It is ironic that I was asked to pen this column on Sunday, May 31. I kept my annual tradition of watching the 2008 film “Before they Die” about the Tulsa Massacre and decimation of “Black Wall Street.” However, on this 99th anniversary about the burning, looting and killing of our ancestors and the desecration of this former prosperous Black community, I was distracted by recurring images of George Floyd’s murder.
As a proud, fourth generation Minnesotan, the distress and heartache caused by watching his demise at the hands of police who have sworn to “protect and serve” is still painful. Like many I have cried endlessly and have raged loudly about this horrible incident that has torn the scab off more than 401-plus years of abuse. Having lived in the south side of Minneapolis not far from brother Floyd’s death, my heart aches for all who live with the physical reminder that our neighborhood, city and lives have forever changed.
For too many decades to count many of us have been walking around numb, our survival depended on it. To relive or reminisce about previous similar incidents is so traumatizing we buried them deep to prevent depression, heart attacks and mental breaks. The ensuing national and worldwide protests have shed light on the way Black people have been marginalized and mistreated, and the culmination of so many acts of aggression has opened the well of emotions unexpressed, primarily anger.
Misinformation fed to generations about life for Blacks in this broken country has created systemic practices and cultural conditioning of policing that has permeated every facet of our lives. Black Americans are clear and fully aware of our history, disenfranchisement and the role many white Americans have played in it. We are fortunate to have griots in our communities that have shared events and history that stay in vines of communication extending from one generation to the next. Meanwhile, white America continues to revel in selective amnesia regarding any history that speaks to our enslavement, oppression and persecution by teaching anti-social studies and revisionist history.
Although brother George Floyd’s tragic transition “changed the world,” according to his daughter Gianna, this movement is about history because it is history that allowed those policemen to murder him. A history that begins with the stealing of our ancestors and raping of Mother Africa’s natural resources, both crimes committed to create wealth for generations of whites across the globe. To iterate a portion of that history to the unknowing, here is a partial list. It is because:
- The involuntary enslavement and the selling and separation of our families, land stolen during Reconstruction and sharecropping as a created form of continued repression and poverty.
- Jim Crow laws were enacted to incarcerate Blacks for nonexistent or minor infractions; the Red Summer of 1919when more than 25 white mobs incited riots, looted and killed Black communities from Elaine, Arkansas, to Annapolis, Syracuse, Washington, D.C. and Chicago and numerous other Black communities and cities. Where the atrocities and loss of life, homes and revenue was never recognized or recovered; and the practice of redlining by banks who accepted our deposits but would not issue home or business loans.
- A cash bail system is designed to keep us in jail while more than 27% of Blacks live below poverty; and the history of police (slave patrols) for Blacks are built on persecution; because slavery still exists in our penal system and white corporations are making money on the continued incarceration of Black people; because nationally over 38% of inmates are Black and over 32% of our children are arrested.
- Our natural hair loose or in locs keeps us from employment and in some instances graduation; the education to prison pipeline exists; and higher education is not affordable or accessible; Blacks account for 36% of COVID-19 cases and 35% of deaths; Blacks are 11.9% or the workforce but 17% of essential line workers and 16.7% of those unemployed.
- Many of us live in food deserts; and access to health care and health disparities are real; and because of military service to a country that has never acknowledged our humanity, gerrymandering and Black voter suppression exists.
- Every time we built self-sustaining communities they were burned and looted and its residents were murdered; the more than 4,000 recorded hangings of Black men, women and children; all of the victims named and unnamed that have suffered and died at the hands of police who are never charged.
The generational trauma caused by historical events have emerged in the form of mostly peaceful protests, but unless white Americans recognize their failure, nothing will intrinsically change. Unarmed protesters met with violent police, armed as if going to war, details the disparity of thought regarding the rights of Black Americans in many communities. We cannot legally bear arms or exhibit free speech without reprisal, just ask Philando Castile’s family. To date, over 9,300 protesters have been arrested, and those who have died, lost eyes, limbs and have been hospitalized because of police violence is staggering, all because they hesitated to arrest four.
The revolution is being televised and it started in Minneapolis. The world sees you America, this multicultural, multi-generational worldwide movement is doing its part, however, now the responsibility is on white Americans in positions of authority to fix it or God forbid the consequences.
Judie Carmichael Brown is a native of Minneapolis who currently resides in Indianapolis and is the director of business development for Hudson and Associates. She is the proud granddaughter of the late Robert Archie and Mary Jones Sr. of St. Paul, and Burie W. and Louise Carmichael Sr. of Minneapolis, all who left an indelible legacy in the Twin Cities.