Black men of America, when will this damn war end?
Ever since viral video tape showed Eric Garner, an unemployed, unarmed, obese black man, being attacked by police in front of a convenience store in New York City on July 17, 2014, explosive news reports and volumes of research, investigations and anecdotal records have revealed to whites and confirmed for us that the relationship between law enforcement and black men is a relationship of the war kind. It is an abnormal relationship marked by angst, distrust and disaster. (Albert Camus: Resistance, Rebellion and Death,page 124.) This was reflected in the way Garner and the troop of cops reacted to each other moments before one of the officers clamped his forearm around Garner’s neck in an illegal chokehold and kept choking him while the overweight brother repeatedly gasped, “I can’t breathe.”
Later, judge xxxx refused to indict the cop, XXXXX, on murder charges. The judge’s decision illustrates a major disconnect between the way law enforcement processes the facts and the way black people process the facts. We all saw the video. The system saw no reason to indict or convict the perpetrator of the offense. We did.
Every black man I have spoken to about the incident is 100 percent positive that if the black forearm had been on the white throat and Eric Garner was videotaped on top of a XXX, choking him to death, Garner would have either been shot, imprisoned for life or executed. No doubt about it, whether the cop had a pre-existing health condition or not. Garner would not have gotten away with murdering that cop. In generations past, he may have been lynched right on the spot.
The Garner incident, along with a string of subsequent similar incidents that left unarmed black people dead, boosted the relevance and organizing power of the then little-known Black Lives Matter movement. The video-taped tragedies, including the controversial fatal shooting of Michael Brown and the police department’s sick handling of his grotesquely-displayed body triggered reams of reports by government agencies, private institutions and groups. The reports documented troubling facts and proposed a wide range of solutions. Solutions such as these::
- In response to a tumultuous uprising that was triggered by the unnecessary death of an unarmed black man named Freddie Gray, in Baltimore, Maryland, the Department of Justice investigated the local police. XXX weeks after the uprising, which alternately involved non-violent and violent participants, subsided, the DOJ released findings that indicated that: “Community policing and engagement provide a promising route for ensuring officers act in accord with the Constitution and for repairing” law enforcement’s relationship with the community. “A proactive community policing strategy has the potential to overcome divisive dynamics that disconnect residents and police forces, dynamics ranging from a dearth of positive interactions to racial stereotyping … (O)ur investigation identified … (that) a community policing strategy should be a central component of (Baltimore’s) approach moving forward. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GUY WHO SAID GRAY WAS ACTING A FOOL AND CAUSED HIS OWN DEATH? WHY DIDN’T THE POLICE PROTECT THE MAN FOR HIS OWN SAFETY?
- List the victories that were made and then torn down …
- Consent decrees
- Reduction in three strikes
These and other programmatic solutions were informed by extended discussions, research and writing. However, despite the time and money invested into the proposed programs, none of them will be as successful as they need to be, if black men who have been excessively harassed, falsely imprisoned and/or brutalized by law enforcement are not at the helm. Any effort to resolve the relationship crisis between police and black men must be sustained by knowledgeable, .experienced and determined black men who are committed to take full responsibility for how police treat black men.
Full, total and complete responsibility.
As the legendary basketball coach Patricia Summit once said, “To be successful, you have to take total responsibility.”
The blatant disrespect that countless law enforcers across the country display towards black men is not a problem that anyone can solve for the black man. No one can make the police respect us, but us.
Well-meaning people can rail about the problem and toss money at it; they can throw training programs at it; they can have national and local town meetings every single day of the year trying to solve the problem. Pardon the parlance, but ain’t none of that gonna to work, if the black man is not at the center of it all—guiding, insisting, directing, facilitating, framing issues, demonstrating, protesting, agitating, advocating, writing, speaking, organizing, politically campaigning, informing, motivating, recruiting, fundraising, donating and providing insights and analyses based on their personal experience, research and visions.
Black men must lead efforts designed to help black men.
Many black men are doing just that, pursuing leadership opportunities in various capacities. Black male community leaders, athletes and celebrities are demonstrating, speaking out and donating money; teachers are teaching; preachers are preaching; lawyers are fighting for justice in the courts; politicians are prodding their colleagues to support the movement. Yes, there are many that are fulfilling important missions. Yet, there are more that are missing in action. Reinforcements are needed to hit the battlefield and resist the aggressive forces coming at us from all sides.
Until we get a critical mass of black men in position, we will not be able to end The War in America.
If you think that I am putting black men on a pedestal, you’re damn right I am. Black men need to be on a pedestal—or better yet let’s call it a platform. We need to stand on their own platform, make our voices heard and create the change we seek.
Black men must take a central position and command the respect of the majority.
Any black teenager or man who is not significantly contributing to law enforcement reform efforts—in a manner of his choosing is empowering racist policing. You, black man, know the dangers of racist and abusive law enforcers better than anyone else. As a psychologist once told me, “Who feels it most knows it best.”
If you do nothing else, tell your story. Join a Twitter hashtag community or create a new one and grow it. Make something positive happen. Share your experiences, insights, solutions and opinions. Raise funds.
Others may disagree with black men’s opinions. That’s OK. Black men still deserve their respect, if black men know what they are talking about and can defend their positions. By and large, black men know what they are talking about when it comes to the police. We have had too many encounters with them to not know them quite well.
