Get Black With The Program
To wake up on a morning, not long from the last Black History Month, ushering in the spring of 2016, I must state that it is highly encouraging that voices in so many different diplomatic communities are calling out the United States of America on the blatant hypocrisy in its informal moniker being the Land of the Free. Almost all of those states seem to stay united in making that recognition as difficult to grasp as possible, as countless people of color are being victimized by the brutal constructs of a machine, a money machine; fueled by the sacrifice of human life. Whether the sacrifice is time, morals, or our very souls, one would wonder; why such is needed if we are no longer bound by chains and not as widely subjugated to hanging from trees.
To draw up the schematics of this “sacrifice machine” over 200 years ago was genius, if not insane, something our founding fathers would undoubtedly have trouble owning responsibility for. Did they envision a land with cultures mixed to the point of polar opposites, where the majority of Americans, citizens and non-alike, fall between the perversion and pure of such cultures. Would slave owners see their future as ultra powerful oligarchs of profit shared and private corporations? Would Thomas Jefferson see his children as coveted and confused, in a world still struggling with their very concept? I am sure he saw them despised by both sides, labeled as traitors, but also as gems in this superficial battle of skin color. I am also sure that the slave hands dreamed of an amazingly prosperous life building happy families doing what they loved. Little did the rest of America know, in the times of our forefathers, how much everyone would be working for the almighty dollar, just to put food on the table.
In the land of the free, 2016, everyone has a job, but even the rich work for the richer. Although the man with the darkest skin has been emancipated from his chains, he is still brutalized and subjected to inhumane treatment. It also rarely depends on his social or financial status; just ask Thabo Sefolosha or James Blake. Even in the loftiness of financial prosperity, Black men who are gifted enough to profit from their athletic prowess often find themselves, somehow, on the losing end of a contract agreement involving multiple millions of dollars. A lot of people may ask how this is possible, and although it may be more adequately answered in a detailed breakdown of how professional sports and multimedia conglomerates interact, I will be explaining the prevailing principles on the end of the Black man. The focus of this piece is on the psyche of my people and that of our oppressors. I will also be examining my own perception on the current and continued attack on the psyche of women, mainly of ethnic background.
We all live in a country that claims to be a beacon of liberty, yet anyone armed simply with any observation skills can see the psychological constraints across the minds of this country. Various channels of programming would be responsible for this, and I plan to highlight a few that are specifically geared to work against the birthplace of the best, worst, and funniest stories; the Black community. One can gather such information across generations by a simple Google search or a “race in politics” course at your local college, and the numbers easily indicate oppression, but what has it culminated into? Why has fear permeated through time, from the feeling a slave master would have if the whip was in the other hand, the slave’s (one he had just beat the name out of), to the feeling of a mother seeing her only son off to war. I suppose all those officers and the sad excuse for a neighborhood watchman felt they had the ultimate power over their fears, but, to their own admission, the fear was still present and dictating. Why has Black power been so greatly feared? This is a question I would advise asking those who claim racism is dead. I feel it is because it holds ideas of togetherness, values knowledge over material wealth, and is ultimately not an energy that capitalism can corrupt.
Fear mongering in American history has two major elements, programming and domestic terrorism. Although citing domestic terrorism would be the easiest way to produce examples of programming fear into the minds of women and children (men were/are generally killed, scared or not), I argue the most destructive and divisive form of oppression is implicit and psychological. This argument is nothing new. The late, great Isaac Hayes is quoted, “Psychiatric programs and drugs have ravaged our inner cities, helping to make criminals of our young people, and all because psychiatrists and psychologists were allowed to practice racist behavioral control and experimentation in our schools, instead of leaving teachers to teach.” These psych programs have most likely infiltrated our popular culture and forced it to work against the betterment of the youth in those inner cities. In a study done by the Citizen’s Commission On Human Rights, in which Hayes held the title of Commissioner, aimed at exposing racism in psychiatry, early examples of recorded mental illness in slaves were attributed to those that attempted to escape their bondage. It was called ‘drapetomania’, a disorder giving the slave an unnatural urge to run away, and it was “discovered” in 1851. The remedy was, of course, to “beat the devil out of them”. This shows that across centuries, Americans have not only acted brutally out of fear, but also provided false science to justify such harsh treatment. The same goes, I suppose, for the forensic evidence provided to the court in the Trayvon Martin case, in of which a teenaged African American boy was walking home from a convenience store (armed with nothing but his Blackness, candy, and a can of tea), when upon entering the gated community his future stepmom’s townhome was surrounded by, he was intentionally profiled, stalked, and confronted by someone (armed with a gun) that would later say he feared for his life. The fear this man had was so overbearing that he refused directions from the Sanford Police Department dispatch to not engage any further, and his fear controlled his finger as he pulled the trigger, putting a bullet through the heart of an innocent American youth. In the beady eyes of this ‘neighborhood watchman’, Trayvon Martin wasn’t a boy at the verge of manhood, trying to simply watch basketball with his dad, the watchman’s own words demonized the boy from the start of his dialogue with the dispatch, “ This guy looks like he’s up to no good… Something’s wrong with him.” He placed a guilty label on Martin before saying one word to him, before giving him the basic American right of innocence preceding guilt. The court followed suit, in a trial examining the murderer’s actions, by demonizing Trayvon’s character and faulting him for what the adult had done. The case struck a similar nerve as the story of Emmitt Till, for it too thrust the country into a reexamining of racial issues in America. After Trayvon Martin, more cases of unarmed men and women of color being killed by sworn protectors made headlines, and the problems seem to be exacerbating. This use of domestic fatal force in minority communities is not a new concept, fear has been used to rule people for hundreds of years. After every murder, every human sacrifice, the hearts of both the oppressor and oppressed are filled with fear. It’s provides just enough doubt for us to suppress our dreams for security, in the shape of a gun or the shunning of our own. It is a damn shame Black boys are taught to fight before they are taught to work problems and grievances out diplomatically, because the communities they live in are filled with violence and drugs, and lack opportunities for growth.
