With the shooting of 18-year-old black teen Michael Brown at the hands of white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri two summers ago, a movement was started to make America understand that there is something wrong with the system that supposedly serves and protects all, but, in actuality, can be used to disenfranchise some, and protect others – usually based upon minority status. This is especially true if you happen to be Black in America. That is what the #BlackLivesMatter movement is all about – to raise awareness and affect change.
There are those who would argue that this is as good as it gets, police can’t do any better, that the scores of black bodies lying dead in the streets somehow caused their own deaths. However, people who are conscious of the climate of race politics in America, and in particular with regard to police practices, know this is simply not true.
When Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence essentially said that we should ignore institutional racism and just accept the status quo, there’s a reason his comments are so enraging. Vox has a great chart that shows the disproportionate number of black folks who are killed by police with regards to the percentage of representation in the overall American population:
While African Americans make up only 13% of the overall American population, 39% of those people killed by police “while not attacking” are African American. More generally, in 31% of police killings that occur, the victims are African American. That is most definitely disproportionate. (And no, this did not come from some left-wing website, either; these statistics come straight from the FBI.)
Now, many people believe that slavery ended when Lincoln freed the slaves, or that racism ended when the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act were signed. This isn’t true at all, though. There’s a new kind of Jim Crow, a new plantation that every black person in America lives on.
We live in a time when a terrorist who planted bombs all over one of the world’s most important cities can be taken in alive by police even after firing on them, but a black man whose car happens to stall on the highway winds up dead for no good reason. That example – that of Terrence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma – is just ONE example of many situations like that. Trayvon Martin. Sandra Bland. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Philando Castile. Too many to list here.
Make no mistake – Jim Crow laws might not be on the books anymore, but this is a new form of lynching, and claims just as many lives. The system of white supremacy that takes black lives at the hands of the very people sworn to serve and protect us is just another kind of plantation. If you want to live, you do what the white cop tells you to do, no matter how degrading, unjust, and in violation of your constitutional rights it is. This is the slave master’s new whip.
That is not acceptable. That should be unacceptable for anyone who values civil rights, and the lives, liberties, and justice for all. That is why you see so much Black Rage in the streets following what is just the latest in a long line of unjustified shootings of unarmed black folks, as if we don’t matter.
I am sure for some we don’t matter, we should “know our place.” No. Here in 2016, nobody should have to be in a different “place” from everyone else just to stay alive. Until this system of white supremacy, this new plantation, this new Jim Crow, is completely dismantled, that Black Rage that makes so many people who do not understand uncomfortable will be on full display, as it should be. We are not going away until we are truly free.
Featured image via Sean Rayford/Getty Images