No Time to Waste
In one of his first edicts as president, Trump signed an executive order that terminated funds for police diversity training. That was a bad sign. Indeed, it was his first presidential attack against us—a salvo clearly intended to curtail our anti-discrimination advancements and dismantle our law enforcement reform weaponry—as meager as it may be.
Then, his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Coretta Scott King alleged was a staunch white supremacist “not fit” for public office, quickly after being sworn into office issued several orders that derailed the gains that responsible leaders and advocates had made in the area of law enforcement reform during the Obama era.
The negative forces emanating out of the new regime have revealed a concerted attack designed to sink our anti-racism, law enforcement reform battleships. For all practical purposes, each attack was a mission, four of which are described below:
- Mission Fire Bomb Consent Decrees: Within xx days as the 45th President, Donald Trump, destroyed many of the consent decrees that were driving police reforms nationwide. XXXX . This set the tone for his administration’s subsequent attacks against police reform programs.
- Mission Cease Fire at the Labor Department: As reported by the Washington Post: The Trump White House released plans to “disband the Labor Department division that has policed discrimination among federal contractors for four decades … a move that comes as part of wider efforts to minimize civil-rights efforts in government agencies … The proposal to dismantle the compliance office comes at a time when the Trump administration is reducing the role of the federal government in fighting discrimination and protecting minorities by cutting budgets, dissolving programs and appointing officials unsympathetic to previous practices.”
- Mission Blow Up the EPA’s Environmental Justice Program: The Washington Post reported that this program “addresses pollution that poses health threats concentrated in minority communities and offers money and technical aide to residents confronted with local hazards.” Poor health impacts the body and mind subjects people to excessive stress. An ill, stressed out man will be predisposed to be short-tempered and non-responsive to callous cops.
- Mission Erase Obama and Holder Victories: Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder achieved significant victories in The War in America. Shortly after taking office, Holder made it clear that he was on a mission to attack racist law enforcement policies and practices. He issued a battle cry when he bluntly, like a true general, told America that when it comes to fighting against racism, the country is “essentially a nation of cowards.” From that point forward, Holder stayed on the offensive, treating the racist law enforcement system as if it were a serpent with many heads. He used policies like swords to cut off as many of the ugly heads as he could. For instance, he said that judges across the country, who according to the Guardian newspaper are 95 percent white, give black men prison sentences that are “20 percent longer than those imposed on white males convicted of similar crimes.” Holder said that this “isn’t just unacceptable, it is shameful.”He directed his department’s prosecutors to “modify the Justice Department’s charging policies” so that low-level, non-violent offenders would “no longer be charged with offenses that impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences.” These excessive sentences, as mentioned earlier, were weapons used in previous years to prosecute the so-called War on Drugs, which many black activists and scholars said was actually a War Against Black Men.Holder stated that his goal was to help America create “a more just society.” He said that he led the justice department into battle against racism because it was his solemn obligation to do so. So, like a benevolent general, he said he endeavored to align the nation’s laws “with our most sacred values.”The general who succeeded him, Mr. Sessions is doing the exact opposite. He has aligned the justice system with racist values. Calling him out for his war tactics, XXX said in a piece published in the Chicago Tribune: “If a racist were in charge of criminal justice for the U.S., what would he do? Exactly what Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doing.”The LA Times editorial board joined in the attack against Sessions, blasting his maneuvers. The editorial board stated that Sessions has “laid out a very different view of improper police conduct: It is not systemic or structural but limited to a few bad actors. Shortly after being sworn into office, Sessions criticized consent decrees as bad for police morale and as unwarranted federal intrusions into local matters.” Sessions has terminated multiple consent decrees during his tenure. “That stance on police reform goes hand-in-hand with other Sessions’ policies and pronouncements, such as his move to … reinstate transfer of grenade launchers, tanks and other surplus military equipment to police agencies, and his instruction to federal prosecutors to seek the maximum possible sentences, as in the days of the discredited War on Drugs.”
Well now, there it is again: More evidence that police across the country, now led by the attorney general of the United States, are gearing up and to escalate warfare against the people of the United States, with special focus on black Americans. They have no fear of resistance or retaliation by their intended targets. Why should they? More than 90 percent of America’s law enforcement personnel voted for Trump, and they relish in knowing that they played a major role in putting their race-baiting proxy into the White House. The firey proxy has employed the staunch conservative Sessions as his hired gun, and they could not be happier. They know that Sessions will make them more powerful and untouchable than they have ever been.
Black man, beware and stay woke.
As I argue here and throughout all volumes of The War in America, the relationship between law enforcement and black men has warlike characteristics. Again, ladies and gentlemen, I am not using war as a metaphor to describe the pounding that the Trump-Sessions alliance and the law enforcement system generally are bringing down upon the Obama-Holder alliance’s advances in police training and consent decrees, which were the most effective weapons they were able to use to attack racism and injustice within federal and local law enforcements. Sessions is removing those weapons and giving police ammunition to do as they wish.
The most effective weapon law enforcement uses against us—more potent than their physical machinery—is the propaganda they use against black men. Their most disruptive propagandized terminology is “black-on-black crime.”
This combustible term is the chief weapon they use to shoot down black people’s efforts to reform law enforcement. “Black-on-black crime” is a mean white monkey that whites in general and white racists in particular throw on our backs to agonize and muzzle us when we speak out against police racism and violence. The guilt-trip monkey gives insensitive, insincere and deluded law enforcers an excuse to ignore our complaints about police violence.