What is even more alarming is readiness for lethal force to be used on POC, especially those with mental disabilities, which make them four times more likely to be killed in encounters with police, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center. The Atlantic article linked, titled, Methods That Police Use on the Mentally Ill Are Madness, displays a screen grab of a Facebook of a police officer defending fear as a tool for survival. He compares the communities he patrols to warzones, claiming the bravery of US soldiers fighting real wars as his own, because “it is a kill or be killed kind of job”. This is the perfect example of overt domestic terrorism. The over use of force perpetuates the idea of minority lives historically mattering less in the eyes of the US Constitutional system (⅗). This simple fact reinforces the impulsive behavior police are displaying when they should be trained to be calm during high-pressure situations. The police forces of American cities across the country are sworn to protect white privilege and serve oppression to minority communities.
As Michael Brown lay face down for all his neighbors to see, with his future beside him, the officer responsible for ending his life was most likely thinking of his own “I feared for my life” story instead of to cover Brown’s body. Some could say Brown was left uncovered for others to see what happens when you challenge the authority of an officer of the law; another age old psychological oppression technique. What are these people really afraid of? Is it the dark, or something more, as if behind the fear is a piece of coveted value? This may be the definition of patriotism at its core. The staking of claim over property and justifying your means in doing so.
If we are to become the greatest country on the planet, we must acknowledge a few truths. The first is America’s original sin, and instead of the apple, we must bite the bullet. Toure recently wrote an extremely constructive piece imploring white people to confront the complex truths in their lives and within others. We have alarming statistics that do not indicate a country striving for greatness. The piece, White People Explain Why They Feel Oppressed, is filled with accounts of people who live within the latent group of the most privileged, yet feel as if they are being victimized. This is the result or goal for a system that perpetuates racism: a complete ignorance of reality. The article states that some whites may feel racism is only interpersonal, not institutional. Also stated was the apparent observation that many whites lack a complete understanding of racism and its many forms. I would like to point out that it is not only whites, but also most people do not have an adequate understanding of racism in America and it is no coincidence. This is the psychological warfare placed upon us by our exemplary forefathers and modern presidents, People. My people, African Americans, look at each other as burdens instead of teammates. In cities we used to, and can continue to thrive in, scores of young Black men are enemies instead of brothers. We have to come together, Black unity matters.
From my own efforts to counteract the true ills of our society: poverty, hunger, lack of access to information, etc., I have found these evils draw no discriminations. In my college years, my fraternity brothers and I would assist a downtown church in providing meals to homeless people of every age, color, and creed. Everyone deserves a chance at a good life. In a video clip of a show produced by PBS titled, “After Ferguson”, a personality for American Spectator, Ross Kaminsky, shows the same undertaking of victimhood as Toure’s associates upon hearing the magnitude of living an oppressed life within the different American institutional systems. He claims to be an innocent bystander in the crossfire of the blame game. Philip Agnew then informs him of the psychological conditioning that has taken place for generations that helps the system operate under the law.
