Bill Fletcher Jr.ColumnistsOp-EdOpinion

Blacks are Seen as Savages

Bill Fletcher

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
NNPA Columnist


An African American friend of mine keeps asking, in utter amazement, how it is not obvious that there was something wrong when Officer Wilson fired 13 shots at an unarmed Michael Brown.  As she has said:  “Brown was unarmed! How can you justify shooting him at all, let alone more than once?”

I thought about her point when I listened to the announcement that the grand jury was not going to indict. But the answer to her question is actually fairly straight forward. If you believe that African Americans and Latinos are savages, then any sort of action becomes justifiable. And in listening to the words of Officer Wilson, you would almost think that instead of talking about Michael Brown, he was talking about “Mighty Joe Young.”

The U.S. is such a residentially segregated society that it is actually possible for many White people to never see an African American or Latino in real life.  They may only see us on television or in films.  If they are addicted to Fox News, then their perception of us is even further misshaped.

Chris Rock, on the CBS series “Sunday Morning,” posed the question of why the police are not shooting more White youth. While his comments were provocative (and he was not calling for the police to shoot White youth), he was asking a very relevant question.  The African American community is not the only community where there is criminal activity. Italian Americans have the Mafia. Irish Americans have their own version of the Mafia, as well as Charlestown, Mass., the reputed capital of bank robberies.  Of course, there is the notorious Russian mob.  Yet, it is rare to hear about the police accidentally or on purpose killing Italian American, Russian or Irish American youth.

No, none of this can be understood until you recognize that we are not viewed as people. Our experiences are considered relevant and we are thought of as hostile, ignorant, and a permanent threat.

Until we force a change in that perception, which goes way beyond improving police/community relations and really involves a national discussion on race and class, this terror of lynchings will continue. Each outrage will be followed by a demonization of the victim, an explaining away of the incident, and the self-satisfaction of a part of the population, that the savages have been kept in their place.


Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at


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Bill Fletcher Jr.

Bill Fletcher Jr has been an activist since his teen years. Upon graduating from college he went to work as a welder in a shipyard, thereby entering the labor movement. Over the years he has been active in workplace and community struggles as well as electoral campaigns. He has worked for several labor unions in addition to serving as a senior staffperson in the national AFL-CIO. Fletcher is the former president of TransAfrica Forum; a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; an editorial board member of; and in the leadership of several other projects. Fletcher is the co-author (with Peter Agard) of “The Indispensable Ally: Black Workers and the Formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, 1934-1941”; the co-author (with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) of “Solidarity Divided: The crisis in organized labor and a new path toward social justice“; and the author of “‘They’re Bankrupting Us’ – And Twenty other myths about unions.” Fletcher is a syndicated columnist and a regular media commentator on television, radio and the Web.

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