So, let’s talk about “black-on-black crime,” America’s perennial political red herring, which is also law enforcement’s go-to race card. The guilt-trip monkey makes us doubt the validity of our cause. You know well what these guilt-trip monkeys say to us, don’t you? Yes, of course you do. You have heard them so many times it makes you sick, doesn’t it? It makes me sick too, like sticking my nose inside a rotten piece of fish.
It makes Charles M. Blow sick as well. He knows what they say, because they ride his back, nagging, taunting and signifying. They send him letters and emails and they get in his face. He is a New York Times op-ed columnist with a strong following. He frequently writes about America’s widening racial divide. Here are some of the asinine complaints the small-minded monkeys have said to him: “Why are you not writing about the real problem–black-on-black crime? “Young black men are far more likely to be killed by another young black man than by the police. Why do people not seem to protest when those young people are killed? Where is the media coverage of those deaths?”
Allow me to add to this discussion what I have heard the guilt-trip monkeys say: “The police are doing a great job. Stop videotaping them. I don’t have a problem with them. It’s the black criminals who are bringing the police into the black neighborhoods. Thugs have taken over your communities with drug gangs and violence. That’s where your war is: in your own backyard.”
When he was running for president, Donald Trump, the guilt-trip monkey incarnate, all but totally ignored the country’s racist policing problem and instead taunted black people, telling them that they were the problem. He insinuated that all black Americans live in ghettos, so he chided that they should vote for him, because: “What the hell have you got to lose?”
Blow wrote an analytical response to these types of people in an opinion piece entitled Police Abuse Is a Form of Terror. He stated that those who play the guilt-trip race card, alleging that blacks should not complain about police violence because blacks kill more black people than do the police are using the race card as “a deflection, a juxtaposition meant to use one problem to drown out another.”
I say, let’s grab that signifying monkey by its neck, sling it off our back, and punch it in the mouth.
No, a better idea: Let’s toss it on white America’s back.
Not to be childish or petty about this, but what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. So, please indulge me while I del with this monkey. I say, let that monkey antagonize white people with facts about white on white crime. Let it shriek in their ears “White men grab and rape white women like they grab and drink their beer. Whites kill people just to kill people. They kill because they believe that some people just need to be murdered. How sick is that? The meticulous, wealthy white man who perched at his hotel room window and shot down at a predominantly white crowd of concert goers in Las Vegas, Nevada after the sun went down on October XX, 2017 was one sick bastard, no doubt. He wasn’t the first white man to commit mass murder. For hundreds of years, white men have brutalized and killed masses of people—from the start of the African slave trade to now. Doesn’t this prove that white men are prone to commit evil acts? Are white men possessed? Don’t they all exhibit the tendency to be mean and demeaning? Have you seen them when they get angry. Of course you have. Their faces flush red and their look at you like they could just kill you. Am I right or am I wrong.” This guilt-trip monkey is on a taunting roll. He continues yelling in white people’s ears, making them feel as guilty as we do when that monkey rides our backs: “Hey, white people, you complain about black violence, but most white victims of violence were assaulted by other white people. Most white people who are murdered are slaughtered by white people. Most white people who are robbed are robbed by white people. Most white people who are swindled are windled by white people.”
Charles Blow threw the guilt-trip monkey on his white readers when he referenced Washington Post columnist Fareed Zakaria, who in turn drew his information from a New America think tank report. He stated that whites obsess over the danger of foreign-bred terrorism, however since 9/11, terrorists have killed 74 people in the United States while “in that same period, more than 150,000 Americans have been killed in gun homicides.” That is 2,000 percent higher than the number of terrorist killings. So, Blow chastises whites by asking one concluding question: “Why aren’t you, America, focusing on the real problem: Americans killing other Americans?”
So, we should literally blow off (pardon the pun) any racist deflections that whites throw at us. When we rise up against police violence, know that we stand on solid ground, regardless of the naysaying and the fake news. Our uprising is totally legit. The bottom line to our complaints is that the police are sworn and paid to be our government protectors. We have a constitutional right to be treated with respect and when they violate our rights, we have a duty to call them out. We must complain and protest and rise up and fight by every means necessary until their respect towards us becomes the norm. Until there is justice, there shall be no peace.
That is an indisputable fact.
A couple of more facts need to be established here:
First, it is important to state why there is a distinction to be made between police violence and black intra-racial violence. A black person can avoid black violence by avoiding blacks who commit violence. They can move to a different neighborhood, for instance. But where can a black person go to avoid the police? Secondly, white criticism that black people do not protest against and fight crime in their communities is not based on facts. Black people fight crime as much or more so than whites. From prayer vigils and neighborhood watch activities to youth violence interventions, counseling, mentorships and new legislation designed to interdict crime.
So, in summary, whether it is riding the backs of whites or blacks, the guilt-trip monkey is a liar. Both race card terms, “white on white crime” and “black on black crime” are meaningless distractions and deflections that distort facts and prevent the unbiased and temperate dialog between races that America so desperately needs in order to bring people together. As I wrote in Volume 1, crime is crime. It has no color. Violence hurts and kills regardless of the race of the perpetrator or the victim. The voice of the guilt-trip monkey must be permanently silenced.
