Where to begin in discussing the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Gardner? I am beyond angry and, were it not for the fact that Jon Stewart’s withering comedic take-downs of Fox News and its mush-for-brains aficionados drive home the points I wish to make far more eloquently and bitingly than I am able to, I would have probably spontaneously combusted by now. “One minute she was yelling at white people,” witnesses would say. “Then she exploded.”
Don’t you get it, White People? Don’t you know that the sins of the father are visited on the sons? Don’t you know that we broke it, which means we’ve got to fix it? Our forefathers . . . my forefathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation and they did it with the help of a whole lot of people whom, thanks to guns, germs and steel, they enslaved and shipped over from Africa. And it wasn’t for their own good, so stop saying that! See that White House? We didn’t build it. They built it. King Cotton? They built that too.
And no sooner had we freed the slaves, than the Southern States enacted Jim Crow laws that not only guaranteed the status quo would be maintained but broke black families into pieces by incarcerating huge numbers of black men in virtual perpetuity. This is history, white people, and history matters. History is how we get from there to here and it is a road lined with hanging trees and littered with black bodies, Michael Brown and Eric Gardner’s now among them, and, guess what, folks: it’s on us!
One night thirty years ago my ex and I were walking in a deserted part of Perpignan, on the border between France and Spain, when a black man approached us, coming from the opposite direction. Frightened, we crossed the street to avoid him. The man, noting this, stopped, drew himself up straight and said with great dignity, “Pardonnez-moi. Je suis Marocain.” “Pardon me. I am a Moroccan.” We were mortified and rightly so. We had been exposed as racists and could no longer think of ourselves as otherwise. Most people of my generation . . . most Southerners are racists. It’s the way we were raised. That doesn’t mean it’s OK.
The Second Amendment — that license to slaughter — was shoe-horned into the Constitution so that Southern States could quickly suppress slave revolts when they occurred. Southerners were afraid, and rightly so, particularly in the Deep South where blacks greatly outnumbered whites. They knew that people with nothing to lose and no recourse to justice or to a better life are dangerous. Any people fitting that description, no matter their colour, are dangerous. So they sought to suppress them . . . to keep them in line, back then and just now in Ferguson, only now we let our police departments do our dirty work.
And what happened in Ferguson?
Riots. Arson. Looting.
Of course that happened! When people have no recourse to justice – as happened in Ferguson – violence erupts. You remember that little dust-up in Boston Harbor back in 1773, when dozens of colonists boarded three ships in Boston Harbor and hurled 342 crates of tea overboard . . . . and that was over the principle of self-governance, not the life of an unarmed teenager. Michael Brown has been called a thug. In my opinion it is Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Brown twelve times as he tried to escape, who is the thug. And the Staten Island police officers who choked Eric Gardner to death . . . they are thugs, too.
Very soon there will be more people of colour in the United States than white people and we’d better hope that they are more enlightened and evolved than us, because we have a whole lot of ‘splainin’ to do..