years of their own children. Life is not supposed to be this way. It is an unnatural process, that no one is built nor prepared for. Furthermore, to add more stress to grief, is the economic burden of burying a child. When an adult dies, there is a chance that they may have an insurance policy that will cover the funeral costs. But when a child dies, the family has to come up with the cash or borrow money. And it most be done in a timely manner.

It is going to be a difficult road ahead for my family. And an especially difficult road for my cousin Rosita. What is the lesson learned here? What is the moral in the shooting death of another black boy in America? There is none. None at all. But this is why we have to revisit our policies around gun laws. This is why we have to take care of our communities. We must look out for each other. We have to raise up our children to love each other, not to fear and hate each other. For only love, can conquer hate. I will continue to pray and continue to hope for a better future and take action towards a better tomorrow.

Christopher

If you would like to support, please visit Christopher’s Go Fund Me Page

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Black Girl Magic

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In the wake of the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the continued schism between the black community and local law enforcement, the Rio Olympics have provided a breath of life and hope into a people who need it; black people in America. Even the best and brightest have been victims of gross discrimination and harassment.  In  2013 Oprah Winfrey, a cultural icon and one of the wealthiest women in America, was told that she could not afford to buy a purse at a high-end store while traveling abroad in Zurich. Back in 2009 Henry Louis Gates, a prominent scholar, historian and professor at Harvard University, was falsely accused and arrested for breaking into his own home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It’s the same story… “you are black and you have no business here.” It is the sad truth, ignorance prevails far too often.

When these things happen to the best and brightest of the black community, it is easy  to see why so many black men and women in America my feel like they will never get a fair shake in this country. But what is even more disheartening is when black children internalize the obvious inequities of society and simply accept them. When children begin to believe that they will never be good enough and they have to “stay in their place,” is when you get the apathy and indifference that you see in so many communities. What is unfair, is to see the beauty and potential in the black community tucked away and hidden from the world, while their flaws, insecurities and misfortunes continue to be blasted and broadcast for the world to see.

But what has happened in Rio this summer cannot be ignored, dismissed or cast aside as an anomaly or aberration. The best and brightest have been on display and for the world to see; and it is awesome and amazing. It has not just been on display for the rest of the world, but more importantly for the millions of black people who have struggled to believe in a brighter opportunity for themselves and their children.

Sports icons such as Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan have done a great job of celebrating representing black masculinity and excellence in sports. More recently Venus and Serena Williams have been able to break down barriers for black people in tennis; especially black girls, as tennis has been traditionally seen as a “white” sport. But for most of their careers, it seems as if they have been alone. Ironically, Serena, the top player in the world was ousted in the early rounds of this year’s Olympics, but the mantel was lifted high by so many others.

However, there is a new movement that has caught fire in Rio; Black Girl Magic. The tag is showing up all over social media and for good reason. Historically, black women have been relatively invisible in American society, not to mention sports. There have been women throughout history who have definitely stood out and have made profound impacts on American culture and society, dating back to Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou and today, Michelle Obama. These women embody black girl magic. But they are part of a very small sorority; seen as exceptions to the rule. Black women are supposed to play support roles. Their contributions are helpful, but when it is all said and done, men have been overwhelmingly perceived as icons and leaders of the black community.

So what is Black Girl Magic all about and what does it mean? If you have been watching the Olympic Games, then you already know. But if you have not it is essentially this…The invisible woman is no more. For the last 10 days the world has had no choice but to witness the elegance, grace, class, power and potential of black women. The podium has been flooded with mocha brown, chocolate and deeper dark chocolate faces. Unapologetic. Black and beautiful. From the balance-beam to the swimming pool, black women have blessed the prime time world with their gifts, that have been overshadowed for far too long. It is inspiring. It is magical.

The irony is that the black body has historically been black peoples’ greatest asset, but also their biggest liability. Enslaved Africans’bodies were used to cut sugar cane, pick cotton, build empires and to breed.  Today those same bodies earn scholarships and lucrative contracts for themselves, while attracting billions of dollars for wealthy colleges, institutions and professional organizations. It is a precarious agreement, but many have reaped the benefits and have been able to advance themselves. However, historically, women, and especially black women have very rarely been able to benefit from any arrangement, in which their bodies were seen as their primary asset, without sexual implication or exploitation.

The Rio Olympics however has highlighted a different narrative for the black woman athlete and black women in general.  It is celebrating the beauty and body of black women; without objectification, and with the highest esteem. It is combating the images of black women using their powerful bodies to hurt each other or even themselves.  Instead it is  inspiring little black girls to be world-class gymnasts, swimmers, sprinters and throwers. To be ambassadors of their country.

