Trayvon Martin and the Reality of the New Jim Crow System

Trayvon Martin and the Reality of the New Jim Crow System

“We want justice! No Justice, No Peace! Justice for Trayvon Martin, Now! We will not forget!” These and many other cries have begun to ring out in the past week as a result of a call from The Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network for demonstrations in the wake of Florida’s state court decision in the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman, the accused killer of Trayvon Martin. At least 101 marches took place between the release of the ‘not guilty’ verdict and July 19, 2013.Any black person worth their skin would have to be oblivious or literally on another planet, to not be privy to the immense outpouring of emotions and discontent that seems to be universal in the black community, both nationally and locally. Over the past few weeks, as the trial was unfolding, I must have had a dozen or more conversations about this case and the reactions it has elicited from my fellow people of color. {{more}}Mind you, although I have a number of white friends, this topic doesn’t seem to make for good social conversation between the races. It has been in the course of those conversations that I have begun to notice something about myself that seemed to set me apart from my conversants. I was not as emotional about this as they seemed to be. I began to ask myself: why? Was it that I don’t own a T.V. and so, I did not watch this event unfold point by point? No, because I make a conscious decision not to corrupt my thinking with television, by . to the sufferings of my people? Again, I say, No, because I have a deep appreciation for the reality of what black people in America are faced with today and a heavy sense of obligation to do something about it. What could this lack of anger be, then? As others predicted with glee, before the eventful verdict, “White folks ain’t seen nothing, yet. Our people gonna tear this place up, if they let him off.” Although, I was indifferent to such talk, I knew I wouldn’t be one of the people caught up in my emotions, running through the streets throwing things or starting fires-THIS TIME!You see I have lived through this more than once in my lifetime-and I haven’t soon forgotten what happened the last time. We went out there and acted the fool. Nothing changed! After the demonstrations, assaults, fires, police, martial law, etc., black folk were still poor, disunited, uneducated about our true past, unorganized and unprepared to do anything about the weight of the burdens of present day oppressions that were holding us down.So, this time around, I can’t, at 42 years of age, allow myself to be emotionally moved by this horrendous miscarriage of justice. But what I know and what so many of my people pretend to not know is: THERE HAS NEVER BEEN JUSTICE FOR BLACK PEOPLE IN AMERICA. ContextThis system was not designed for us to ever be free. And no amount of protesting or demonstrating, from my vantage point is going to alter that fact. America was, and still is a wealthy White man’s government, run by whites for the benefit of whites. Keep in mind, every white person doesn’t benefit, but they are MADE to BELIEVE that they do, that is the deception of White Supremacy thinking. Poor whites are just as disadvantaged under the status quo as poor blacks and Hispanics but the lies keep us divided and deluded. PunishmentPunishment for Mr. Zimmerman is nothing but a STOP GAP solution. Black people and others who are willy-nilly calling for his imprisonment would do well to examine what the last 25 years of a punitive system have done for/to the African American population. Our communities are no safer, as white folk in power promised us by sending in more police, the Weed and Seed Initiative under George H.W. Bush, Mandatory Minimums, and the War on Drugs. We are no closer to gaining acceptance in the American socio-politico-economic milieu. Such punitive rhetoric only shows how much we have, in fact, assimilated the thinking of our historical oppressors. It is because of this social value of punishment in America that so many of those in prison are from the African American male population. Let’s for a moment concede the point and say that George Zimmerman is a racist and that he should be locked up, prison would be that much more unsafe for black people, because little do many of you know, the culture of prisons is not to reform but to deform the man and the mind of its inhabitants. He going in would do nothing but further fuel the racist mindset that prevails among all the varied prison gangs that operate throughout American prison systems. He’d become a hero, a god among the white racist gangs, for killing a black man. The black gangs would have to contend with the complexity of how to ‘deal’ with him by going through those that would seek to protect him. Racism and its deleterious effects upon the human being cannot be addressed with punishment. We need education! Real education for black folk means nothing less than that which leads us toward self-determination as a people. Civil Rights or Human RightsWe are still buying into the lie that the ‘dream’ includes us. Too many of our supposed leaders are still singing those old civil rights songs and we are