Wednesday, 26 September 2007
American Race-Relations Regressing
Written by Paul I. Adujie
New York, United States
A man cannot come to your home and congratulate your mother for not being a prostitute, to do so will amount to the ultimate insult; says Boyce Watkins who is currently a Finance Professor at Syracuse University.
The above comments, were made in response to Fox Television commentator’s goof-offs Bill O’Reilly, of Fox TV‘s "The O’Reilly Factor" blundered after meeting a prominent African American leader, the Reverend Al Sharpton.
Bill O’Reilly, an ultra conservative, extreme rightwing public affairs commentator, visited Sylvia’s, the famous restaurant in Harlem, New York City in the company of Reverend Al Sharpton, a renowned African American activist; At the end of the visit, Bill O’Reilly was quoted as saying "I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship" (patronage)?
O’Reilly and persons like him just make my head spin, what with the monumental ignorance that they publicly exhibit?. His dumb comments encapsulates and exemplifies the state of affairs in race-relations in today’s America which appears to be retrogressing
Mr. O’Reilly garrulously stereotyped African Americans and generalized about African Americans as if he was talking about cavemen or persons from mars or 17th Century civilization in today’s world or as if describing animals from whom he did not expect decent human behaviors. He talked about them so inelegantly, that he betrayed a common attitude among whites like him, who seem to be shocked upon learning we too, bleed blood or that we have normal lives and actually sit to enjoy fine dining without expletives!
This week has been very difficult in race relations in America. Racism was part of America's past. Racism is still a major disease that ravages America. This week rekindles an apt question asked by a Nigerian recently. Do Africans understand racism? In this regard, I am wondering how American racially motivated incidents of the past several days is being viewed by Nigerians and other Africans!
In the past ten days, we have learnt or have been reminded of the double standard in the criminal justice system in America which appears not to have changed from Jim Crow laws of yesteryears as Jena, Louisiana prosecutors informed African American High School boys, that he could ruin their lives with a stroke of his pen and he does with the help of a judge. A young African American, Mr. Bell, is still unjustly imprisoned for participating in a school yard fight. A school yard fight that had it genesis from unequal right and unequal justice in Jena. Jena High School had a tree, under which only white students could sit and frolic.
African Americans sought the "consent" and "permission" from the school administration, to be able to also sit under the same tree, sometimes. And school administrations says, no problem! Upon exercising this innocuous right, white students or their parental cohorts hung nooses from the tree. A clear reminder of the repugnant and reprehensible practice of how white America historically terrorized and lynched and brutalized African Americans.
African American at Jena High School reported the explosively provocative nooses display to the school administration and school administration did no more than slap the white students on the wrists. Then, palpable tensions ensued and it culminated into frequent schisms and physical fights, local prosecutors attempted intimidating African American students with threats of ruining their lives with a single stroke of his pen.
Boys will be boys, especially in High School, where adolescent hormones rages over the surface often. More fights ensued and violence intensified, a white student who allegedly taunted African American students in the melee, was roughened up and severely bruised and then, all hell broke lose. 6 African American young boys were summarily charged with attempted murder! This was in December 2006. Seething complaints bubble to the open, and the hypocrisy and double standard of American criminal justice system is laid bare for the world to see. A court declares Mr. Bell, a juvenile, who ought to be tried, but not as an adult. Mr. Bell, the only one among the Jena 6, who is currently incarcerated and jailed as an adult, remains in detention despite this court order. Local prosecutors and a local judge who appears in cahoots, are adamant in keeping Mr. Bell in jail. And there Mr. Remains; despite nationwide uproar over the disparity and inequality in the criminal justice system versus comparative treatment of white with the perennial maltreatments and injustices which are visited upon African Americans.
As if in simulcast, an overlapping event occurred in Las Vegas, where there was the wide spread demonstrated and apparent desire by some to retry or even lynch O. J Simpson for an offence which he was previously acquitted, more than ten years ago, as Mr. Simpson’s laughable and foolish behavior in Las Vegas is turned into a ten count charge of armed robbery, kidnapping and what appears to have been staged, contrived and orchestrated to teach Mr. Simpson a lesson. Mr. Simpson acted foolishly and ineptly, and in all the silliness, it was clear that his white “friends” were following a script as they betrayed him. The sophomoric events in a hotel room on that fateful day, were tape-recorded and broadcast in every media. It was such a hoax and hoopla over very little, by dishonorable.
Clearly, it is obvious to even a fleeting observer that a majority in white America, including high profile trial and defense lawyers who ought to know better, are still seeking Mr. Simpson’s blood, in the murder, by unknown persons, of Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ron Goldman over ten years ago. It will be recalled, that Mr. Simpson was tried and duly acquitted by a jury of his peers. This is how it is supposed to work in America. Unless you are an African American accused, rightly or wrongly, of murdering of a white?
During this week as well, I have been glued to Public Broadcasting Service, as I watched Ken Burns’ PBS series documentary on War, the Second World War in which the American government and people famously claimed righteous defense of freedom and liberty, while simultaneously, it was fashionable to deny African Americans freedoms and individual liberty at home, while African Americans were segregated at home. And While African Americans were segregated in fighting units in the American Armed Forces.
African Americans were frontally attacked by White American soldiers, African Americans were attacked, terrorized and brutalized by White Americans civilians as well, all these, during the Second World War, when America was fighting wars in Europe supposedly for freedom and liberty, to which African Americans were not entitled or accorded in America from fellow Americans who are white. African American civilians working in military industrial complexes were segregated, after they were repeatedly terrorized and mauled by white Americans.
In plain English, there was a raging war in America in which white Americans brutalized African Americans and it was viewed as God ordained pecking order and divine and a given. Why did America have to travel thousands of miles to Europe to fight one Adolph Hitler, where there were millions of Adolph Hitler’s minis on US soil?
This week also marked 50 years of the forced racial integration of an Arkansas High School, which led to the Army National Guard leading 9 African Americans into a High School, that was all-white population. Can anyone imagine a child any where in the world being escorted by soldiers to attend High School classes? An event that is supposed to be so mundane and taken for granted in every part of the world, but for the African Americans, platoons and brigades upon brigades of military protective escorted were a necessity.
African Americans High School students at the time recounted this week, how were nevertheless, spat on, humiliated and demeaned, but the African American youngsters preserved and we witnessed the enduring raw emotions a couple of days ago, as the 9 African Americans recounted their unsavory experiences of fifty years ago… even as President Bush’s administration have sought to dismantle Affirmative Action programs, and efforts that were geared toward addressing historical injustices meted out to African Americans. President Bush with his Republican Party, have enacted legislations that seek to dismantle individual freedoms and liberty even as it continues to stack the US Supreme Court with neo-conservative justices with a view of entrenching ultra conservative social policies
It is against this backdrop, that Bill O’Reilly’s ignorant comments, in which he generalized and stereotyped African Americans, should not be viewed as an isolated misperception.
There is a pervasive double standard and hypocrisy in the way white America treat African Americans. Some were beginning to assume that these racist actions, utterances and attitudes are merely in the past. Fredrick Douglass was right about racism hydra-headed issue of our time. Unfortunately, this week is proof that racism remains an American pandemic!
Sources www.boycewatkins.com and www.nytimes.com