A Country Researcher’s Review of Brent Staples’ Black Men in Public Space
This is my review of Brent Staples’Black Men in Public Space. I am posting this review and analysis as a journal entry on the assignments I particularly enjoyed reading about while taking my Honours English class.
This piece is a harrowing exposé into the experience of Black men in the United States of America; the micro-aggressions, and implicit bias they repeatedly encounter. My first observation while reading Staples’ piece is that it gloomily shows how Black males—boys, teenagers or university students—are perceived as criminals and aggressors in American society. Whereas, those who they encounter are perceived as victims.
Staples further describes how Blackness is seen as intimidating and threatening to people in the United States. For me, this calls to mind instances of “driving while Black.” Where Blackness meets Whiteness, we often see Whiteness clutching handbags, locking car doors, policing Blackness in neighborhoods, following Blackness around in departments stores, and so on.
A Country Researcher’s Review of Brent Staples’ Black Men in Public Space. Does Society See Black Men in America As Criminals?
Staples’ piece also illustrates how Black men, who may find themselves in respectable occupations, are still perceived by society as criminals and thugs. For example, Staples described how police officers misidentified him as a killer (Staples, 1986). Police officers also held Staples at gunpoint irrespective of his status as a reporter (Staples, 1986). A similar incident happened to Dion Rabouin, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. In the video uploaded to YouTube, we see a police officer arresting Rabouin and commanding him to take a seat. He also threatens Rabouin with a charge of obstruction if he did not comply (Rebel HQ, 2023). In 2020, police in riot gear arrested Omar Jimenez, a Black correspondent for CNN, who was covering the protests in Minneapolis. Despite identifying himself as a reporter and complying with their request, Jimenez was taken into police custody (CNN, 2020). To be fair, Minneapolis police also arrested a CNN producer, who happened to be White.
My last observation is Staples’ attempt at enculturation and assimilation. To read that Staples felt he had to “whistle melodies from Beethoven and Vivaldi” (Staples, 1986) to not be perceived as non-threatening is surreal. It cannot be denied that Black Americans often engage in these self-preserving behaviours to provide those in their environment with comfort, so that Blackness can live to see another day.
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CNN. Police arrest CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez and crew on live television. 29 May 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftLzQefpBvM. 19 January 2023.
Rebel HQ. AZ Police Detain Law Abiding Black Reporter. 06 January 2023. YouTube. 19 January 2023.
Staples, Brent. Black Men in Public Spaces. 1986. https://harpers.org/archive/1986/12/black-men-and-public-space/ . 19 January 2023.
Black University of Arizona Student Conducting Research in Ireland Speaks Out Her About Persecution
To the Esteemed Professors at the University of Arizona:
I am writing this email in hopes of urging you to opt out of the Biden Administration’s constructive dismissal of Black student activists. As educators, you have a responsibility to promote critical thinking and civic engagement among the student population. This means supporting them when they exercise their democratic rights and engage in dialogue on issues that matter to them.
Black University of Arizona Student Conducting Research in Ireland Speaks Out About Her Persecution – Undermining Freedom of Expression
Recently, we have seen an alarming trend of students being punished for engaging in research and political activism. The Biden Administration has introduced a new policy of giving students an unusual and overwhelming amount of work as reprisal for research is dislikes, that could result in students, especially Black students, dropping their courses. This not only undermines their freedom of expression in the U.S. but also perpetuates a culture of fear and aversion towards social change.
As professors, you are in a unique position to protect the students of the University of Arizona from unjust policies and practices. By opting out of Biden Administration’s tactics, you can create a safe and supportive environment for independent research, activism and civic engagement on campuses and abroad.
Together, we can educate and empower students to be active global citizens who are passionate about creating positive change in society.
I urge you to stand with University of Arizona students, and other students around the world, who seek to send a clear message of resistance to any measures that seek to suppress independent research, free speech and activism. Let us demonstrate our commitment to fostering critical thinking and social responsibility by opting out of the Biden Administration’s destructive practices. Together, we can create a stronger, more inclusive, and more vibrant academic community that values intellectual discourse and respectful dissent.
