By Ashahed M. Muhammad and Charlene Muhammad
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call
The year 2013 saw George Zimmerman tried for the killing of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin and the case kept the country riveted. However, when Mr. Zimmerman was found not guilty, a wave of grief and anger swept over Black America. That verdict, along with other brutal killings caused many to believe that it was “open season” on Black people.
A morbid and troubling list of those who had lives cut short under suspicious circumstances, at the hands of police or apparent self-appointed vigilantes marked 2013. Some of the names on the unfortunate list includes:
January 2013 athlete Kendrick Johnson was found in his Georgia high school dead, wrapped up in a wrestling mat. Later it was discovered that his organs were missing after his body was exhumed as his family sought the truth about his death.
September 2013 unarmed former Florida A& M football player Johnathan Ferrell was shot and killed by a police officer, while apparently seeking assistance after being involved in a car accident.
October 2013 34-year-old unarmed Connecticut mother Miriam Carey was shot to death at the U.S. Capitol by police.
November 2013 unarmed 19-year old Renisha McBride was killed in Detroit, shot by a man after she also sought assistance following a car accident. Because of the manner in which she was gunned down, a closed casket funeral was held.
“With the election of President Obama, our first African American president, we’re supposed to be reaching a post-racial society but in many ways it seems like civil rights issues and cases have gotten much more difficult,” said Atty. Benjamin Crump, who represented the family of Trayvon Martin and now represents the family of Kendrick Johnson and other males killed or hurt under questionable circumstances.
“This begs the question what is the value of Black life?” Atty. Crump told The Final Call.
He’s received calls for help from families whose loved ones were killed in unbelievable incidents. The calls have doubled since Trayvon Martin’s case, he said. But, many of the deaths never make the news because establishment media doesn’t report when Black and Brown children are killed, Atty. Crump said.
“It’s not front page news. It’s almost a cliché. We have to fight to give value to our children’s lives,” Atty. Crump said.
Statistical data shows if Whites kill Blacks, the killings are found to be justified 66 percent of the time. But when Blacks kill Whites the conviction rate rises to 97 percent.
“If you kill a White person and you’re Black you’re going to jail, but if you kill a Black person, maybe, maybe not,” Atty. Crump said.
In cases like Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride and Jordan Davis, who was fatally shot after a White man fired into a truck of Black males after a confrontation over music. The killers put themselves in harm’s way then claimed self-defense under Stand Your Ground laws, said the lawyer.
Stand Your Ground allows citizens who feel threatened to use deadly force, but these situations did not occur in that context, argue many advocates and activists.
“On Trayvon, George Zimmerman never had to get out of the car. On Renisha McBride, the killer never had to open the door. And then on Jordan Davis, if the kids were playing loud music, he could just drive away! He didn’t have to say anything to them as to why they were parked in the parking lot,” Atty. Crump said.
A system of brutality tied to racial oppression
“The brutality is built into the system itself,” explained Dr. Neely Fuller, Jr., a Black psychologist and author of a textbook on racism and White supremacy. People classified as non-White are considered targets of “Whites” for fun, glory and material gain, and the activity is institutionalized, explained Dr. Fuller.
It plays out in all areas of life, including economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, politics, religion, sex and war, Dr. Fuller added.
Atty. Crump believes people have to stand up and not remain silent, in particular when it comes to Black youngsters getting shot in the back by police and civilians. “They (the public) just sit there like it’s not my concern. Well if they keep saying that, it’s going to be their concern when it’s their child,” he warned.
“The discussion for years and rightfully so has been the criminalization of Black men but what we really have is the criminalization of Black and Brown bodies now that are particularly younger, that are Latino ethnically and are women,” commented Rosa Clemente, hip hop activist and historian. “We have to see it in a larger context in terms of they’re just attacking us no matter what. Your gender doesn’t save you. Your Latino-ness doesn’t save you,” Ms. Clemente said.
White fears of losing control
Tim Wise, anti-racism activist and author, attributes White hatred to Whites feeling a loss of control—whether it’s a Black president, demographic and cultural changes in America, or the bad economy. White levels of anxiety, fear, and concern about the dreaded “other,” whoever that is, become intensified, the Caucasian activist told The Final Call.
White anxiety is likely to rise as America’s demographics continue to shift and White reactionaries realize the increasing difficulty of White votes to win national elections, he added. “It’s not going to dissipate any time soon. It’s probably only going to intensify,” Mr. Wise said.
Carl Dix, of the Revolutionary Communist Party and co-founder of the October 22nd Coalition, believes America’s outsourcing of manufacturing is part of the backdrop for a slow genocide against Blacks and Latinos.
Part of the brutality stems from the system’s fear of people’s responses to not having a legitimate way to raise their families or survive, Mr. Dix said.
In the 1960s and 1970s, such disparity and uncertainty helped usher in an era of protests, civil disobedience and calls for revolution.
“They are moving to stop that from happening this time with the conscious policy of criminalization, policification, prisons, laws designed to target Black and Latino youth disproportionately and warehouse them in prison,” Mr. Dix said.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan launched an important weekly 2013 lecture series titled, “The Time and What Must Be Done” conveying clear truths and delivering the sound doctrinal teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
His weekly messages explored a broad range of topics such as genetics, race relations, history, and foreign policy.
