Somehow, it seems that the United States simply cannot overcome its racial problems. The shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer last week in Ferguson, Missouri, is a tragic example of this. This tragedy triggered another riot in Ferguson and clashes with the police reminiscent of the civil rights struggle of the 1960s in the South, where police use water hoses and police dogs to control black protesters.
The racial problem in America has a long history dating back to the days of slavery. In 1923, Jamaican-born pan-Africanist Marcus Mosiah Garvey, during his self-defense in his mail fraud trial in the United States court, made a prediction about the race to court. This is what he said when he asked the rhetorical question about race:
What are you going to do about this race question? You can sit quietly, but it will be serious later on and that is why the Universal Association for the Improvement of the Negro strives to help you solve the problem of blacks, helping the black to become entrepreneurial, politically independent and having a country. on your own. If you follow me through the ages, you will see that 100 years from now you will have a terrible racial problem in America, when it will have increased and the country will be overcrowded. It will be a struggle for existence between two opposing races. The weak will have to be defeated before the strong. In the riots in Washington, East St. Louis, Chicago, Tulsa, study the racial question and you will find that serious thought must now be given to solving this problem; otherwise, our children will face it.
One hundred years from the time Garvey made these comments will come in 2023, just nine years away, and America still has a serious racial problem. In his prediction, Garvey referenced riots that occurred in four areas of the US Since then, the pattern of unrest triggered by racial issues has continued to plague American society.
Although racism perpetrated by social institutions has decreased, the criminal justice system appears to be resisting changes to improve the unequal treatment of blacks. Blacks receive harsher sentences compared to whites who commit the same crimes and are described by law enforcement as suspects and criminals.
In the past two months, the nation has been subjected to four disturbing incidents by police (and one would-be cop) using deadly force or excessive force on blacks. These four incidents sparked the usual frenzy of media coverage and the typical pattern of discussion about racism: denial and accusations. The first incident occurred on February 26, 2012 and involved the murder of seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida by aspiring police officer George Zimmerman. Before chasing down Martin and fatally shooting him, Zimmerman made some racially stereotypical comments about the teenager. Police questioned Zimmerman the night of the murder, but he was not arrested until several weeks after the incident began to get national media coverage. Zimmerman was acquitted based on Florida’s “Defend Your Position” law.
The second incident, which was videotaped, showed a white California Highway Patrol officer astride a woman and punching her in the face. This incident occurred on July 1, 2014 on the shoulder of a busy freeway in Los Angeles. The victim was Marlene Pinnock, an unarmed fifty-one-year-old black woman. His merciless beating was not what one would expect a man to do to a woman. Apparently, the patrol officer didn’t care that it was an unarmed woman. The fact that a law enforcement officer gives a woman the type of beating shown on the videotape raises several disturbing questions about the attitude of police officers toward blacks.
The third incident occurred in New York also on July 21, 2014 when several police officers detained Eric Garner, an unarmed black man. During a police confrontation with Garner, a police officer strangled him and with the help of other officers knocked him to the ground. Police officers continued to use unnecessary force to restrain him. Garner, asthmatic, was in anguish and moments later he was dead.
The fourth incident, that of Michael Brown, occurred last week in Ferguson, Missouri. The teenager was fatally shot while trying to escape after an altercation with a police officer. Shot in the back, Brown raised both hands to show he was unarmed. However, the police officer allegedly fired several more shots at Brown’s body, killing him on the spot.
Because these incidents involve black people and occurred in different regions of the country, it is concluded that law enforcement’s treatment of black people is a national problem. It is an issue that requires law enforcement to evaluate their training program and possibly implement training on the use of lethal force and their attitude toward blacks, especially young blacks.
In the last five decades, a series of events have occurred that should have given the United States the opportunity to reconcile itself to its racial problem. Dr. Martin Luther King, the fight for civil rights followed by your “I have a dream” speech is one such event. Rodney King’s famous comments (he was brutally beaten by the police in 1992), “Can’t we all get along?” It was another moment that gave America the opportunity to look into its soul. Then there was the 9/11 tragedy that was fueled by the hatred of extreme Muslims linked to al Qaeda. This tragic act of terrorism should have caused the United States to look at its own internal hatred and should have helped to unite all Americans. The United States cannot afford to condemn the hatred of foreigners and at the same time continue to practice racial hatred.
As with any type of negative social behavior, there is always a catalyst that drives the behavior or makes people feel like they can continue their undesirable behavior. So what is the catalyst that is influencing the increased use of brutal and deadly force by police against blacks? I guess it’s the climate of hatred that started when President Obama became the first black president.
Some people will disagree that President Obama’s treatment has nothing to do with his race and more to do with his politics. However, that is simply not true, because the way the president has been treated is unprecedented. During the president’s first term, entering his second term, there has been a tireless effort to destroy his presidency. This effort manifests itself in flagrant lack of respect; the conspiracy theories swirling around him; the bogus Congressional hearings run by the Republican Party called scandals – IRS, Fast and Furious, Benghazi, etc .; propaganda to discredit their policies; he talks about accusing the president; the republican shutdown of the government; President Boehner is suing the president; and personal attacks that sometimes involve racial innuendo. These are all things that no previous president has been subjected to.
If the president of the United States is being treated in the manner described in the previous paragraph, it is not difficult to understand why hatred is increasing again in the United States. In this climate of hatred, police officers see it as an open season for blacks. This climate of hatred is fueled by members of the Republican Party who treat the president as if he were an outcast. It is not surprising then that some world leaders take advantage of this situation. This is exactly what President Putin is doing in his effort to regain Crimea and Ukraine under Russian control. Putin feels that the United States is divided and that President Obama does not receive support on domestic and foreign policy issues. He knows that if President Obama has a weak hand, he can use it to do whatever he wants.
Marcus Garvey was also correct in another prediction he made that is currently unfolding in the way the Republican Party treats President Obama. In 1920, Garvey commented that whites would be upset if black politicians made laws to govern the white man. This is what Garvey said:
A terrible mistake was made 40-50 years ago when black men were elected to legislatures across the country, especially in the southern states and even in the national capital when black men held seats in Congress. The mistake was made when it comes to whites. There was a state of disorganization in the nation, and in that state certain things happened by pure chance. At the time, dozens of black men became senators and congressmen. This opened in the eyes of the white nation the possibility of the black man ruling the white man in these United States of America – the possibility of the black man making laws to rule the white man? This possibility drove them almost to insanity, suddenly rejecting the spirit of the Constitution and Lincoln’s declaration that “all men are created equal,” hence the determination that it would never again be possible for the race of slaves rule the race of masters within these United States of America.
Marcus Garvey not only predicted America’s racial problem, he provided insights that the United States should have paid attention to. Unfortunately, people like Marcus Garvey are often discredited and their message goes unheard. Racial problems are ingrained deep in the mind and are the result of what is called the ideology of racism. That is why racism is so persistent and the only way to accept it is through some revolutionary process like a spiritual awakening.