America is living in crisis and is explosive at this time. We are looking racism dead in the face, no matter who or where you are, no matter what color you are.
The horrific killing of five policemen by the military Black madman in Dallas, preceded by the recorded killings of two Black men by police in different cities just the day before, has brought it to a head.
But the killing last year of nine Black people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina brought it to a head for me.
Both murderers were angry men, one White, one Black. White policemen got killed, religious Black people got killed. Both incidents are horrendous, scary, racial hate crimes.
We’ve seen the aftermath of this week’s events on TV for 24 hours a day everyday since it happened – people coping, coverage of the shootings, the background information, the reaction. How do we deal with it?
Truths need to be told now and out loud. White policemen are afraid of young Black men. Black young men and Black people in general are afraid of White policemen. We fear each other. The fear factor needs to be vetted.
White policemen in some cases are targeting and profiling Black men and shooting them down in the street for normal activities. Driving, walking, minor traffic violations are the offenses. How on earth do you get killed in 2016 for a broken rear car taillight?
The most feared person to the Black community is the White cop who stops you on the street or pulls you over for a traffic offense. If you’re over 15 years of age, we all have stories.
Lynchings: American History 101
As, I watch the newsy TV shows, I have concluded White people don’t seem to get it. Everyone is being polite but not necessarily real. How did we get here? Let me help the conversation. A recent study conducted by the Equal Justice Initiative titled “Lynching in America, Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror,” says that 3,959 Black people, mostly men, were lynched between 1877 and 1950, mostly in 12 southern states.
Those crimes are classified as “racial terror lynchings.” Today we might call them acts of terrorism. There were no videos, but there are many photos of Black men hanging from trees or being burned alive; many of those photos were turned into postcards during that era.
For the most part, the White men who committed these crimes went unpunished and untried. For instance, in the Elaine Massacre of 1919 in Elaine, Arkansas, between 500 and 1,000 rioting Whites killed at least 100 and maybe as many as 800 African Americans between September 30 and October 1. The number of Blacks killed has never been officially determined, though it’s believed to be toward the higher end. Five Whites died.
The Elaine Massacre is considered the deadliest racial conflict in United States history. However, not one White person was charged with anything, though 122 Blacks were prosecuted and 73 were charged with murder.
Many times the White people who executed such crimes in the 19th and 20th centuries were the lawmakers, the justices and the politicians of the town. Often the White people left church and went to the picnic lynchings as families – men, women and children – where they saw the “strange fruit” hanging from the trees as they ate from their picnic baskets.
The Black folk killed usually did little to nothing to warrant such cruel treatment. They may have been lynched for looking a White man in his eye, stealing a loaf of bread, definitely looking at a White woman.
It could have been a case of mistaken identity or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time because Whites believed in the occasional public lynching to keep the fear in American Blacks in order to keep them in their marginal place. In those cases, grabbing any ole Black person to string up would do.
Basically, Blacks of the period lived at the whim of the White man. Black folk had no recourse, no Johnnie Cochran for the defense, so these terroristic crimes continued. These crimes saw no court room.
This appears impossible to me personally and seems to be the acts of some very sick people – people who could not only commit such atrocities, but who could do it in front of children. However, this is a very real part of American History 101.
Many Black people know these horror stories personally in their families, as the family tree tells of great-great grandparents escaping the fate, or great-great grandparents being not so lucky. And of course the whole world knows about Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Chicago Black boy who was viciously lynched by White men in Money, Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a White woman. His death ignited the Civil Rights Movement.
These are lessons learned and bruises and American blemishes that are transferred to the psyches of generations of Black family members as we listen to the preacher or grannie or Big Mama at the Thanksgiving table.
Sometimes these horror stories are not discussed because they are just too painful to remember and they become sketchy as the generations move forward. But we, Black people, have all heard these tales from not so long ago. My point, here is very simple, we have seen our ancestors hang from the trees and the white police shootings of today, there is a strong relationship. The American message is clear, White men kill Black men. Some of the men who hung from those trees wore military uniforms.
The White Male Whim
So, this is the basis of the relationship of the racial American justice system between Blacks and Whites, where Black men are too often falsely accused, railroaded, or just live or die at the discretion of the White male whim.
The great divide began at the slave ship, when White men looked at Black men to surmise their human resource productivity factor, from studding to working the fields. A slave was created, based on fear. See Kunta Kinte in Alex Haley’s groundbreaking book Roots for reference of how a strong African male was reduced to slavery.
If Black men resisted, severe punishment ensured, from rape of his woman (wife) in front of him to the breakup and displacement of his family, never to be seen again. White people did this and there is no denial. This is more American History 101.
