By Allen R. Gray
NDG Special Contributor
Karl Augustus Menninger believed that fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out. African Americans tried the “educated out” route to rid themselves of the thing that most immediately threatens their existence. Yet, after countless decades of protests and marches Black men and women are still dying senselessly in our streets and in their own homes at the hands of the police, who tend to strike with extreme prejudice.
It’s no mere coincidence that shouts of police injustice and cries for voting rights are synonymous during protests. Protest marches and printing slogans on t-shirts are brilliant methods of having your voice heard, but protests and catchy slogans alone are not sufficient enough to stimulate change. The only way change to a policy so deeply engrained into a government’s policy is to vote in masses to beat the policy down and out of existence. Make no mistake, what we are witnessing is an organized and concerted effort of control tactics that are exacting a policy that is a philosophical belief about how Blacks must be controlled.
Don’t be misled. The recent and repeated acts of police undue violence is not a matter of Black versus white, nor good cop versus bad cop; nor Black cop versus white cop. All cops must embrace a Blue state of mind. The killings are simply collateral damage from that Blue mindset. Being “Blue” means that police—regardless of their race—are obliged to promote a bigger mission: instill the fear factor into the minds of African American communities and they will look upon white might as the master. It isn’t a new tactic, though, the philosophy of implanting the fear factor into the psyche of African Americans is deeply woven into the American fabric.
A Northerner took an excursion to the antebellum south to visit plantations on a fact-finding mission. He wanted to know how whites could maintain control over so many Blacks for so long. A carriage ride with a plantation overseer provided him with the answer. The overseer saw a young slave girl in an area she should not have been rather than in the fields slaving. Then the overseer ordered the girl to raise her dress and lay prostrate before him. The overseer took his rawhide whip and delivered more than forty blows upon her naked flesh. When she failed to cry for mercy, the overseer gave her forty more.
“Did you have to beat her so brutally?” the Northerner asked. The overseer looked at him with a boastful smirk and told him, “If I hadn’t punished her so hard, she would have done the same thing tomorrow. The next day half the people on the plantation would have followed her example…”
A wise man once said with a litany of colorful words: he who seeks to instill fear in others is himself sorely afraid. His words proved to be prophetic because the get out of jail free card for police who have committed murder is the uttering of the words: “I was afraid for my life,” no matter how conclusive the evidence proves that a prudent man would not assume his life to be in peril.
Although, in some cases, a policeman just might be that afraid. Imagine, if you can, growing up your whole life hearing tales of an ominous and dark being that is far removed and segregated from your world. Stern warnings of a black beast that is physically superior, that moves quicker than the wind, dines ravenously on white women, and one that it takes at least seven bullets to halt. Now this “hero” finds himself dressed in blue, and it’s late at night in the neighborhood of the beast—and he’s armed with lethal weapons. His natural reaction is to shoot quick at the first sound he hears, or shadowy image he sees, or inconsequential gesture, or cell phone he thought looked liked a gun.
The flames of the fear that would cause a person to shoot reflexively and without just cause, are consistently being fanned by people by the likes of Rudy Giuliani, who said during an interview “more police officers are shot and killed by Blacks than police officers kill African-Americans.” It’s not the police that should be worried and fearful, instead, it is African Americans who should be in perpetual fear.
There were more than 1,000 unarmed citizens killed by police in America between 2013 and 2019. One-third of those killed were Black. The number of incidents of police killings of African Americans is on a troubling upward trend. More Blacks were killed by police in 2019 than were killed in 2014. It doesn’t matter whether Black victims are armed or unarmed when these incidents occur. More than any other racial group it is Blacks who are more likely to be shot, beaten, restrained, intentionally hit by a police vehicle, pepper-sprayed, tasered, choked, or knelt upon while unarmed. What is even more disturbing is that in 99% of these cases of police misdeeds the offending officer is not charged; and even less of the 1% of those who are charged are ever convicted.
It was over five months ago when three Louisville, Kentucky police officers kicked in the door of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor in the middle of the night as she lay sleeping in bed. In a matter of seconds, Taylor was shot five times and now she’s lying in her bed dead. To date, two of the three officers that committed that unthinkable act have been placed on administrative leave—which is equivalent to a paid vacation—and the third officer did lose his Louisville badge, but it is not unusual that he be handed another badge in some other city.
America’s Executive in Chief, Donald J. Trump, is also the chief prognosticator of this fear factor. When Trump is at the podium spewing his poison he sometimes sounds as eerily as Jim Jones talking Kool-aid in the final hours of Jonestown, Guyana; and Trump is as divisive as the most ardent white supremacist. The fear Trump spreads has infected generations of his most vehement followers and has polarized our nation. It is that same overseer mentality African Americans have been forced to endure for centuries that Trump preaches and promotes at the national level.
Although, there is a good reason why Trump and other like-minded individuals fight so hard to quash the vote. If Blacks begin to vote unified in full force, they will become empowered. If Blacks become empowered the fear factor will diminish. If the fear factor diminishes Blacks will see themselves as equals. And if Blacks become as equals white supremacy will be knocked from the foundation of its ivory tower.
America is sometimes referred to as the new Roman Empire. So, then, there is a lesson to be learned from a Roman protest that took place in 73 BC, where slaves rebelled against Roman oppression. It took the Romans two torrid years to suppress the uprising. The penalty for protesting the Roman government was the crucifixion of over 6,000 captured slaves. And as a show of might and to instill the fear factor into others who dared protest Roman rule, those 6,000 bodies were left hanging on 6,000 crosses along both sides of the Appian Way for a span of 120 miles—and the bodies were left there until the flesh pulled from the bones. It was all a matter of Roman policy.
Yes, shout. Continue to protest. Let your voice and demands be heard with your words. But don’t let your momentum end with mere words, and placards and t-shirts bedecked with catchy slogans. When the shouting is done, and the painted shirts have dried, galvanize your forces and march them to a polling place with that same tenacity if you truly want to see an immediate change in the policies that afflict us all as a society. Follow up that fervor that causes one to rebel against a society with a solid vote.
Words without works is dead.