Killing blacks in the US…….racist psyche that dates back to days of slavery


THESE days it has become almost normal to see, on our television screens on a fortnightly basis, policemen, usually white, pursuing an unarmed black man, overpowering him and pinning him to the ground and then shooting him dead a few seconds later.
It is as if we are viewing one of those Hollywood films, but the difference is that this is the reality unfolding on American streets.
This is the story of one black man, Alton Sterling, a US citizen of Baton Rouge and a father of five.
He is shown in a video (2015) lying on the ground, restrained by two police officers who hover closely over him before shooting him at close range.
A second video on the same tragic incident and much clearer than the first, shows that Sterling was not reaching for his pockets and did not have anything in his hands before the police shot him dead.
Another incident involves a black man, Philando Castile of Falcon Heights, Minnesota.
In a graphic video (2016) filmed by his girlfriend using facebook live, a police officer shoots him three times as he drives his car.
We see him bleeding from gunshot wounds.
The reason for the cold-blooded murder, according to the girlfriend is: “We had a busted tail light.”
In another incident, a video image shows a New York police officer, a certain Daniel Pantaleo, chocking a black man, Eric Garner, as he lies helplessly on the ground.
His last words just before he dies are: “I am choking. I can’t breathe.”
The truth is, blacks in America have been ‘choking’ for a long time.
In fact, their tragedy begins from 1450 when their ancestors are captured in Africa and transported across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas whereupon they are enslaved by white and invariably wealthy landowners.
From 1450 right up to the present, the lives of black people have never really mattered that much to most white-skinned people, especially to the Caucasians who spearheaded the slave trade and excelled in the enslavement process itself.
In fact, blacks were regarded as whitemen’s property, ill-treated in all manner of ways and exploited to the full until they died.
And the reason is simple.
Whites regarded blacks as sub-human.
They had no rights to speak of at all for all those centuries and this is why, when slavery ended in the 1880s, it is the slave owners who got financial compensation for losing their slaves and not the slaves themselves.
In summary, blacks literally functioned as the technology which developed the Americas on behalf of all other European immigrants who constitute the bulk of the population in the US today.
A key question here is: Is it by accident or some amnesia of some sort that US has never bothered to apologise for subjecting blacks to such dehumanising treatment and has never bothered to pay reparations for the enslavement of blacks?
Because black lives have never mattered at all as far as most Caucasians are concerned. This deep-rooted belief among whites, almost amounting to a superstition of some sort, that blacks are not normal human beings has remained intact as an integral part of the American psyche.
One can argue it is this racist psyche which American laws, however well-intentioned, have failed to transform as part of truly national sensibility.
And this is why in this day and age when the US has even appointed itself as the champion of human rights in the whole world blacks have recently found it necessary to form a movement called, ‘Black Lives Matter’.
But white America cannot sense the stinging irony of it all.
Today blacks remain the only race which migrated to the Americas against their will and they remain unwelcome immigrants, the first to lose their jobs when times are hard and the last to be hired when good times knock at the door.
They remain a marginalised lot, notwithstanding the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
As far as blacks are concerned, this much touted act remains a success story on paper and not on the ground where the tragic drama affecting blacks unfolds on a daily basis.
The casualty figures speak of a pattern of police killings that is disturbing.
In 2014, American police killed 238 unarmed black males while attempting to arrest them. In 2015 American police killed a total of 986 people who included whites.
Here is what one of the leading newspapers, The Washington Post, (which collates numbers of police killings) stated recently:
“Police killed blacks at three-times the rate of whites when adjusted for the populations where these shootings occurred. And although blackmen represent six percent of the US population, they made up nearly 40 percent of those who were killed while unarmed.”
As if not to miss their annual target of killings, by mid-September 2016, US police had killed 194 unarmed blacks.
This total excludes those killings which often go unreported and therefore unrecorded by The Washington Post.
To understand the more or less cavalier attitude towards police killings of blacks, one has again to refer to the origins of American policing.
A scholar on the subject, Victor Kappeler writes: “Slave patrols and night watches, which later became modern police departments were both designed to control the behaviour of minorities…for the sole purpose of controlling the slave population and protecting the interests of slave owners….The similarities between the slave patrols and modern American policing are too salient to dismiss or ignore. Hence the slave patrol should be considered a forerunner of modern American law enforcement.”
What Kappeler is referring to here is a policing system underpinned by a deep-rooted culture which regards blacks as permanent outsiders.
Having developed America to what it is today, using their sweat and labour for centuries, blacks remain permanent suspects and fair game as targets of elimination.
In other words, the unsettling drama involving blacks which we witness on our screens nowadays has been going on for a long time in the US as part of what is considered normal.
The only difference this time is that new technology has made it possible for most of us to witness visually the abnormal brutalities perpetrated against blacks by police.
The question is: What should be done about these brutalities in the US?
Do we keep quiet as Africans and pretend that nothing is the matter at all?
The African Union (AU) has a moral obligation to pronounce its position on this matter without fail.
And this could be done on a regular basis as part of an annual report on human rights violations in regard to Africans on our continent and beyond.
Surely the AU has an obligation to come up with a human rights violation index which lists, without fear or favour, which European and American countries are carrying out such violations against blacks.
But in order for such an annual report to carry weight, we need to make sure we fund the AU Human Rights Commission ourselves and not Western donors.


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