By Rasta KEITH
At first sight, the recent shooting deaths of two Black men by two police officers in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina should have evoked the weary response of “been there, done that”. And with that, everyone might have been expected to continue on their merry way after one or two futile protests lead by Black Lives Matter and the usual faith-based organisations.
But things were a bit different on these last two occasions. For starters, Terrence Crutcher, the Victim in the Oklahoma shooting was killed by a white female cop while Keith Lamont Scott was gunned down by a Black male officer. And so one might be lead to think that such particulars should have sounded the death knell for the argument that racist motives are the prime factors in the police slaying of Black people.
But not so fast. For one of the most astounding behavioural traits among human beings is that many people derive a weird sense of satisfaction from been identified by what they do rather than by who they really are. In other words, what seems to matter most is that others see them as a physical embodiment of their particular profession and treat them with the kind of deference they have been trained to expect.
What is interesting about all of the so-called professions, is that the respective teaching faculties spend a considerable time training their students how to think. Thus, by the time they’re ready to unleash their “class” on the rest of the populace, the trainees respond to stimulus even more aggressively than Pavlov’s dogs salivated at the sound of a bell.
Seen in that context, the behaviour of the police becomes even more understandable when one factors into the mix the fact that police officers are trained to strike the chest and other vital areas of a suspect’s body whenever they have to use their weapons. Even more bizarre, by using the portraits of black people during their target practice, police officers are subliminally programmed to kill Black people with an insensitivity totally unbecoming of any human being.
Thus, whether it is a police man or a police woman, or whether the particular officer is white or Black, Native, Indian or Chinese, the net result is that they see themselves first and foremost as belonging to a close-knit pack of enforcement personnel in which such slogans as “to serve and protect” take a back seat in the final scheme of things.
In other words, when the time for standing up and being counted arises, members of the pack are expected to rise to the occasion. And since prior to the latest episodes of police killings it was usually the case of white policemen killing black men, it seemed only fair to expect black police officers and female police officers to stand up and be counted “for the sake of the common good”; no free lunch.
Sad to say, a similar instance of the deleterious effect of training on the minds of individuals was made manifest during a television interview with Mr. Crutcher’s twin sister, Tiffany. In response to a question regarding the impact of her brother’s demise, Tiffany openly displayed her discomfort with referring to herself as a black woman and demonstrated a suspicious preference for being identified instead as a brown woman.
Granted that the young lady had been experiencing the trauma of losing her loved one, such an attitude on the part of many Black People should never be allowed to go unnoticed. Rather than adopting the societal attitude of regarding the term “black” as being synonymous with reproach or stigma, Black People should embrace their “Blackness” as a badge of honour which only a privileged few could ever get to wear.
Contrary to the speculative theorising of snake oil salesmen like Professor Jared Diamond of UCLA, peddled in his book GUNS, GERMS ANS STEEL-The Fates of Human Societies, when Europeans, Arabs and other colonizers invaded Africa, the inhabitants throughout the continent were Black People. And although the populations north of the Sahara and along the coast were almost totally decimated by the intruders, Africans showed a resilience to the machinations of the oppressors and are alive today to tell the tale.
In the meantime, tens of thousands of young African damsels were raped and impregnated by Europeans, Arabs and other ethnic groups on the continent and in other parts of the world. Thus began the dilution or miscegenation of the African Race; even as the most draconian measures and other types vigilante justice were adopted to prohibit interracial relationships and to safeguard the so-called “purity” of the white race.
Even in this day and age, President Barack Obama could not escape the clutches of the “one drop” law. Being the son of a Kenyan father and an Irish mother, the President could not transcend the perceived “scourge” of being Black; despite his (exceptional) brilliance. And to prove their stereotypical assessment of Black People, the defenders of the status quo were determined to make him fail just as they are wont to do in the case of any Black person who dares to think outside the box.
So-called celebrities of mixed parentage like Keyshia Cole might strongly resent the classification of being black. But their preference for living their lives with permanent blinders must be squarely attributed to the extent to which they have been unconsciously trained to think by the broader society.
