AMERICA’S BLIND SPOT by CAMERON DUODU
As soon as I heard that a Grand Jury was to decide whether Darren Wilson, the white policeman who had shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old black youth, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, the question that arose in my mind was, “What is the racial mixture of the Grand Jury?”
The question did not arise in my mind because I am a rocket scientist. It is just that I know a bit about the nature of racism in America. This racism, very often sub-conscious and totally unrecognised by those who practise it, indicated to me that if there was a white majority on the Grand Jury, it would somehow manage to acquit the white policeman.
And yet the mainstream American media were not even saying anything about the racial composition of the Grand Jury, let alone predicting that the Grand Jury would decide the issue in such a way as to cause suspicion that its decision would be racially biased and possibly lead to riots! It was long after the Grand Jury had been composed that I learnt that there were six whites on it to three non-whites.
In a town where two out of three inhabitants are black!
Does that not flout the democratic principles upon which the United States is supposedly built?
I think the journalists who give us the bulk of the information that comes out of America are failing their country and the world. Many seem to shrink away from asking the simple but uncomfortable questions that make complex situations quite clear. If they did not live in a make-belief world that has been constructed in their own minds by the privileges they enjoy as whites, they would have sent out alarm messages to those responsible for setting up the Grand Jury, warning them: “Ferguson is a town in which about three quarters of the inhabitants are black. A Grand Jury is supposed to be representative of the people in a locality in which a crime has been committed. You simply cannot set up a Grand Jury with a white majority in such a place in a case in which a black youth has been killed by a white policeman. Remember that white policemen have been killing black youths all over the country and in inviting a biased Grand Jury verdict, you will be asking for trouble!”
But how could the media have blown the alarm on the potential threat that a Grand Jury with a white majority posed to Ferguson? After all, they had not blown the alarm over the fact that about 80 percent of the members of the police in Ferguson were white, whilst the population was 75% black. They had not sounded any alarm, either, over the fact that in such a locality, the prosecuting officials responsible for selecting the Grand Jury were white. Or that many of the important officials whose decisions affect the majority of the black populace were white.
President Barack Obama was hoisted over a horrendous petard by the trouble in Ferguson. He knew from his heart that the family of Michael Brown would be suffering terribly. It is bad enough for a black family to try raising a young man in an America where money counts and TV advertising instils envy into all young people. Brown’s family had raised him to reach the magical age of 18, at which point in his life he was supposed to begin contributing something back to his family. Now, he was dead. And most probably, not from ANYTHING he had actually done, but because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time; had been racially profiled by a racist white policeman, and been gunned down. Having grown up as a Blackman in Chicago, Obama knew the score perfectly well.
Yet what could he do? He mouthed platitudes: the American way of life was based on the rule of law, therefore the decision whether to charge the white policeman or not rested with the Grand Jury, he said. Yes, but what about the selection of the Grand Jury, Mr President? He didn’t want to go there. I have heard it suggested that he didn’t want to 1. go and visit Michael Brown’s family and 2. make any comments on the Grand Jury decision because the US Justice Department is investigating the possibility that the shooting of Brown might constitute a federal crime – in the sense that it had infringed his civil rights – and that the President must not be seen to be acting in a way that could be said to have the possibility of influencing the Federal investigation. All well and good, but what if he paid a quiet visit to the Brown family to comfort them but did not express any opinions whilst in Ferguson? Who in his right senses would blame a family man for visiting a family that had suffered a horrendous bereavement? And suppose someone blamed him – so what?
You see, if President Obama does not take care, he can go down in history as the man who salved the consciences of racists in America. For they can always boast that “a racist country could not have elected a Black President” (which is true!) whilst using that very fact to continue practising racism against blacks, especially young black men.
A non-racist America ought not to have so many black people in jail. The proportion of blacks in jail for offences which do not earn white people a jail sentence is terrifying.
A non-racist America ought not to have unemployment figures that show that blacks are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as whites.
A non-racist America also ought not to be unconcerned that blacks generally earn about one-third less income than whites.
And finally, a non-racist America must not tolerate a situation whereby, a mere telephone call from someone to a police department reporting that there is a young boy sitting on a see-saw in a park brandishing what looks like a “fake” gun, is transmuted into a racially-profiled report that says, “Dangerously-armed Blackman threatening people with gun in leisure centre; proceed with care!” And thereby, a twelve-year-old boy, just out to play in a park, loses his life.
I was incensed when I first heard reports about this particular shooting of the twelve-year-old boy. I knew instinctively that the boy must have been black, yet the BBC’s Radio 4 news programme, Today (on which I first heard the news) kept reporting that it was a “twelve-year-old boy!” This was quite clearly the sort of censorship which the mainstream American media indulges itself in, and alas, it had infected the BBC? I knew they knew that it was a black boy, for when last did the BBC hear that a 12-year-old white boy had been shot dead – whilst playing in a park – by the American police? Surely, apart from the anodyne Associated Press, there are other news sources which the BBC could have consulted before taking part in the charade that there are no racial groups in the United States, or that policemen from one race consistently victimise young people from the other race by practising a turkey shoot on them?
It is an altogether sad scenario. A country has all the ingredients that can make it great. Yet it won’t take the measures that will cement its greatness and make it permanent.
The USA ought to give black people real power by vigorously enforcing their right to vote. Then, Mayors, Police Chiefs, Governors and [elected] Judges would feel the need to make themselves acceptable to their constituencies.
The Federal Government alone can enforce the equal vote laws. It has taken upon itself, powers that enable it to apply Federal laws against terrorism in every corner of the land. But it won’t take the sort of action that will safeguard the civil right – especially the right to vote – of the very people it claims it wants so much to protect that it has had to take so much power unto itself. Including reading their emails and tapping their telephones. And going abroad to kill terrorists who might harm the American people! Protect them by fighting their would-be enemies abroad, but leave them to be gunned down by their known enemies – fellow citizens in law enforcement who are paid with everybody’s taxes? Hypocrisy of the first order.
All great nations carry within them, the seeds of their own destruction. The age in which we live makes it impossible to hide information for long, and as more and more black Americans discover the truth about their country, they could, one day, dare the privileged white minority to either massacre them en masse or restore their human rights to them in full.
Among the most important of their human rights is the right to walk their streets as free citizens without being targeted by racist policemen. The entire US national ethos is based on the notion that there can be “no taxation without representation”. Yet in many states, the police forces do not represent the taxed black populace; the school boards are also largely unrepresentative; nor are other bodies that, in a Federal Nation, ought to take account of the racial composition of the communities they are either elected or appointed to serve.
If it continues leaving things as they are, America will one day destroy itself. W E B Du Bois said, “The problem of the 20th Century is the problem of the Colour line.”Alas, it is also the problem of the 21st Century. One Black President ain’t gonna change that.