The history of racism towards Black people reaches back to 1619 and beyond. In 1619 the first Africans were brought to the Jamestown colony by an English privateers White Lion and Treasurer. Some of the Africans were traded to the colony for provisions. There were earlier slaves in what would become the United States. Ponce de Leon brought the first black person to the St. Augustine area in 1513. The Spanish brought slaves in 1565 to the future state of Florida.
To my thinking, enslaving a person has to occur because that enslaved person is considered inferior or subhuman to the people doing the enslaving. Of the Africans brought to Jamestown, besides being slaves to members of the colony, were they hated from the very beginning? Or, did the hate begin at some point later in the history of slavery in America? I’m afraid that is a question we can never know the answer to for sure. Black people have been fighting to survive, be free, and be treated as equals for over 400 years.
Now, we are here in 2020 living in the United States that has had Donald Trump as the President for the past 3 1/2 years. Racism has again become an open practice by those who hate Black people as well as other minorities.
Take the case of Althea Bernstein of Madison, Wisconsin. In the early hours of June 24, 2020, 18-year-old Althea was driving in downtown Madison. Four white men approached her car. Althea said she felt a liquid sprayed on her through her open window and then a flaming light was thrown on her, igniting the fluid. She drove on and put out the fire on her neck and face area. After arriving home, her mother got her to go to the hospital. Althea is being treated for second and third degree burns. Madison police and the FBI are investigating this crime.
What is so wrong about a Black person that can make white men set her on fire for no apparent reason other than she is a Black person? Are these four men so filled with hate that it clouds their minds to the fact that Althea Bernstein is a human being? I wonder if these men sit in church on Sunday, if they go to church, and believe they will enter the Kingdom of Heaven after being judged by Jesus Christ? It is not for me to judge, but I wouldn’t want to be one of them on Judgement Day.
We can’t forget that Black people are regularly stopped by police and questioned in a confrontational manner by police. Earlier this month a Black couple and their child left Walmart in Holton, Kansas. As they were loading their groceries into their car police approached them and asked to see their store receipt and their identification, which the couple produced. It seems that the couple, Bracey Miles and Alfreda Lange, were reported as having shoplifted from the Walmart. For the next 20 minutes police held them in the parking lot, with their infant son sitting inside their hot car. The officers refused to let either Mr. Myles or Miss Lange start the car to cool it down for their son. The couple, new to the area, had been the only Black people in the store. Finally, begrudgingly, the police could find no further reason to detain the family and allowed them to leave.
I have several issues that anger me over this situation. First, are the Walmart employees so foolish as to believe, without any evidence, that Black people always steal? Good lord, Walmart has more cameras recording their store than many casinos in the country. How would any one of those employees feel if they were accused of stealing because of their skin color? Not too good I would be willing to wager. But, white privilege will likely protect them.
Then, the cops involved in unnecessarily detaining the couple for so long. They should have been able to figure out there was no lawful reason to detain the family for more than a couple of minutes. The 20 minutes they were detained would seem, to a reasonable person, only occur while the police tried to come up with something, anything, they could reasonably be charged with to allow the police to arrest them.
Looking at the racial makeup of the city, it is reported to be 82.5% White, 0.8% African American, 10.7% Native American, 0.5% Asian, 0.8% from other races, and 4.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.7% of the population according to the 2020 census per Wikipedia.
Did police even get a call from Walmart reporting the couple for shoplifting or did the three cops see a Black family and harass them due to their (the cops) hatred for Black people? Even if police had been called about a shoplifting, why does it take these three members of law enforcement 20 minutes to handle the issue? Do they hate Black people so much that they just had to find a way to scare and humiliate this young couple even more than they already were? Those officers would say no, but I’m not ready to buy that bridge.
That story of police stopping Black people isn’t even the worst I could speak of in this article. There are so many more I could cite that have occurred in just the past months. George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Aubrey Avery, Breonna Taylor, and Elijah McClain, all killed in incidents with the police. All murdered, their lives cut short – very possibly because they were black people and thereby treated with hostility and a lack of respect. I would bet that the white racists in our country would see this as a reason to celebrate, high-fiving each other. To me, a White man, these are incredibly heart breaking tragedies. We know these incidents likely would have turned out differently if they were White people.
Those incidents and the uncountable number of other incidents involving police and Black people, American people, makes believing in our nation’s police a very difficult endeavor. Where is the justice? Have our police become too militarized and less committed to policing with honor and to serving all people with respect? I believe they have. Maybe there was really a day when you could say 99% of police were good cops, but those days have long passed into the shadows of history.
The calls for defunding or disbanding the police is one I support. It is time in America for a new policing paradigm, one that better allocates resources to the needs of the communities. There will be police still, contrary to the fearmongering that comes from Donald Trump, the Republican Party, Fox News and all their supporting “experts”. It is time to do our best as decent White Americans to support Black Americans in evening the scales and letting them have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Now, I am not sitting on a high horse. I know I have failed to fully understand the life Black people have lived on a daily basis for way too long. I was born in the North and from the age of 10-years-old I lived in the deep south of the 1970’s. I had never laid eyes on a Black person, other than on television. But, I started learning quickly. I had the great fortune to be introduced to a Black gentleman my parents knew. He was a big, large man with a gentle tone of voice I could listen to for days. He started my true education of the history of Black people in America. Without him I don’t know who I would have turned out to be.
The 60’s and 70’s were a time of upheaval in the United States. There were two major conflicts going on, the Vietnam anti-war movement and the still ongoing Civil Rights Movement. I remember hearing and reading of the lynching of Black men in areas where I lived. I learned of the racist and cowardly Klu Klux Klan, who lynched Black people, harassed them openly, expressing their hatred of them, and who burned crosses in the yards of Black people. I’ve seen racism since and I’m 60 years old now. I still, all these years later, know I have more to learn of the struggles of Black Americans and I hope I do before my time is done.
The younger generations are fighting in support of Black people. Black Lives Matter and it is time White America supports, not leads, them however we can while they continue their centuries long struggle to have true equality and justice in the United States of America.
There must be no compromise with those who only have hatred for Black people and all minorities. It is time this nation grows up!
Until next time