Black folks’ struggle to exist in America is no game. It is deadly serious. The bloody opposition to our survival in this white dominated society is a daunting challenge for all people of color.
Since arriving in the Americas as captive and enslaved human chattel, Black folk have suffered every conceivable deprivation of human rights, including rape and murder. Our entire history is ingrained with resistance to being ground into the dust by white supremacy.
It is important to remember that the sons and daughters of Africa are not the only people to suffer so. The people of the First Nations who inhabited this land before European invaders stumbled upon it were slaughtered in countless numbers from the very first years of the appearance of these aggressors with their firearms and priests. And for centuries, there has been the “othering” of Latinx people by white Americans who believe their own ancestors hail from pure European stock. Blacks, Latinx and people of the First Nations all have suffered horrendously because of white supremacy.
And now what? Is the past prologue?
The warning signs of impending calamity grow louder and more clear every day. White supremacists are arming themselves and clustering into vicious groups such as the Boogaloo movement, the Proud Boys and countless others. The racist in the White House has emboldened white supremacists and encouraged their violent and threatening behavior. Worse still, many law enforcement agencies, whose job is to protect the citizens of our communities, are riddled with members and sympathizers of these white supremacist hate groups.
White supremacy in American law enforcement is no surprise given its history and the reason it came into being, particularly in the American South. The evidence of this is in the cultural residue it leaves behind. People of color always have had to give our children “The Talk.” The reason white parents do not have to give their children the same warning for self preservation is because of white supremacy. White supremacy does not kill white children, but the multitude of Black and brown bodies murdered by the police gives passionate testimony of our suffering.
The appalling image of George Floyd being tortured to death by police officer Derek Chauvin has struck a nerve in the American psyche. Thousands of white people who never before protested police brutality took to the streets in solidarity with people of color demanding an end to police brutality. But the evidence of white supremacy within American law enforcement has been on full display time and again for decades. Those who claim that they did not know about this problem until recently were a part of the problem. And those who turned their heads away from injustice before must decide whether they are committed to now look white supremacy in the eye or whether their current demonstrations are nothing more than woke performance.
Those who claim that they do not know what to do are also a part of the problem. If these people saw the same violence visited upon their own children, they would know exactly what to do. But the problem here is that white people too often see the problems of Black people as other people’s problems.
White people must decide whether they are in the fight for justice for all people. Mere lip service will not suffice. There is a winter of violence coming to engulf this land. The first leaves of peace have begun to fall, deadened by the chill of rampant white supremacy. The new war cry of the oppressor is “Law and Order.” But “law” does not equate with justice, and “order” is often the order of the unjust – established to keep the unjust in power. Oppressors often perfume their actions with words like “peace” and “quiet” because they want us to equate quiet with peace. The first defensive position of the oppressor is, “I never heard anyone complain.” But without justice, there can be no peace. Under oppression, silence is the silence of the oppressed.
America has entered an era where the notion of law has devolved into reckless power. Truth has been abandoned for justification, and many of the norms which hold a society together are trampled underfoot. The Republican Senate has been corrupted. The Supreme Court has been corrupted. Many of the state houses have been polluted by petty dictators and cheating has become the accepted norm. If we are not vigilant, America will become a society that is more unjust and more unsafe because the law will not protect us.
The only weapon we have against this onslaught on our freedom, and that of our posterity, is the vote. You have the vote. Use it or perish.
Oscar H. Blayton is a former Marine Corps combat pilot and human rights activist who practices law in Virginia.