The president said the criminal justice system is unfair to Blacks, that they are imprisoned unfairly and sentenced far longer than others, and these injustices breed yet more crime that is punished unjustly in a vicious, never-ending cycle. President Obama said we are not in a post-racial society, that racism is alive and well in the United States of America.
You didn’t hear him say all that? But he did in his address to the nation after the verdict clearing George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case, in hesitant, halting, seemingly off-the-cuff terms, but in reality anything but, with his eyes rarely, if ever, looking into the camera. Was he indignant, or afraid of boldly stating these truths or both?
The Black male image is frightening, and so was he afraid of scaring the country if he assumed the normal stance of a person speaking forthrightly, and at the same time angry that he felt he had to be reticent so as not to offend the sensibilities of those who never feel the terrors of race?
That is why Trayvon Martin was shot and killed, because of the image that others, one deadly other in particular, had of him, and that is why George Zimmerman walked.
How do you tell a Black youth that he must not respond like any other man to a policeman who is being verbally abusive, if, that is, we are truly equal under the law? But you do tell him to defer to his aggressor because you know that, as the Trayvon Martin case proclaimed, we are not equal under the law. And you want to see your son, nephew, neighbor, cousin, student or friend, come home safe and sound.
The image of the Black man is so terrible in the eyes of many that the first time it strutted across the stage, it was as a white man in Blackface in the old time minstrel shows. Eventually Blacks themselves blackened their faces and played the fool. Thus began American show business and the music industry. Bert Williams is the Father of all the standup comics, Paul Robeson the iconic model for all singers. The film Birth Of A Nation (1915), which glorified the Ku Klux Klan, was the first full-length motion picture, The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson in blackface, the first motion picture with sound. And Gone With the Wind (1939), a retelling of Birth Of A Nation, was the highest grossing Hollywood film for 40 years.
Elvis Presley’s entire career was a minstrel-like imitation of Chuck Berry, the same is true for every non-Black rock singer the world has ever seen. The image of the Black man, though feared, is faithfully copied in his dress, speech and song even by those who cower and distance themselves from it the most.
Those at the bottom in society play the most important role, for it’s on their shoulders that the superstructure, that is the wealth, the power and above all the culture of the society rests. The Trayvon Martin case is a watershed moment. Just like the Dred Scott Case presaged the Civil War and the Emmitt Till Case foreshadowed and inspired the Civil Rights Movement. The Trayvon Martin Case has awakened the Sleeping Giant. No one can save us, but us. Others can help, but we must take action if we are to survive and thrive. A good place to start is to boycott Florida, not just our entertainers, but all of us. . .
( Arthur Lewin, www.AfricaUnlimited.com )