It seems hardly a week goes by without another report of a seemingly innocent, unarmed Black male being killed by the police. I have written several columns about this issue and have received harsh criticism for writing them.
You have had recent killings by the police of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, Oscar Grant in Oakland, Ezell Ford in Los Angeles and now Freddie Gray in Baltimore, just to name a few.
In many instances, police are shown to be guilty of using excessive force against Blacks; but based on the way local and state laws are written, an overwhelming amount of deference is given to the police. The legal standard in most cases to justify using deadly force is “a reasonable fear for one’s life.” Legally, that is an extremely low bar to meet.
So, Blacks must come to terms with this simple adage of the streets, “it’s not what you know, but what you can prove.” Most Americans will confess that many of these policemen are out of control; but based on the law, the police can easily justify their actions.
This issue is easy to deal with; it‘s just a matter of getting consensus regarding what changes need to be made legislatively.
The more complicated issue that no one seems to want to deal with is the issue of what I call “Black culpability.” What is it that we, as Blacks, are doing to create an environment where Black lives are so devalued that we are viewed as expendable?
Here is an excerpt from a column I wrote last year during the Ferguson uprising.
“For the past 30 years, we have created images of Blacks in the most negative of lights. For those who would say it’s just music, it’s just a movie, it’s just a reality TV show; I say now there is just another Black body lying in the streets of America.
Before you go to war, the first thing that is needed is to create a psychological operations campaign (psy-ops). This is a tactic that the military uses to marginalize its targeted population so that when the troops are sent in to destroy this group, there is no public outcry.
Just look at how the U.S. military vilified and demonized former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and terrorist Osama Bin Laden before we set out to kill them. Upon their deaths at the hands of the U.S. military, the American people cheered because we had devalued and marginalized them before the American people.
I can’t help but ask the Black community, have we unleashed a psy-ops campaign on our own people?
In the horror movie series Frankenstein, Dr. Frankenstein did not set out to create a monster; but rather he was a scientist playing around in his laboratory. As a result of this experimentation, he created a monster that neither he nor society could control.
In a similar manner, one could argue that Blacks, specifically in Hip-Hop, have experimented in the laboratory called a recording studio; and by exercising their First Amendment Right of freedom of speech and expression through music, they have created their own version of Frankenstein.
In the beginning, like with Frankenstein, people marveled at this new creation and people were willing to pay to see and hear it. There was “Rappers Delight,” there was “The Message,” and there was “Fight the Power.” Then, the imagery and lyrics took a twisted turn under a perverted interpretation of the First Amendment called “keeping it real.”
Now, the establishment, especially the police, had become the enemy. Hip-Hop became a counter-culture movement that turned into a monster that could no longer be controlled. Women became “bitches and hoes,” men became hyper-sexualized thugs who were only out to force themselves on your daughters and to “get rich or die trying.” When rap music started, it was a verbal extension of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s in the spirit of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; it was about the uplifting of our community and providing a voice to those often without a voice.
Then in the 1990s, rap took a more militaristic tone with the creation of “gangsta rap.” This too, was a verbal extension of the Civil Rights movement; but more in the spirit of Malcolm X on steroids. These artists represented those in the “hood” who felt trapped and abused by the system. They felt like no one cared about them and that life was about the here and now – immediate gratification; so screw the future. They wanted to “get theirs now.” They wanted to live fast, even if it meant dying young.
This ultimately led to the “thug” culture, personified by hit movies like Scarface, New Jack City and Carlito’s Way; each glorified the criminal lifestyle.
Then you had the crack epidemic of the 1990s with the violence that it brought into the hood. All these factors combined to create a narrative that Black life was worthless and Black youth brought no value to society.”
So again I ask the Black community, what have we done to make our lives so worthless in the eyes of the public? I think this is a conversation worth having.