Part of the reason why I think athletes on the professional level are not as outspoken as they were in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s is how they view their lives & impact in relation to others. Pro athletes in mainstream sports may realize the fact that they are role models, but not the true influence they have. I want to do a study that measures buying power among professional groups of minorities, if anyone reading knows one, feel free to share. In comparison to other professions, I theorize that minority pro athletes and pop culture figures have the most potential for change in their respective communities. By no means am I implying that some athletes are not already very active in quelling the social issues they faced, for the underprivileged. By all means am I implying that they are ill equipped to be doing what is needed to completely achieve certain social justices. I myself have been planning to create a non-profit startup company that aims to facilitate investments into inner city communities, and I want those investments to be led by the shining Black beacons of our modern society. This would lead to not only exponential success within economic sectors of Black communities, as well as place much needed value back in the land, but it would greatly improve race perceptions across America. Caucasian citizens may not so readily believe their opportunities are being seized upon when Blacks and minorities are creating their own. This brings the conversation over to culture appropriating; Black culture had once been cornered, now, it is coveted. There is no justified reasoning behind the gross imbalance between the profitability of Blackness and the actual profit we, as a people, see. I do not think I should have to point out the blatant proof, but once again, sports become the perfect example. One may recall the Fab 4 of Michigan, when four African American boys changed the face of basketball. They didn’t just start a fashion trend in college ball, with longer shorts and street-ball swag: they intensified the urban aspect of “hooping”. The money that those four players made the school is probably in the tens of millions, in just a few years. Since then the NBA and other pro leagues have become extremely powerful marketing machines while still remaining the only option for minority youth to make it out of their neighborhood alive, or free. Imagine having a monopoly on the most expensive product on the planet, entertainment, and certain demographic groups are working their entire youth lives for an audition. I am willing to assume that as pressure to succeed builds, the need for security increases, and professional athletes become extensions of their teams and owners. If the wrong thing is said or done, that owners don’t agree with, they have the power to cut or release players with hardly any consequences. This is not a racial issue: it is a moral one. Numerous NFL players have been given several chances of returning to the league after domestic violence charges, while former punter Chris Kluwe was cut after voicing support for homosexual acceptance. Kluwe, a white man, held eight team records, and was closing in on ten more. Speech in sports is definitely not free.
The simple truth, Black women are the most oppressed group of people in the country, and likely the world. The numbers and studies have to show the low rung on the totem pole and Black women and girls are it. They are victimized and neglected by everyone, and I feel it to be the most tragic aspect of American society. In an Atlantic article, The Black Girl Pushout, Monique Morris highlights the “negative socioeconomic conditions” that have been created specifically for Black girls. This means there are few environments in which young developing girls of color are safe from harm, this should be beyond alarming. Morris, who co-founded the National Black Women’s Institute, explains in the interview that even in educational environments, Black girls are disproportionately punished and therefore marginalized. Stereotypes of Black girls and women become destructive within the perception of the public, allowing them to become neglected victims, yet if the truth were recognized, minority girls would be the most popular group in almost every social circle. I should include that my perception of the Black woman as being incomplete, as I am a man and only draw my observations from having been around minority women throughout the courses of life. Most of my experiences with women of color have come from a point of admiration, whether borne from physical attraction or because the particular person in my scope embodies the struggle, either reason, I’m drawn to them. I’m constantly curious about how the struggle has affected them, where they’ve been in life, and how they plan on proceeding. Some are lost within their own beauty, another consequence of being Black in America. They’ve been told throughout childhood (if not insulted or taunted) to use their outer beauty to get a husband, or a job, instead of finding purpose… Like a rose that grew from a crack in the concrete, a woman in the social lens of Blackness has adamantly made her plight popular, proclaiming independence from the social constraints placed upon her. In the setting of a cold, gritty city, the crack rose seems so out of place; being so naturally beautiful among the anti-ancient architecture and the artificial realities of all around it. Does such a rose adopt the ways of the city, showing superficial faces to anyone willing to become of benefit? Or shall she wait to be plucked, and hope that her thorns don’t find a prick? Growth becomes as crooked as the city, if warmth and nourishment aren’t sourced, her petals become weak, maybe hardened. I just want to put her in a garden… “Now I’ve got to get rich … very, very rich so I can buy my freedom from fear and know I’ll have enough to make it.” Nina Simone wrote that in her journal.
I can be as optimistic as anyone, faithful to the core, but I know nothing will happen until the perception of fear associated with my body is vanquished. The game is very obviously rigged, but this time it is the majority of Americans that are losing. The points earned by both sides do not matter if we are heading in the wrong direction. We had a chance, back in the days of MLK on black & white television, to truly become brothers from different mothers: instead we became frenemies. Music and pop culture used to challenge our sociality, and now, after every sexy yet misleading commercial, it goes back to your regularly scheduled racist programming.
Recommended listening, viewing (and reading, besides linked above) for this article:
Jay-Z in concert- https://twitter.com/Richie_l0c0/status/712046613837950976
B Dot’s last round (rap battle) — https://youtu.be/rVHFSQUaBNg?t=29m
Monique W. Morris- Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools
Ta Nehisi Coates- Between The World and Me