Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thoughts on Ferguson: Systemic Racism and the Forgotten Lessons of the Plantation, a Call from our African Ancestors

The choice of a grand jury in Ferguson, MO, not to indict Darren Wilson, a White policeman for the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed young Black teen, who, at the time was a suspect in a store robbery, and the resulting protests, once again shows me that race, race relations and racism, now systemic and structural concerns, continue to be a significant problem of injustice.  Now, I will not deny or negate that there is enough blame to go around regarding the death of Michael Brown.  I cannot ignore or negate the underlying social and cultural issues which influence racial life in America and the need for the Black person, no matter how old or young, to know who they are, and more importantly to know those "white ways", similar to our Black ancestors, to put it bluntly.  This is a lesson learned on the plantation which has been lost in the rush to diversity and solidarity.  The Black person must regain this lesson lost at the feet of the Civil Rights movement, and other initiatives endorsed by President Johnson's great society.  While I very much appreciate the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and others such as Bayard Rustin and Rosa Parks I suggest that this lesson was lost. The Black community, because of racism, must never forget the narrative of the runaway slave.

The Black person must learn once again that racism is a cancer which began at the founding of the country which more and more festers, daily becoming a putrid, stale, smelly concern, which, if not dealt with fully, and this requires a prophetic courage, will continue to consume whatever good there is in the narrative of the United States.  Particularly between Black people and White people, historically, race and race relations have been a means for certain White people and their institutions to inflict injustice upon Black people.  Black people, as a whole, have endured a period of over 300 plus years of injustice encountering the middle passage, slavery, Jim Crow, i.e., lynchings, segregation, and the New Jim Crow.  As such, there is a quiet anger which undergirds just about every action of the black person, erupting at times such as Ferguson, MO.  This anger is a reality which must be negotiated and renegotiated daily.  This reality exists because of a lack of racial resolution.  I suggest here that the aformentioned unsettled ills are avenues for a type of self-hatred which pervades various strands in the Black community.  This is challenging particularly for those Black people, such as myself, who don't identify as normative within in the confines of gender and sexuality as established by the plantation owner.[Understanding Slavery Initiative accessed November, 26, 2014],

My impression is that systemically as well as structurally White people and their institutions, because of historical tribalism [The Con, White Tribalism or White Solidarity,by Themba Moses Msimang, June 3, 2014 accessed November 25, 2014], experience race and race relations through the lens of the tribe and I would add their own sense of diaspora, which informs their biases and therefore perceptions of difference, necessarily influencing their actions towards Black people. That said, tribalism, defined as loyalty to a tribe or other social group especially when combined with strong negatve feelings for people outside the group becomes an impressive container for White privilege, racism and other oppressive endeavors for the sake of the tribe.  I get this image particuarly when I hear of programs, plans and policies of more conservative political groups who advocate for corporate interest, i.e. Systemic White male privilege over and against anything that might reflect a more inclusive, humane ideal.  In contrast solidarity, a feeling of unity between people who have same or similar interests, goals, etc. is presented by more liberal political groups which imply more inclusive organizations.  That said, I am reminded of the saying, "bringing Democrats together is like trying to herd cats while Republicans always stick together, like, lock step"  So then, what have here is two very different motivations.  

Within these systemic and sturctural motivations White people, due to a loss of personal and systemic and structural superiority over black people, a civil war, desegregation, a president who is black, and even immigration, in which Black people,  considered by some as the "default threat" [Neely Fuller, Constructive Black people are a Threat, Youtube September 1, 2014] are in a constant state of fear, this fear being a basis of police brutality, juries which exhibit social and cultural incompetence, i.e. the Trayvon Martin case of 2013,  more and more deaths of Black men and boys, the devastation of the voting rights act, and congressional inaction on immigration.  Additionally their perception of slavery, as an historical act, is experienced as notions of tribalism and diaspora within an economic discourse, i.e. as a goods and services matter, without any moral consequence.  Put simply, slavery, with implications towards race, racism and race relations was and is a transaction of economic import,requiring no addressal, apology or reflection.  Darren Wilson, the White policeman in question, the one who killed Michael Brown, in an interview with ABC stated, "My conscience is clear"  This seems to be the mindset of certain White people and their injustice.

In the midst of this the law is made to be something which is not, that is a space of address and healing.  The law cannot address the heart or the matter of healing.  The law is powerless in this endeavor.  Sure you can have grand jury's, trials and law suits and even throw people in jail but ultimately it doesn't solve the problem.  The law becomes a cop out, a cowardly response to the real underlying issues.  It becomes a tool of injustice for the meating out of systemic White and/or Black rage.  I suggest that dialog, even intense dialog open and honest must be engaged and this with notions of care, concern and a longed for hope.  As a people we must address fully the meaning of race and its negative impact on the human soul.  Additionally, education of the next and succeeding generations must engage race with the goal of building a more whole and inclusive society.  This project is not a matter of negating race but of gaining an appreciation for how God has made each of us; a diverse dynamic humanity gifted and loved by God.

This is a challening discourse without easy answers yet this we must do for the sake of the soul of America.



*A note on my use of systemic racism.  Systemic racism engages the reality that racism is forever present in American Society.  It evolves, transforms and changes as norms become more enlightened.  It is quite simply the central thread of American identity.  My thought regarding this matter is that it is the one thread, that, if unraveled, like your favorite winter sweater, would cause the dissolution of American identity and in this sense the country itself.