Casey Ryan Patterson
There is a historical reason for the continued racial unrest in America. The failure of our current political leadership to address problems in our present society has continued the outcry of voices, riots, and pro-black movements with #BlackLivesMatter as the forerunner. Unless more attention is paid to the civil unrest happening in the lower class demographic there will be a continuation of senseless crimes committed by uneducated poor people, senseless killings of unarmed lower class people by police officers, and the country will continue to be divided with the poor blaming the rich and the rich blaming the poor. Without a few solid principles that are protected and upheld by policy leaders on a consistent basis among every American citizen we will never have a unified mind or unified purpose; and the unrest that began at the beginning of the United States of America will continue on, reaching even the grandchildren of the millennial generation. To be clear, we will continue to see pushback against the current political power structure as long as there is present evidence that it still upholds the oppression of the past without actively seeking a unified solution.
John Maxwell’s leadership philosophy:
Everything rises and falls on leadership.
Discrimination toward Africans and immigrants has put an ugly stain on American history and our country will not thrive for another 400 years unless racism and discrimination is eradicated from American culture. It is a current social issue that descendants from the lineage of slaves deal with on a daily basis. Evidence suggests American law to be more strict toward the minority, brown skin, and poor demographics than the upper class, fair-skinned majority demographic with police arresting and judges charging the lower class citizens with higher fines and longer jail sentences that the wealthy and well known. Studies indicate that some countries view America as a tyrant country policing every country except itself. Big business has destroyed the mind of the once “justice for all” mentality and has replaced it with what seems to be a “justice…if you have money” mentality. The American Dream has died with every other person who has simply worked hard, and still did not receive their due. Freedom from chains among the lineage of African slaves has been replaced with gentrification, the separation of the classes, and the opinion that poor people need to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps when in fact America would not be a country today without the extreme amount of free slave labor it received for over 400 years which boomed America’s economy through the cotton and tobacco industry while providing free soldiers on the front lines of the Civil War and WWI.
The attitude toward American history differs among the American people from culture to culture. As a democratic capitalist republic America is a complex country with a complex form of government that has attracted a diverse array of people who have lacked the leadership to truly unite this country with one solid mindset or cause to live by. If we are to be honest with ourselves America began with an ugly past by condoning and prospering through slavery. Looking back on the enactment of Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution known as the Three/Fifths Compromise, solid evidence is found of just how misguided our forefathers were. The Three/Fifths Compromise is quoted as, “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons” (Constitution of the United States, July 1787). This shows, on paper, the mind of the political leaders and other people who owned slaves. They came to the decision that in order for slave masters to continue to be profitable while paying government taxes they had to allow slaves to be counted as taxable, but not as a whole person. Slaves did not count as “those bound to Service for a Term of Years” because a slave had no promise to be freed after a certain number of years; they were property to live and die as property.
Leading up to the Civil War 179,000 black men served in the Union Army alongside all other Union soldiers to gain their freedom (The human capital of black soldiers during the American Civil War, Kitae Sohn, January 2014). According to American law during this time period some black people were not valuable enough to be counted as a whole person, however they were valuable enough to be given weapons and put on the front lines of a war they did not start to kill and be killed in the name of the freedom they should have been given when the country was first formed. Following the Civil War black soldiers were also allowed to fight in World War I, again discriminately proving themselves and protecting the people who believed they were only worth being counted as 3/5 a person. The Black Soldiers Memorabilia tells of the 369th Regiment comprised of black soldiers who, according to Commander William Hayward, saved Paris from the Germans (Black Soldiers Memorabilia, Clarence V. Reynolds, March 2009). These black soldiers were all awarded the Croix de Guerre in 1918 by the French government but no recognition or awards from the United States government.
Black Lives Matter
During the Civil Rights movement there were a host of black and white political leaders and community leaders that came together because the people of the United States began to see the issues involving racism and discrimination among people of the same country. However after the Civil Rights movement there was, and still is, discrimination and racial tension among the American people. Within the last 5 years there have been too many unarmed black lives lost due to discrimination and a biased racial opinion. We lost Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Rumain Brisbon, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and Sandra Bland. Some of these people were murdered at the hands of police, others were killed because of mishandling by police, and some had mental illness that should have invoked some form of special care. Unfortunately, there was no special care given to any of these people, unfortunately their children will grow up fatherless and motherless; unfortunately their families will never get to have them visit for the holiday or special celebrations; and unfortunately these people will never be able to prove themselves worthy of being counted as valuable.
