Year after year, incident after incident, Black People have been expected to turn the other cheek and to go about their business as if such a state of affairs merely represents the natural order of things
By Rasta Keith
There is an old Jamaican saying to the effect that “do so, nuh like so.”
And no other event seems to bring this saying to light as does the recent slaying of two African-American men by two Caucasian-American police officers, and the aftermath of such lamentable developments.
Neither Alston Sterling nor Philando Castile had done anything to warrant their untimely demise. And the same could be said of any of the 12 officers and other civilians who fell victims as a consequence of the action of Private First Class Micah Xavier Johnson.
Throughout the Christian epoch, people of African ancestry have found themselves on the receiving end of all forms of brutality meted out by Europeans and other ethnic groups. Year after year, incident after incident, Black People have been expected to turn the other cheek and to go about their business as if such a state of affairs merely represents the natural order of things.
When Rodney King was almost beaten to death by at least four police officers on a street in Los Angeles some twenty-five years ago, the magic of social media was but a pipe dream. As fate would have it, though, a neighbor just happened to keep his camera running at just the right time and the powers-that-be were subsequently forced by the freedom of information act to disclose the full extent of the police misconduct.
There is a common misconception that the primary function of the police is to “protect and serve” the citizens of the nation. But in actual fact, the essential purpose of the police force is to guard the interests (including the property, power, privilege and prestige) of the ruling class and to keep the masses in line.
And therein lies the quid pro quo. To the extent that the police could be relied upon to keep the privileged few snugly tucked away in their gated communities, they have nothing to fear for any kind of outrageous behaviour on their part.
And so, despite the dawn of the information age, police officers and other types of law enforcement personnel have no compunction about the ruthless tactics they employ in their dealings with people of African ancestry. The case of seventeen-year old Trayvon Martin who was killed in 2012 by a neighbourhood watch volunteer called George Zimmerman is a clear case in point.
Everyone was certain that a preponderance of evidence was guaranteed to ensure George Zimmerman’s guilt. But the agents of the state held a very different view and a brazen liar was allowed to walk fully equipped with his murder weapon in hand.
Then as if on cue, the slaughter of African Americans by police officers skyrocketed to unprecedented levels. The case of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri who allegedly stole several cigarillos from a convenience store and was subsequently shot by a white police officer readily comes to mind.
There is also the case of Dante Parker of California who died in police custody after being repeatedly tasered. Most heart-wrenching of all is the case of twelve-year old Tamir Rice of Cleveland who was shot by police officers after a neighbour complained that the kid had brandished a toy gun.
The list goes on and on.
As a Guardian study reports, Black People are almost three times more likely to be shot and killed by the police than their white counterparts. More succinctly put, a not too insignificant number of cops literally take the law in their trigger-happy hands in their overzealous effort when dealing with people of African ancestry.
It might be more than worthwhile in these trying times to heed the wisdom of the age-old saying that “violence begets violence.” Moreover, the scripture admonishes that “as a man soweth, so shall he also reap [and] if you sow the wind, you shall reap a whirlwind.”
Less philosophical or religiously-inclined minds might be familiar with the expression: “What goes around comes around.” But it is a fundamental law of physics that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that after years of the police taking the lives of ordinary citizens with full impunity, the laws of physics and other kinds of spiritual laws governing the cosmos have eventually come into play.
Of course, “two wrongs could never make a right.” And as one of the foremost spiritual masters has taught, it is never a good practice to render evil for evil. Thus, the killing of any number of cops by aggrieved individuals could never be a panacea for our ailing society.
Even so, history is replete with instances of certain rare individuals who chose to single-handedly confront the forces of oppression and by their noble or (otherwise) ignoble actions have helped to usher in the kind of universal consciousness which has subsequently served to change the course of human behaviour.
No one should unabashedly gloat in the occurrence of evil. And yet it is an indisputable fact that good can and sometimes does come out of evil. Moses had wasted no time in setting out to permanently subdue the oppressors of the Hebrew children and as a consequence the Pharaohs felt compelled to let the people go.
David killed Goliath with a sling and a single stone and the Philistines were forced to hastily retreat from the battlefields. Judas Iscariot had betrayed Jesus of Nazareth for a measly thirty pieces of silver, but according to Christian belief, such a dastardly act had the glorious result of bringing about redemption for the human race through Jesus’ death on a cross.
But the most glaring instance of an attempt to eke out some semblance of good from evil occurred during the final days of the Second World War. On the pretext of bringing the war to a close and avoiding the loss of more lives, the Americans dropped a first atom bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima and then a second on the city of Nagasaki.
By the time the radiation had sufficiently dissipated, upwards of half a million Japanese men, women and children were either dead or horribly maimed. Even so, the argument is still made that dropping those bombs had served the greater good of avoiding prolonging the war.
The irony of the situation, however, was the way in which subsequent events impacted the life of the director of the atom bomb project, Robert Oppenheimer. Not long after Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been obliterated, Oppenheimer fell seriously ill. The agony he experienced when confronted by death is well documented, but it all seemed to show that “do so [really] nuh like so.”
Since the events of the past week everybody who is somebody in the United States has been crying out for meaningful change in the social fabric of America. President Barack Obama, in his usual savvy manner, has lamented that “there is no possible justification for this type of action.”
Hillary Clinton, too, has thrown in her two-cents worth. Even Donald Trump has shown a more humane side by commenting that Pfc Micah Johnson’s action “has shaken the soul of our nation.”
Be that as it may, people of African ancestry would be guilty of committing the crime of gross negligence if they continue to expect that meaningful change would come about through the deeds of the privileged class.
African Americans and Africans on the continent and in the diaspora must heed the words of Prophet Robert Nesta Marley who recognised a long time ago that Black people should make every effort to “emancipate themselves from mental slavery” since only they themselves can free their minds.
It is only by truly freeing our minds from the shackles of enslavement, colonialism and imperialism that Africans would be able to build our authentic institutions and begin to see events occurring around us from our own perspective. It is only then that Black People would be able to determine who our real heroes are and who we would select to canonize as Saints.
It is only when we have our own institutions that we will truly learn to love ourselves. And it is only when we truly learn to love ourselves that people of other races would truly love and respect us.
For as the Rt. Hon. Marcus Mosiah Garvey has so proudly proclaimed: “WE ARE A MIGHTY RACE.”
The time for calling a spade a spade is indeed long overdue.