Can The United States of America overcome a seeming penchant for inflicting violence upon African Americans in various settings and situations, even in the year 2015?
America has never hesitated to use violence as a means of controlling African Americans. This should be no surprise when one considers the fact that America is a nation that was conceived in violence, the American Revolution. When there were major disagreements about the use of slavery, the nation resorted to violence and engaged in a bloody civil war. The nation has engaged in two world wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the invasion of Iraq, and the war in Afghanistan. There are still other violent conflicts that could be named.
Let’s take a look back in time and briefly summarize the black experience in this nation. It was an act of violence when African men and women were placed into slavery. It was an act of violence when they were loaded onto ships as commercial cargo (not passengers) and transported to America in the hole of a crowded ship. This treacherous journey from Africa to America was known as the middle passage. Many people, however, did not survive the trip due to the harsh and unhealthy conditions.
When a new slave was purchased, he was put through a “seasoning process.” The purpose was to break the slave into the routines of plantation slavery. This process might last up to three years, so that the slave would be fully seasoned – new job, new food, different climate, new language. This was a difficult process to endure.
Discipline and obedience were demanded by the plantation owners; and there was strict enforcement. The whip was a frequent tool of enforcement. The character, Kunta Kinte, in Alex Haley’s “Roots” was an example of a young slave who rebelled and suffered the severe consequences. The overseer, however, could not break his spirit. Sometimes families were broken up, and rebellious slaves often were sold to other plantation owners. These violent actions were a means of controlling the slaves.
After slavery was abolished, some white Americans continued to inflict violence on African Americans. Blacks were required to obey certain laws that were enacted not only to control them, but also to contain them within their designated ghetto. There was segregation, Jim Crow, various forms of discrimination and the lynching tree. The tactics of the ku Klux Klan were used as a means of instilling fear in black communities in order to control them.
In this postmodern era, still African Americans often live in fear for their very life. Perhaps the most visible sign of this fear is the fear of being stopped by the police. There is deep concern among African Americans about the tendency on the part of some police officers to be overly aggressive when dealing with black males. In recent years we have witnessed the deaths of several unarmed black males at the hands of the police. Here is a partial roll: Amadou Diallo, Manuel Loggins, Jr., Ronald Madison, Sean Bell, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Freddie Gray. You can add other names to the list.
How long will America continue to inflict violence on African Americans? Why do some Americans want to use violence against African Americans? Can we eradicate violence against all people?
Think about it!