Arrest of Colorado Woman is the Product of Biased Policing in the United States
Westminster police officers in the State of Colorado arrested Charlene Gibson after she was attacked by a White male, despite the fact he faces the most serious charges of the two.
According to CBS Colorado, Gibson had permission from a Party City employee to park her car in a designated space while her friends loaded the car with birthday balloons. Gibson was approached by a man, who instructed her to move the car so that his wife on a walker could have access to the ramp. When Gibson declined do to so, and did not kowtow to his commands, he punched her in the face repeatedly. As a result, Gibson hit him back in self-defense. Law enforcement officers would soon arrived on scene. When they did, the arrested Gibson despite proof of her only acting in self-defense.
Evidence clearly demonstrates when Black Americans attempt to protect themselves against attacks, the criminal system punishes them more harshly than it does Whites. These facts undoubtedly confirm the idea that America has a double standard of justice and treatment as it relates to Black Americans.
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U.S. persecution of Black Americans dominate global headlines and we are not even 30 days into the New Year.
The most recent headline is the death of Tyre Nichols, a Black man who the Scorpion Unit stopped and brutally beat earlier this year. On January 10, Nichols succumbed to his injuries. Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills, Jr., Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith, Tadarrius Bean and Preston Hemphill, were among the officers involved in Nichols death.
Both videos depict two men, Nichols and Anderson, who were both visibly frightened of law enforcement officers and fled. In one video, Nichols can be heard screaming for his mom while five officers punched and kicked him repeatedly. In the other video, Anderson can be heard yelling, “You are trying to George Floyd me.”
There is a debate among Americans as to whether these incidents should be considered acts of racism. CCG Bryson, who is known for his Christian conservative rapping, said “Can someone explain, logically, how 5 black officers killing a black man is white supremacy?” To which, Tariq Nasheed responded, it was the “white supremacist power structure that created that police unit that allocated the resources to them, trained them and incentivize them to go out there and terrorize the black community. That’s 100% white supremacy.” To be sure, prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump said on The Daily Show that “the race of the police officer isn’t the determining factor of whether they’re going to commit excessive use of force. But it is the race of the victim. And it’s often Black and brown people who bear the brunt of police brutality.”
It must be emphasized that American law enforcement officers’ harassment and treatment of Black Americans as suspects, through pedestrian and traffic stops, has been thoroughly researched. A recent study found when police use tactics to gain control in encounters with civilians, such as issuing commands in an aggressive way, it fosters fear and make those encounters less predictable (Pickett, Graham & Cullen, 2022). For instance, an officers’ frightening commands may cause an individual to flee the scene, or result in them being hesitant to leave their vehicles even when officers command them to (Pickett, Graham & Cullen, 2022).
U.S. Persecution of Black Americans Dominate Global Headlines. Will the International Community Step In?
In 2016, the IACHR found U.S. law and practices regarding police killings soared to high levels of impunity (Canada, 2022). As a result, the IACHR urged the U.S. to conduct “exhaustive, impartial, independent, effective and prompt investigations.” Although human rights bodies have repeatedly advised the U.S. to bring its domestic law into compliance with international law and standards on use of force practices, the U.S. has failed to comply (Canada, 2022).
As I mentioned last year, in Bullets of Terror: Staring Down the Second Amendment’s Barrel of Death, the Biden Administration’s Executive Order on Advancing Effective, Accountable Policing and Criminal Justice Practices to Enhance Public Trust and Public Safety does not go far enough, nor does it provide for specific criminal legislation for penalties against race-based policing that often results in death for many Black Americans.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination made clear that police are not free to use any amount of force. Indeed, the CERD stated the brutality and excessive or deadly use of force by law enforcement officials against Black and Latinx Americans, including against unarmed individuals, was deeply concerning. It also was concerned at the persistence of the practice of racial profiling by law enforcement officials in the U.S.
