The U.S and the Black Man’s Albatross



As the dust begins to settle over the brouhaha that has engulfed the United States in recent weeks, questions remain unanswered, wounds stay unhealed and there is a sad taste that remains in the mouth suggesting that things might remain the same. The episodes in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas has gotten sufficient airtime already that to rehash it here will be attempting a broken record. However, in the midst of the plethora of rhetorics, it is sacrosanct to unearth the real issues.

America as a nation has its history enmeshed in a fight for freedom. When Christopher Columbus stumbled upon what was then called the new world it became a haven for persecuted Europeans and maligned people of different colours. It was this need to create a new world that birthed the American revolution of 1776-1783, with George Washington emerging as it first president. The revolution followed a civil war between 1861-1865 under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln. It was a battle to abolish slavery in the Union; a system that had the blacks at the receiving end of an unequal society. Months of unrest culminated in relative peace. History holds too many instances of Black oppression in America. The resistance against this oppression has come at a price for many but have also made heroes such as Rosa Parks in December 1955 when she refused to give up her seat to a white man in the Montgomery bus, and Martin Luther King in August 1963, when he gave his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech.

Many have asked how the United States with its chequered history is still grappling with the subject of race. The events of the past few weeks have made a nonsense of the optimists believe that a black man at the white house has put paid to the issue of race. Black oppression remains common place in the United States and continue to be an everyday experience for many. Except when the cameras are present, there are lots of untold stories of inequality in a nation that ironically was built upon the very tenant of equality. Years after the abolition of slavery in America, the menace have taken on a new form and the division remains. The killings of black Americans, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police officers sparked off what appears to be a reprisal action by Micah Johnson who killed five white Dallas police officers. The aftermath of these vents have been a renewal of racial tensions with many around the world wondering how Americans are still in the doldrums of racial acrimony.

The truth is that race in American never quite died with the Civil war or the ascension of Barack Obama as president. It took on a new form and nomenclature and as far as the subject goes, the issues remain prevalent. Barack Obama has been criticized by a section of the white population in the wake of his speech at the Dallas Memorial. Their gross was that he turned a memorial in honour of the five slain police officers into a litany on race. This complain is the very bedrock of the issue. A vast majority of Americans don’t like to talk about the race subject. For many in the white population, they prefer to be elusive when the issue is being discussed; they’d rather pretend it is a non-issue. However, the stats suggest that it isn’t. Black discrimination is manifested every day in the work place, at pubs, churches, justice system and at other places. To live in denial about the plight of the black man in America is to be the problem yourself. There are real issues that needs to be unearthed; and it is a conversation that must be forced if a reasonable progress will be made. The point has been elucidated in several quarters that we are first humans before the subject of colour comes in, and nothing can be truer. There are no textbook solutions to outrightly solving the racial question in America today but forcing the conversation and resetting innate notions is surely a right step in the right direction.

Yet, while the travails of black Americans will easily whip out sympathy, there is an issue concerning the group that needs to be addressed. There is something there that makes police officers be trigger-hungry at the sight of a black man. While colour plays a part, there is also a reputation that the young black American has built and inherited over the years. It is cliché in the United States that an African American is more likely to end up in prison than at college. In many quarters, the blacks have earned a reputation of thugs, street urchins and miscreants. Indeed, they are traditionally known to be of greater menace to society than their white counterparts. There is an issue here. It appears that there is a parental and societal malfunction with the way black children are brought up in America and this too needs to be addressed.

Having said all the foregoing, there is a bigger issue of proliferation of guns in America that requires salient attention. The subject is one that have been with the American nation for so many years; and while the almighty National Rifle Association of America (NRA) will do anything to ensure that this right is not taken away, it constitutes a lingering societal misdemeanor. For all the media war against guns in the hands of civilians in American, none has been successful. Rather, the issue has had many media casualties, chief of whom was popular British T.V anchor, Piers Morgan, who lost his CNN show primarily because of his verbal criticism against guns proliferation in the U.S. The records are scary. There were 372 mass shootings in the US in 2015, killing 475 people and wounding 1,870, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker which catalogues such incidents. This is in addition to 64 school shooting incidences in 2015. There is a debacle with the gun laws in America and while some apologists will call it their fundamental rights to bear arms the reality is that it has turned the nation to an ‘arms state’ with everyone leaving under the cloud of fear and potential violence.

Racial tensions in America will persist until the real issues are brought to the surface and everyone of different colour commits to the reality that this is a big subject that has everyone culpable and no one vindicated. That will be the starting point in the quest to curtail the menace of racial tensions in America.

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