I’m a member of a private “Dad Bloggers” group on Facebook. It’s an awesome group of guys, filled with men who run the spectrum of life experiences, ethnic backgrounds, spiritual beliefs, and political affiliations. It’s generally a harmonious environment but from time to time, things can get contentious when a topic comes up that people are very passionate about. That happened recently when the subject of Terence Crutcher’s killing came up. It was clear to me, based on the exchanges, that there were some in the group who were unaware of the complexities of being a black man in America and the untaught history of America dealing with black families. You know, the things they don’t teach in school.
Now, I don’t blame well meaning folk for their lack of knowledge. Most of the things we were taught about America in school were either revised, or focused on a very small part of history. And, well, it has been argued that what we learn in school history classes is more about fostering a sense of nationalism, more than the truth, but that’s a discussion for another time. Let’s get to it. I really don’t cuss much, but for effect, let me say that I fucking hate the word “tolerance.” That gets us nowhere. Understanding and empathy will get us where we need to go. To that end, I’m going to take some time and provide some education for those who may not know any better. Here goes.
Let me preface everything I’m about to say with this, I STRONGLY believe in personal responsibility. Individuals are accountable for their actions. Individuals. Groups and cultures, though responsible, have some very different dynamics to deal with. Let’s go in.
Respectability Politics- If they just acted a certain way, they’d have no problem with the police.
I can tell you from personal experience and from news reports that this does not hold up. SOME people will be ok, like myself, when we do as told. I’ve never had a horrible run in with police. I’ve had several that left a bad taste in my mouth, but I’ve never been beaten. How sad is it that that is the bar? Sandra Bland was arrested for being assertive and “having an attitude.” A video of a pregnant woman in Northern California, being forced to the ground by an officer, surfaced earlier this year. She did absolutely nothing wrong, other than asking the officer, who had already told a white woman that he couldn’t arrest the pregnant woman for their altercation in a school parking lot because she’d done nothing wrong. He never asked the white woman for ID, but he was questioning the black woman and asking her for ID so the black woman asked him back, what the problem was. He’s a civil servant. That was not an unreasonable request and yet she wound up on the ground, face down, pregnant. Recently the police were called on a mentally disabled young man and when his care taker, a black man, went out to help his charge by literally laying out in the middle of the street with his arms and legs in the air… they shot him. The firing squad, I mean officers, said they were aiming for the disabled man. Anyone who saw the distance the black man was from his charge can look at that and appropriately assess the veracity of the officers’ story. Should civialians be respectful? Ideally, yes. Does that actually work consistently in real life? Nah. There are many other cases, but Google is your friend.
But, “black on black” crime! They kill each other more than cops, so why are they complaining about that?
A couple things wrong with this fallacious thinking. Most crime is proximity based. FBI stats bear this out year after year. White people commit the most crime against other whites. Latinos against Latinos, Asians against Asians, etc. Look it up. “Black on black” is a fear tactic you can thank fear mongering politicians and influential bigots for. The subliminal message they’re hoping to impart is that, “They’re animals and look what they do to each other, so no one is safe from them.” Great tactic and its actually worked very well for quite some time. But only because Americans who feel the government has given them no reason to mistrust them, haven’t taken the time to avail themselves of the statistics that same government puts out.
Let’s assume for a moment that “black on black crime” was a thing. America isn’t a binary society. We are in fact capable of solving more than one problem at a time. So, we can work on the problem of inner city violence WHILE also working to better train police and break down the racist systems, which according to an FBI report released in 2006, showed that white supremacy had permeated much of American law enforcement. That report was released under Bush. In case you require such validations.
Crime. Let’s look at that for a second. We tend to think of gangs as synonymous with black crime. Gangs, guns and drugs.
Gangs- Gangs weren’t such a big problem until crack cocaine came into the mix here in America. Some rumors suggest that gangs were initially formed to protect blacks from police, back when they were overtly racist and being used for population control and to keep blacks from becoming “uppity.” One of the biggest gangs early on in Chicago, the Blackstone Rangers, could’ve been something positive if it weren’t for J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. The now declassified COINTELPRO documents show that the Black Panthers (maligned by the same program) attempted to reach out to the Rangers and make them a politically motivated organization. Hoover, under COINTELPRO infiltrated the Rangers and delivered a letter to them telling them that the Panthers were going to assassinate their leader so they broke off their talks with the Panthers and the rest is history.
Drugs- One of the huge factors which lead to modern day gangs was the ease of access to drugs and the profitability of the drug trade. There are no poppy fields in the ghettos so the drugs had to come from somewhere. Specifically crack came from, yep you guessed it… that Republican diety Ronald Reagan and his CIA via the Contra scandal. Ol’ Ronnie needed to help those rebels in South America raise money to resist the commies so he allowed them to push millions of dollars a week of cocaine into the ghettos through the CIA and a black man by the name of Ricky Ross aka Freeway Ricky Ross. Google him. Fascinating story. He was so brilliant he could’ve run a hedge fund. This is what the movie, ‘Kill The Messenger’ was about. Great film by the way. Oh, in case you’re thinking that this may be conspiracy theory, beyond the fact our govt had major hearings around the Iran/Contra scandal, there was a class action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Courts in Los Angeles and Oakland on March 15th, 1999 but it got no news coverage because the Clinton/Lewinksy scandal broke at the same time. How fortunate. They really make it interesting for conspiracy theorists.