Both the End Racial Profiling Act of 2019 (H.R.4339) and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 (H.R.1280) have not made it pass the House. Moreover, U.S. federal and state legislation that regulates the use of lethal force by law enforcement officials is not in accordance with international law and international standards.
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Kansas City Police Officer Violates His Oath to Serve and Protect When He Battered Black Trans Woman
In May 2019, a shop owner had a confrontation with Breonna “BB” Hill, a Black trans woman residing in Kansas, Missouri. Hill sought to resolve the dispute and contacted the Kansas Police. Soon after, officers Charles Prichard and Matthew Brummett arrived on scene.
Roderick Reed, the individual who recorded the incident, continued to record Brummett and Prichard while they assaulted Hill. However, this resulted in Kansas Police charging Reed with a “municipal violation” for not obeying an officer’s commands.
Kansas Police eventually charged both officers with a misdemeanor but this charge was upgraded to a felony third-degree assault after the video of their assault against Hill went viral.
Five months after the officer’s assault, reports surfaced that a man named Allan Robinson shot Hill. Police initially charged Robinson with one felony count of unlawful use of a weapon. However, this count was reduced because prosecutors were of the opinion that Robinson shot Hill in self-defense.
Missouri is a state that does not prohibit the use of the Trans Panic defense. According to the American Bar Association, the Trans Panic legal defense legitimses and excuses violent and lethal behaviour against trans people. This defense has also been used on numerous occasions before a suspect reaches a jury, which shifts the burden to trans persons, who then must show they did not provoke the suspect’s violent reaction. While it is obvious to some, most do not see how this defense criminalises trans bodies in the United States.
In November 2022, a United States judge ruled that both officers did not have to serve time in jail.
Kansas City Police Officer Violates His Oath to Serve and Protect When He Battered Black Trans Woman. Why Violence Against Trans Women Persists in the U.S.
Hill’s death, in my opinion, is another ghastly case of what I call the Zaru Effect—when law enforcement officers close their eyes to harms perpetuated by private actors against trans women. It also involves law enforcement’s arrest of trans women for making complaints, and their failure to speak out against abuses that either causes the physical and sexual assault, or the incarceration and death of trans women.
A girl is heard in the video saying “He’s hitting her?! He’s hitting her?” while the NYPD police officer pummels, what appears to be a Black American girl, on the skull several times. Girls attempt to break the girl free of the officer’s grip, but are unsuccessful.
Defenseless School-girl in New York is Beaten By Adult Male NYPD Police Officer. Is There A Trend?
In the U.S., law enforcement officers have a terrifying history of arresting and brutalizing Black girls. In 2015, an officer in McKinney, Texas is seen throwing a bikini wearing Black teenage girl to the ground. The video also depicts the officer placing his knee on her back while he handcuffs her. A similar incident happened to an 18-year-old Black girl in 2016, where a D.C. police knocked her to the ground and arrested her. During the same year, a police officer in Maryland pepper-sprayed and handcuffed a 15-year-old Black girl.
According to Jacobs, “all incidents revolve around Black girls “talking back” to the police or being so-called “loud.”” Jacobs further points out that in the U.S. “Black girls are likened more to adults than to children and are treated as if they are willfully engaging in behaviors typically expected of Black women.”
For example, a Metropolitan Police Department was forced to acknowledge that they arrested an 11-year-old Black girl when she came to report she had been raped. Even though the girl had signs of sexual trauma, much like the Baltimore incident, the police charged her with filing a false police report. These incidents undoubtedly show the precarious circumstances Black girls and women face in their encounters with law enforcement, and further demonstrate Black Oppression Still Persists in America.
The officer in the present incident has been suspended. No information as to whether NYPD will bring charges against the officer.