The deaths of black unarmed citizens continue the distrust of the government by this demographic of the American people. ‘BlackLivesMatter’ should not have to exist, but because of the continued acts of racism by the very people who the government claims are here to protect citizens this outcry in the form of the #BlackLivesMatter movement has been formed. This movement is “working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically and intentionally targeted for demise” (About, BlackLivesMatter). #BlackLivesMatter is the collective voice of all people being discriminated against, crying out in unity that we are tired of being singled out in the justice system, we are tired of being beaten by police, we are tired of having to talk to our sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters about making sure we look as friendly as possible when we are around police and other authority figures.
Arguably this is the incident that brought racial tensions in America from darkness to the mainstream media. On the outside this incident unfolds something like this: a teenage Trayvon Martin leaves a convenience store, an adult male, George Zimmerman, follows him and confronts him, then teenage Trayvon Martin is shot and killed. There have been no murder charges or manslaughter charges taken against George Zimmerman for shooting the unarmed 17 year old Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman claimed he shot the teenager in self-defense, even though he initiated the confrontation while Trayvon was walking home after buying Skittles and tea from a convenience store. This is more proof that the thought and portrayal of black people isn’t sensitized because of age, whether a man or a child some people only see a threat. This investigation reported no findings to prove this as being a hate crime, or race related, however George Zimmerman did admit he thought the teenager looked suspicious. What caused the suspicion is completely up to the bias of George Zimmerman, and unfortunately for Trayvon Martin no justice will be brought to him or his family. In a show of solidarity every person who supports #BlackLivesMatter wore hoodies in respect to the Martin family and the disapproval of the jury decision to not charge George Zimmerman with murder. What will it take to receive justice?
In a more unknown case 31 year old unarmed Dontre Hamilton was shot 14 times by Officer Christopher Manney in Milwaukee. Officer Manney has been fired from the police force, however no criminal charges have been able to stand against him; according to an independent investigation of the incident the conclusion was that the force used against Dontre Hamilton was necessary to stop the threat. Dontre Hamilton was diagnosed with a mental illness, schizophrenia, and stopped taking his medication due to unknown reasons. Mr. Hamilton was found by two police officers prior to Officer Manney and the two officers found Mr. Hamilton to be a law abiding citizen. However, due to a lack of communication among the officers, Officer Manney was unaware that Mr. Hamilton had already been checked out and deemed safe. Officer Manney confronted Mr. Hamilton to pat him down and as he began the pat down Mr. Hamilton he began to have an episode of schizophrenia and began to resist the officer. The officer then tried to use his wooden baton to subdue Mr. Hamilton by beating him; he did hit Mr. Hamilton in the ribs but then the baton was ripped away from the officer and Mr. Hamilton returned the blow. The officer then decided to fatally shoot Mr. Hamilton 14 times (No charges for Milwaukee officer who shot man 14 times, Aamer Madhani, December 2014).
Reading this report of a mentally ill homeless man being killed by a police officer should bring some form of comfort in the form of justice being served. Unfortunately discrimination has reared its head again with no charges, no indictment, and the only punishment for Officer Manny is job loss with the possibility of an early retirement with 75% tax-free salary (Ex-Milwaukee officer won’t be charged in Dontre Hamilton shooting, Ashley Luthern, December 2014). Here is another instance of the continued struggle of what seems to be racism and discrimination by the powers put in place by American policy leaders to protect Americans.
Civil unrest and political distrust have been a constant reminder of the past this country needs to grow away from. These and many other news stories about discrimination, bias, and skewed results of findings of criminal acts only enforce the conversation every black family has with their children. Stemming from the days of slavery into the present day black families have had to have “the talk”. The talk is when a parent figure in the household explains to the child that, to put very bluntly, white people are not to be trusted. NPR did a series of interviews where they asked people from different ethnic backgrounds and concluded that they all, including black families, had to have the same talk with their children because of their heritage, skin complexion, dialect when speaking, and race (‘The Talk:’ How Parents Of All Backgrounds Tell Kids About The Police, Melissa Block and Michel Martin, September 2014).
Above is the link to a radio interview done by pri.org about an American family having “the talk” with a child. This interview is interesting because of the diversity it brings; the parents are two gay married white men living in San Francisco with two adopted sons, one black and the other mixed race. In this interview there is a distinct unfamiliarity in the dads voice along with the longing to understand how to go about protecting his black son. He cares about 11 year old Zane and wants him to feel safe and protected but admits it isn’t easy and it doesn’t always work out the way he would like (The Takeaway, Stephanie Boone, August 2014). Having this talk is also something I’ve done with my brothers and younger cousins just as people I’m close to have done with their own family members. People who are seen as minorities are angry and frustrated at the constant attack they come under on a daily basis. Sometimes the tension comes from a subtle remark from a store manager, and other times the racial tension is in the form of a police officer beating or shooting an unarmed person to death. No matter what form it takes in the moment, the fact is that it is presently alive and doing well with no signs of deteriorating.