Guns- Well I don’t need to get too deep into this one. Just one simple question… have you ever heard of gun manufacturers in the ghetto? Neither have I. And poor people generally can’t afford Mac10’s, $400 Glocks, or AK47s but the gangs had them. Where do you think they came from? So, no one made people shoot, or go out and sell drugs but when you have a group of people who are continually oppressed and poor, they’re going to look for any method they can to change their circumstances and gangs, drugs, and guns provided that.
Bonus note: that poverty has been socially engineered at times throughout our nation’s history. Just read up on a man by the name of Robert Moses. I JUST found out about him last week. He was a City Planner for New York after the Great Depression who moved black families out of middle class neighborhoods, built the projects and then made public transportation bad enough that they couldn’t get to jobs outside their communities to earn decent wages. I just learned about him last week, imagine all the others I have yet to find out about. You can google him as well. Some people praise him as a visionary because he did revitalize New York after the Great Depression but that revitalization was only for white Americans. Even in articles by his most ardent supporters he was considered a staunch racist. Also, please understand that wealth and prosperous community is generational. Read about the Tulsa race riots and the ‘bloody summer.’ Prosperous black towns all over America burned, razed in the 1900s. Up until the last few years, people who lived through those horrors were still alive. The death of those thriving cities has had far reaching effects.
Healthy role models- Yeah some rap sucks for role models in some cases. So does film. What I find interesting is that in the 80s and early 90s there were movements of conscious rap which was quite popular with large numbers of blacks but thug rap and gangsta rap prevailed. Guess who the largest consumer group of gangsta rap and rap music in general is/was? White kids. Guess who owns the conglomerates who owned the labels in the early days of rap, those who ultimately approve what gets all the marketing dollars and what doesn’t? People who had no interest in the message the music sent as long as it sold.
At so many points in history, blacks in America did pull themselves up by their bootstraps but this country has visited a continued and consistent onslaught of oppressive actions and some would say efforted genocide against blacks in America. Not “white people” in the general sense, but those in power in this govt. Did you know that according to US Census stats that prior to the 50s, over 70% of black households were two parent households? Do you know what changed that? When our government changed the welfare system and said that you couldn’t have two parents in the home in order to receive benefits. That’s right, only single parent homes could receive welfare. When this system was updated, you can literally watch the census stats over the following decade and see the black family erode.
Individuals are indeed responsible for their actions but if you do two things, you can alter collective behavior and effect individual behavior. First, remove the heads of households and the civic leaders. One thing they don’t tell you about lynchings in America is that it was often husbands who were hung and community business leaders. Two, psychological torture. When lynching was no longer en vogue, Jim Crow laws were enacted and when those were abolished, redlining and more subtle forms of oppression took their place. That’s what the war on drugs has been. Look up the actual statistics for drug use and sentencing by ethnicity. Wealthy people on Wall Street used cocaine at higher rates than blacks but blacks were locked up disproportionately and for longer sentences. Same goes for marijuana use and possession. The war on drugs was really a war on minorities if the stats around American drug use and penal consequences by demographic are to be believed.
Now, again, I don’t post all of this to shift blame, but take 100 humans who are strong willed (who do you think was left after slavery? Only the strong survived, or the smart) and subject them to physical or mental torture and after a while the majority of them WILL break. And that’s what you have, a resilient but broken people.
You see, unlike the Chinese who came to America but keep their roots, or the Irish, or the Scottish, or the Jewish, black folk had all of their history and culture stripped from them. Yes, in order to assimilate many immigrants changed their names or broke Sabbath, but at the end of the day that was a choice, even if it didn’t feel like one. On the other hand, Africans were made to take foreign names. Adopt a foreign religion. Assimilate to a foreign culture and labor away for free with no education or training beyond what was necessary to complete their owners’ jobs. Then when slavery was abolished, there was no formal system to take this unsettled group and bring them up to speed in this foreign land. Reading and schooling was previously outlawed. They were all ‘farmers’ for the most part and yet weren’t given any land to farm, per se. They pick themselves up, take what they were given and made something of that in the north and the south – where they were terrorized to keep them in check. We have been strong for many, many years but everybody breaks at some point.
So, next time you look at these disgusting displays in the news, understand that there are thousands of gang intervention non-profits all over the US working to get youths into good programs… which often get their funding cut, or are barely funded to begin with. There are thousands of churches working to try to help their communities. There are vigils and demonstrations against gun violence and drugs in the inner cities, they just arent good TV so you don’t see them on the news. But a quick google search will show you that they happen. Youtube has plenty of videos of them in action as well.
You try being beaten and mentally assaulted for a few hundred years as an ethnic group and see where that gets you. My dad and mom raised me, telling me, “don’t be a product of your environment but make your environment a product of you.” But for every one of the strong men like my father and amazing women like my mom, there are other fathers and mothers who’ve been beaten into submission. Sometimes for generations.
If you have any sincere questions about anything I’ve written here, I’m more than happy to answer them in the comments below.
Jeremy Hylen says
Thank you and well said!