Fast forward to today. I gave this short historical snapshot of the mistreatment of Black men by Whites to explain what the White newscasters and pundits seem not to understand and/or appreciate. They act like it is an equal suburban society; they sound like we made up the stories.
This includes the President of the United States, who said he thinks America is not as divided as people might think. He has been in the bubble too long and removed from the day-to-day reality. His speechwriters need spanking.
All Obama has to do as a Black man is leave the secret service guards at home one fine day and move about America in a regular automobile that he drives…or better yet, use public transportation, or try to get a taxi in downtown business districts. He would feel the Black stink and might rush to lead Black Lives Matter upon retirement.
The police-killing incident in Dallas is a defining American moment in 2016. It is the time where America has to look racism in the face, as it currently exists. This is an Emmett Till moment.
In the world of today where technology rules, it is hard to deny the video. The video face is not staged; it is reality only. The tape of Ms. Diamond Reynolds narrating the aftermath of the police officer killing her finance, Mr. Philando Castile, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, is chilling and no Hollywood staged drama could have done it better.
She was polite, courteous, non-emotional and spoke like a reporter. She addressed the police officer as “sir” constantly as she witnessed cold-blooded murder. The couple did everything right.
We hear and see the Black fear of the White cop. We hear the White male cop afraid of the Black guy, simply because he is a Black male. How absolutely terrifying. I know of no one who could have so calmly recorded and watched the horror, not even my newscaster friends.
And then there is the case of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was selling CDs in front of a small grocery store. It is commonplace in Black communities for a street hustler to work his business in front of a small grocery store and in this case, Sterling had the store owner’s permission. Video captured Sterling being thrown to the ground and shot and killed by two White policemen.
There are things about Black people that White people simply don’t know, Black experiences that they will never know, because they don’t have to live it.
These are defining moments, making Black people, especially Black men, realize how unsafe we are, what targets we are and how vulnerable we are in the slightest of incidents as we live our daily lives. The Black male is a target. Period.
The killer in Dallas, the trained killer, the military guy, got mad and sought revenge. He retaliated. But his reaction was predictable. It was bound to happen one day and could happen again in any given city at any time given the state of race relations and the feeling among Blacks that we are under siege, especially by White policemen. Enough. White America needs to face this fact.
In the meanwhile, Black millennials have not fully accepted the non-violence protest creed of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Also, there is no one voice to stand up and speak out to say we forgive and we will pray for you.
Black Lives Matter uses hash tags and Facebook effectively as a new organizing tool worldwide. They need no regulation. Their movement crosses over as they speak to current injustices. Their marches are instant across the land.
The politicians are stumped. The leadership is weak. The leadership is confused. No one knows what to do. We need common sense approaches and the people are way ahead of the politicos. The conversations in the barbershops and beauty shops are as valid as the ones in Congress, which cannot come to grips with gun control.
The media folk are scratching their heads as they tap dance the issue on national TV, wondering what Black person they can call to engage the discussion, including the Black anchors who measure their words as they attempt to speak to the reality of what they know is true and real. They all seem to scratch their heads with measured words.
We are living a nightmare that has given us a wakeup call. Blacks everywhere are afraid of the White cop. The White cops are afraid of Black people, particularly the Black male. The fear factor is in full force; we need to recognize it and began to change the reality. Cops need additional training. Cops need to be better screened.
I have a White friend who hosted a party over this weekend. I was invited, but I did not attend. My friend called me to ask if I would be completely honest with her if she asked me a question.
Her event was being held in downtown Chicago and she said, all of my Black friends are not coming. They are professional people that I have known for a long time. We are real friends, so why are they not attending?
I said, we are afraid. Afraid of what, she asked. I said, right now because of what has happened this week, we are afraid to travel, we are afraid of the crowds, we are afraid of the streets. We are afraid of the police stopping us.
She was dumbfounded because it had nothing to do with her. I said, but it does have something to do with our lives. This is our reality. We are afraid.
What is the solution to the madness? Our conversations on race need to be open and honest. There are things about Black people that White people simply don’t know. There are Black experiences that they will never know, because they don’t have to live it.
This includes those with mixed marriages and mixed children and good Black friends. Black skin, no matter the tone, is an “exclusive” American club and it is real.
And so much for the theory about a post-racial society – what does it really matter that we have a Black president when the streets are not safe for Black boys anyway?
Latest posts by Hermene Hartman (see all)
- Smithsonian Director Lonnie Bunch Delivers Northwestern U Commencement Address - June 26, 2019
- Quinton de’ Alexander, The Ambassador Of Fashion - June 17, 2019
- Meet Illinois Supreme Court Justice P. Scott Neville Jr. - June 15, 2019