By Dr Kwame Nantambu
June 08, 2023
The violent, brutal beating/murder of the 29-year-old black man Tyre Nichols on January 7, 2023 by five black Memphis police officers immediately pushes to the fore the inherent, insecure and dangerous existence of black life in America today.
Indeed, there was a time when blacks were considered “three-fifths of a person”, but it seems that that evaluation has now totally been relegated to zero.
And on March 6, 1857, US Chief Justice Roger Taney delivered/issued this ultimate, infamous, racist ruling in the Dred Scott v Sanford case to the extent that blacks were “beings of an inferior order and altogether unfit to associate with the white race either in social and political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect and that the negro might justify and lawfully be reduced to slaves for his benefit. He was bought and sold and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic whenever a profit could be made by it.”
Indeed, the historical statistical record reveals that “black people, who account for 13 per cent of the US population, accounted for 27 per cent of those fatally shot and killed by police in 2021.” This gruesome reality validates the long-held truism that “black people are twice as likely as whites to be shot by police officers”.
In addition, as the 1968 Kerner Commission Report concluded on violence in American cities in 1967: “Our nation is moving toward two societies, One Black, One White— Separate and Unequal.” The Commission also warned that “unless conditions were remedied,…the country faced a ‘system of apartheid’.”
Indeed, it is also compelling to recall that way back then, the Commission observed that “the abrasive relationship between the police and the minority communities has been a major and explosive source of grievance, tension and disorder.” Ergo, it need occasion no great surprise that this real tension between these two entities has only escalated to the zenith degree today in overt violent, brutal murderous manifestations.
For whereas slogans such as “Driving While Black” and “Black Lives Matter” have gained much national currency and support, today’s murder of Tyre Nichols must force/compel African-Americans to take our existence in America to the zenith level and announce to the entire world that Living While Black In America is anathema to our health.
It seems obvious that the “police culture” of brutality and absolutely no respect/regard for black life is the accepted modus operandi and it does not really matter whether that police officer is white or black, period and full stop. The subconscious mind-set is the same. And as Dr Frantz Fanon correctly elucidates in his magnum opus titled Black Skin, White Masks (1967): “The black man wants to be like the white man. For the black man there is only one destiny. And it is white. Long ago the black admitted the unarguable superiority of the white and all his efforts are aimed at achieving a white existence” and similar anti-black policing methods in America.
Ipso facto, it doesn’t matter whether the police officer is black or white, as long as you’re a black person living in America today, then, police violence/ brutality is in your face up close and very personal.
Truth Be Told: The ultimate stark reality is that Living While Black In America ensures that one is automatically not only subjected to, but, most importantly, the overt victim/target of selective political prosecution/persecution as manifested in the epic injustice reality that 43 Republican-controlled legislatures have passed repressive/draconian laws to prevent African-Americans from exercising their constitutional right to vote.
It is indeed extremely sad to note and report that the death/killing of Tyre Nichols, a black man, will NOT be the last and only one in 2023. As Rev Al Sharpton poignantly and correctly observed at Tyre’s funeral service: “If he were a white young man, we would not be here today.” Translation: This episode is prima facie evidence of the stark reality of Living While Black In America.
And on April 13, 2023, a white 84-year-old man shot an unarmed black 16-year-old teenager twice because he rang the wrong door bell in Kansas City, MO. Now, if that teenager was white would this white man engage in the same violent deadly action against him? Indeed, this intolerable incident brings to the fore the stark reality of Living While Black In America. And let the record reveal that this white man is NOT suffering from any mental health disorder.
In the utmost apocalyptic and immortal admonition of NBA basketball super star LeBron James: “No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough. We got a long way to go for us as a society and for us as African-Americans until we feel equal in America.”
Dr Kwame Nantambu is professor emeritus, Kent State University.