Michael Brown — shot at least seven times, including a bullet in the right eye and apex of his head
[Ferguson In Perspective]
Jim Crow Lives
The August 9, 2014 tragedy — the “legal” vigilante slaying of young Michael Brown by a local policeman, in Ferguson, MO, is endemic to the Black experience in the United States of America, going on for nearly five hundred years now.
What happened and is happening in Ferguson, MO, reflects self-perpetuating historical and cultural legacies that just keep on giving in the face of White supremacy, racial inequalities, economic lynching and/or hijacking of equal economic opportunities for Blacks, State Rights and State Laws with long arms that reach all the way to Washington to shape and control the U.S. Congress and the Supreme Court to change and erode national civil rights policies, persistently taking us and the country back to regressive times past that mirror the Antebellum, pre-Civil War South.
Ferguson, MO, is just another example of Déjà Vu, screaming at us that we still are not free, as the Emancipation Proclamation and two Civil Rights Revolutions claimed us to be more than a hundred fifty years ago.
But enough is enough and if not now, when?
With the last Civil Rights Revolution of the 1950s-60s, after much bloodshed that exposed the brutalities against a people, because of the color of their skin and because they wanted freedom and equality the same as those enjoyed by other groups in the United States and because they were willing to fight and die for their civil rights and equality, prominent legislation was won which was intended to create a level playing field on which they could play, balance, and position themselves for partaking of the American Dream that all other groups aspired for and saw within their reach and/or grasp.
Significant legislation gained, during this time, included the Supreme Court ruling that struck down segregation and separate and unequal public facilities/ accommodations and education in 1954 and sounded the death knell to legal Jim Crow; the 1964 Civil Rights Act, intended to level the playing field for Blacks and other oppressed groups by granting equal opportunities to them, which equaled to those given to whites, in such areas as education, employment, housing, and voting—making it illegal to discriminate against anyone because of color, race, sex, age, disability, religion, and nationality; the Voting Rights Act in 1965, prohibited racial discrimination in voting; and the Fair Housing Act in 1968, provided equal housing opportunities, regardless of race, creed, and national origin.
Similar Civil Rights Acts existed also during the first Civil Rights Revolution and Reconstruction after the Civil War from 1865 to the 1880s. However, they lacked federal enforcement provisions, just as time has shown over the years in the erosion of those Civil Rights of the second Civil Rights Revolution of the 1950s-60s. Those Civil Rights laws are no longer enforced today in the Post-Civil Rights Era, according to their original intents. And the reasons are given below.
While these progressive legislative acts of the 1960s were being drafted and passed by Congress, an organized White backlash of resistance to change was afoot in the states, as it always was throughout American history, to protect the White status quo and historic, racial cultural legacies. With every President in the White House, after Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Jimmy Carter, sanctions were given and carried out to erode, take back, and set back the country.
Blacks, especially, for more than a hundred years past, when the Antebellum South reigned supreme, had no rights and were subjugated to a life of inferiority and subordination to Whites. These historic, racial cultural legacies continue today in every sector of the country and even in the White House and in the Supreme Court of the land.
Over the last fifty years or so, Presidents of the United States have seated justices on the Supreme Court to reverse the Civil Rights gains by putting forth new and ultra-conservative, regressive reinterpretations and by giving states the right and authority to set state laws and rights above the federal government. Thus Jim Crow still lives and thrives over the land, but now disguised as “Color Blind” and “Raceless.”
So when some Blacks complain today that the laws of the land no longer work for them and that they have no place to turn for redress of the injustices and discriminations they encounter daily and that they have less of everything that previous generations had, even during “legal” Jim Crow times, there is truth in their complaints.
The lives of Blacks as a collective group have been diminished for generations now—for more than fifty years. Ferguson, MO, is a very telling example of this truth.
There, I am sure, are generations of people who have never had economic opportunities to work on a steady job that paid a decent income on which to build a livelihood and retirement pension. The racial and economic problems in Ferguson exist all over the country, and what has happened and is happening in Ferguson can and will be repeated all over the country until we, as a people and a nation, live up to the fair, just, democratic principles we espouse to uphold and which we sell to the rest of the world.
We claim to be the savior to the oppressed people of the world, yet we neglect, deprive and deny, and oppress our own citizens because of the color of their skin or some other unjust, undemocratic reason.
When people are deprived of their basic civil rights and equal opportunities to education, employment, and the American Dream in a capitalistic country, such as ours, we tread dangerously close to those parts of the world where terrorism rages because of the inequalities between the haves and the have-nots.
By God, this is the 21st Century! Enough is enough! Blacks are not going anywhere!
They are a permanent fixture here, in their country of birth; and their survival is intertwined with the survival of every other group here. We are, after all, one people, in more ways than most people want to recognize.
We will not tolerate old, time-spent, cultural legacies from times past when it was acceptable for vigilante Whites to brutalize, slaughter, and criminalize Blacks and then to be upheld and affirmed in their thinking that no Black person has any rights –including the right to his/her life– that White people have to recognize and respect. That time has passed and it is up to us to make sure that it is returned to the past and remains there into perpetuity, once and for all. The slaughtering of our young Black males is intolerable and will not go unanswered, and we all will pay in the suffering.
Is this what we want as a nation who champions itself as the world’s savior of the oppressed?
Dr. Joyce Watford is an educator and a Descendant of American Slaves, who participated in and lived through the second Civil Rights Revolution of the 1960s.