A Personal Missive on Race

Violence Against Black Americans: In History and the Future

Mrs. Kathryn Wright

I am moved to contribute my opinion as a Black American on what it will take to prevent these epic racial incidents over whites killing a Black—usually the cops, but not always—every few months. This latest execution by Derek Chauvin et al was a step-up in viciousness and callous disregard displayed by cops against a Black citizen.

The casualness of Chauvin, Kueng, Lane, and Thao in the killing of Mr. George Floyd was exceptional because there was time for Chauvin, et al, to make a different decision.  You would think that if you perceived that you were dealing with a human being, you would have noticed:

  • the pettiness of the charge
  • the fact that Mr. Floyd was not resisting
  • the awareness that cell phones were filming, and
  • the poignant pleas of Mr. Floyd and, indeed, bystanders.

These factors would/should have prevented the normal person from engaging in life-threatening, unnecessary restraint techniques.  After all, Mr. Floyd was

  • on the ground,
  • on his stomach, with
  • hands cuffed behind.

Respect for humanity and respect for life should have encouraged the other three cops to intervene verbally and then physically if their requests were ignored. Deal with the consequences later, but intervene to save a human life now!  Is the worst that could have happened worse than what did happen?

The whole world is resonating with this USA incident.  Cops are still off the leash, acting viciously and with hatred toward demonstrators.  Some demonstrators have been killed and many have been hurt because cops are angry and upset with the demonstrators for…demonstrating!

Ordinary citizens are also upset with the idea of racial justice, e.g., the Maryland man who stopped his bike ride to get off and assault a teen girl because she was distributing literature about racial justice. 

We have these epic racial incidents regularly, and they always are associated with an unjust killing of a Black citizen, an act that is so blatantly lacking in any respect for the Black person killed. The end result is that after much demonstrating and conversations the nation engages in a Kumbaya moment, then Black citizens feel like perhaps this is the beginning of real change, and then life resumes, even after a “not guilty” verdict is brought by a jury.

America has a race problem. The fact that we are loath to bring it out in the open, unpack it, do what is require, and then move forward, is killing Black people and turning white racists into monsters.

For some reason, a so-called Christian nation decided that it was appropriate to go to the African Continent, steal (kidnap) people, subject them to the Middle Passage (another horror), and bring them to USA to be treated like cattle and worked like mules. (I used the cattle metaphor because dogs, the usual phrase, have it 10 times better than those slaves.) Everybody worked from sunup to sundown: men, women, children and seniors.

Then, after all this work, the women were subjected to sexual exploitation by the owners. After all, this is what you can count on when men own women as slaves and the owner becomes the sole arbiter of justice.

Working, being sold, having wives, husbands and children (many of whom were the progeny of the slave owner), being sold, beaten, and sexually exploited was the soundtrack of Black Americans' lives for another 200-plus years.

Let’s insert here the Civil War that was fought because the North determined that USA should really not be engaged in crimes against humanity by enslaving humans, but the South was absolutely okay with it—more than  okay: they chose to separate rather than let go of enslaving people.  The North said no and thus a war was fought to continue enslaving Black people

The North won but the weaving-in of and help for these recently released slaves did not materialize.  The immediate “weaving in” was that former slaves could serve in the Union Army.  This was USA’s way of using these poor people once again. 

The biggest help to salty [informal meaning bitter], resentful southern planters was the institution of Jim Crow laws.  These laws helped planters get what used to be slave labor from the same ex-slaves, only they were not required to pay them because they had been jailed for loitering (a Jim Crow law), and so they were required to work (for the former slave owner) to pay for their meals served to them in jail—the beginnings of mass incarceration. 

I won’t go through Black Americans’ long sordid history with white America. I will say that to justify its existence and its acquisition of all this equipment for war against its own citizenry, USA has been duped by police to think that Black citizens (still) need to be controlled and that we Blacks pose a greater risk to public safety than anyone. This false premise has been backed up by cops perpetrating this false narrative in order to justify acting like mad dogs when they approach Black citizens for anything and everything.  We have had to put up with and accept the most barbaric behavior from cops and whites. Many of these acts result in Black citizens being killed, cops using the killing to re-enforce their dialog about Blacks, and juries swallowing the Kool Aid.  Here I could insert a long list of names of individuals killed by cops…not for murdering someone and not even for being officially charged of a crime. These poor citizens died from the approach of the cops!  A whole host of whites, mostly women, have copied this technique—we’ve all seen them on social media trying to control Black citizens by threatening and calling the cops.