But his clear message and warning: It is time to separate from White America. The Minister discussed control still exerted over Blacks in America and worldwide. In Black neighborhoods in the United States and Black nations globally, a type of control and colonization still exists, he noted. “We live in an appropriated area, under the control of the Whites—through Black preachers, politicians and business people that White people control,” Min. Farrakhan observed in parts 48 and 49 of the weekly series that airs Saturday nights at NOI.org/thetime.
“Black peoples’ condition in Africa, the Caribbean and Central America is nothing more than a colony of Blacks subjected to the whim or will of outside forces. So, you are separate, but very, very unequal … So now, your desire is to integrate into the major colonial power—not completely separate from them?” he asked in a message broadcast Dec. 14.
“So as it teaches in the 16th Chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, verses 1-6, you are still like ‘a baby’ cast out in the open field, with no one to cut the umbilical cord, so you are not washed and cleaned and you are absolutely not clothed or covered. But, you are polluted in the blood, or life, directed by a colonial, or slave, mentality. It is a worldwide colonization of the darker people of our planet,” he said.
“That is why the message of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is so vital, so necessary, for the darker people, the aboriginal people of the world, to wake them up to make them see that they have been neo-colonized.”
Gun deaths, media and images of slavery
In addition to the violence of police officers and those outside of the community, there was a tragic level of Black on Black violence. The January death of Chicago teen Hadiyah Pendelton was a poignant example of the how fragile Black life is in Black neighborhoods. Weeks after performing at the inauguration of President Obama, she died when a gunman fired into a crowd on a playground not far from the president’s home in Chicago.
The proliferation of guns in America in general, and illegal weapons flowing throughout neighborhoods dominated by Black and Brown people in particular, is the problem, according to Ronald M. Holt, commander of the Special Activities Section of the Chicago Police Department.
“There has to be a more conscious effort put on how to deal with stemming the flow of illegal firearms getting into the hands of violent individuals and mentally unstable individuals,” he said.
Mr. Holt’s knows firsthand the effects of gun violence. His son, 16-year-old Percy L. Julian High School honor student son Blair Holt was a tragic victim of gun violence in 2007. Blair was shot and killed when a 16-year-old reputed gang member shot wildly into a crowded bus. Blair was not the intended target, and in 2009, his killer received a sentence of 100 years in prison.
The United States is “out of control” with the use of firearms and George Zimmerman, and many like him with guns, are “high powered cowards,” said Ron Holt. Having a weapon gives them a false sense of security and bravado, a brazen attitude and a sense of power, he added.
“Not everyone deserves or should have the privilege of having a firearm in their possession,” said Mr. Holt. “Stand your ground laws should be abolished in every state of the union.”
The Zimmerman trial “was inexcusable, unacceptable and the entire judicial process was tragically, socially and racially imbalanced and flawed to the (highest) degree,” said Mr. Holt.
There is also a tie between mental health and public safety, Mr. Holt noted. “People will begin to see the human loss, which is the overarching impact, but you see the financial strain and financial loss that goes into it when people are not getting treatment for their mental issues,” said Mr. Holt.
Dr. Frances Cress Welsing agrees mental health issues are significant within Black communities. Add to that rampant unemployment, Black men being effeminized, killed and the fact that many leaders are either too afraid or being prevented from speaking about the issue of racism. Without immediate and direct action, the problems in the Black community will continue.
“It doesn’t matter if it is a Black person or a White person, anybody who refuses to talk about racism and White supremacy hates Black people,” said the Washington, D.C.-based psychologist.
“Racism is a spear in the heart of Black people. It is killing us, and we are being prevented from talking about it,” she said.
In Hollywood, movies such as “Django,” “The Butler,” and “12 Years A Slave,” brought moviegoers face to face with the brutality of slavery and the experience of Blacks in America.
Those films displayed the complexities of America’s racial issues and the brutality suffered by Blacks in greater detail than any movies in recent memory. “Fruitvale Station,” chronicling the tragic death of Oscar Grant III, stood out in its depiction of the legal injustices faced by Blacks in America almost daily.
The wildly popular television series “Scandal” has been a source of lengthy discussions. Some see the fictional character Olivia Pope as the epitome of Black female empowerment, while others, such as Dr. Cress Welsing view it as another media driven assault on the fragile collective Black psyche.
“We don’t have any clue as to how media is being used,” said Dr. Cress Welsing, noted author of “The Isis Papers.”
“Media manipulates minds. If you understand what is going on, you are less influenced because you are able to interpret and put things in place,” she said.
Dr. Cress Welsing says many Blacks are viewing movies and TV shows out of context and as a result, the movies or programing can be misinterpreted and people remain confused. On the surface, it could be perceived as a good thing that movies are being made about aspects of Black history, but slavery has not ended, she noted.
“Slavery was just one phase of the system of racism (White supremacy). The system is continuous up to the present,” said Dr. Cress Welsing. “As long as people can mistreat you and you can’t do anything about it, you are a slave,” she added.
“We are in a system of racism. If we don’t understand it, we don’t know how to measure these products that come forth,” said Dr. Cress Welsing. “White people, they have to understand—consciously or subconsciously—what they are doing because the system is for their genetic survival as a White minority on the planet.”
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