Maybe I should start with an intriguing 3 subject post that deals with multi-threaded and interwoven topics of high concern and importance…
Mumia Abu-Jamal is one of the numerous African American men who have been put on death row; and not only put on death row, but put on death row unjustly due to a racist and oppressive justice system. This justice system has resulted in black men making up 40 percent of the nations prisoners whilst only making up 13 percent of the nations population. This is one of those many moments where the race card needs to be pulled from the deck and played in every hand. Mumia is a skilled award-winning Pennsylvania journalist and activist who exposed police violence against minorities and government fraud and secrecy; such as covertly tapping into the phone lines and computers of Americans. Mumia wrote many articles and produced commentary on these issues along with many others, and with the government’s secrets out, Mumia became a threat to the ‘national security’ of a quasi-democracy run on fear, white privilege, and political advantage. The Constitution is a minor obstruction that can be ignored in times of danger (Mumia).
The United States government has waved the wand of national security countless times such as in the fabricating of information about Iraq attempting to purchase uranium from Niger to construct nuclear weapons. At this stage it has been proven that this was most certainly false and that the Bush administration (run by Cheney and Rove) was only concerned with acting as an outside force in the Middle East and Southwestern Asia in order to secure western access to oil within that region. So to cover this up, the government simply made false claims then covered it with the veil of national security. Congress has passed many laws to make what is illegal, legal for the government to carry out and people like Mumia have been aware of this and made it their duty to spread the word. An intelligent black man has always been seen as a threat, therefore Mumia had to be taken out of the picture.
Mumia has been on death row since 1982 as he was wrongfully arrested and sentenced for the shooting of a police officer. Information surrounding Mumia’s case (accessible via freemumia.org) shows that there has been new evidence, including the recantation of a key eyewitness, new ballistic and forensic evidence and a confession from Arnold Beverly (one of the two killers of Officer Faulkner) which point to Mumia’s innocence; yet for the last 25 years Mumia has been locked up 23 hours a day, denied contact visits with his family, had his confidential legal mail illegally opened by prison authorities, and put into punitive detention for writing his first of three books while in prison, Live From Death Row (Freemumia.org). Any moral being should be able to take one look at this situation and clearly see that something is wrong. But in this day and age you can no longer tap people on the shoulder to raise awareness, you have to hit them over the head with a sledgehammer; and sometimes they still won’t even get it.
The lives of blacks are repeatedly cut short before even being allowed to develop and grow into fruition as more people of color live in prison cells than in college dorms. “It’s one of the great social and economic tragedies of our time,” said Marc Morial, president and CEO of the Urban League. “It points to the signature failure in our education system and how we’ve been raising our children.” (Ohlemacher). The oppression of blacks has been a never-ending story and the fight to win back our communities and liberation is one fought with great compassion and stamped with legendary regard. However, we still have a lot of work cut out for us and must continue to move forward, as today’s African American community is in a very sad state. We are bombarded on a daily basis with news coverage of gang violence, drugs, and blacks being incarcerated. All who live in the communities that are prone to house these issues can see the effects that drugs and violence have on our people.
Rap and Hip-Hop music has given Black men a voice that is heard all over the world, but for the most part it has not been used positively to help liberate and educate fellow blacks (but has been used to do so on occasion). However, it has negatively herded blacks into solely relying on the life within street culture to make a living, which is shown in William Oliver’s article The Streets. Producing rap is an art and freedom of speech does not mean being free to degrade black people. Blacks have used rap music for “Glorifying violence and drugs, placing money and material things above all others, and worst of all, depicting our beautiful Black sisters in the ugliest and most disrespectful manner”, stated congressman Bobby Rush in his speech at the Simeon Career Academy.
“Black females are your mothers, your sisters, your best friends, and your futures. Do not let anyone tell you that they are hoe’s, they are objects, that they are not worthy of anything other than your utmost love and respect. Black women are the foundation of our communities……take it upon yourself, from this moment on to stand up for them, fight for them, be their protectors. The easiest way for anybody to come in and tear our communities apart is if we, as men, fail to defend our women- our mothers and our sisters. If a white man came and said the things about our Black women that some of these rappers are saying, we would consider it an act of war against us.” – Bobby Rush
One could now pose the question of why it is that we allow this to happen rather than taking the stance of being responsible for holding each other accountable for our words and our actions. Never will anyone come in to save black communities (and we should not expect them to) if we do not take it upon ourselves to help ourselves. It is naïve and ridiculous to sit around waiting and expect the government to come in and clean things up (even though they should take action); instead, we must take the stand in working to better our situations, and restore respect and dignity to our communities.
