Saturday, July 27, 2013

Trayvon Martin-Jordan Davis: What Does it Say about Black Males?

What do Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis have in common?  Both were young Black males who were fatally shot.  Although George Zimmerman was found not guilty by a jury of his “peers,” it is clear that the encounter occurred because of Zimmerman’s racial profiling.  As for Jordan Davis, he was shot and killed by Michael Dunn because Dunn felt “threatened” that the Black males in the car were going to kill him.  How many more times must unarmed young Black males die because of a perceived threat by someone with a gun?  Obviously, this is only two cases of many in the state (and nation for that matter), but it does provide a foundation for a discussion.

We live in a society that fears young Black males, and it is causing this group to have unnatural consequences.  For instance, Trayvon and Jordan both had untimely ends, leaving behind grieving parents, family, and friends.  Other Blacks recognize the negative view of them and must often speak, talk, walk, and dress in “code,” in order appear less “threatening” by others.  Where is the action?  Where is the anger?

People of all races and ethnicities rallied around the Trayvon Martin case.  In fact, Trayvon’s killing and all the case’s circumstances resulted in a movement to address racial profiling and injustice within the criminal justice system.  The not guilty verdict fueled the efforts of protestors and further motivated their calls to action.  Will the same happen for Jordan Davis?

Although Dunn is awaiting trial for Jordan’s killing, the underlying issue that led to the deaths of these two males have not been addressed by any legislator, executive, or criminal judge.  Again, Trayvon and Jordan died because they were viewed as threatening and dangerous.  Black males are systematically punished more harshly than Whites, even after ruling out offense seriousness and prior criminal record.  Therefore, this group appears to be viewed more threatening and dangerous when sentenced by criminal judges. As mentioned earlier, Black often “change” certain parts of themselves at work, in order to avoid being viewed as threatening and dangerous.  Do you see a theme?

Although it is very difficult to change people’s attitudes, the focus must remain on laws and policies that systematically attribute negative characteristics to Blacks.  Although the news and other media have almost stopped covering the movements that spurred from the Trayvon Martin shooting and subsequent verdict in Florida’s criminal court, the movement must continue and people must be steadfast.  As long as people, of all races, remain quiet, passive, and inconsistent in the movement, Blacks will continue being viewed as the criminal, dangerous, lazy, and threatening group.  Some may say, “Who cares how Blacks are viewed?”  Even some Blacks may have this view.  A response can be summed up by saying…. “Trayvon Martin,” “Jordan Davis,” “lack of resources,” “lack of jobs,” and “more punitive criminal punishments than other racial/ethnic groups.”  I care….do you?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Re-n*ggerizing of the Black Professional Class

While giving an interview, Dr. Cornel West made an interesting observation when discussing President Obama.  He said that there is a “re-n*ggerizing” of the Black professional class (about 27 minutes into the interview).  In other words, the professional class of Black folks refuse to say anything negative about the President or his criminal agenda, in order to prevent the President from looking bad to others and “taming” the anger toward the President among lower class Blacks.  Through these actions (or lack thereof), true progress and equality among Blacks are further worsened.  Let’s explore this, in terms of “justice.”

The United States of America has a history of slavery, black codes, and Jim Crow.  The criminal justice system was used as a method of social control to further oppress Blacks.  In other words, Blacks were more likely to be arrested, jailed, denied due process rights, convicted, incarcerated, etc.  Several law enforcement officers, attorneys, and judges were overtly racist, which further perpetuated and deepened the distrust between Blacks and criminal justice practitioners.  If these problems are to be adequately addressed, are we losing potential progress through the re-n*ggerizing of the Black professional class?

Without discussing the truth (or not!) of Dr. West’s point, let’s further examine the role of Blacks (regardless of social class) in helping achieve justice in this country.  The “clients” and residents of the criminal justice system are disproportionately poor and minority.  Once convicted, regardless of the sentence, they are now convicted offenders.  Depending on the offense, it could eliminate the ability to receive financial aid for higher education.  We have a public school system that is systematically biased (e.g., school resources, funding, college prep classes, etc.) against poor people.  There is a blocking of legitimate job opportunities in lower class communities.  All of these issues increase the likelihood of criminal behavior, and once convicted, the probability of committing additional crime increases.  Unfortunately, when there is a disproportionate number of minorities living in lower class areas, minorities (especially Blacks) suffer serious social ills.

During all of the major movements in American history (e.g., Civil Rights Movement, Gay Rights Movement, Women’s movement, etc.), those who participated focused on the human/natural rights of everyone.  In other words, Whites were protesting with Blacks to help fight legal segregation.  Heterosexuals were protesting with gays to help fight legal definitions of marriage.  Black professionals must protest with lower class Blacks (along with other races/ethnicities!) to fight a criminal justice system and criminal laws that have been deeply discriminatory against Blacks since their beginning.  How much longer must we deal with a system that is openly racist!  This is a human/natural rights’ issue!  If the Black professional class is being re-n*ggerized (per Dr. West’s assessment), the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin should demonstrate that Black boys (regardless of social class) are susceptible to negative outcomes because of profiling and implicit/subtle racism.

Are the Black professionals being re-n*ggerized, in order to shield Obama, resulting in further injustice among other Blacks (especially those in lower social classes) in the criminal justice system?  This is an interesting and very appropriate, question.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Race and Justice, in Light of George Zimmerman Verdict

While the George Zimmerman not-guilty verdict has been viewed by many as an injustice, we cannot lose site of the underlying issue: discrimination within the criminal justice system.  While Trayvon Martin is one individual life, he has come to be the face and motivation for a movement that has impact far beyond this one case.  The criminal justice system, both historically and currently, is systematically biased against males, the young, and African-Americans.  The group most biased against, though, is the combination of those factors: young African-American males.  This group is more likely to be sentenced harshly, along with being viewed as the most "dangerous" and "blameworthy" of any other group.

What accounts for this view of our Black males?  Is it the disproportionate percentage of arrests by Blacks?  Is it the depiction of Black males in the media (e.g., movies, music videos, news, etc.)?  Is it the fairly large percentage of Blacks who are currently incarcerated in our nation's jails and prisons?  Is it simply racism, which may be passed down generationally among non-Blacks?  Is it the systematic bias against Blacks in our nation's schools, which leads to social ills?  While there are many more questions to be asked, the answer most likely falls within all of these issues.

George Zimmerman did profile Trayvon Martin, but we should not forget that Zimmerman does not hold a view that is significantly different from other people or entities: criminal laws, the criminal justice system, employment opportunities, educational system, some non-Blacks, and even some Blacks themselves.  It is in this venue that the movement in the aftermath of the verdict should be focused.  Trayvon "fit" the description of those viewed most dangerously in the United States.  There are many more Trayvon Martins in the United States, which transcends social class and neighborhoods.  How will Black life continue to be viewed and portrayed?  As long as there continues to be negative values attributed to African-Americans (especially the young males) and systematic discriminatory laws and practices, the current movement that has the face of Trayvon will be done in vain.