With that said, let’s return to the main topic of this volume: The black uprising against excessive, racist and abusive law enforcement; and what should we do now?
Now is the time to lift the uprising to a new level—a level where we openly discuss all of our options for ending racist and abusive behavior by law enforcers. It is time to inform Trump, Sessions and others like them that we have something new for them to deal with and that we are not afraid and we will not be intimidated by their guilt-money deflections and retrograde activities. We must not back down. We must attack them and we must become better prepared to defend ourselves against their attacks. We must be totally fearless and willing to do whatever is necessary for freedom and justice.
Oh, when we are one I’m not afraid … No, we’re not afraid.
- Chuck Brown
How can we attack excessive law enforcement?
We have options that we have not yet tried, because most of us are not aware of them. I am going to reveal one game-changing option later in our discussion.
For now, let’s establish some groundwork. The question is not how we can attack those who attack us. The question is will we?
Will we use:
- Forceful, strategic and innovative non-violence?
- Forceful, strategic, innovative and lawful violence?
- A combination of A and B?
This dichotomal set of options is not new. As Frederick Douglass stated during one of his famous speeches, “This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle.”
He also stated that “Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others.”
Attorney General, Please Do Your Job with Honor
and Don’t Tread on the Innocent
Attorney General Sessions has showered a lot of praise on American law enforcement. I do not begrudge his point. Law enforcement has had some successes in reducing crime, according to official reports. In March 2017, Sessions lauded law enforcement achievements, stating that “In the past four decades, our nation has won great victories against crime. Overall, crime rates remain near historic lows. Murder rates are half of what they were in 1980. We have driven the violent crime rate down to almost half of what it was at its peak.”
The only problem with the success that law enforcers have had is that tactics they use to achieve them are far too often wild and undisciplined. I have personal experience that they sweep up innocent people in their war against crime. They have hounded me while I was driving and they have jumped out of a moving car and swept me up while I was walking. (See Volume 1 for details.)
Their wanton, careless and heartless law enforcement turns their brutal warfare against criminals into a war against black men.
The following is analogy that illustrates what I am talking about. Picture a large muscular deer crashing through the glass patio door of someone’s house and biting a pet cat, leaving the poor kitty bloodied and mortally wounded. The homeowner goes hunting for that “thuggish” deer, using a shotgun instead of a rifle. The homeowner is well aware that when the shotgun fires, it blasts a wide area with buck shot. He doesn’t care. He sees a bunch of deer in a clearing in a park near his house. He is certain the deer is in the group. He takes out his shotgun and fires away at the deer he thinks is the culprit.
Yes, he shoots and kills the culprit, but look at all the other innocent deer he shot as well. Some fall dead, some limp away wounded. All that survived are scared as shit. And no one holds the homeowner accountable. He just goes about his merry way, satisfied that he achieved his goal—come what may.
That’s how the American law enforcement system operates as a general rule in The War in America. In the pursuit of black male criminals, they treat all black men as criminals.
I will give you another analogy:
10 Black Men on a Bus
Ten black men are riding a bus. Seven of them are upstanding citizens. Three of them are career criminals who have committed a combined total of 100 crimes over the past year. Through the corrupt magic of raw statistics, the statistical “fact” is the black men on that bus have committed on average 10 crimes each (i.e., 100 ÷ 10 = 10). Yet, it is certainly not true that each of those men committed 10 crimes. Seven of them committed no crimes at all. Of course, one could argue that since “the average black man on that bus committed 10 crimes,” the police would be right to profile all 10 of them as criminals—-not just the three knuckle head repeat offenders. How wrong is that? Should the police should treat all 10 of those men like criminals, if only three of them are in fact criminals?
It is shameful that many law enforcers use twisted statistics about the “inherent” criminality of black men to justify their general treatment of and fear of black men.
Too many police officers stick on the badge, strap on the gun and adopt the attitude that they are soldiers at war. This attitude bolstered by a tremendous sense of power induces them to define black men as dangerous enemies—“public enemies.” Their mission becomes to bring down as many enemies as they can.
You see, law enforcement’s reduction of crime is not the issue—that’s their job, for God’s sake. The issue is shotgun “law and order.” This warfare law enforcement culture results in black men getting shot in the back, shot while reaching for a wallet, choked to death for nothing, tazed for talking back or loudly protesting police mistreatment, stomped on because they try to get into white nightclubs, and thrown into prison because drugs were planted on them. This warfare law enforcement culture, an outgrowth of the white supremacist foundation of this nation, dismisses our humanity.
The system by and large treats us as sub humans. In one way or another, black men have been stereotyped, attacked and sidelined in this society for more than five centuries. One day of such treatment would be too much. A thousand days a horrible trauma. And 150,000 days (240 years) of it is atrocious.
That’s going to change. Our message to the president and attorney general and all of those who act in concert to normalize oppressive policing and to perpetuate law enforcement tyranny for another 150,000 days is this: We will exercise our right to stand our ground against racist and abusive law enforcement. So, it would be wise of you to stop treating us like we are less than men; you will not chokehold our efforts to reform law enforcement; you will not shoot us in the back and kill us while unarmed, blame us for our own demise and suffer no consequences.
You will not ignore our efforts to neutralize your unconstitutional and uncivil law enforcement activities without repercussions.
Our message to all racist and abusive law enforcers is: Abuse us at your own risk; underestimate us at your own risk.