8.9% of the 114th Congress are African American, 7% are Hispanic or Latino, and 2.6% are Asian/South Asian/Pacific Islander, with the rest being white. This leaves an 81.9% overwhelming majority of the 113th Congress members identifying as white (Congressional Research Service, Jennifer E. Manning, October 2015). Congress members are also known to be much more wary of the political views of the upper class views than the lower class views (Bartels. Economic Inequality and Political Representation. Princeton.edu). Because of the demographics bias involved with what Congress members deem important and unimportant this gives the lineage of slaves another disadvantage, this one being directly caused by political leadership. According to the FEC a political candidate has to abide by certain boundaries when running for office, and raising money for campaigning. Due to these boundaries certain people are more apt to obtaining positions of power in the United States and continue to make money and stay in power without taking action on issues the public wants the policy maker to pay attention to.
For instance a corporation, labor organization or a national bank cannot make a contribution to a federal campaign, however these large entities can form individual Political Action Committees, also known as a “PAC”. These PACs can then make unlimited transfer amounts to state, district, or local parties. An Independent-expenditure-only political committee or “super PAC” can accept unlimited contributions from corporations and labor organizations (February 200, update February, 201, www.fec.gov). In contrast an individual may contribute a maximum of $10,000 per year to a state, district or local party committee. This amount may be large or small depending on which economic class a person is in, and in the case of an individual versus a corporation or super PAC I would say there is no comparison. As an individual I cannot compete, even with the full $10,000 contribution to the committee I choose, with a PAC or super PAC capable of giving millions of dollars. Whoever a PAC or super PAC wants in office wil be in office and this is what leads to unequal representation.
In order to fix this issue, the loopholes that create PACs and super PACs need to be closed or the individual amount that a single person can contribute to a campaign needs to be increased. Another way to close this loophole is to possible provide some government subsidized help with campaigns. Minorities and lower class citizens, unless completely unified, will not be able to afford the $10,000 bill, but with help from the government with free or reduced priced advertising the political candidate that will actually help to bring about change could be elected.
More effort is still needed to rectify the issues with the American justice system. The mass incarceration of black males and even black females has been a major topic of interest with a focus in minor drug charges leaving jails overcrowded. This issue will be difficult to rectify only because prison is such big business and brings in lots of money from different sources with ties to powerful influential people who have some say so in policy and the economy. Rectifying this issue will lighten up a few pockets and bank accounts initially, but it will all be for the greater good. It will encompass freeing prisoners, changing laws, and restructuring some aspects of the cash flows from the state to the business owners. The government will also be responsible with helping the former prisoners educate themselves and become up to date with modern society in order to be effective members of the communities they will be going back to. Some released prisoners may not have a home or family to go to, but because of the responsibility the government needs to accept because of this issue, the taxpayer money should go to helping the now-freed people instead of going to large bonuses and vacation packages for Senate and House members.
All in all it will take sacrifice from both sides of the fence, taxpayers and policy makers but if we are to be a true United States we must become a united people who refuse to compromise anything for capital gain or unfair biased treatment.
U.S. Constitution. Article I, Section 2, Paragraph 3.
Clarence V. Reynolds (2009). Black Soldiers Memorabilia. The Network Journal. www.tnj.com. www.library.vcu.edu.
Kitae Sohn (2014). The human capital of black soldiers during the American Civil War. Economic Letters Volume 122, Issue 1, Pages 40-43. www.sciencedirect.com. www.library.vcu.edu.
Author Unknown. Trayvon Martin Shooting Fast Facts. CNN Library (2016 update). www.cnn.com.
Aamer Madhani (2014). No charges for Milwaukee officer who shot man 14 times. Associated Press. USA Today. www.usatoday.com.
Ashley Luthern (2014). Ex-Milwaukee officer won’t be charged in Dontre Hamilton shooting. Milwaukee News. Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. www.jsonline.com.
Melissa Block, Michel Martin (2014), ‘The Talk:’ How Parents Of All Backgrounds Tell Kids About The Police. Michel Martin Going There. www.npr.org.
Stephanie Boone (2014), How Do You Have ‘The Talk’ with Your Black Child If You’re not Black Yourself. CADCE. www.newblackmaninexile.net.
Jennifer E. Manning (2015). Membership of the 114th Congress: A Profile. Congressional Research Service: Informing the legislative debate since 1914. www.fas.org.
Bartels. Economic Inequality and Political Representation. Princeton.edu
February 200, update February, 201, www.fec.gov