I have been quiet on this, my blog, as I have watched and participated in all that is going on relative to the shootings of unarmed black men by white police. I have been quiet as I have watched and listened to the cries of anger and pain of young people who are tired of being treated like objects, while the police have literally gotten away with murder in too many cases.
But something welled up in me yesterday as I watched the funeral of fallen police officer Wenjian Liu. What first welled up was a profound sadness for his family, as they are left to live on this earth with a giant hole standing ready to swallow them up in their grief. Liu’s murder, as well as that of his partner, Rafael Ramos, was senseless. The deranged killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, sounds like he should have been in a treatment facility. (http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/cops-shot-brooklyn-sources-article-1.2051941)
But the other thing that welled up was the continual suggestion and sometimes, outright accusation, that it was the protests of people in New York and across the country and in the world, against police brutality, that caused the officers’ deaths.
I’d been angry at what I had been hearing for a while. Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said that there had been four months of propaganda, starting with the president, that everyone should hate the police.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/21/giuliani-new-york-police-obama_n_6362724.html).
Pat Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, said that the protests were really “violence under the guise of protests,” and he said the blood of Officers Ramos and Liu. He said the blood of those officers were on the hands of Mayor Bill de Blasio:(http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2014/12/20/police-unions-others-blast-de-blasio-after-shooting-deaths-of-2-nypd-cops/).
What I am hearing, though, is racism and resentment that the voices of black people are being allowed to be heard, voices that laws and policies in this nation have worked to still, erase and negate, since Reconstruction. An anchor on CNN yesterday said outright that the protesters were being supported by City Hall, and suggested that City Hall was helping them plan their protests. The police have been deified as the protesters have been demonized to a despicably inhumane level.
And I think, as I listen to this, that the South is rearing its head, as it has been doing for decades.
The South, angry that it had lost the Civil War and that its source of labor had been taken away, began to methodically dismantle the rights that were put in place for black people. They found ways to criminalize black people so that they could be captured as criminals and be made to work. Black people were captured and arrested for things that white people did, and less, and were portrayed as criminals and America ate it up. The South was bound and determined to find ways to keep black people controlled, just as they had been during slavery, and its attitude spread from its lush mountains and red dirt throughout the United States. As black people moved from the South into the North and were forced into ghettos because the “progressive” Northerners didn’t want them in their neighborhoods, all of the attendant problems that come with overcrowded and inadequate living conditions spawned by poverty and a lack of jobs, reared their heads. Black people continued to be demonized, and too many police officers became partners not in protection but in persecution of an already demoralized people.
But the South, it seems, has never given up its quest to keep black people under control. Felons in some states, but especially in southern black states cannot vote. The number of black people who cannot vote because they are felons is astronomically high because of the “war on drugs,” a tactic that was put into place when Richard Nixon was running for president because, he said, “the problem is the blacks.” He said, in a cabinet meeting, “The problem is the Blacks and we have to devise a solution that does not acknowledge that is what we are dealing with.’ (http://revcom.us/a/272/cornel-west-and-carl-dix-at-university-of-chicago-en.html) His solution to deal with “the problem” was to launch the war on crime and the war on drugs.
Lee Atwater, who was the political strategist, recognized that race and black people were at the center of any discussion of successful political power. He said that in 1954, you could say “nigger, nigger, nigger, but recognized that as times would not allow such blatant racist speech, strategists and politicians had to use different language …to deal with race. Atwater was trying to teach politicians how to win the votes of racists. By 1968, you couldn’t say “nigger,” but you could say things like “forced busing,” “states rights,” …and you’re getting so abstract …that blacks get hurt more than whites.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_8E3ENrKrQ)
It was called “the Southern Strategy,” and it is still operative because the South … is still running the spirit and the trajectory of America.
Reagan and all politicians wanted to woo the South …which was still angry that it had lost the Civil War. Atwater had proven that race was always at the center of American politics and the formation of American policy. He said, outright, “race is at the center” of everything. Politicians launched the Southern Strategy to get Southerners on their side, not only when it came to race, but on other issues as well. The whole Southern Strategy, he said, was “based on coded racism.” (http://www.thenation.com/article/170841/exclusive-lee-atwaters-infamous-1981-interview-southern-strategy)
As the police have spewed their anger and resentment at the protesters, what I hear is a cacophony of racial protest in a spirit that was begun by Southerners beginning in Reconstruction. That spirit held blacks as objects, not people, as demons and criminals in order to control them. That masses of black people (and whites as well) have taken, largely peacefully, to protest the racism that the black community has long suffered at the hands of some police has riled some white people as much as has Barack Obama, a black man, being in the White House.
That Pat Lynch and others can be incensed because Mayor de Blasio said he has to talk to his biracial son about how to act with police reveals an arrogance and insensitivity that white people who deny the presence and centrality of racism have fallen into from time immemorial. America was founded on principles of white supremacy, and although it feels like whites all over the country have fought against civil and human rights for black people, the fact is that far too many people are still kowtowing to the South.
The dismantling of key components of the Voting Rights Act, reversals of affirmative action policies …and other, more subtle policy changes across the country, show that the South has never given up on its desire to enslave and control blacks.
Call it the race card if you want. That’s what it is …and it is what the South has been playing and distributing wherever it can …in the name of an America which never intended for black people to be equal in any shape, way or form.
A candid observation …