What I will say is that since the Civil War was fought, many whites have been salty and resentful towards the North and black Americans, and resentment towards the latter was displayed by the lynching of Black people by vicious white mobs with impunity.  This continued through the 40s and 50s and seemingly through this very day if we include the two hangings in California since Mr. George Floyd’s death. 

Black Americans have fought in every war America has been involved in since the Revolutionary War.  Even after fighting for America in foreign lands, Black soldiers returned to the same ol’ prejudices and tight controls whites insisted on exacting, not allowing distinguished service in the US Military to make any dent in their vicious, salty, discriminatory ways.

The 50s were bad, and in the 60s, some Black leaders felt it was time to be more aggressive about equal rights for all Americans.

This ushered in the Civil Rights movement.  Again, whites were salty and resentful and were not willing for black Americans to peacefully protest for their constitutional rights.  Black citizens endured water hoses, trained police dogs released on demonstrating crowds, and killings which went unsolved.

In recent years, we’ve resorted to Kumbaya moments. But these Kumbayas do not change the fundamental underlying issue, namely many white people believe we Black citizens need to be controlled because we have been their victims for centuries—victims of slavery that whites imposed on our ancestors. That’s victim blaming.

America has never engaged in coming to terms with or confessing what USA did to Africans and black Americans. That is the real problem.

If you have any belief in redemption, you know that confession removes the condemnation against the perpetrator—not the consequences. But the condemnation stops when you man-up and take responsibility.  That act helps you to plot a better course for yourself in the future.  This allows constructing a future not tied to past bad decisions because you acknowledged your past actions were wrong.  You construct a future for yourself aware of the holes you stepped into in the past.

These are the steps to finally stop the legacy of the crimes against humanity the institution of slavery was and still is.

Legislation is required to break the power that police unions have leveraged for themselves and to make it a crime of equal seriousness if cops stand by and allow maltreatment of anyone by a fellow cop.

These demonstrations have brought out the very behavior in cops that reflect the USA’s problem.  USA has not manned-up about the horrors of enslaving Black people.  USA has not manned-up about the huge boost this country received from the free labor they received from those Blacks they stole from their countries of origin.  USA has not manned-up about the way slavery enabled the country to be what it is today and has been for over 200-plus years, namely: the #1 country in the world in everything that matters, in order to make life pleasant for Americans—except (guess who?) the descendants of those people, whose sacrifice while enslaved, enabled this nation to become great in the first place. 

The namby-pamby, Kumbaya, let’s love each other business is a fake response because it does not address the problem. It only puts another coat of paint on a stench that must, by now, reach heaven.

There is work to be done that should have been done years ago, and to delay doing this work will be at the country’s peril.  This is not rocket science, nor trailblazing. USA recognized its criminality towards Japanese citizens which lasted a few years. What about a few centuries of enslaving a people?

I am 72 years old and since the inception of my schooling I have diligently been required to rise and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, despite the fact that neither my grandmother, nor my mother, nor I, nor my children, nor my grandchildren have ever remotely felt that  this was something that applied to Black people.  Nevertheless, we did it. It was only when Colin Kaepernick opted to kneel at repetitions of allegiance that clearly did not apply to Black citizens as demonstrated by the long list of Black citizens killed by white cops  (and by regular ol’ whites) with impunity, that I stopped pledging.  72 years old puts me out of the kneeling category.

It is my belief that we will remain in this bad cycle of revisiting horrific incidents involving the killing of African Americans with even more regularity. Are we prepared to recycle through this over and over again?  What might the next incident look like?  Do Americans believe that slavery was a crime against humanity?  Do Americans believe that USA needs to repent its involvement in trafficking Africans and enslaving Black people for centuries?  Can we be a world leader and yet have our slavery participation remain unaddressed and unresolved? Can black citizens live?  Can black citizens too enjoy Peace? Can black citizens breathe in USA?