This could not have manifested in a more appropriate place, as Brazil has the highest concentration of black people outside of Africa. More enslaved Africans were shipped to Brazil than any other place in the world. And yes the power and potential of black people in the New World, especially women, has historically been confined to making profits and growing wealth for others. This is an opportunity for black women to take back their power and create a more dignified legacy for themselves in a way the world has never seen before.

 

The History, Psychology and Reality of Black on Black Crime-Part I

Doll Test

The phrase black on black crime is in another subtle tool to perpetuate the narrative that black people in America do not value each other as much as other groups do. Which ultimately gives room for those who want to construct a stronger argument for why black people deserve what they get. They deserve to be treated unfairly and as second-class citizens, I mean, look at how they treat each other. Many black people themselves have also adopted this psychology; which is ridiculous, but sadly true. How can a black man or a woman say, “That’s why we can’t have anything” without including themselves? How can they lose faith in their community and with people share essentially the same historical setbacks and not give up on themselves?  You see, this is the danger of allowing phrases like black on black crime roll off of our tongues without looking deeper into how the phrase came about in the first place.

Research will show that most car accidents happen within 25 miles from home. Why? Because on the day to day basis, we travel relatively close to our homes. Society’s most despicable crimes such as murder and rape are mostly likely done by the hands of someone who actually had a relationship with the victim.  These are consequences of one of geography’s fundamental themes, which is proximity. I’ll come back to this point later.

When African people were taken from the coasts of present-day Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Cote Ivoire, Angola and the like, to be sold into slavery, three fundamental crimes were committed by two groups, but historically, one group tends to bare more of the blame. One group involved were the Africans, who kidnapped other Africans and brought them to the coast to be sold or traded into bondage. Group two, the Europeans who packed their vessels with human cargo, trafficking millions of people across the Atlantic Ocean for centuries. In the process, millions of people and families were impacted, even to this day. But historically it is Europeans who are “blamed” for the Transatlantic Slave Trade. However, without the help of other Africans, the slave trade would not have had the lasting impact that it did. Yes, Africans kidnapped, murdered and sold other Africans into slavery. Is this black on black crime? Surely it is, but it is inaccurate and historically irresponsible if we do not include the role the Europeans played.

As an educator, I always ask my students to search for the why and more importantly how. And history makes it plain in this case. Greed was why Africans were stolen by the generations and guns is how. The Europeans supplied rival tribes with guns and ammunition, which gave them a distinct advantage over their African counterparts. In exchange for humans, they received more guns, rum and European textiles. One group had all the power, while the others were subject to being ruled and conquered by the all mighty rifle. Imagine what would happen if one group who had been subjugated for generations were actually able to get their hands on guns themselves. Can you say war?

The second theme, scarcity (the limited supply of resources), which is an economic principle, is actually a major cause of criminal behavior that transcends all cultures. After the American Civil War, millions of black people who had never known anything but bondage, were physical set free, but not economically, socially  or psychologically. They were still bound to the lands that their ancestors had labored on; but this time as sharecroppers. Some created their own communities and in many cases they thrived. Some moved North to find better opportunities. But the majority were still clumped together into poorer areas of town. Their opportunities were limited. Their resources were limited. And at times of desperation, anger and frustration, they would fight each other, steal from each other and sometimes even kill one another. In those days it was seen as a black man’s quarrel. Today it has been labeled as black on black crime.

Homocide Rates by Race 2014

History has a funny way of repeating itself. Even though the AK-47 was invented in Russia, during a time when the United States and the Soviet Union were sworn enemies, these high-powered assault rifles have found their way in the hands of street gangs in places like Southside Chicago, Illinois, Northwest Miami-Dade County, Florida and South Central Los Angeles; all places with historically large black populations and a legacy of being under-served. I almost forgot to mention redlining, housing discrimination, unfair hiring practices, mass incarceration, double-digit unemployment rates and legalized segregation. Yet, I digress. According to 2014 U.S. Census Bureau, the sad truth is, 90% of homicides against a black person will be committed by another black person. But at the same time 82% of homicides against another white person will be committed by another white person. With an 8 point differential, I might be inclined to say that white on white crime is also getting out of hand.

Therefore, to utter the phrase black on black crime, without acknowledging the historical disenfranchisement of black people  in America, is like  having a discussion about the Declaration of Independence without addressing British Rule, the Montgomery Bus Boycott without segregation laws or  the Holocaust without mentioning the Nazis. You would not do so because it would demonstrate either a lack of understanding of the historical implications of these landmark events or that you are simply misinformed all together. So what is black on black crime really? It is an unfair label. It is the illegitimate child of American History.  America did everything in its power to conceive it, but now wants to pretend as if it manifested on its own.