Friday, April 25, 2008
Racism in America
Sean Bell's killer's were acquitted today.
Although I can't say that I'm really surprised, I have to admit that I actually hoped for something different this time. Now, understand, two the officers who were acquitted were black. But in the fight for justice, there always has been, and always will be blacks who play the role of the proverbial House Nigga.
These are the black folks who have obtained some measure of acceptance by dominant white culture and feel it's their duty and pleasure to protect these benevolent masters who have seen so much good/potential/intelligence in them, they have to treat them better than the rest of the oppressed.
It's as old as Denmark Vesey, who planned the largest slave revolt in American history, only to be ratted out a couple of weeks before it was realized by two slaves. And, it's as new as Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper--- the officers who are able to walk away with nothing more than a scarred conscience after killing an unarmed father and soon-to-be husband.
Police brutality is a very, very sore spot for me. I'm a woman and I've been repeatedly harassed by cops both in Denver and in Atlanta-- usually because of the kind of car that I drove (my '72 Polara, Big Dookie, was a "dope boy" car). But more than that, I have two brothers, one of which had a gun pulled on him by an overzealous cop at a routine traffic stop in Denver when he was only 16. .The cops later said that they pulled him over because he "looked too young to drive." My brother made the foolish mistake of reaching for his wallet, which had fell on the floor, when they asked him for his license. I just thank God that he didn't end up like Amadou Diallo, who met a much worse fate when he was shot 41 times for reaching for his wallet.
I'll tell ya'll one thing: It's time for action. Past time, really.
I've been thinking about racism in America for the past couple of months. My younger cousins, those under 18, will tell you that it doesn't really exist, that it's a thing of the past. They are the MTV generation, the group that grew up dating inter-racially, sharing pop culture, basking in the assimilation that even my generation (and I'm in my 20's) didn't enjoy. They claim to not understand this idea of systematic racism. They defend Lebron James when he poses on the cover of Vogue like a gorilla, saying that 1- racism wasn't part of his upbringing and 2- it's not that offensive.
Maybe I am too old, and thus removed from this new mix-mesh of races. I grew up in Denver, where Klan rallies took place in the dead of summer in public parks. I spent my childhood in rural Kansas, where white people routinely inched past my house, peering at me and my brothers while we played in our yard, as if we were monkeys in a zoo. I remember my brother, who was super excited to start school, being completely deflated after being called a nigger on his first day by some white kid. But hey, maybe a lot has changed in 10 years.
Or maybe, things are just being glossed over, and young black people are being fooled.
See, the keys to racism are superiority and ignorance. While white ignorance about black culture (and other non-white cultures) may not be as prevalent as it was, say 50, 40, even 10 years ago, the superiority-- that carefully bred righteousness that has defined American (and European whites) for centuries has not died. Look at the democratic race-- Clinton is a "liberal" yet the idea that she would lose to a black man, is simply unacceptable. Even in this case, do you really think these black officers would have walked if they had barraged an unarmed white man with 50 bullets?
This superiority doesn't even have to be consciously taught to young white kids any more. It's ingrained in them from the moment they first open their eyes and glance at the TV screen which is dominated by whites, watch children's programming where black kids and other minorities are still a minority, attend their first Sunday School service where they pray to a blue-eyed Jesus, step into their first classroom and read about an American history where blacks were nothing more than domicile slaves and later great athletes while whites and Europeans were scholars, conquerors and explorers... and the examples go on and on.
So, when I consider the reality, I don't think that I'm out of touch concerning racism in this country, or that I'm holding on to a negative past. We're still living its effects to this day economically, politically and ultimately socially-- no matter how integrated the younger generation seems to be.
My concern, is, with this ingrained, bred superiority that white folks have-- where does that leave us? Will these young black kids who don't think race is that big of a deal, or believe that injustices have moved beyond race (many of which will point to the Sean Bell case as an example) grimace at the idea that black history is important? Will they p0ur over the books by authors/scholars like Asa Hilliard, , bell hooks, etc. that they were not given in History 101 to find out more?
Or will they think that they know enough-- or worse, that the idea of seeking to know more about their culture is somehow enforcing separatism?
Guess we'll find out sooner rather than later.