Black oppression still persists in America. Black people know it. White people know it. Everyone knows it. This raises the question as to whether emigrating to the continent of Africa would offer the liberation Black Americans seek. In approaching this issue, it is important to define what I mean by liberate. In its simplest definition, liberation means “The action of freeing a region or its people from an oppressor or enemy force…”
An argument can be made that Black Americans are no longer enslaved, and therefore, liberation has been achieved. However, it is worth mentioning that there is limited evidence to suggest Black Americans are entirely liberated. It is generally agreed today that Black Americans remain the targets of racial profiling, police brutality, incarceration, oppression and discrimination in the United States. While one can agree up to a certain point with the idea that Black Americans are no longer enslaved—in the sense of chattel slavery—it has been argued that slavery mutated into something more ominous: mass incarceration (Pereira, 2018). In the United States, Black Americans represent 13 percent of the total population, but they account for 40 percent of the total prison population (Carson, 2020). Pereira (2018) further contends the overrepresentation of Blacks in the U.S. prison system is by design. She goes as far as to say mass incarceration did not replace slavery—it continued slavery under a new name. Thus far, it would seem, mass incarceration in the United States is equally relevant to the conversation on liberation.
The Enslavement of Blacks in the U.S. – Black Oppression Still Persists in America
One of the most striking features for a liberation argument is that many Africans were involuntarily dispersed to the United States from their original homeland. It is a well-known fact that between 1525 and 1866, 12.5 million Blacks were kidnapped from Africa and sent to the Americas through the transatlantic slave trade (Solly, 2020), where slavery emerged in several colonies as a legal institution (Hornsby, 2005, p. 143). By 1916, it is estimated that 90 percent of Black Americans were still “held captive by the virtual slavery of sharecropping and debt peonage…” (Solly, 2020).
Despite enduring centuries of enslavement, exploitation and inequality, Black Americans in the United States still encounter racially charged physical violence. For example, during the end of Reconstruction and World War II, more than 4,400 Blacks were lynched in the United States (Solly, 2020). One should, however, not forget that in 1908, a mob terrorized Black American neighborhoods across Springfield, Illinois, vandalizing black-owned businesses, setting fire to the homes of Black residents, beating those unable to flee and lynching at least two people (Solly, 2020). Multiple massacres also broke out in response to false allegations that young Black men had raped or otherwise assaulted White women. Eerily similar allegations by the “Karen” archetype have teleported into the Common era and have risen to outstanding levels of notoriety, thanks to a flood of footage that has become increasingly more violent and disturbing (Lang, 2020; Shenk, 2020). When Amy Cooper called the authorities on Christian Cooper (no relation), it was not at all inconceivable that Mr. Cooper could have been killed by the police.
The racism, White entitlement, and unchecked White privilege are testaments of the daily Black American experience in the United States. All of which may support the idea of an intifada with the host society and a journey back to Africa.
The Use of Lethal Force Against Blacks in the United States
The historic forms of anti-Black violence not only magnify the racial discrimination felt by Africans in the United States, but also draws striking parallels to contemporary conversations on police brutality. Katie Nodjimbadem pointed out a late 1920s Chicago and Cook County, Illinois regional crime survey, which found that while Black Americans constituted just 5 percent of the area’s population, they made up 30 percent of the victims of police killings. The Orangeburg Massacre of 1968 is another telling example of the horrific violence Black Americans have suffered in the United States, in which law enforcement officers shot and killed three Black student activists at South Carolina State College (Solly, 2020). The probability that an unarmed Black American will be shot by the police is 3.49 times greater than the probability that an unarmed White person will be shot by the police in the United States (IACHR, 2018, p. 59). In a 2019 study, researchers found Black American men in the United States experience the highest levels of inequality in mortality risk. In other words, Black American men are about 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police over the course of their life than White men (Edwards, Lee, & Esposito, 2019, p. 3). The study also found Black American women were 1.4 times more likely to be killed by police than White women (Edwards, Lee, & Esposito, 2019, p. 3). In fact, it is predicted that 1 in 1,000 Black American men and boys will be killed by police over the course of their life in the United States. The last example highlights the fact that Black American men, between the ages of 25 and 29, are killed by police at a rate between 2.8 and 4.1 per 100,000 in the United States (Edwards, Lee, & Esposito, 2019, p. 6). The alarming rate of Black Americans killed, for the most part, by White police officers may demonstrate that the host society is not as safe for Blacks as government officials make it appear. It is yet another reason many Black Americans have strongly considered leaving the United States.
