Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Falcon Heights, Minnesota there was
Dallas. After rouge cops unceremoniously killed two black men,
there were five police officers killed by a deranged sniper who
reportedly said he wanted to kill white police officers. Too many
commentators attempted to characterize the sniper, Micah Xavier
Johnson (referring to his middle initial X, as opposed to his
whole name, to be racially provocative) as a “revenge”
killer connected to the Black Lives Matter movement. Too many,
like the unrepentant racist and former New York Mayor Rudy
Giuliani, used the sniper’s actions to excoriate the Black
Lives Matter Movement.
phrase Black Lives Matter is not racist because it simply reflects
our nation’s history. From our founding until today, there
have been too many opportunities to legalize the facts that black
lives do not matter. The fact that our constitution reduces
enslaved African Americans into a fraction of a person suggests
that black lives did not matter, at our nation’s founding,
as much as white lives did. The differences in the terms and
conditions of indentured servitude for whites and enslavement for
Afrodescendents further cemented the notion that black lives did
not matter as much as white lives did. The persistence of
enslavement, and the contradictions that came from the practice of
“breeding” (i.e., treating black people as animals to
increase “stock”) heightened contradictions because
people were selling their children and siblings. What did they
think of themselves if they felt they had to couple with people
they found “subhuman”?
former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani ever read a history book?
Does he understand that if revenge were ever a motive in
black/white interactions it would have been all over but the
shouting between 1865 and 1876? Formerly enslaved people were
hopeful about emancipation, but caught between hope and despair
when Black Codes were imposed, when people were lynched for simply
asserting the right to walk on the sidewalk, when soldiers were
lynched, in uniform, because they did not defer to fellow
citizens. Even though Constitutional amendments were passed to
abolish enslavement, rigid Southern attitudes imposed a
quasi-enslavement that persisted until the civil rights movement,
and white supremacist attitudes that that persist until today.
our Constitution was written, John Adams lamented that the issue
of enslavement was a conundrum that his generation was imposing on
subsequent generations. When the 13th Amendment was passed, there
was no playbook to detail how our nation would transcend
enslavement. We have never taken the time or energy to condemn
racist attitudes, assuming they would simply go away. They have
not. And millions of African Americans have righteous resentment
about the many micro-aggressions (not to mention murders) that our
community experiences. The micro aggressions of white skin
privilege are minor compared to the macro aggressions of a rouge
police officer. Have any of these people ever read a history book?
Do they even understand that if revenge were a motive, it might
have been extracted in 1866, not today?
process for ending enslavement was imperfect. Too many
Southerners cleaved to the notion that people of African descent
were inferior, and then they passed laws to enforce unequal
status. Jim Crow laws and Black Codes, prohibitions against
property ownership and voting, unequal access to education, not to
mention the constant nightriders, the granddaddies of contemporary
rogue police forces, all existed to enforce subjugation and fear.
halting action and corrupt compromise, the Reconstruction of the
United States never happened. We are sowing the bitter fruit of a
broken Reconstruction today, with too many racial attitudes
ossified. Black Lives Matter is not a racist phrase. It is the
manifestation of the conversation that should have taken place
after the passage of the 13th Amendment.
be sure, we have come a long way since 1865, since 1876. But the
fact that, in contemporary culture, you still have white people
who will wrap themselves up in a Confederate flag suggests we have
not come quite as far as we must. People are talking about an
“honest conversation” about race now, but the
conversation should have taken place more than a century ago.
Now, there is far too much denial for an “honest
conversation”, and I despair that conversation is grossly
insufficient if it is not coupled with action.