I come from Liberia, a small West African country where I have never experienced anything about racism.
I read about the slave trade, racial injustice and the alienation of black people in America.
But when I begin to travel the world, I then came face to face with prejudice and racial profiling.
In 2010, I took a holiday to Thermomania, a popular resort in Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica. It has chain of thermal swimming pools having its’ source running from the hot volcano mountains.
There were some white Americans whom we all had arrived together at the pool the same time. I delayed entering the pool for couple of minutes. But by the time I set foot in the pool they were in, hurriedly, they jumped out simply because they could not accommodate being in a same swimming pool with a black guy.
I saw it in their faces. I was the only black person at the pool at that moment.
They chose to go in another pool without a black person. That thought that was shameful and sick about!
In July 2007, I visited Milwaukee with a white friend, Sue. As we walked down the streets on our way to the art museum by the Mississippi River, some white guys sitting on the upstairs porch of a condo, began shouting and questioning me, “Hey, you nigger, what are you doing with her?”
I didn’t remark, but I smiled.
Sue said to me, “Jerry, don’t say a word.” But I thought they were sick.
Again, in December 2018, a white guy came after me in Iowa City as I walked to Staples at 820 S Riverside Dr to purchase a 2019 daily planner and organizer.
The white guy stopped me and demanded that I give him the bongo (opium/drugs) I was carrying.
I asked him, “Why he thinks I am carrying bongo?” He replied, “Because, you are black, and you people are noted for carrying bongo.”
I only told him, “No sir, I am not carrying what you are asking for.” I thought he was sick.
Despite all these humiliations, I have always encouraged and maintained these truths about black people: “Black people are powerful! Black people have incredible resilience! Black people are beautiful! “Nothing wrong with being black, but there is something wrong with being racist. Those who are racists, are those who are sick. It is painful for being hated, but shameful and disgraceful for being racist.”
My background as a black person, the alienation I have encountered and so do my black brothers and sisters; and the entrenchment of racial injustice sometimes make feel that black is the worst thing that ever happened to creation.
But I get to recollect that that is not God’s purpose to shame is own creation.
People learn to hate
The reality is, people are taught to be racists and it grows in the bloodline.
In February 2020, a friend of mind, David told me that his dad was very racist. He narrated that he often noticed his father’s countenance would quickly change each time he saw a black person.
He cited an instance where he and his dad walked past a black guy standing with a white girl in Milwaukee. Immediately, his father’s face turned red and said, “What is she doing with that damn black guy?” David told me that he learned to hate black people simply because his father had taught him so.
America is a Superpower, but racism is its’ evil
The ongoing protests for justice in George Floyd’s case precedes the vicious killing of couple of black people in America in recent years. To name a few, Eric Garner, Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin. These are some indicators of how brutal America is in terms of racism and injustice; especially towards black people.
For hundreds of years, black people have experienced racial profiling in America.
And, America being the acclaimed proponent of democracy and seeing as the world’s greatest democracy, in realistic wisdom, what firm legitimacy it has to tell country like Myanmar to guarantee the rights of the Rohingya people if it hasn’t for black people?
What moral rectitude does America have to tell greater Europe, and parts of South America, Australia and India about the rights of the Roma people who have for long been subjected to abuse, denunciation, exclusion and discriminations?
We must live by examples.
If America is home of the world’s premium democracy, it must lead exemplarily. It is a tragedy that America hasn’t been able to find solution to these abuses black populations have faced. America has been having its knee in the neck of African Americans for too long.
America is the single most powerful nation on earth. Its’ cutting age technology, military, science, economic, infrastructure and democracy may have no march anywhere in the world.
But a place where racial injustice ad subjugation is unbelievably high. This is perhaps unthinkable; especially in a 21st century world.
It is a superpower, but racism is its evil. It dates back as four hundred years. Poverty and unequal opportunity have left African Americans wondering whether they are part of the “We the People of the United States,” as vibrantly transcribed in the very opening page, the preamble of United States’ Constitution.