joining right in and are dead wrong. An example of this is Rev. Al Sharpton’s leadership for this new push for justice for Trayvon. He is problematic on several levels. The troublesome thing about the Reverend is that his efforts are primarily focused on encouraging people to push for Civil Rights charges being brought to bare upon Zimmerman, while simultaneously pressing for a reversal in “stand-your-ground” type laws. Is this the ‘real’ issue for black people? This same sort of deception occurred in times past when the masses of black folk wanted to abolish segregation, but the leaders, instead sought as their primary goal-integration. Integration was not the goal; desegregation was, according to the common folk. A new study put out by the Malcolm X Grassroots Organization has documented approximately 313 cases showing that African Americans have been killed by police, security guards or deputized citizens in 2012 alone. In the overwhelming majority of these cases the shooter has gone unpunished. However, despite that report’s devastating documentation of a similar pattern as the Trayvon Martin case, I contend that a far larger number of African American boys and men are dying by the hands of one another. Mind you, I don’t rule out extenuating factors like the affects of mis-education, oppression, and poverty on our community. These issues factor into the above described behavior. Therefore, to me these issues demand as much or more discussion.Intra-Race RelationsBlack people do not love each other, as we ought to. Our youth are programmed against themselves. Our preachers are not preaching nor teaching what we need to know about our legacy of struggle and our continued need for solidarity. Too many, before now bought into the lie that things were the way the were and nothing could be done about it, so, “If they kill themselves, they are crazy and deserve what they get, lock them up and throw away the key!” Some have been inclined to announce such words, openly, without any qualms. With the Reverend we are following the same leadership that has caused us to enter this morass. Such leadership aims to convince us that our only hope for change comes from within the system, working to be more included into the American ‘myth’ of democracy. The more radical solutions that could bear out greater results for our people are dismissed without investigation. Radical SolutionsMalcolm X typifies the radical thinkers of our past and present. His greatest tragedy was that he was a Muslim. It is for that reason that we tend to justify dismissing all that he had to offer us in the way of thinking about our problems. The man was not only an oratorical genius but also had an amazing track record of successes as a community organizer from whom we can continue to learn from today. Malcolm X in his last years exhorted us to think globally, internationally. He advised us to ally our interests with other indigenous peoples movements, that way we wouldn’t see ourselves in isolation, but as part of a worldwide effort. However, once again we are hearing views that lean more toward our past norms of isolationist thinking. We are being prodded to stay within the lines of ‘reasonable’ thinking. We are being told that we can catch this elusive rabbit of democracy and that somehow, all of our shouting, yelling, singing, and voting will result in major changes that will improve the quality of all our lives. I think the first and greatest revolution is the one that begins in our own heads. Radical change begins with radical thoughts and such thoughts grow out of free and open debate or discussion. If the only thoughts that are heard are limited to those “approved ideas” then where is the freedom we proclaim?For myself, I reserve the right to think critically. For you, the reader, I encourage you to question. Question everything. Don’t just jump on the first bandwagon, especially when you are mostly emotional at the time you are being introduced to an idea or action. I have erred in this way in times past and from this I’ve learned that true conviction comes from a joint effort between the head and the heart. Why Trayvon? Why now? Is it because the media has put a spotlight on the issue or is it because of the 911 call and its overtones of race being the motivating factor for this man’s violent act. Well, I don’t need any of these things to move me to act out on behalf of justice. All one need do is to study the conditions of my people, look back over history, up till today and what you will see is more of the same treatment we first endured as prisoners of war, captured in Africa, as indentured servants, as chattel slaves, as second class citizens, as convict leases and now as the new under caste of America within the frame of the New Jim Crow. Too many African American men have been marred by the ravages of a criminal justice system gone wild, drunk off the lustful wine of judicial and congressional powers. The only thing new in this equation is: me. I am a new creation placed squarely in the midst of the violence and unfairness that surrounds the reality of my times, and my people. The challenge is to discern what must I do to make a difference, to participate in the larger issues of my era? How can we further our long legacy of struggle for freedom?