The United States’ Doctrine of Qualified Immunity. Black Oppression Still Persists in America.
The Fourteenth Amendment was drafted to redress—and prevent—the same police violence which Black Americans suffer this very day. That Amendment provides Congress with broad power to curb unjustified police use of force (Wydra, 2020). In 1871, the Reconstruction Congress passed Section 1983 to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment and to ensure that individuals, like Black Americans, could go to court to redress constitutional violations and obtain justice (Wydra, 2020). In the thousands of police-involved killings between 2005 and 2015, just 54 police officers were ever charged with a crime, and most were eventually cleared or acquitted (IACHR, 2018, p. 65). Even in cases where the incident had been documented on video, like those where victims had been shot in the back, or cases where allegations of a cover-up had been made, prosecutors are less likely to file charges against police officers than civilian suspects (IACHR, 2018, pp. 65, 136). This immunization from accountability is known as “qualified immunity,” which effectively bars the courthouse doors for Black Americans whose constitutional rights have been violated by police (Wydra, 2020). Numerous instances of police brutality have since been dismissed on qualified immunity claims, such as the case of Makaila Brooks, who was tazed three times over a misunderstanding (Tyne, 2020). Wydra (2020) also believes that qualified immunity erodes the enforcement of constitutional rights, undermines the rule of law, and denies justice to those victimized by the police, allowing the cycle of police violence and brutality to repeat itself over and over again. In 2020, Black Americans account for 28 percent of those killed by police despite being only 13 percent of the population (Mapping Police Violence, 2020). This long line of police killings—George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Raymond Chaluisant among the most recent—is the result of a system that breeds police unaccountability in the United States (Wydra, 2020).
It is very clear from the observations above that government officials in the United States have not held police officers to the same legal standards as the very citizens they are supposed to protect. Slavery, police brutality and deadly use of force, racially biased policing practices, and the racial disparities that permeate virtually every part of the criminal justice system, are deeply entrenched in local, state, and federal institutions—are widespread—and represent a clear threat to the human rights of Black Americans (IACHR, 2018, p. 12). All of which may support an argument that Black Americans may gain a new sense of freedom by emigrating to the continent of Africa.
Is Moving to Africa the Answer or Should Black Americans Stay and Fight for Rights? Black Oppression Still Persists in America.
Tyne defines racism as a “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior” (Tyne, 2020). It has been argued that racism and race can only exist once societies accept a biological basis for difference and the supposed inferiority of outsiders (Hornsby, 2005, p. 101). Others, however, see the results of prejudice as more important than their ideological underpinnings (Hornsby, 2005, p. 101)—racism is a moral issue, a defect of human nature and a symptom of an even deeper cause. No matter how much the desire to and attempt to—no one can eradicate someone’s moral depravity merely through policies, laws, or demonstrations of force (Tyne, 2020). With racism, Black oppression still persists in America.