Disrespect us at your own risk.
Don’t be stupid. This is not a threat. This is a pronouncement. A declaration. A legitimate and lawful warning, and cautionary discourse. This is not an attempt to incite anyone to do anything but have a conversation and to keep it very real.
Like President Robert F. Kennedy, “We seek a free flow of information … “ We are in agreement with his position on open discussions on tough topics. He said, “We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”
At the end of The War in America, Volume 1, as those who read it will remember, I took a gentle approach towards stimulating conversation. I proposed strategic solutions that I believe would hammer harmful police practices. I attempted to not offend anyone while also pushing the envelope. For instance, I made an appeal for black men to reach out and ask whites to open up and engage in meaningful discussions that might lead to positive change. I argued that the solution is in the story and encouraged black men to tell their stories about their law enforcement experiences so as to create understanding and build bridges across the racial divide. I quoted people such as the Rev. XXX Vine, a community activist in Washington, DC, who stated that “Storytelling is important. It is vital for building community.” In Volume 1, the message was let’s see how good things could be if we all came together for the common good.
In this volume, my focus is on how bad things can become if we don’t.
Proposed solutions included in this volume are more assertive and aggressive, to include physical resistance. They are designed to get the right people to put themselves in the right frame of mind to talk our way out of this problem. If we fail to do so, I believe, severe consequences will rip through the law enforcement community.
The proposals in this volume were developed with black men in mind, in particular. Focusing on cold political realities, I propose fewer sit-ins. Fewer marches. No more looting. No more rioting. No more hands up, don’t shoot, which paints a sorry picture of capitulation, surrender and weakness. Please, no more of that.
Black men, listen up: Bring your hands down and get ready to do some heavy lifting as we build the artillery needed to demolish the walls of fear that abusive “law and order” has erected around our minds.
Racist and abusive cops and politicians, listen up: We have new ways to hold you accountable if you refuse to sincerely work with us to foster a more respectful relationship and build mutual trust.
The research, analyses and ideas presented in this book are intended to help shift black men from thinking like defenseless victims, to thinking like men who are capable of taking control of the way the police and others in the law enforcement system view them.
Law enforcement’s perception of us determines how they treat us. This in and of itself is not sinister or wrong. The perception that anyone has of someone else can dictate the way they treat them. Thus, we must give police officer, judges and others in the law enforcement system a reason to change their perception.
Law enforcers should also change the way we perceive them. We all need to see each other differently. We need to see how alike we are. We want the same exact thing, I would hope: justice and peace. And to return home safely at the end of the day.
America: It is time for all of us to unite. We absolutely must move towards the day when we stop seeing two starkly different things when we see cops shoot unarmed black men in the back.
We cannot allow this generational curse of racism and mutual indifference to be passed down to future generations.
Break the curse!
I believe the curse will be broken when black men become psychologically and politically strong enough to overcome their hesitancy and go on the offensive.
When black men attack those who are attacking them, society will change the way they see black men, black men will change the way they view themselves and the curse will end.
As Frederick Douglass surmised in his 1857 speech, surmised: “Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow.” He stated that it is a natural fact that people “respect those who respect themselves, and despise those who despise themselves.”
The solution the black man is seeking is looking into his eyes every time he looks in the mirror. So, black man, take a good long look into your eyes and see the man inside of you that is willing to do whatever it takes to free himself from racist and abusive law enforcement. Find a way or make a way.
To begin solving the law enforcement problem, black men must first believe that the problem can be solved. Secondly, they must believe that the solution is in their hands alone. If they do not believe within their hearts that they can compel abusive police officers to stop treating them and their sons like chumps, they will never put their hearts into finding a way to stop them. Any black man who does not believe that he and other black men have the collective capability to stop police brutality is mistaken. He is blinded by either ignorance, misinformation, cowardice, self-doubt or self-pity—or a combination of these five. He is double-minded, telling his sons that they can do anything, yet also telling them that they cannot be fully free. He teaches them to bow down not just physically when accosted by the police, but also mentally and spiritually. He convinces himself and he teaches his sons to believe that they are helpless and defeatable.
Such a man should stop protesting, stop complaining, stop rioting, stop suing, stop crying and stop thinking about the problem. He should stop worrying about it, stop groaning about it, and stop bitching about it.
He should sit down and shut up, so he can stop spreading the curse.
Black man, if you do not believe black men can find a way or make a way to legally and physically confront racist and abusive law enforcers, you are thinking like a sucker. As a result of this way of thinking, abusive police shall surely treat you accordingly. Forever.
Yes, forever. The curse of racist and abusive law enforcement will not fade away by itself, like rain water under a hot sun after a storm. No, this storm will continue and the weather will not change until you change it. Who else will stop injustice from continuing forever? And tell me when that will happen. Check your calendar. Tell me, when will it end?
When will we receive the same level of respect that is accorded to white men?
A bully will continue bullying you as long as you think you cannot make him stop. Frederick Douglass spoke eloquently and often about this. These are some of his strongest statements: “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress … Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both … If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters … Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
An old adage: Where there is a will there is a way. By not believing that you can make a bully stop punking you, you shut down your brain’s natural, problem-solving thought processes. You condemn your mind to perceive that what is possible as impossible.
This fulfills racist and abusive law enforcers’ desire for you, which is that you will feel so oppressed that you decline to stand your ground or do anything that might disrupt their “law and order” militarized agenda.
