History has shown America has always controlled and led its people by perpetuating ignorance and fear. Whether the World War II propaganda of the Japanese, the hyper-sensationalized Arab terror threat or stripping enslaved African people of their culture upon their arrival, ignorance and fear have always been the most efficient tools. In the present day, popular media have been used to limit the true history of entire ethnic and cultural groups to ensure that citizens remain docile and lack self-empowerment, while feeding them 10-second sound bites of opinions by celebrities, who are highly unqualified to speak on the complex issue of race knotted in the fabric of this country. This idea of American ignorance is becoming harder to prove because many believe they are experts, simply based on their own human experience. Though living does give one some sense of practical understanding, I disagree that it gives one the ability to assert facts.
Due to fear and ignorance that America has birthed, an age-old hoax created during slavery and perpetuated today through mass media and paper-thin celebrity “flavor of the week” activism, the racial tension in this country will always be pacified with a hashtag and not actual, tangible change until we deal with and understand the fibers and historic context on which this whole thing was orchestrated.
The recent murders of Black men in American streets by trained white police officers come as no surprise and are actually an obvious byproduct of the ignorance and fear perpetuated every day by government and media outlets. To properly examine these killings, one must examine the history that created this mindset. I know that many, for reasons unbeknownst to them, automatically feel anxiety at the mere mention of American chattel slavery, but I claim we haven’t discussed how the institution has impacted both the Black and white mindset. Furthermore, we haven’t analyzed how it has set the groundwork for the ignorance and fear that present themselves in the American psyche, even today.
The delusional fear of Black men began during their enslavement, in order to justify why they had to be controlled. Over time, both Blacks and whites began to believe this lie and began to act on their fear. This same fear that began as a justification of slavery is currently displaying itself in the daily interactions between the police and Black male citizens. To many police officers, the mere existence of Black men on the street poses a threat to their existence. What’s even more striking is that Black men suffer from the same fear as the officers, and the rest of the American public.
When we protest and fight against police brutality and/or Black-on-Black violence, we are fighting against the same root cause: Ignorance and fear. Therefore, there is no separation. The argument that Black people have no care or concern for Black-on-Black violence is a falsehood that is examined from a limited lens. Black-on-Black violence and police brutality are an extension of oppression, negative media portrayal, poverty and limited access to resources.
Living in poverty in this country comes with an entirely different set of circumstances to hurdle. The “hood” is a combination of unfortunate historical circumstances, dismantled traditional family groups and a strong desire to achieve more with limited access to fulfill this dream. With frustration mounting in a community where safety remains a concern, violence coupled with distrust for the law enforcement is a natural extension. Thus, the argument that many police are good people may be true, but it’s important to add that they are good people who suffer from historical ignorance and delusional fear; which, in turn, causes them to act in an ill-advised, hyper-aggressive manner, when interacting with Black men. And I believe that the same is true for many Black men on the streets interacting with one another.
In addition to the hundreds of seminars, town hall meetings and marches, Black people fight against Black-on-Black violence by developing schools, coaching football teams, pushing for government legislation, mentoring, volunteering and fighting to pull themselves and families out of generational poverty developed by oppression. These aforementioned actions have helped us immensely, but we still have a long path to tread.
Police forces, especially in urban cities, have tried to hire more police officers who look similar to the communities they serve and train police officers on different tactics when working with urban communities. This approach will not solve the problem because it does not confront the historical context of the issue.
Until we take a deeper look into ourselves, American history and the framework in which our psyche has been created, we will forever be actors in this oppressive screenplay.
Brother Victorious is a national speaker and host using his platform to focus our attention on the value of positive living, community engagement and education. He was selected by a Clear Channel radio station as one of 2011’s “Top 30 under 30” in Washington, DC and been featured on a variety of local television and radio programs. Brother Victorious has served as an educator in the Prince George’s County Public school system for over eight years as a teacher and Academic Dean. Victorious is currently working on his first book, “Excelling in America while being Young, Male, and Black: Stories of Resilience.” He resides in Prince Georges County, Maryland with his wife Tinselyn Simms and his son King Victorious.