“I swear to the Lord, I still can’t see,
Why Democracy means, Everybody but me. ”
~ Langston Hughes
When I read these words spoken more than half a century ago by Langston Hughes, I think that it is unconscionable to observe that in 2012 very little has changed. During the era of slavery, slave codes were enacted to dictate what was permissible by slaves as well as the slave owners. Whipping of slaves, a form of punishment which sometimes resulted in death, was a violation protected under the codes. If a slave owner or even an overseer killed a slave in the course of “chastising” him/her it wasn’t a crime punishable by law; after all slaves were merely property — in fact they weren’t even considered whole persons.
The laws have been changed and amendments have been made but the spirit remains the same. Black men are still game to be gunned down and murdered in cold blood with no consequence. Nineteenth century slave owners have morphed into 21st century policemen; justifiable homicide is the modern-day terminology for lynching unarmed Black males. No provocation is needed and no amount of evidence, video recordings or eyewitnesses have any bearing.
Such was the case with Amadou Diallo, Rodney King, Sean Bell, Aaron Campbell, Steven Washington and, more recently, Kenneth Chamberlain. On November 19, 2011 White Plains, NY police, responding to a medical alert pounded down the door intruding into the home of 68-year-old retired Marine Kenneth Chamberlain, stunned him with a taser then subsequently shot him to death. If that weren’t egregious enough the grand jury after hearing the case found the officers in question acted reasonably. Pardon my French, but WTF?!
It is one thing to be murdered by trigger-happy cops during a traffic violation or even outside a night club in an infamous neighborhood. But for an innocent citizen, not wanted for any crime to be gunned down in the privacy of his own home? There is no greater atrocity. And for the grand jury to grant these police officers a go-to- jail pass is further indication it is open season on Black men.
The harsh reality is that it has always ben open season. Nothing has really changed, except the context. A hundred years ago angry white men dressed in white sheets and carrying rifles gathered outside a Black man’s home screaming “nigger come out” set the house afire, lynched, mutilated and hung him. In 2011 angry white men dressed in blue uniforms carrying shotguns stand outside a Black man’s home screaming “I don’t give a f**k, nigger“, break the door down, shoot him with a taser then twice in the chest with a shot-gun — killing him. In both scenarios no one is arrested, charged nor sentenced. No surprise, it is after all, open season on “niggers”. Always has been.
Author’s Note: I wish to make it adamantly clear I do not support or condone the use of the word “nigger” by any group of people or in any context. I believe it to be the most racially charged word in the history of mankind. I consciously chose not to write “The N-word” as I feel this sanitizes the word and lessens its abhorrence. In spelling this word out, my intention was to fully expose the ugliness of this word and was in no manner to offend any persons, especially those of African descent.
Mikki Israel is an American-Israeli or Israeli-American, depending on the circumstances. Mikki currently resides in Israel but comes to the U.S. whenever Israelis become too annoying, then returns after the Americans have become a headache. She is a freelance writer for whatever media outlet is brave enough to print the news — minus the spin.