Now, if you are unafraid and if you want to resist corrupt individuals who use their government powers against you, you should start by resisting any weak mental processes that might make you quit when the going gets tough. You must first resist within. Nelson Mandela resisted negative thoughts, weathered decades of degradation in prison and kept the faith. He said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Life Coach Anthony Robbins, author of Awaken the Giant Within, teaches his clients that “What we can or cannot do, what we consider possible or impossible, is rarely a function of our true capability. It is more likely a function of our beliefs about who we are.”
We are in control of our own destiny. If you do not believe that, you are not only making a critical psychological error, you are also violating man law. I ask you, if you sit idly by while you and your kind are constantly being brutalized and disrespected—to the extent that you expect to be brutalized and disrespected—then what kind of man are you? Do you have negative thoughts about your ability to end racist and abusive policing? Do you really think it is impossible? Do you hear yourself saying, There is nothing I can do about it?
Too many of us are stuck on that thought.
White politicians, intellectuals, journalists and generally the entire white society encourages you to stay stuck on that thought.
Witness as this Washington Post headline declares your fate: “If you’re a black man, expect police brutality under U.S. law and policy.”
With these negative thoughts in our minds, no wonder so many of us go about your lives doing nothing to solve the problem. Most of us offer no resistance at all. We don’t challenge this so-called foregone conclusion. The whole country it seems is walking around thinking, Too bad for the black man. He will never be fully free.
Freedom begins in your head.
If things happen to us and we do nothing about it, perhaps we deserve it. Perhaps we enable those who seek to crush our manhood. The Nobel Prize-winning playwright and poet Wole Soyinka, who played a leadership role in resisting repressive government powers in Nigeria, knows a thing or two about standing up against government abuse. He once dropped a bit of wisdom when he said, “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.”
Don’t let the man in you die.
Do something to significantly resist the abuse inherent in a law enforcement system that disrespects you.
Shall you wage war or not wage war against those who wage war against you? That is the question.
Every man must determine his own answer to that question. Every man has to decide: Stand up and fight the bully or back down and let him have his way.
So, black man, what’s it going to be?
Are you going to man up or punk out?
Buck up or bow down?
Will you continue to make sarcastic jokes about the homegrown American terror that follows you down the street, trails you on the highways and interrupts your life without warning, will you get serious—as a loaded gun pointed at your face?
There’s no in between. You are either ready and willing to take to the battlefield in The War in America and be part of the solution—in some substantial form or fashion—or you are not. It may be a complicated situation, but in the final analysis, it’s that simple.
As Frederick Douglass once said, “No class of men can, without insulting their own nature, be content with any deprivation of their rights.”
Fear is smothering too many black men. We are afraid to attack racist and abusive law enforcement and other racist and abusive elements in American society. This is an insult to our inherent human and spiritual nature—which is to resist or overcome that which attacks us.
We defend ourselves with retreat and surrender. To mask our fear, we make jokes about it. A satirist, W. Kama u Bell, speaking on CNN, said: “As a black man … you always have to keep your eye out for the Klan.”
No. Wrong attitude. The Klan had better keep an eye out for black men. We must demonstrate that we can and will defend ourselves. To think otherwise is to think as a boy who is afraid a bully might cross his path and whip his ass. Such a boy believes himself to be defenseless. He feels alone, with no backup.
However, black men are not alone. We have each other, should we choose to unite, and we also have allies—here and around the world—who are mostly silent and below the radar, but are willing to support us and come to our defense. Witness the brave white people who have assisted black people for decades. Quakers have been there for us. John Brown was there for us. XXX, a Jewish man who died alongside Medgar Evers was there for us. Senator xx Sumner, who was beaten nearly to death inside the US Capitol building on xxx was there for us. XX, who taught Frederick Douglass how to read was there for us. White football players like xxx, who supported Kaparenick and other black players during their protest against XXXX, were there for us. Personally speaking, Eleanor and Sandy Orr, the white co-principals of Hawthorne High School, where I graduated, were there for me. White and allies from other racial groups are in the woodwork and out in the open.
We must show them that we appreciate and deserve their support and will not squander the energies and resources they have been willing to contribute to our struggle for full freedom, equality and justice.
Now, of course, if a black man decides to stay off the battlefield, that’s his business. But if he makes that decision because he’s too scared to do what ultimately may be necessary to hold the police accountable, he should just say so. As we say in our wonderful black colloquialism, If you scared, say you scared. “Even liberal politicians sell out because they are afraid of the police,” says attorney Paul Butler, Georgetown University professor and author. So, sell out. Be satisfied with the status quo. Be resigned to studying, analyzing, pontificating and protesting. Be content with making sarcastic jokes and throwing sound bites at the problem, and pushing ineffective solutions.
Because you have a right to use those coping tactics. But, please do not get in the way of black men seeking to take destiny-changing measures against the abusive law enforcement system. Don’t cast any shade on men who are striving to find a legitimate way to lasso America’s hyped up, trigger-happy cowboy cops and yank them off their high horses.
If you are not willing to join the bold, the proud and the strong, just stay cool, stay quiet and stay out of our way. The same message goes to black men who do not consider themselves scared, but who are nevertheless reluctant to support or be associated with black men who they judge to be “way out there” or “radical.”
I don’t know what it mean to be a free nigger!