Tyne’s line of thinking, whether advertently or inadvertently, appears to echo Marcus Garvey’s argument that Black Americans’ quest for social equality in the United States is a delusion. Garvey believed Black Americans were fated to be a permanent minority who could never assimilate because White Americans would never let them. Black Americans, therefore, could not improve their condition or gain autonomy in the United States. Garvey also feared for Blacks living in countries where they were a minority. He believed that continual demands for equality by Black Americans would threaten Whites and would lead to increasingly violent racial conflicts (Bolaffi, Bracalenti, Braham, & Gindro, 2003, p. 28). According to Garvey, only in Africa was self-emancipation possible. This Back-to-Africa movement further urged Black people to be proud of their race and origins (Bolaffi, Bracalenti, Braham, & Gindro, 2003, p. 28). Even so, Garvey never envisioned a sudden mass emigration to Africa. He proposed only that a few thousand Black Americans move to Africa and establish an independent nation committed to fighting for the rights of Blacks everywhere (Lawler & Davenport, 2005, p. 54). A strong African nation, Garvey argues, might be able to force other countries to respect the rights of their Black citizens (Lawler & Davenport, 2005, p. 54).
In contrast to Garvey’s view that Black Americans would gain a new sense of freedom and strength by emigrating to the continent of Africa, Tariq Nasheed, the film producer who identified the lineage Foundational Black American asks: How could Black Americans go back to a place where they have never been? Other critics who oppose neo-Garveysim further contend Black Americans should not move to Africa because they would be strangers there. Thus, it would be better for them to concentrate on improving conditions in the United States (Lawler & Davenport, 2005, p. 54). In other words, Black Americans should remain in the United States and fight for their rights. Indeed, Du Bois insisted on making clear that Black Americans knew what their rights were, knew they were being unjustly denied equal citizenship, and that Black Americans would not rest until they had all the liberties and opportunities due them as equal members of the republic (Loury, et. al., 2008, p. 84).
Referring back to the 1800s, as it relates to the formation of the American Colonization Society (“ACS”), White Americans tried to erase the Black presence in the young republic. Whereas Garvey sought a return to Africa in the hope of empowering blacks, the ACS wanted to isolate them in a land its members and supporters labeled as forsaken. The Society purchased a large tract of land in West Africa in 1821 and immediately began transporting freed slaves across the Atlantic Ocean. Eventually, an estimated 12,000 Black Americans arrived in what became the modern nation of Liberia (Ellison, 1970; Lawler & Davenport, 2005, p. 55). Today, approximately 54 percent of Liberia’s population lives below the poverty line. Only 16.9 percent of its people have access to improved sanitation facilities, and a mere 10 percent have access to electricity. Violence against women is a major concern in Liberia, like female genital mutilation. Marriage at a young age is also commonplace (Turner, 2018). Despite the fact that 12 percent of the population is Muslim, Black Muslims have had difficulties registering to vote. Moreover, the LGBT community has no rights (Turner, 2018).
On the other hand, Liberia has a variety of institutions working in the nation to improve the country’s human rights situation, including the Liberian Independent National Commission of Human Rights, the Ministry of Justice Human Rights Protection Division and various national committees that focus on specific issues such as child labor rights. The government has also cooperated with the U.N. Office of The High Commissioner for Human Rights to address human rights violations in Liberia (Turner, 2018). Liberia, while not a perfect country, is developing into a stronger republic. It is also strengthening the human rights of its people. Overall, its improved human rights situation makes it an attractive option for Black American relocation. Or, does it? Other evidence indicates Black oppression still persists in America, and elsewhere.
If Moving to Africa is the Answer, Why Are Africans Fleeing the Continent?
If moving to Africa is the answer to liberation, why are many Africans fleeing the continent and filing refugee claims in other continents? One cannot deny that Africa is one of the main refugee generating continents in the world, which comprises of four major refugee generating regions. The first is the Great Lakes region where the political and ethnic conflicts in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda have generated millions of refugees over the past four decades (Rutinwa, 1999, p. 3). Most of these refugees have been hosted in the region, mainly in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, as well as in the refugee generating countries themselves. The second major refugee region is the Horn of Africa, where a succession of armed conflicts resulted in the flight of millions of people in search of safety. These have included the war between Ethiopia and Somalia for control of the Ogaden region in 1977-1978; the struggle for Eritrean independence from Ethiopia, which began in the 1950s and was finally achieved in 1993, and the conflict between government and rebel forces in southern Sudan. Most of these refugees found protection within the countries of the Horn itself, as well as in the neighboring states of Egypt and Kenya (Rutinwa, 1999, p. 3). While those from the Syrian Arab Republic were the most to file refugee claims in 2014, those from Somalia made up 1.11 million claims (UNHCR, 2014, p. 9). It cannot be denied that South Sudan is Africa’s largest source of refugees with 2.3 million people (McCarthy, 2019; Malim 2020). As a result of the prolonged warfare between states and people groups, many citizens are located in the midst of the conflict areas and in extreme danger. Since 2013, there have been continued violence, loss of access to resources, and consequential hunger because of the impact to the local economy (Malim, 2020).
