Friday, November 28, 2014

Michael Brown's Death = Racism?

       Was Michael Brown killed in Ferguson Missouri because he was black? That is a difficult question to answer. First of all I don't personally know either Michael Brown or Officer Darren Wilson, the man who shot him to death. Second, I was not there to witness the struggle between the two provided according to Officer Darren Wilson's testimony. What I and most people living in America know is that racism between white and black Americans has been going on in this country for a long time. Slavery first began in America in 1619 when Africans were shipped down to Jamestown, Virginia in order to help settlers with the production of such lucrative crops as tobacco (http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/slavery). From that time until present Africans, Black Americans, Caribbeans, black people from all over the globe have struggled with White Americans as well as other races to be treated fairly in this country.
     Since the Rodney King's LA beatings I have read and paid special attention to articles as well as news events of incidences involving police nistreatment of black people living in America. A USA Today article reported that a black man was killed by a white officer in America an average of twice a week during a seven year period ending in 2012 (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/14/police-killings-data/14060357/). On average there are 96 incidents of white officers killing black men among 400 incidences that were reported to the FBI by the local police. Since Michael Brown 14 teens have been killed by police officers, six of them are black (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/11/25/the-14-teens-killed-by-cops-since-michael-brown.html). Some of them were discovered to be simply carrying a BB gun. I, myself have had personal encounters with police officers, one where I was followed around and questioned while walking around a white neighborhood in a Chicago suburb. There was no physical altercation but I do remember feeling irritated about the officer's decision to begin questioning my intentions when I did not believe I gave anyone any reasons to believe I was in the pursuit of any kind of mischief.
       Sadly, I see no reason for this pattern of blacks being mistreated by white officers to change anytime soon. Nor do I see a lessening of the anger black people, especially young black men have towards white cops. The anger African-Americans have toward white police officers is deeply rooted. The fury is rage stemming from the days of slavery when blacks were regarded as 3/5s of a man. Of course this is no excuse for men to be setting police cars on fire and engulfing hard working families' business in flames. But the anger has a  psychological and social source that needs to be dealt with in a fair and serious matter.
       One means of settling the enmity is for the United States government to give African Americans a sincere apology. African American ancestors were forced to leave their homelands in order to work in a far away place where they were greatly mistreated, disrespected, and forced to endure hard work without receiving any pay. An apology can work wonders even for the most grievous sins. Second the president along with the government, religious, and civil rights leaders should discuss some kind of financial repayment of Black Americans for all the hard work their ancestors had done. The black slaves did a lot of work for this country. America's rise to prominence in this world is highly due to the free labor the country and many of its citizens were provided for hundreds of years. Imagine a country, an entire southeastern region able to develop and produce a very crucial money maker for its people, cotton, while not having to pay a dime toward the workers slaving hours night and day in order to make it happen. Add the maids, butlers, babysitters, workers harvesting sugar cane, planting and harvesting rice, weavers, carpenters, tobacco farmers, dairy workers, railroad builders and one could build multiple corporations and various businesses. The work and responsibility forced upon the back of African American slaves was tremendous and all of this  was provided for free. The amount of uncompensated labor would likely total to at least billions. No wonder America developed so fast. No wonder this country has been so prosperous. Imagine if the United States and its companies were able to mine and transport coal for free today. Imagine if  America allowed businesses like Burger King and Target to force workers to sell their products without having to provide them any wages or merely paying each worker something like $2.13 an hour. What if professional teams like the LA Lakers or Chicago Bears were allowed to force big time players to fill their stadiums each game while paying minimum wages. These companies and their owners would be colossally, mega rich. Money that would be transferred and shared amongst relatives, friends, nearby businesses. This is close to they type of atmosphere American land owners, company owners, businessmen, and the country's economy thrived in during the slavery era. Many companies and politicians would balk at such an idea but if one was serious about America working together and being as one then such or similar plans must be considered.
       Another means of pacifying African Americans anger is for the government to recreate a system in each major American city where law enforcement and the court system is being watched closely and held accountable for their actions. Obviously much of the people living in this country do not trust the police, the government, and the court system. Some of it is due to paranoia and individuals in various American neighborhoods living a dirty lifestyle but much of the lack of trust is also because of a many misdeeds like Michael Brown's wrongful death in the hands of an officer and the recent occurrence of a 12 year old black boy who was killed in Cleveland by an officer who mistook the toy gun he was waving around for a real firearm. The repeated denial of responsibility by law enforcement agencies, the court system, and the government can no longer continue. The evidence of the mistreatment of black people especially young black men is obvious. Michael Brown did not have to die. Was he a good example of an obedient, well mannered, studious young citizen, perhaps not. Did he deserve to die in the matter that he did in the hands of an officer, no. Shoot to kill and ask questions later is not the job of a police officer. At least not in this country. The police force is not supposed to resemble a gang of vigilantes. That is why there is a court system, with judges and attorneys. Regard each individual, black, white, Asian, Indian with respect, never prejudge, and most importantly hold each person accountable for his or her actions. Such a change of behavior can only occur with a true showing of outward repentance that can be easily seen and measured.

                                                       References
Johnson, K., Hoyer, M., & Heath, B, (2014) Local Police Involved in 400 Killings Per Year. USA Today, Retrieved November 26, 2014 from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/14/police-killings-data/14060357/
Strochlic Nina (2014) The 14 Teens Killed by Cops Since Michael Brown. The Daily Beast, Retrieved November 26, 2014 from http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/11/25/the-14-teens-killed-by-cops-since-michael-brown.html