- Fiddler, in Roots: The Gift
As with all men, some black men are willing to make the sacrifice and pay the price to gain a full portion of freedom and some are not. Fact is, some black men are satisfied that America is what it is and that it is good enough as it is, despite the unfairness and indignities that plague them.
Jim Brown, the Hall of Fame professional football player, is a lifelong hero of mine. His public advocacy on behalf of black people has been exemplary. For instance, he stood with Muhammad Ali when the great boxer was being persecuted for allegedly dodging the military draft. However, Brown in recent years has demonstrated that he is only willing to go so far to defend black men who make unpopular decisions.
Ali’s refusal to serve his country was OK, Brown said. Ali’s denouncement of the U.S. government’s war activities was OK. But, when a black man named Colin Kaepernick, professional football player, peacefully kneeled instead of standing when the Star Spangled Banner was played, Brown called his decision unintelligent. Further, Brown ripped into the young man like a he used to rip into the defensive line. He alleged that Kapernic desecrated the flag. OxfordDictionary.com: Desecrate: Treat (a sacred place or thing) with violent disrespect.”
Kneeling is not violent.
It is not necessarily disrespectful, either.
OxfordDictionary.com: Disrespect: “Contempt … derision, mockery … incivility.”
Brown said that he empathized with Kaepernick, but “I’m going to give you the real deal: I’m an American. I don’t desecrate my flag and my national anthem. I’m not gonna do anything against the flag and national anthem. I’m going to work within those situations. But this is my country, and I’ll work out the problems, but I’ll do it in an intelligent manner.”
If Kaepernick desecrated the flag and the national anthem by kneeling, what did Ali do by refusing to enlist? Ali had religious reasons for what he did. Kaepernick had moral reasons as well—moral and political. Being a patriot is not only symbolism. Patriotism is heart and soul. It is about standing up—or kneeling—for what one believes is right and respecting others who do the same.
Brown shows that we have strong, intelligent and successful black men who could use their influence and example to support black men who respectfully and non-violently fight for justice. United we stand, so we say. I believe Kaepernick was saying with his bold, brave and risky action that if we are not truly fulfilling our pledge, then someone needs to do something to show how wrong that is. His message was poignant, especially in these times of highly-visible police violence and ineffective responses from elected leaders and the majority population.
I was swiping through Instagram one evening when I saw a picture a black t-shirt with a message directed at white critics of the black uprising. xx lettering that read: xxxx
My reaction was, “Damn! That joint is deep! It tells is just like 00it is.”
The t-hirt was being worn one of Kapernicks strongest supporters, basketball superstar LeBron James, who has proven himself to be a giant on and off the court.
Look, Mr. Jim Brown and everyone else. Somebody had to do something and Kapernick led the way. He refused to stand for the national anthem. Ali refused to join the Army when he was drafted. I fail to see the difference.
Black men such as my hero Jim Brown tend to be judgmental, even self-righteous. When the going gets tough, they pull out every excuse in the book to stay out of the fray, even if it makes them total hypocrites.
As Albert Camus, the analytical writer and French Algerian revolutionary, once wrote: “Those who lack the courage will always find a philosophy to justify it … As long as they can enjoy their creature comforts and their suffering is not unbearable, men will not fight for change …”
Nevertheless, black men who are unwilling to kneel with those who kneel for them should not be written off as lost causes. With effective outreach, encouragement and role modeling, some of them can be magnetized and brought into (or as in Brown’s case, back into) the fold of the brave and the bold.
Such outreach, role modeling and encouragement occurred during the Civil War. Huge posters with large print were strategically plastered on the sides of buildings and other public locations throughout the South??? encouraging, exhorting and challenging black men both enslaved and “free” to pick up arms and join the white soldiers in the Union military in their fight against their racist Confederate cousins—the logic being that if black men helped the Union they would help themselves as well. The writers of those posters spoke plainly and powerfully. An example of their exhortations was on display at the African American Museum of African America Art, Culture and Freedom when I visited the institution in the fall of 2016, shortly after its inaugural opening.
The huge yellow poster was a 100-year-old original, installed in a glass enclosure on one of the museum’s darkened and somber lower levels. The paper was yellowish brown. It was about six-feet tall and three-feet wide. These are some of the moving appeals that appeared on the historic document. All of which essentially said in varying ways: Come on black man, fight your enslavers and be free! The stimulating posters used more elegant and dramatic words than those, of course. The following is are excerpts from their prose.
Such intense exhortations for black men to gut up and bear arms were not scant. Hear now the voices of other black men who used means other than posters to inspire black manhood to rise up erect, full-blooded and throbbing with courage.
In 1843, 20 years before the Civil War?Emancipation, Henry Highland Garnet, a 27-year-old black New York newspaper editor and pastor spoke at the National Negro Convention in Buffalo, New York. The following are a few excerpts from his powerful address, which he entitled “An Address to the Slaves of the United States.”