Even so, barring any appearance of succumbing to the Eurocentric tendency of usurping the authority to name and measure everything under the sun (the Greenwich meantime effect), Europeans may yet be correct in allowing the broadest scope for the identity of the Black Race.
After all is said and done, it remains an indisputable biological fact that people of African ancestry transmit dominant genes to their offspring as compared to the recessive genes of people of Caucasian ancestry. And the evidence for such a claim is clearly borne out by the trajectory of the Obama’s reproductive capacity.
For there is nothing in Malia and Sasha which bears testimony to the President’s maternal strain. And as the Obama family tree sprouts more branches over time, even with a little bit of white genes thrown in here or there, chances are that the grands and great grands would not find it so easy to betray their Africanity.
For being an African is not just simply a matter of a person’s skin color. Of course the precious gift of a solid store of melanin is something for which every Black person should be eternally grateful. But Black People should also take tremendous pride in their history and culture, the distinct tone of their voice, the unique texture of their wiry hair, and other astounding bodily features; knowing that such traits are intrinsic aspects of our natural architecture.
Needless-to-say, there are many shades of Blackness. But the accommodative trend of describing people of African ancestry as being “colored” or “people of color” should be resisted with every drop of “black blood”. For there is no single individual whose complexion resembles the multi-colored coat which the biblical Joseph was given by his mother.
And so to continue to attempt to water down the notion of being Black must be regarded as being tantamount to proceeding to describe White People as “pale-skinned”. Thus there appears to be far more in the proverbial racial mortar than just the pestle.
When a Black person goes to a grocery store and, after emptying his shopping cart in the presence of the cashier, she is still asked whether she has anything left in the cart, it is not because the individual is from Montreal, New York, Kenya or Jamaica.
When a Black person strolling the aisles in a pharmacy finds that the security personnel are ignoring all of the other folks milling around and instead is focussing his attention on the only Black person there, it is not because you’re dressed like a vagrant or because you seem not to know where to find what you wish to purchase.
On the contrary, Black People are the subjects of such harassment simply because they are Black and because it is part of the policy of the powers-that-be to keep Black People in check through intimidation and other subtle measures. And Oprah can attest to that.
Donald Trump might have become famous (or infamous) for making any and every kind of uncomplimentary statement that floats off his tongue. But to give credit where credit is due, the Donald might have hit upon something of dire significance in his utterance that Black People are “absolutely in the worse shape they’ve ever been in before; ever, ever, ever.”
During the 1930s through the late 70s, Black People had begun to make tremendous strides in reasserting their cultural awareness after hundreds of years of enslavement and colonialism. African leaders like Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah, Haile Selassie, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Patrice Lumumba, Eric Williams and tons of other Black stalwarts across the globe were reassuring Black people that things were going to get better. And everywhere one could hear the same refrain: “SAY IT LOUD, I’M BLACK AND I’M PROUD”.
But something went awfully wrong some where along the path. And Black People have reverted to a state of being that seems even more despairing than ever before. While other ethnic groups are making tremendous strides in the fields of manufacturing, technology and otherwise, Black People continue to be mere consumers of other people’s products: from computers to smart phones; from fancy cars to other people’s hair.
The guardians of the system might be hell- bent on exterminating the Black Race one by one. And although a Moses, a Samson, a David, or even a Joan of Arc might rise up from among us from time to time, such kinds of heroism might hardly bear much fruit in this day and age. Alternatively, we might all be incensed to be a Micah or a Garvin. But heaven forbid that things should ever get to that stage. For the powers-that-be are too heavily fortified for such an approach to be tried without an Armageddon.
While the Museum of African-American History and Culture is indeed a fitting tribute to the past contributions of Black People to civilization, a far louder statement about the dignity of the African People could in fact be made by making every Black person, and by extension, every human being a living museum of the dignity of the Human Race.
And when that day comes, Black People would no longer have to die to enjoy their illusionary pie in the sky. For as Brethren Jimmy Cliff has so rightly counseled, while they keep telling us of a pie waiting in the sky, it seems to make more sense enjoying that kind of treat right here on earth. “THOSE WHO HAVE EARS TO HEAR, LET THEM HEAR.”