Ah, the holiday season. A time of compassion, universal brotherhood, mass consumerism, and of course, violent race relations. Yet, this is a tale as familiar as Charlie Brown’s Christmas. In fact, the current civil unrest is tame in comparison to that of the late 60s; an era that witnessed riots so extreme that they were almost indistinguishable from revolutionary warfare, with a police precinct being stormed and the National Guard openly slaughtering looters in the streets. Despite the decades of civil rights progress that followed, the same seething rage still permeates throughout the heart of the nation: an ugly manifestation of systemic judicial failure.
Failure by Design
You cannot legislate a world view out of existence. Sure, laws can be passed and public opinion can be manipulated, but certain beliefs are so deeply engraved into the fabric of society that the individual is willing to bend reality itself in order to accommodate them. Prejudice, in particular, is a stubborn little beast that always dies slowly. Yes, we’ve come a long way from the days of banks openly condemning entire neighborhoods for simply having black residents (as was the case in the 60s).
Still, the aftermath of centuries of exploitation and neglect ensure deep rooted structural hurdles remain a burden to most African Americans. Classism, not racism, is at the heart of the matter; yet, the two are undoubtedly intertwined. A study by John Hopkins University that followed low-income children for 25 years really drives this point home, revealing that even the poorest segments of white society are given significant advantages over their black counterparts.
Although the industrial implosion victimized Americans of every race, blacks were definitely hit the hardest. Of the blue-collar jobs left standing, an overwhelming majority went to white males. This, the study finds, is due to the preferential hiring of family and friends. Which, at the surface, has more to do with strong community ties than outright racism. Regardless, this fact does nothing to soothe the pain of the disenfranchised.
We are, in all reality, talking about a people that were enslaved and then released into an alien environment with little means of survival. From the day slavery ended to the present, blacks have been locked in an uphill battle against a society reluctant to recognize them as equals.
The More Things Change
Unless you’re fond of being an unemployed social leper, overt racism is out of the question. To fill the void, many resort to finding creative ways of passive-aggressively expressing their disdain. Considering the wealth of cultural left-overs from America’s shady past, this proves to be a relatively simple task. Take, for example, a charming little incident that recently took place in Chicago. During a Black Lives Matter protest, an undercover cop car full of white officers drove by blasting the Lynyrd Skynrd hit “Sweet Home Alabama.” At first glance, just some good O’l boys rocking out to a classic. When the contextual setting is factored in, however, malignant connotations emerge.
After the grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson, I was supportive. Let’s be real, Michael Brown was behaving like an anti-social threat to society. The entire situation felt so cliche that it was almost embarrassing. Here you had a big black male on video basically mugging a tiny convenience store owner for blunt wraps. To top it off, he had the audacity to attack a law enforcement officer. Black, white, it really doesn’t matter; if you attack a cop, death is a reasonable expectation. Then, at the height of my logical defense of white America, a seemingly endless flood of unjustifiable police brutality forced me to take a deeper look.
The data certainly speaks for itself. Using all the arrests reported to the FBI between 2010 and 2012, USA Today discovered that African Americans were incarcerated at more than triple the rate of other races. Of course, that is solely based on information volunteered by police departments. According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, for instance, over 550 deaths resulting from government sanctioned lethal force failed to show up in official records. Indeed, It seems what comes around only goes around when you fail to clean up your messes.
Fuck the Police?
Contrary to popular opinion, police officers are human beings — they possess emotions and the ability to reason. After all, effective policing consists of more than simply writing tickets and locking people away. To truly serve a community, law enforcement must develop a rapport with its residents. Often, this is the difference between cooperation and outright hostility. Although it may never receive a trending hashtag, there is a wealth of police benevolence in America.
Above is a video of police officer, William Stacy, hugging an impoverished woman after she was caught stealing eggs at a local Dollar General. The store decided not to press charges, but the officer immediately recognized the woman from a previous call to her home. Having witnessed firsthand the deplorable living conditions of this single mother of two, his conscience took over, compelling him to buy her the eggs.
Overcome with both shame and gratitude, the woman desperately tried to fork over all the change in her possession. Instead of accepting the meager sum, the officer told her “the best way to pay me back is to never do something like this again.” Recorded by a customer, the video quickly soared to hundreds of thousands of views. However, as heartwarming as instances like these may be, they certainly don’t erase the scourge of judicial incompetence plaguing the system. Nonetheless, they do serve to highlight the folly in painting all police officers as soulless brutes.
Death by Hashtag
There is no such thing as a noble hipster. Most of the people perpetuating racially charged hashtags and participating in protests do not give a damn about justice. They are merely chasing retweets, self-righteous pixelated gratification. Granted, an underlying venom is certainly pumping in their veins. The violent ones, at least, are primarily made up of impoverished youth forced to bear the brunt of America’s economic downturn. With their hope being extinguished after the status quo survived the Obama administration, violence has become an all too attractive option.
And just like that, the point blank execution of two NYPD officers ensures that the Black Lives Matter movement will forever be labeled as vile, dangerous and corrosive to social unity. Anyone can kill a man. A much greater display of strength, you see, is making him listen to reason. A seemingly impossible task in an age where the validity of a statement is often determined by the amount of social media interactions it receives.
Sometimes, you have no choice but to laugh at the tragic absurdities of the human condition. To retaliate against racist white cops, a young African American male slaughters an Asian and a Hispanic. Heartbreaking, but this does serve to illustrate a powerful lesson. In a melting pot such as ours, when one race suffers — all races suffer. Poetic, in a reality television sorta way.