Desecration of Black Lives is Not a New Phenomenon

I read a piece in the New York Times where some white politicians offered stern rebuke for the Black Lives Matter movement, saying that “Dr. King would be appalled” at the fact that the color of people being disproportionately shot and killed by police officers is being lifted. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/04/opinion/the-truth-of-black-lives-matter.html?mwrsm=Facebook).

Their remarks show their arrogance, ignorance and complete lack of understanding about what this fight is about.

Black lives have never mattered to white America. From the time of slavery, black bodies were merely property, valuable only in their ability to make money for the ruling class, the landowners who needed them to plant, plow and harvest their fields.

The Civil War was about slavery; white people (in the North and the South) did not care about black people as human beings; in fact, the going belief was that black people were not fully human. Though some who need to hide from history say that the War Between the States was about states’ rights, the “right” that states were fighting for was the “right” to own and use black people as they needed and wanted.

The lack of respect for black lives was shown not only in the fact of slavery, but also in the fact that black slave women were raped at will by white men (though they lynched black men with abandon because they said it was black men raping white women that was the most serious social issue of the day.) Black lives mattered so little that whites made it a crime for blacks to learn to read and write; the most minimal time was allowed for black children to attend school. Black lives mattered so little that the schools they did have were substandard,with few to no books, or with old books, the worst teachers, and the fewest supplies any child needs to have a positive school experience.

Black lives mattered so little that black people were lynched by whites for even the hint of a supposed crime; black people were never tried by “juries of their peers,” but most often by white men. Black lives mattered so little that black people were beaten and/or killed for even trying to register to vote. Law enforcement didn’t protect black lives; law enforcement officers either ignored, participated in, or initiated much of the violence meted out to innocent black people.

When Dr. King arrived in Memphis for the last time he would speak, he went in support of black men who were sanitation workers and who were treated …as subhuman, not making enough money to live, and being subjected to all kinds of horrific treatment as they tried to do their work. Remember, they carried signs that said, “I am a man!”  They carried those signs with those words because they knew their lives were not important, nor were their needs or concerns. The black men, picking up the garbage for Memphis’ citizens, were treated horribly and wanted to unionize. The city balked. Taylor Branch wrote, in At Canaan’s Edge that things were bad. The situation came to a head when two men were crushed in a compressor truck. The horrific deaths of Echol Cole and Robert Walker was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It seemed that their deaths brought home the reality that black lives really did not matter. Branch wrote that city policy “left the families of unclassified workers with no death or survivors’ benefits.” (p. 685) Thus, the families of these men, who had worked for pittance, were left with little to next to nothing after they died …working for the city. The mayor gave each family $500. That was it. The men got fed up, tired of hosting and supporting their own discrimination, and took to the streets. They had to stand up for themselves, and say that they were men, human beings …and that their lives mattered.

It is this historical maltreatment of black people that the Black Lives Matter movement is about. It is disingenuous and dishonest, in addition to being arrogant and ignorant, for these politicians to call on the name of Dr. King, who died as he marched in solidarity with the garbage workers in Memphis to say, “black lives matter” as justification for their disdain for the ongoing struggle for dignity and justice for white black people must still fight.

No, Gov. Huckabee, Gov. Barbour, Rand Paul, Republican Party …Dr. King would not be appalled. He fought for the cause of black lives …and the fight continues.

Don’t insult the work. Don’t continue the insult to black people who have suffered immeasurably at the hands of white people who do not think black lives matter.  Don’t speak of that about which you know so little, and seemingly, care so little.

Dr. King might be appalled at your lack of understanding of what this movement is all about.

A candid observation …

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