By James Clingman
“America leads the world in shocks.” Those immortal words were spoken by the late Gil Scott-Heron during the Nixon “H2O Gate” era. Forty years later, Black people lead the world in shocks. We are shocked every time a Black person gets killed or abused by a police officer; we are shocked at the absence of indictments and convictions for those acts; we are shocked that our government will only give these acts lip-service; and we are shocked by the endless rhetoric, excuse-making, and rationales put forth as a response to Black lives being treated like they don’t matter.
We are so shocked that we continue to roll out the same old tactics, chant the same phrases, and make idle threats that we know we will not fulfill. We are shocked that society will not change this endless parade to the graveyard for Black men especially. We are also shocked at the rate of our deaths and the nonchalant attitudes of those who kill us. And we are shocked by the fact that even though these killings are caught on cameras, there is still no punishment for the perpetrator.
Rodney King’s butt-whuppin’ was caught on camera in 1992, and so was Nathaniel Jones killing in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2003. Heck, White folks photographed the lynching and burning of many Blacks over 100 years ago. Why are we so shocked now? I have come to the conclusion that we just like to be shocked. It’s like the old tale of a boy constantly hitting himself in the head with a hammer. When asked why he did that, he replied, “Because it feels so good when I stop.”
Do we really want this lunacy, this evil, this abuse to stop just so we can catch our breath for a little while, and then return to business as usual? One thing for sure is that it will not stop simply because it ought to, as folks always imply when the news reporter poses the question, “What you think about the latest incident of police abuse?” Inevitably, as was the case in the latest abuse in Baltimore, a sister said, “It’s got to stop.” Others chimed in and said the same thing, as was said in the case of Eric Garner, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, Oscar Grant, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and many of the others I could name.
Let me try this again, after so many years of saying the same thing. The vast majority of the problems Black people face in this nation can be solved through the utilization of economic power. That’s what runs this country and, therefore, that’s what gets desired outcomes. The lack of economic power results in a perverse weakness and subordination of any group of people. Thus, Black folks are always shocked at our position, our mistreatment, and our dependency on the very political entities that care very little, if at all, about us. That’s backward and wrong-headed thinking.
If Black folks in Baltimore or anywhere else want to be empowered to the degree that politicians finally move beyond merely saying what they think we want to hear, to doing what we need done for our security and progress, we must make drastic changes in our behavior. Our reactions to all the killings and beat-downs have been so predictable, so much so that the authorities know they just need to wait us out for a while, like the Eric Garner case, and we will go away. They know the shock value of their actions is impotent and only temporary.
The Fraser Institute released an article titled, “External shocks and political parties’ attempts to ‘buy’ votes can affect levels of economic freedom,” that noted, “Economic freedom is one of the main drivers of prosperity, resulting in improved wealth, health, and education for individuals and their families.” said Herbert Grubel.
“…external shocks (think wars and revolutions, economic depressions or recessions) prompt the public to gravitate to political parties promising change and dramatic new directions… Changing public views allow progressive politicians to buy votes by creating a narrative that government is better at looking after citizens than citizens are at looking after themselves. That inevitably leads to larger government, more regulation, higher taxes, and crony capitalism,” Grubel said.
Extrapolating from that article, I would say that Black folks have come to depend on politicians for so long now that even when our people are killed by police, we run to them to solve the problem. It’s not going to happen until we wield power with our dollars and our votes. The “external shock” necessary to prompt political parties to appropriately respond to our needs must be felt by them rather than by us. That shock must be one that reverberates throughout the corporate board rooms, the halls of Congress, and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: No more business as usual!
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He can be reached through his website, Blackonomics.com.