“Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now’s the time for your tears.”
“The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carol” ~ Bob Dylan
When President Barack Obama was elected, I heard southerners wonder aloud if he was going to enslave white people just as white people enslaved black people for hundreds of years. Of course, their fears were outrageously exacerbated by white racists in order to put anxiety in the hearts and minds of those who believe what they hear and question nothing — just like they believe every word of the bible.
I am not sure where the idea started or why it was so believed, but I do know the people who believe statements such as that fear for their souls because of guilt.
The fear of African-Americans by white people is based on the fact white people have used, maimed, abused and, yes, murdered black people for centuries. And they know it. Those people know deep in their hearts what they have done to black men, women and children and, if things were reversed, it would cause them to hate and believe that all black people hate white people because of white people’s past deeds.
White people who hate African-Americans, for no other reason other than the color of their skin, will cite disturbing tales of black people who have perpetrated horrific acts of violence on white people as proof that no black person can be trusted. The incidences of such behavior are far outweighed by the thousands upon thousands of African-Americans killed at the hands and through the actions of white people over the last 350 years. They will also cite other demeaning and negative traits that they associate with black people, such as untrustworthy, lazy, stupid, and ready to rape white women at the drop of a hat.
In Douglas A. Blackmon’s “Slavery By Another Name” white people’s opinion of enslaved blacks prior to the Civil War was that of “dutiful”, “honest”, “trustworthy” and “loyal.” After the Civil War and ensuing freedom for 4 million African-Americans, the opinion of the ex-slaves was altered; Jim Crow laws and the systematic and systemic demeaning of African-Americans helped further the change in perceptions.
The South became a living nightmare for every black person who called the ex-Confederate States home. Jim Crow laws created a two-tier level of society and justice. A black man could be and was arrested for literally walking at night because he was black. Black men were systematically hunted down and lynched by possess of white men for any reason and no reason at all. According to the Chestnut Archives, from 1882-1968 over 3,000 black men, women and children were dragged from their homes or jail and tortured to death by mobs of white men who gleefully committed the gruesome acts in the name of their women, their country and their god.
The systematic imprisoning of black men and boys for over one hundred years for anything even remotely considered an offense — from looking at a white woman to spitting on the street — created a society that looked down upon any man of color as inferior, uncivilized and dependent on white men’s society.
The acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin was not the first time the American criminal justice system has failed the African-American community and, based on the reactions of many white people, I doubt this will be the last time a white man walks after a jury of his peers votes for an acquittal.
Trayvon Martin joins a long list of African-Americans killed by white people simply because of the color of their skin. From Hattie Carroll to Amadou Diallo, both of whom were slaughtered at the hands of unrepentant white people, far too many have died at the hands of those who felt their rights and privileges gave them the right to take a black person’s life.
The jurors who acquitted George Zimmerman seemed to only care about the defendant’s right to “stand his ground” or protect himself from the dangers of a black teenager as though Trayvon Martin was a street thug looking for trouble the night he died. And that, in and of itself, is a huge part of the problem.
Well, is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living in your American skin
“American Skin” ~Bruce Springsteen