Opinion

MUHAMMAD: Hatred in White American DNA

The evidence is overwhelming and incontrovertible. The White American body politic is full of hatred for Black people.

For 460 years (since 1555) and right up to this very minute, White slave masters and their descendants have heaped immeasurable torment and suffering on Black folks — the very same folks whose free labor made this country rich.

From the lowliest offender in the bowels of the criminal injustice system all the way to the president of this republic, the scorn and derision and evil wishes showered on Black people by a never-diminishing plurality of the White population is unbridled.

Sometimes what President Abraham Lincoln referred to as the “better angels” of American society prevail, and the most egregious crimes are restrained, but then…

For example, after centuries, what was officially acknowledged as this country’s “peculiar institution”— the chattel slavery in which millions of kidnapped Africans were compelled to live and work — was abolished.

But the hatred and dehumanization that fueled the cruelty of its practice remained. Beginning in the 1870s, the brief period of Reconstruction was violently repealed in the South, where the freed slaves resided, while in the North, life was business as usual and folks simply looked the other way from what then became 100 years of lynching.

Then, when the suffering became so unbearable that the afflicted Black people rose up in a civil rights movement in the middle of the 20th Century, human decency prevailed again, ebbing and flowing this time, until a Black man was elected President. Today in the 21st century, just as there was a violent, post-Reconstruction retrenchment, there is a violent, post civil rights retrenchment underway.

Brother Malcolm X advised us 50 years ago that our choices were “The Ballot or The Bullet.” Ironically, White America has hastened to lock down both of those avenues to keep Black people in virtual chains in America.

Access to the ballot is hastily being restricted. Despite the fact that there have been fewer than 100 proven cases of voting fraud in the last several election cycles, where hundred of millions of ballots have been cast, onerous voter identification laws have been enacted across the country so that the ability of Black folks to affect their own destiny at the ballot box has been stymied.

Take Alabama, for example. Strict voter ID laws have been enacted, and at the same time, the state has closed dozens of motor vehicle offices across the state — most in Black populated counties — so that it’s more and more difficult for Black people to get valid IDs.

At the same time, those same voices that argue that restrictive voter regulations prevent non-existent voter fraud, refuse to consider any regulations of gun ownership, even in the face of 294 mass shootings (four or more dead) in the U.S. in 2015 alone and nearly 1,000 such shootings since 2012.

In fact, while fewer than 500 Americans have died as a result of “terrorist” incidents since 2001, more than 150,000 have died as a result of gun violence, but gun regulation is politically a nonstarter. And in 2015 in the face of an epidemic of murders of Black folks by police or vigilante groups, it’s become an “open season” on hunting Black folks.

I reasoned that this was evidence of the predisposition in the minds of Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Average White American toward their preparation for individually murdering Black folks. White folks seem to cling to their gun culture the same way they cling to their Confederate flags and their notions that any and every Black person they encounter is a thuggish threat. But no.

But then I saw where Carl Bogus, of Roger Williams University School of Law, wrote way back in 1998 in the University of California at Davis Law Review that the Second Amendment itself — which enshrines the notion which White folks cling to of the absolute right to keep and bear arms — was intended as a tool to enforce slavery, to keep the masses, not just individual Black folks, in their place.

Bogus argues that there is strong reason to believe that, in significant part, James Madison drafted the Second Amendment to assure his constituents in Virginia and the South generally that at the time of the founding of this country, Congress could not use its newly acquired powers to undermine the slave system by disarming the militia, on which the South relied for slave control. What? Wow!

In other words, as the much reviled President Barack Obama stated recently: “The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, you know, that casts a long shadow, and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on. We’re not cured of it,” the President said in an interview with comedian Marc Maron.

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Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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