I love the black men in my life. They are my brothers, my nephews, my cousins, my best friends. When they hurt, I hurt. We hurt. And once again, we find ourselves deeply hurting from a socially-constructed wound of perpetual, centuries-long injustices -- a wound that has never been allowed to heal. In fact, the near daily reminders of race-based indignities, injustices, inequalities and conflict simply serve to re-traumatize the deeply pervasive spirit-based wound of oppression.
As an older sister, I have always prided myself on being the one my brothers come to for answers about the sometimes complicated "heart" issues of life. Recently however, I found myself at a complete loss for answers when one of my brothers called with questions fueled by deep pain, frustration and angst about the seeming epidemic number of deadly assaults on unarmed black men by law enforcement officers in this country. It was shortly after watching the video of Walter Scott being tracked and killed by a police officer in South Carolina that my brother phoned with a series of questions that I so desperately wished to answer, but I could not.
It wasn't that I couldn't speculate at the answers to my brother's questions; after all, they were easy enough: "Where are our leaders? Why are people so focused on being "politically correct" that they refuse to address the realities? What are our politicians doing? What can I do, and would it matter?" Sure, I could have conjectured responses. But I could not answer because on a deeper level I knew that those were not my brother's real questions. He wanted to know: Will the oppression ever end? Will black lives ever receive the respect we so deserve? And he wanted me to help ease his deep sense of helplessness to fix something that has been broken for far too long. In the end, I told my brother what I have always argued and advocated for: Peace begins with truth. And until all Americans are willing to acknowledge the truths, accept collective responsibility, and implement sustaining structural changes, our nation's addiction to racism will remain a plague.
In many societies, police violence is a state-sanctioned occurrence associated with often unspoken historical, institutional and cultural arrangements. For this reason, one of the most frequently reported types of human rights violations occurring throughout the world has involved the protracted abuse of citizens at the hands of police officers. In fact, much has been made of police violence in countries like Guatemala, South Africa, Chile, Mexico, and Brazil. Historically, the United States too has a centuries-long record involving the state-sanctioned police brutality of blacks. The fact that there is no "official record" of the number of violent and deadly police interactions with persons of color in this country is no mistake; for many Americans this legitimized oppression is too shameful to document in a nation that prides itself on exceptionalism. Ultimately, if America is to be truly exceptional, the truth must be told.
In his remarks during an interview on MSNBC, Feidin Santana -- the courageous young man who filmed the video of Walter's Scott's assassination made profound statements that all Americans need to take note of. Mr. Santana, whose home is the Dominican Republic, noted that in his country people look up to America. In fact, he indicated that the world looks up to America, and that the police violence that the world is seeing should not be happening in America.
It is unfortunate, yet very clear that crimes against humanity do happen in America, and they have been occurring here for centuries. In fact, such crimes were formally acknowledged by the U.S. government over six years ago when Congressional leaders issued House Resolution 194 (HR 194) and Senate Resolution 26 (SR 26) apologizing to African Americans for crimes against humanity committed in this nation and committing to rectify present-day consequences of those crimes. Yet today, no steps have been taken to act on these apologies in a nation that still demonstrates too little respect for black lives.
One would think that at the very least the world community would be outraged at the long list of enduring atrocities perpetrated against blacks in America. Instead, the politics of distraction successfully leads attention away from what occurs in the U.S. to focus on inhumanity in those nations beyond America's borders. And even in this age of social media where at the touch of a button what goes on in small-town Nebraska is broadcast in small-town Nuremberg, I must ask where is the world when the collective of humanity is so needed to help end police violence against blacks in America?
It occurs to me that maybe "the world" is where it has always been when it comes to America: reticently watching, and silent -- too silent. After all, it is true that for blacks in America the world has for the most part been mute and hushed. From the centuries-long race-based tyranny of slavery, through post-slavery terroristic experiences of peonage, convict leasing, Klan night rides and a legalized Apartheid called "Jim Crow," the world has been inaudible. And now today, amidst the pandemic of unarmed black men being killed by police at alarming rates in this country the international community is still for the most part, silent. Even the United Nations is not and has never actively advocated on behalf of human rights for blacks in America. But there are steps that those within the black community can take.
First, we must call on the U.S. Congress to act on HR 194 and SR 26 to rectify the continued consequences of racism in America. We must urge our leaders to invest in truth-telling, peace-building and healing initiatives to account for this nation's admitted atrocities. Second, we must call on those African Americans with financial resources to invest monies in organizations and grassroots programs working to infuse targeted community-building, healing and reconciliation. And third, we must individually work within our families and communities to teach our children the values of self-love and self-respect so that we will more actively demonstrate love and respect for each other.
We -- African Americans, are indeed a resilient people. We are the sons and daughters of the strongest of the strongest who survived the Middle Passage. We are the descendants of the most determined men and women who withstood powerful aggressions to usurp their dignity, undermine their humanity and seize every sense of security to remain steadfast, to persevere, and to triumph. We are the progeny of courageous, resolute and tenacious ancestors who did not let the cruelty of a nation's policies, practices and penchants for oppression defeat their fortitude. So we have traveled this road before, and we will stay the journey -- even without the world in our corner, we will not relinquish from the cause to give our children and theirs a better America.
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