I am sure when the founding fathers of the country and framers of the Constitution mentioned, “We the People of the United States”, they meant ALL the people whether black or white. However, if they didn’t mean the inclusion of black people when they said, “We the People of the United States”, either as a result of oversight or simply because hey too, were racists, I think after four centuries, and in modern America; this scheme should have been over by now, where black and white, Hispanic and Asian would be treated equally.
Nearly one year before his assignation, Martin Luther King, Jr. told NBC news network these words in parts: “White Americans must see that no other ethnic group has been a slave on American soil. That is one thing that other immigrants’ groups having had to face.
The other thing is, that the color became a stigma – American society made the negros’ color a stigma. America freed the slaves in 1863 through the emancipation proclamation by Abraham Lincoln, but gave the slaves no land, nothing in reality to get started on.
At the same time, America was giving away millions of acres of land in the West and Midwest which meant that there was a willingness to give the white peasants from Europe an economic base. And yet it refused to give its black peasants from Africa who came here involuntarily, in chains, and had worked free for 244 years any kind of economic base………”
I am convinced if America had provided foundation for economic freedom to black people as it did to European descents, America would be better for everyone today.
I also believe that America as a liberated country, but having one group of people within who are not liberated, is no liberation for the country. Liberation must be holistic.
This is why there is need for black liberation in America; there is need for crusade of equality in America, and now is the time; even though it is long deferred.
Bigotry is so engrained in American law enforcement system. Research identifies that policing was intensely associated with the transatlantic slave administration in America; especially in the Southern States.
White volunteers were often sanctioned to serve as vigilantes to enforce laws that were meant for escaping slaves or slaves who were not cooperative, even if they were clinically sick from brutal treatment or distressingly humiliated.
These white volunteers as vigilantes would go out searching for slaves who might have escaped. They would notoriously drag them back to their slaves’ camps. It is revealed that these white volunteers had no limits in regards to searches for runaway slaves, believing that they could be hiding in anybody’s home.
These volunteers used iron hands to search any homes for that matter.
The hostility perpetuated against black people continued from the inception of the slave trade in the fifteen hundred or probably prior to, up to the twentieth century and now.
The Ongoing Protests Give Me Hope
These protests are not violence. Violence is when you oppress and marginalize a group of people for centuries. Violence is when you are beating and shooting unarmed black people without accountability. Violence is when you put your knee in the neck of an unarmed black man who cries for help and tells you, “I can’t breathe,” but killed him anyhow.
With these mentioned killings of black people and the protests for justice, hundreds of people are doubting any tangible outcome in terms accountability, law reform and equal opportunity for the black community.
They attribute their cynicism for justice to the fact that countless protests against distressing police cruelty on black people haven’t ushered in any accountability, nor police reform or change in any policy.
As the protest sweeps across the United States for racial justice with no sign of ceasing, on Sunday, 7 June 2020, a breaking news trended the media that majority – nine out of thirteen members of Minneapolis City Council have vowed to disband the police department.
These members announced their decision and said they would work with local community to replace the department [police] with what they termed as “new of public safety.”
The next day, Monday, 8 June, congressional democrats in Washington DC were poised to unveil a nationwide police legislation aimed at overhauling police operation and administration.
Earlier, on 5 June, Michael Jordan, an African American, former professional basketball legend and prime proprietor of the Charlotte Hornets of the National Basketball Association, pledged the donation of 100 million dollars to “organizations dedicated to ensuring racial equality, social justice and greater access to education”.
If this is the beginning of the new America that will end the racist culture against back people particularly in law enforcement, it is a welcome development, but we can only wait and see.
“I can’t breathe.” May these last words of George Floyd shield light on the malicious racism, abysmal oppression, infamous discrimination and hostile injustice long perpetuated against African Americans for centuries. May white racist Americans and violent white police forces and the far-right government take its knee off the neck of black people.