Recently, I had the opportunity to again listen to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” album. His scores are soul-stirring, and his lyrics touch the highs and lows of the human experience. What is more, there’s no debate that Marvin was and, through his music, IS a modern prophet.
Listening to “What’s Going On,” including “Mercy Me (The Ecology)” and “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler),” one wonders if Marvin had a crystal ball or whether humankind is so deeply entrenched in dysfunction that there’s no end to it. Although his music reflects the ’70s, his lyrics outline our current dysfunction.
“What’s going on?” is a question that needs to be asked often. It questions our own conduct and motivations, and those of others. We need it to ascertain whether the conduct we engage in or the conduct of others is consistent with rational behavior.
The rise in official misconduct which can only be classified as “rogue policing” causes one to wonder, “What’s going on?” A series of “murders by police” and aggressive police-civilian confrontations seem to be the answer following the conviction of Derek Chauvin. One only wonders how these rogue cops rationalize their actions in the face of growing scrutiny to the propriety of their official conduct.
Those with a historical perspective understand that the design of modern policing is the care and protection of whites, and control and management of persons of color. The we/they perception by police of those they encounter determines whether they are treated with courtesy and receive a measured response or whether they are automatically determined to be adversarial and treated with overwhelming force. These are the determinations that saw Dylann Roof (white) receive a fast-food meal after murdering nine people while Andrew Brown (Black) received a bullet to the back of the head during a so-called warrant service.
When police officers, military members, teachers and politicians attempted to convince their respective audiences that the Jan. 6 insurrection wasn’t what they saw with their own eyes, we need to ask, “What’s going on?” I was shocked when I heard a sitting congressman describe that insurrection as nothing more than an average day of tourism or another suggest that a law enforcement official tasked with the protection of the members of our highest legislature used inappropriate lethal force against an assailant attempting to breach the security of the Senate chamber. Maybe these two congressmen, and others, reject maintaining the democracy we have been able to “squeeze out of the tube,” but I and millions like me prefer what we have over the autocracy promoted by #45 and those who follow him blindly.
I’m disappointed in my president, who blithely justified the killing of Palestinian women and children by saying that the Israelis had the right to defend themselves in the current Middle East conflict. I’m quite familiar with the generational conflict between Jews and Palestinians. For those who’ve not made the connection, Palestinians are the Philistines you may remember reading about in the Bible. Their conflict has been long-held, but the conventions of modern warfare are specific. The indiscriminate use of lethal force against non-combatants (women and children) is strictly forbidden. I ask of him, “What’s going on?” Could it be that the current violence is being used as cover for Netanyahu’s political problems? I hate war by or against anybody and I would never so callously choose the side that’s killing women and children.
The question “What’s going on?” serves to bring balance to our judgment and gives pause to evaluate how closely to TRUTH our motives are planted. We must demand REAL answers to that question and not reject the answers out of a sense of discomfort. The TRUTH will prevail!
Williams is president of the National Congress of Black Women.