Whites have looked down upon blacks since long before the founding of this nation, so we cannot expect the future to look much different if we do not do anything about it. There has been an unfortunate declining significance of race, which is due to the gaps in class amongst black people. “People make the claim that there is no black community and that the black middle class do not identify with blacks, but with being American” – Dr. Anthony Montero. You never hear the argument that whiteness ceases to exist but instead increases. For white America being black is a crime and is led to the solution of becoming as white as possible in your black body (Montero). This goes hand in hand with the notion of whiteness as discussed in Lucius T. Outlaw Jr.’s article, Rehabilitate Racial Whiteness and also with the notion of how white people claim ‘not to see race’; which is simply denying someone their ethnicity and denying something important about that person. To eradicate these issues blacks must help themselves, and must get involved, starting from the individual level and continuing all the way up through the family, the church, the school, and community organizations (Rush).
With blacks having to start from the bottom there has been a great amount of poverty within the black community. This leaves most of the nations wealth and money in the hands of educated whites that want nothing more than to keep their wealth and keep the gap between the rich and the poor as large as possible. Information collected by Nader.org shows that the poorest fifth of American homes earn around 3.7 of the nations wealth whilst the richest fifth earns 83 percent of the nations wealth. The top fifth of households own more than 83 percent of the nation’s wealth, while the bottom 80 percent less than 17 percent. The top 1 percent owns over 38 percent of the nation’s wealth, more than double the amount of wealth controlled by the bottom 80 percent. The top 1 percent’s financial wealth is equal to that of the bottom 95 percent (Nader). Black people have socially and economically been in the bottom fifth percent. As of 2005, unemployment rates amongst Blacks were 9.7%, compared to 4.2% for the country as a whole and the annual median income in 2003 was $30,000 for Blacks, while whites made $44,000, over $14,000 more per household (Rush). If steps toward maneuvering through this white supremacist capitalist system are not taken things will continue to stay that way and have the potential to get even worse
Discriminatory practices such as municipal redlining, mortgage steering, and denying mortgage credit to blacks has left black people inexplicably without homes, stated Congressman Rush. He pointed out that only 48.5% of Blacks own homes, compared to 70.5% of whites among households with moderate incomes and blacks are more likely to be unemployed, make less when they are employed, and are still denied loans to buy homes at a rate far lower than that provided to whites, even when they are qualified. This is all a direct result of white privilege; which allows all whites, no matter their social class, an opportunity to move up in class while blacks are stifled and kept socially immobile.
Strategies for black liberation must start in the area where there is a large inequality between African Americans and others, which is the field of education. In this area blacks have fallen far behind whites, and have even begun losing ground nationwide to Hispanics and other minorities on standardized test scores in both reading and math. But today’s black youth will in a heart beat go out of their way to attend Howard University’s homecoming, recite words to the hottest songs and be aware of all the latest fashions whilst not being aware of any social, economical of political current events or having a strong concern with achieving an appropriate education. It is sad to see that while 80% of African Americans attained high school diplomas, only 17% have a bachelor degree, and only 1% of Blacks have an advanced degree. This problem is in many ways in our control as we must make a greater effort to stress to our children the importance and value of education.
The Black Community is a long ways off from being obsolete yet far from being adequate and all of these statistics and issues formulate a very depressing picture of the black community, but hope must never be lost. Pain and suffering have always been the headline of our history in this country but we have time and time again overcome the obstacles set before for us. The problems we face are real and blacks must shake of the comfort of fantasy and deal with reality. We must stand strong and be thoughtful, meticulous, and relentless as we strive for liberation and work together for our common good and have everyone fulfill their goal. It is our duty to continue the legend of our ancestors and control our own destiny. That means, individually and collectively, we must take it upon ourselves to make a difference in our homes and our community by taking on the mind-set of Socratic thinking; as addressed by Dr. Cornell West; and striving for ideological and moral clarity.
“It took Pleasure to make me & Pain to give birth to me...” – Kev