On this anniversary of the 911 terrorist attacks, America must never forget what took place that day–the cycle of violence in today’s world, the disregard for human life, and the inhumanity and brutality with which people treat their fellow human beings.
The hashtag #NeverForget has trended on Twitter, as it should:
— Music News (@ajsmusicnews) September 11, 2015
— Joey Graceffa(@JoeyGraceffa) September 11, 2015
— TasminLucia-Khan (@Tasmin) September 11, 2015
At the same time, we must also declare that collectively, America, not merely some, but everyone, should never forget the other crimes and acts of terrorism perpetrated on U.S. soil. We must remember these events, lest we fail to learn the lessons of history and risk a repeat of these atrocities. While the threat to Americans sometimes takes the form of external enemies, we must also secure ourselves from internal enemies, whether they take the form of the white mob, or reside in federal, state or local government agencies.
For example, 350 years of slavery—including the kidnapping, forced labor, theft, rape and mass murder of Black people—constitute a great crime for which there has been no restitution given. An estimated 16 million lives were lost in the Atlantic slave trade, according to Matthew White, author of Atrocities: The 100 Deadliest Episodes in Human History. And in 1860, slaves represented 16 percent of total household assets in the South, with an estimated worth of $10 trillion in today’s dollars. Black America was never compensated for its forced labor over the centuries, while white America—and Wall Street and corporate America—continues to benefit from the free Black labor that built this nation.
Black people have suffered for the 150 years since the beginning of Jim Crow, a period of racial violence, segregation and economic exploitation which promoted a system of racial cleansing in which we lost land, and witnessed the destruction of our families and communities. Black America continues to suffer the impact in terms of voter disenfranchisement and racial disparities in every aspect of life.
Further, there were 3,959 people lynched in the U.S. between 1877 and 1950, a form of racial terrorism which left profound psychological scars on the Black community and has served as a major source of collective trauma. This form of mob terrorism was replaced by an official form of racial violence known as the death penalty.
The federal government was involved in the infamous Tuskegee experiment, a clinical study which took place between 1932 and 1972, in which Black men who had contracted syphilis were left untreated. The men were told they were receiving free medical care from the government. 600 men, of which 399 had syphilis, were enrolled in the program. Although penicillin was identified as a cure for the disease in 1947, these men were not treated and died by the dozens, inflecting their wives, family members and countless others in the process.
Meanwhile, 80 years before the 911 terrorist attacks, there was the 1921 destruction of Black Wall Street, the Black community of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In this most egregious example of domestic terrorism, a Klan-led white mob incinerated this thriving, affluent community. 35 square blocks were razed and 1,256 residences were destroyed, over 600 businesses were lost, and 10,000 were left homeless. No one knows exactly how many died, but archaeological digs have revealed hundreds of bodies are known to be stacked and buried.
In 1985, the Philadelphia police plotted and engaged in an act of racial terrorism when they dropped a bomb on the roof of a row home in the Black section of West Philadelphia. Their target was the home of the radical Black liberation group known as MOVE. Eleven people, including five children ages 7 to 13 died, and 61 homes were burned to the ground. Officials expressed their intent to let the fire burn, and those MOVE members who tried to escape the burning house were shot by police. Officials claimed MOVE was a terrorist threat, and yet the true terrorists dropped military-grade explosives supplied by the FBI on a civilian population. A commission later called the acts of city officials and the police “criminal evil.”
Further, Jim Crow has continued in America in the form of a New Jim Crow, a criminal justice system that targets Black men for incarceration from the cradle as a major form of social control. As a result, one in three young Black men will serve time in prison—and more than half in some cities—leaving thousands if not millions of Black soldiers locked in a cage and under state supervision–prisoners of a war on drugs, away from home, unable to support their families or build their community.
Throughout the years, the black community knows of real world conspiracies and wars committed by the government against them. One of the more infamous examples was FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, enemy of the people and architect of the COINTELPRO program. The purpose of COINTELPRO was to monitor, infiltrate, disrupt and destroy Black organizations and their leadership, prevent a coalition of Black nationalist organizations from unifying, and “Prevent the rise of a messiah who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement.” The program led to the assassination of Black leaders such as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton
So, we must never forget, as there is much to remember in America.