Social media woke them up and showed them that there are two to three times more black men being killed by police today than were lynched in the late 1800s. That was not supposed to be happening anymore, especially after the election and reelection of America’s first black president.
The children are mad that the America they were sold is not the same country they are living in, and they don’t know what to do about it. The problem they face is the same ones the baby boomers faced during the ‘60s and late ‘70s: We keep demanding the rule of law from the victim, while not having a method of stopping the victimizers who represent the system investigating the killing of black men.
The victim is held in check by the law (i.e. don’t burn, loot or kill, and depend on our legal justice system that has not worked for black people). The leadership of the black community must also adhere to this process, and over a period of time, they are discounted as empty voices, telling us what not to do but not being able to deliver change.
It’s a process that eventually creates a total mistrust of the criminal justice system by the black community and the belief that we need to arm and defend ourselves against the people our taxpayers pay to protect us. It creates a schism between the community and its traditional leaders, and they lose the ability to control the events in their community. These are options that can only lead to chaos, but as of yet, we have a nation unwilling to offer more.
War with police?
While we are processing the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York, a 11-year-old with a toy gun is shot to death in Cleveland. Anywhere in America where a white citizen calls the police on a black man with a gun, the black man has a 90-percent chance of being killed whether the gun is real, a toy or imagined. Yet, these same black men represent 40 percent of our police force and military, and it’s difficult to find any record of black police officers shooting and killing unarmed or armed white citizens.
We are the last group that should be at war with our own police, but we are. There are numerous cases of white police shooting and killing black officers, out of uniform but chasing white suspects with a gun in their hand.
That is why I have been insisting that Martin Luther King County take on the responsibility of doing more than marching in frustration. How do you educate, train and employ inner-city black youths? How do you build the financial capacity and eliminate the racial hurdles to create a thriving business district that is essential to any racial group’s survival?
Or do we keep doing this meaningless dance of throwing money at at-risk youths without fixing the things that make them at-risk?
A mirror image
Herein lies the frustration of our youths. On the surface, we are a nation that says the right things, our laws express the right principals and liberty and justice is the foundation of our democratic process. Yet, this system cannot find a way to bring American Africans into it in a meaningful way.
Black males are being killed in record numbers, but we refuse to deal with racism as its foundation. Instead, we demand a level of discipline in black youths that no one else is expected to have. He must do the right thing every time or he is dead, and often, that does not matter.
Even the preoccupation of our right-wingers with black-on-black crime is rooted in the same sewer of social and economic racism. People rob and kill those next to them, and the numbers are the same in the white community. But when you add stark poverty and the lack of opportunity to the mix, it get real deadly; they are suddenly doing things that end up killing themselves and others.
So our youths are mad that America’s post-racial America looks so much like the 60’s racial America that they were so confident was in our rear-view mirror. Now, a new youth movement is underway, trying to finish a battle they thought was no longer in existence. They are discovering that their greatest enemy is apathy among the same parents who told them, “Don’t worry; be happy. Race is in our past.” But Grandma is marching again in spite of the pain in her feet.
CHARLIE JAMES has been an African-American-community activist for more than 35 years. He is co-founder of the Martin Luther King Jr. County Institute (mlkci.org). To comment on this column, write to MPTimes@nwlink.com.