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Est. April 5, 2002
February 28, 2019 - Issue 778

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They Feared for Their Safety

"There’s something to fear when progress means
the accumulation of well-lighted plantations.
This isn’t the way toward social democracy and justice!"

The spectacle of mass movement draws attention inevitably to

the borders, the porous places, the vulnerable points where

one’s concept of home is seen as being menaced by foreigners.

Toni Morrison

For many, the approach of an industrial army had presented a

menacing prospect. The press had predicted that the [Jacob]

Coxey movement would mean class warfare...One source of

fear was the fact that the capital was home to eighty-five

thousand African Americans, the nation’s largest urban population

of blacks. More than half of them were now unemployed. They

turned out in large numbers [in 1894] to cheer Coxey’s legion.

The city’s police chief pronounced himself more afraid of ‘colore

people that he was of Coxey’s Army.’

Jack Kelly

What will it take for Americans to feel safe? To tear down the walls Americans insist on building?

Recently, in Vallejo, California, a Taco Bell employee decided to call 911. It’s 10:30 pm on a Saturday night, February 9, 2019, and, parked outside the establishment, asleep, is 20-year-old rapper, Willie McCoy. There’s a gun on his lap.

Police arrive, and the young black man is still asleep in his car.

Maybe he senses them. He wakes. He’s disoriented: there are six police officers surrounding his vehicle. They fire, however, before he can adjust his vision good. They fire. All six officers. And even when he’s placed on the ground, dead, the officers are still pointing their guns. Witnesses report that the officers are still yelling at the dead man on the ground.

When asked why, why did each fire rounds of bullets at McCoy, the officers responded: they “feared for their safety.”

Once the English colonists looked to the west, beyond the humanity of Indigenous inhabitants of the land, they establish a wall of words serving to vilify the Native Americans and justify America’s practice of extermination. When asked why, why the resisting warriors were swiftly eliminated, the colonists responded: they feared for their safety.

Since the kidnapping, packing, and shipping of Africans as cargo bound for labor camps, otherwise referred to by stately names, such as Monticello, that, “came into existence as a symbol of the cosmopolitan dominion of the Enlightenment mind,” according to Lewis P. Simpson in The Dispossessed Garden,” the Americans have concerned themselves with safety from those whose origins in the New World begins in enslavement and oppression.

And generations later, in the 1950s, when the American dream has “shrugged off all sense of moral disquiet, becoming a triumphalist patriotic assertion” (Behold, America), Americans, to fulfill the tenets of the American dream, adjust their lives to situate themselves within an impracticable charade of entitlement, superiority, above all other human beings—despite evidence to the contrary. It becomes a notion, for many in the era of civil rights activism, of what it means to be an American. A really American. And so these fellow citizens accept and abide the unsustainable and systemically oppressive and exclusionary. And if asked why, many Americans today will echo the mantra: they fear for their safety.

Along with pro-Fascist groups, the Klan, writes Sarah Churchwell in Behold, America, feeling “uncomfortable” and “deeply depressed” over the progress of the people they sought domination over, the “‘strangers,’” “who challenge the commercial power they believed was theirs by entitlement.” Throughout the US, “blacks, Jews, labour unionists, radicals, the foreign and uppity women” are routinely terrorized, sometimes as a matter of sport, but most often, in rage—as white supremacist and white nationalists controlled by the misguided belief of being wronged by the inferior, the subhuman. What should be eliminated from the face of the Earth.

The perpetrators of atrocities flip the narrative. Eliminate them! Become the victim. Repeat the mantra, over and over again: America First! America First! America First becomes the newest slogan to coalesce with the American dream. And everyone will know who they are. Where they stand. And what’s to be done in order to maintain the supremacy of safety in the US.

And so it’s happening, as it always has.

So there’s Woody Guthrie writing a song, “Old Man Trump,” about the version of fear and hate who, no surprise, “‘knows just how much racial hate/He stirred up’” (Behold, America). Owner of a “Trump Tower,” the Old Man, rents to Americans—just not African Americans. “‘No black folks come to roam’” at that home then while the newest generations of citizens continues today the building of walls for the safety of the American people.

The fear is greater than ever.

And meanwhile, Amazon is running amok. I know, I know, Trump despises Bezos. Bezos, at least, isn’t the Koch brothers. But who is Bezos if, instead of many Big Brothers, his behemoth of a corporation becomes the one Big Brother?

One the way to chief-of-surveillance operations, at least 49 corporations are threatened by an all-consuming Amazon, a runaway monopoly on the buying and selling of just about everything, from books to office supplies, clothes and furniture, body lotion and pharmaceutical drugs. According to (“America’s Proof Positive that Capitalism is Failing,” Truthdig, February 18, 2019), Barnes & Nobles, Best Buy, UPS, Target, Trader’s Joe, Office Depot, FedEx, Staples, Macy, Walgreen, CVS, and Costco may find themselves unable to sustain their yearly profit margins under Amazon’s shadow. It’s the iron boot! Nothing good can come of this, to paraphrase Hamlet.

The richest man on a planet losing animal life at 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate, Bezos maintains his profit margin as one of the good Americans. No, he’s not Trump senior or Trump son and grandsons, smiling all the way to the bank while refusing to pay those who did work for the family. But how is paying workers an average of 13.00 dollars per hour while taking to his bank 132.95 billion dollars annually—how it that a different American beast?

Who’s afraid of Jeff Bezos?

At 90-94 Amazon warehouses, the workers are under surveillance and their restroom breaks and lunchtime is measured in terms of Amazon’s bottom line. What’s being protected in these well-lighted warehouses? What does Bezos fear? Because the whole issue of safety isn’t about fellow citizens, his workers, his fellow human beings. This supremacy of safety, beginning with the practice of whipping, torturing, and maiming Indigenous and enslaved blacks, has never been about protecting human beings. Instead, supremacy of safety is about stroking the nation’s irrational fear of blacks, people of color, and any other that differs, ultimately, from the 1%, the one’s in control of the narrative and therefore the money, the material resources. Whether intentionally or not, the movement toward building walls of policies or concrete or “beautiful” slats, the expansion of the dehumanization of Americans is what becomes the norm. Whether Amazon workers or not.

There’s something to fear when progress means the accumulation of well-lighted plantations. This isn’t the way toward social democracy and justice!

But the supremacy of safety has the eyes of the 1% watching the 99% now, the 1% threatening the lives of the rest of humanity and life on Earth. Yet, the narrative for building a better existence for all life is and has always been in the hands of those who, for the good of their own lives, won’t tear down the walls enforcing racial and economic segregation.

Americans want to be exceptional. First. It’s what some have been told. Others, however, have never been told they were exceptional. The exceptional can’t bear the loss of their dreams. Editorial Board member and Columnist, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has a Doctorate in Modern American Literature/Cultural Theory. Contact Dr. Daniels.
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