the protests ought continue until black li(v)es matter

On Tuesday afternoon, September 20, 2016, Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year old African American, was shot and killed by Officer Brentley Vinson, also an African American, of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC) Police Department.

This is irrefutable. All else concerning this tragic encounter is in dispute.

The police claim that Mr. Scott wielded a gun and refused several commands to drop the weapon. Considered an “imminent deadly threat,” Mr. Scott was shot. The police maintain that the weapon in Mr. Scott’s possession was recovered at the scene.

Mr. Scott’s family counters that he was holding a book and posed no danger to anyone.

The authorities are in possession of video footage recorded on police body and dashboard cameras. To date, it remains kept from public view, both Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney citing the necessity of maintaining the integrity of the police investigation.

Yesterday, Mr. Scott’s wife, Rakeiya Scott, released a video of the incident taken on her cell phone. Watching the video, I heard her ardent appeals to the police not to shoot her husband, telling them that he had a traumatic brain injury and had taken his medicine, her pleading with Mr. Scott “not to do it” (what “it” was being unclear), the sound of gunfire, and Mr. Scott’s fallen body surrounded by police officers.

The killing of Mr. Scott has provoked several days of protests. Charlotte Uprising, “a (community) coalition…committed to ensuring the safety of their communities…police accountability, transparency and social and economic equity,” has developed a list of ten petitions under the heading We Demand. Number 5 reads in part: “A release of the police report and body camera footage connected with the killing of Keith L. Scott…”[1]

I think the authorities ought[2] to release the police video for public viewing because I believe what’s at stake is more important than police investigative procedures. The issue is one of public trust that black lives matter enough to be protected; the reinforcement, the refurbishment of which cannot begin, much less be achieved without fullest transparency. If and until that happens, I believe the protests, peaceful and involving no harm to human life or property damage, ought continue…

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On a related note, the Republican Party presidential candidate, Donald Trump, at an evening campaign rally, coincidentally in North Carolina and on Tuesday, September 20, declared that black communities in America are “absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before. Ever. Ever. Ever…You take a look at the inner cities, you get no education, you get no jobs, you get shot walking down the street. They’re worse – I mean, honestly, places like Afghanistan are safer than some of our inner cities.”

This statement is a part of Mr. Trump’s presumed appeal to African American voters, “What have you got to lose (in voting for me)”; though oddly, I think, in this recent instance and at other times previously, proclaimed before largely white audiences.

Yes, I believe African Americans, relative to white Americans, continue to experience, to suffer disparities of opportunity and fulfillment in the vital fields of economics, education, health, and social justice.[3] Yet these substantial difficulties cannot compare to the horrors of institutional slavery and the era of Jim Crow law.

Mr. Trump has proven himself to me to have a feeble grasp of history and a more fragile hold on truth. His statement, woefully lacking in accuracy and in reality is a lie about black people and, thus, a black lie.

The protests – by all people who treasure truth – ought continue until black lies matter enough to be rejected.

 

Footnotes:

[1] See http://www.charlotteuprising.com/charlotte-uprising-information.html

[2] For me, ought, along with must and should, is always a heavily morally-weighted-and-freighted-word, inferring to do otherwise is immoral. Because this triumvirate of terms bears an unmistakable force of judgment, I use them infrequently and carefully.

[3] See The National Urban League’s Locked Out – Education, Jobs, Justice: A Message to the Next President (www.stateofblackamerca.org)

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Black Lives murder?

On Thursday, July 7, in Dallas, Texas, a lone sniper shot twelve law enforcement officers, killing five, during a protest demonstration organized by the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the police-involved deaths of two black men, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA, on July 5 and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, MN, on July 6. The Dallas assailant, Micah Johnson, cornered and refusing to surrender, before being killed by the police, while evoking the name and cause of Black Lives Matter, expressed anger about the fatal shootings of Sterling and Castile and his desire to kill white people, especially white police officers.

