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The Big Payback!!!

"Got ta...Got ta Payback....Revenge... I'm Mad...The Big Payback..." -James Brown

I think a lot of folks today, in light of the most recent example of police abuse of authority in Ferguson, MO, and the death of Michael Brown would give Brother Brown an Amen! Coming on the heels of Eric Garner's homicide at the hands of New York City cops, one feels keenly Yogi Berra's Malaprop, "It's deja vu all over again!"

What one can see in these incidents that keep happening over and over again where "white" cop shoots unarmed "black" man is the systematic, systemic, serial, lack of respect of and for "black" folks not only as fellow citizens, but as human beings entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

There is a straight line from 18th century justifications for Africans being enslaved and 21st century American attitudes and institutional responses to how "black" folks are perceived as criminals. It was skin color then, if you were black you were automatically thought to be a slave unless you could prove otherwise. Had papers. And it is skin color now. Today, if you are "black" even if in the most affluent surroundings you are suspect ie: Henry Louis Gates in Martha's Vineyard, trying to get into his own house. Or Michael Brown just walking home.

Watching news reports and social media imagery, I was struck how much the scene with police dogs hearkened back to the bad old days of Bull Conner, canine teeth chomping at black flesh. It's the 50th anniversary of "The Civil Right Act," and the more things have changed, a "black" man in the White House, the more they've stayed the same. The reason? Institutionally not a whole lot has changed. When one looks at History one can see that each time there is movement toward greater equality for "black" folks there is a concomitant "white" backlash. Just as Reconstruction gave way to Jim Crow segregation, today Obama's re-election is giving way to unnecessary voter ID laws. As the Democratic Party becomes more 'diverse,' the Republican Party becomes less so. As new immigrants from the south, documented or not seek greater freedom, equality and economic opportunities as "white" ethnic Europeans did in the 19th century, now in the 21st, these descendants eschew Liberty's "give me your tired, your poor," in favor of border security. 

The political, economic, social, powers that be, whether, "black" or "white" haven't really changed the game. When Obama ran on a platform of bringing change to Washington that was always going to be more symbolism than substance. He's a politician, like every president before him. As he has said on any number of occasions, he's President of the United States, not Black America. But why not? After all Black America is also America!

And even though Hillary might be a shoo in for the Democratic nomination should she decide to run and win, her election, like Obama's will be more symbolic than game changing. We don't need another politician, Democrat or Republican spouting platitudes and rhetoric. Black folks need "revolutionary" programs to dismantle the "white" supremacist mindset that is the foundation upon which America was built and still stands.

Frederick Douglass is quoted as saying that "Power concedes nothing without demand. It never has and it never will." What I hope comes out of the Michael Brown affair is a realization on the part of the "black" community writ large that business as usual won't cut it. There needs to be a total system reboot. And it won't happen from the top down, but only from the bottom up.

"Wake up ev'rybody! No more sleepin' in bed. No more backward thinkin'. Time for thinkin' ahead!" -Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes featuring Teddy Pendergras