All of this points to the conclusion that these countries may not be the safest in Africa for Black Americans to migrate to if they choose to depart the United States.
Can the United States Survive Without Black Americans?
If one weighs the pros and the cons of this debate, one soon realizes there is no easy answer to the question of whether Black Americans should move to Africa. For instance, in 1970, Ralph Ellison addressed the question of a new America without Blacks. Ellison expressed the opinion that—had there been no Blacks in the United States,—certain creative tensions arising from the cross-purposes of Whites and Blacks would not have existed (Ellison, 1970). He further argues without Blacks, there would be no Stephen Crane, who found certain basic themes of his writing in the Civil War (Ellison, 1970). Ellison also believes there would have been no Hemingway, who took Crane as a source and guide. As explained by Ellison:
“[W]ithout the presence of Negro American style, our jokes, tall tales, even our sports would be lacking in the sudden turns, shocks and swift changes of pace (all jazz-shaped) that serve to remind us that the world is ever unexplored…[w]ithout the presence of Blacks, our political history would have been otherwise. No slave economy, no Civil War, no violent destruction of the Reconstruction, no K.K.K. and no Jim Crow system. And without the disenfranchisement of Black Americans and the manipulation of racial fears and prejudices, the disproportionate impact of White Southern politicians upon our domestic and foreign policies would have been impossible…” (Ellison, 1970).
All of Ellison’s views points to the conclusion that the United States could not survive without the presence of Black Americans, to which he refers as “the irony implicit in the dynamics of American democracy” (Ellison, 1970). Black Americans in the United States, according to Ellison, symbolize the country’s most stringent test and the possibility of its greatest human freedom (Ellison, 1970). One cannot possibly accept Ellison’s view that without the existence of Black Americans, slavery would not have existed. If there were no Black Americans in the United States, it is well within the realm of possibility that others outside the continent would have been kidnapped from their homeland and sent to the Americas through the transatlantic slave trade. For instance, Franklin and Higginbotham (2011) found that indentured servants worked alongside African slaves and often received treatment that was just as harsh. Without Black Americans, it is conceivable that men of another “race” would experience the highest levels of inequality in mortality risk from police violence. Not only is it likely that the K.K.K. would target and harm the alternative race, but it is also conceivable that this race would suffer under Jim Crow laws and would face racial discrimination in the United States. Even though the United States may not be able to survive without Black Americans, Black oppression still persists in America.
This article journeyed through the enslavement of Africans and the use of lethal force against Black Americans in the United States. It examined the United States’ doctrine of qualified immunity which immunizes police officers from accountability and explored the idea of Black Americans moving to Africa, and whether such a move would bring liberation. This article also explored the idea of the United States surviving without the presence of Black Americans and, touched upon Africans fleeing the continent of Africa. On reflection, it seems more accurate to say that the answer to the question, whether Black Americans should move to the continent of Africa, is a subjective one. While this paper disagrees with some of Ellison’s views, it does not contest the idea that without Black Americans, something irrepressibly hopeful and creative would go out of the American spirit (Ellison, 1970). In the words of Ellison (1970), Black Americans have put pressure upon the United States to live up to its ideals. Lastly, Black oppression still persists in America today and has not changed. Perhaps by departing the United States, those ideals will be realized.
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