Detractors to the Black Lives Matter movement were swift to condemn…

On Friday, July 8, conservative radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, denounced Black Lives Matter as “a terrorist group” waging a nationwide “war on cops.”

That evening, Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska and 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate, wrote in a Facebook post: #BlackLivesMatter is a Farce and Hyphenating America Destroys Us…self-descriptions that put any race in front of being an American…further divide our nation…Shame on our culture’s influencers who would stir contention and division that could lead to evil such as that in Dallas.

Many, some more or less prominent than Limbaugh and Palin and more or less predictable in their responses in more or less similar terms, have decried Black Lives Matter from the time of its founding in 2013.[1]

I rise and write in defense (not that the movement needs my approbation) of Black Lives Matter.

In two ways.

First, by reading and reflecting on what the Black Lives Matter movement says for itself:

Who We Are: Black Lives Matter is a chapter-based national organization working for the validity of Black life. We are working to (re)build the Black liberation movement. This is Not a Moment, but a Movement.[2]

What We Believe: Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.[3]

In a recent blog post,[4] I closed:

I confess…my anger; ever a companion of my sorrow. The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are but the latest killings (murders?) that stir in my bowels my racial animus. A few years ago, I crafted a shorthand self-statement: “I am a 60+ year old African American man born and raised in America”; my Cliff Notes autobiographical testament to my ever-present lens of race through which I look at life and the world. Sadly, angrily, I see no reason to dispense with it.

In this my witness to an ineffaceable element of my ontology, I laud Black Lives Matter’s self-profession.

Secondly, I voice my support of Black Lives Matter as I look back, through my lens of race, at a slice of relatively recent history…

In 1954, author Richard Wright published Black Power, in which, chronicling his journey to Africa’s Gold Coast (later, Ghana), he extols the virtues of the possibility of a people’s empowerment.

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his iconic I Have a Dream speech in which he sorrowfully noted that 100 years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, “the Negro still is not free” and, thus, declaring, in part, “I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. One day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’” King, at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, calling for equal rights for blacks, also championed the phrase, “Freedom Now!”

In the latter 1960s, Black Power was the core political slogan of Stokely Carmichael (later, Kwame Turé), a chief organizer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, who uttered it as a statement of solidarity for all who yearned to bring into the present that then still long future day of collective black econo-socio-political might.

During this same period, Black is Beautiful, from the writings of South African activist Steve Biko, became a rallying cry in America for all who sought to dispel racism’s stigma, both imposed and internalized, of the inborn ugliness of black folks’ physical features. Black is Beautiful, coupled with economic empowerment, was a hallmark of the preaching and teaching of human rights advocate and martyr, Malcolm X.

In 1968, the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, sang, shouted, “Say It Loud, ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud’”; the song becoming an unofficial anthem of the Black Power movement.

In 1969, singer, songwriter, and civil rights activist, Nina Simone, produced “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”, encouraging black youth to embrace their God-given graces.

Following King’s assassination, his wife and fellow civil rights activist, Coretta Scott King said:

Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation. That is what we have not taught young people or older ones for that matter. You do not finally win a state of freedom that is protected forever. It doesn’t work that way.

From Black Power to “I Have a Dream” and Freedom Now! to Black is Beautiful to “Say It Loud, ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud’” to “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” to, now, Black Lives Matter – all bespeak the labor of liberation from a culture of oppression and devaluation.

Amen, Coretta, a luta continua…

 

Footnotes:

[1] On February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida, Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. On July 13, 2013, Zimmerman was acquitted of second degree murder and manslaughter. In reaction to what was and is perceived as the systemic devaluing of black lives, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi founded Black Lives Matter; the movement becoming nationally recognized through organizing street demonstrations following the 2014 deaths of two black men at the hands of police, Eric Garner on July 17 in New York City and Michael Brown on August 9 in Ferguson, Missouri.

[2] http://www.blacklivesmatter.com

[3] Ibid.

[4] fatal encounters…again and again, July 7, 2016