“IT IS SINFUL IN THE EXTREME FOR YOU TO MAKE VOLUNTARY SUBMISSION … (to oppression) …. Brethren, the time has come when you must act for yourselves …. Remember the stripes your fathers bore. Fellow men! Patient sufferers! … Brethren, arise, arise! Strike for your lives and liberties. Now is the day and the hour … It is in your power so to torment the God-cursed slaveholders that they will be glad to let you go free … But you are a patient people. You act as though, you were made for the special use of these devils. You act as though your daughters were born to pamper the lusts of your masters and overseers. And worse than all, you tamely submit while your lords tear your wives from your embraces and defile them before your eyes. In the name of God, we ask, are you men? Where is the blood of your fathers? Has it all run out of your veins? Awake, awake; millions of voices are calling you! Your dead fathers speak to you from their graves. Heaven, as with a voice of thunder, calls on you to arise from the dust … Let your motto be resistance! resistance! RESISTANCE! No oppressed people have ever secured their liberty without resistance. What kind of resistance you had better make, you must decide by the circumstances that surround you, and according to the suggestion of expediency.”
Garnett was not the only accomplished black man to boldly encourage and challenge black men to engage in the Civil War—the first war in America. About 15 years before his pronouncement, the visionary David Walker spoke up and full-throatedly proclaimed the duties of enslaved black men. He wrote an eloquent treatise entitled David Walker’s Appeal, which stirred the black man’s conscientious. He delivered/recited the treatise in a speech before the Massachusetts General Colored Association in 1828, Walker said: “Do we not know indeed, the horrid dilemma into which we are, and from which, we must exert ourselves, to be extricated? Shall we keep slumbering on, with our arms completely folded up, exclaiming every now and then, against our miseries, yet never do the least thing to ameliorate our condition …?” He added: “[I]t is indispensably our duty to try every scheme that we think will have a tendency to facilitate our salvation, and leave the final result to that God, who holds the destinies of people in the hollow of his hand, and who ever has, and will, repay every nation according to its works.”
Black men—terrorized, tormented and laid low by chains, whips and police night sticks—are not the only men who have been outwardly challenged to defend their manhood. Men of all races need a gut check when faced with big decisions, especially risky ones. In 1776, Patrick Henry encouraged his white “brethren” to risk their lives and fortunes in an all-out war against Britain. Henry told his fellow colonists that if they did not fight, they would subject themselves to “submission and slavery.” Thus, they really had no choice, he reasoned. “The war is inevitable — and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.” To Henry, the question of whether a man should fight against abusive law enforcers, which was essentially what the British soldiers were, was a no brainer. He implored his countrymen frontally, with his passionate, “radical” and thought-provoking rhetoric: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
A new wave of soul-stirring exhortations is needed today to reinvigorate the energy of the black male collective. Black men will not be fully free as long as they allow excessive law enforcement to go unchecked. Their safety, security and freedom are not guaranteed and have never been, not since they set their bare feet on North American soil. The Constitution originally labeled black men three-fifths human. Today, we are three-fifths free. As former prosecutor and author Paul Butler notes: “A black man has no rights that a cop is bound to respect.”
By and large, though there is presently an uprising by a critical mass of black people, most of us accept that living in a society which does not fully respect us is just a normal, everyday, permanent status quo thing that we must live with from the cradle to the grave. Though there is no convincing evidence that America will ever fundamentally change on her own, there are black men who believe that someday the glass ceiling will shatter miraculously.
Keep hope alive!
The cold chains that bound our forefathers’ bodies have been removed and displayed in museums. Yet, far too frequently, like 21st century overseers, racist and abusive cops harass us and at their own whim fasten new shackles on our bodies.
The choices we face are no different than that which our forefathers faced: to quietly accept second class citizenship as our permanent status in a “white man’s world” or to find a way to compel America to fulfill her promise of freedom and justice for all.
Beating in the hearts of a 1,000 plus black men I have talked to over the past 45 plus years, is a yearning to find a way to end discrimination and stop the police from abusing them. Their methods for creating change vary widely. Some do so silently, filing complaints and lawsuits, some take to the street, chanting slogans and praying. Others smash and burn police cars. Some hold prayer vigils, stage sit ins and hold town hall meetings.
Some wealthy and powerful black men, like sports legend Michael Jordan, donate huge sums of money to support police reform efforts. Other celebrities speak out at great risk to show support for the controversial Black Lives Matter movement. Still, try as they might, ultimately, and in the final analysis, there is no solution in sight. Nothing much has changed. New battles occur and the war continues unabated.
These efforts—some huge and meaningful, others minute and insignificant; some cheap and unstructured, others expensive and methodical—evidence the frustration and desperation of black men.
Unfortunately, these efforts—from burning squad cars to protests at football games to million-dollar contributions by American super stars—are not powerful enough to curtail police oppression. It is doubtful that protests and contributions will ever change the way tens of thousands of police officers view and interact with black men.
Some entrenched behaviors will be changed through symbolism and well-funded programs, others will not. Human beings are more apt to change their behavior only when there is a reasonable certainty of consequences or rewards.
Making symbolic gestures just won’t do.
A naked man is in the sanctity of his home, taking a shower in his bathroom. He lathers his face, covering it with a thick bubbly layer of soap. After rinsing off, he looks down and gasps.
A long, fat, white snake has slinked its slippery body up through the drain and is now sliding towards the man’s left ankle, fangs out and about to take a poisonous bite.
At this critical moment, the man instinctively realizes that has three choices: Move out of the way, neutralize the snake or destroy it. If he fails to take any of those options, if he just stands there frozen in fear and indecision, the snake will surely bite him and keep biting him until it gets good and ready to stop biting him.
Racist and abusive police are poisonous snakes. Black men must avoid them, neutralize them or destroy them.