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On the morning after the 2016 Presidential election, a unique wave of despair, anger, fear, and depression washed over much of black America. After learning that Donald Trump had been elected president, some folks cried. Sought refuge in the Bible. Others comforted frightened children. Many braced themselves for life under a president who has retweeted white supremacists, promised to increase stop-and-frisk policing in poor black neighborhoods, falsely connected Mexican immigrants to crime, and launched his political brand by attacking the legitimacy of the first black president’s birth certificate.
Plenty of white Hillary Clinton supporters also felt strong emotions after Trump’s victory. However, his track record on race seemed to make Trump’s triumph cut deeper and feel more personal to many African Americans. Trump created his political popularity by using racist techniques of the birther issue, and he never apologized. His unwillingness to denounce the KKK, seemed as if Trump was attempting to appeal to the worst of the American nature, that racism which is the original sin of America. And as the presidential candidate, Trump tapped into the very thing that has historically haunted black America.
White nationalism has been on the rise in America for as long as some can remember. With his nationalist rhetoric and policies, President Trump has become part of this continuum, giving license to millions to express their white grievance in new ways and refusing to condemn or prosecute their violence in any meaningful way. Trump is the leader who calls black protestors thugs and white ones very fine people. If this makes America great “again,” white nationalism must be the American dream.
Although black America has endured slavery, police brutality, systemic racism, mass incarceration, what this country did to white people is worse! It lied to the white community by telling them they are something that they are not. It convinced them that they are the pinnacle of humanity. They believed it and now it feels like these other races are taking something that belongs to them.
America was never just a white nation – NEVER! The country never belonged to the white citizens. Now, these white supremacists are left behind because they never thought they had to keep up. Are they not the standard that every other race must reach up to? Therefore, this act of “betrayal” causes them to seek to destroy anything that is not reflective of the “white is right” theory.
Anyone who opposes Trump’s idea of a “great again America” he views as an enemy. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on the day of the Iowa caucuses, for instance, he told audience members he would pay their legal fees if they engaged in violence against protesters. At a Las Vegas rally later that same month, he said security guards were too gentle with a protester.
In 2019, violence erupted in Charlottesville after counter-protesters clashed with white nationalists and others who were part of the Unite the Right rally. Those groups were protesting Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The violence left a woman dead. Trump stunned the world and shocked the conscience of this nation when he said there were some very fine people on both sides. With those words, the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. That moment confirmed that black America was in danger.
In 2017, to the applause of New York law enforcement, President Trump publicly encouraged police brutality. Yes, the 45th president of the United States offered praise for flagrant retributive violence by uniformed law enforcers during a wide-ranging speech. This should come as no surprise. The idea that police officers should play judge, jury, and punisher in the criminal justice system is consistent with Trump’s brash persona.
It is no secret that Trump’s two favorite sheriffs, Joe Arpaio and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, have abysmal records when it comes to the treatment of prisoners. Arpaio built a sweltering tent city for inmates in Maricopa County, cheerfully likening it to a “concentration camp.” Throughout his 14 years as sheriff, he served detainees spoiled and contaminated food, withheld medical care, and ritually humiliated them. He styled himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” but, in reality, Arpaio was one of the nation’s most notoriously cruel lawmen.
Over forty years ago, marches at the nation’s capital and around the country were earmarked with peaceful assemblies as minorities and ethnicities across the spectrum gathered to defend their Amendment rights. They expressed their dissatisfaction with legislation, police brutality, and the overall inequality of rights for all people. Yet, just a few years ago, Trump publicly encouraged police brutality. He used his authority to instigate rough arrests. He said:
When you go to these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in rough. I said ‘please don’t be too nice.’
Like when you guys put somebody into the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put your hand, like, so they don’t hit their head, and they just killed somebody. I said ‘you can take the hand away, okay?’
To encourage this type of police brutality jabs directly at one of the most notorious recent examples of deadly police violence. In 2015, this type of behavior caused massive civil unrest in Baltimore after Freddie Gray died of a broken neck after a “rough ride” in a police vehicle. In Gray’s case, the officers were charged, however, they each walked free. Author Paul Butler describes this perfectly in his book titled, “Choke Hold (Policing Black Men).” He wrote:
Let’s keep it real. Many people-cops, politicians, and ordinary people-see African American men as a threat. The Chokehold is the legal and social response. It contains a constellation of tools that are used to keep them down – including a range of social practices, laws, punishments, and technologies that mark every black man as a thug or potential thug. The state especially the police-is authorized to control them by any means necessary.
One of the consequences of the Chokehold is incarceration, famously described by Michelle Alexander as “the New Jim Crow.” The Chokehold also brings us police tactics such as stop and frisk, which are designed to humiliate African American males-to bring them into submission. But the Chokehold applies to all African American men, not only the brothers who are locked up or have criminal records. It is insidious enough that it clamps down on black men even when there are no cops around. The Chokehold demands a certain kind of performance from a black man every time he leaves his home. He must affirmatively demonstrate-to the police and the public at large that he is not a threat.
Most African American men follow the script. Black men who are noncompliant suffer the consequences.
In 2014, A viral video recording, which allowed viewers to see a man being choked to death while hearing the victim tell officers he could not breathe, made no difference when it should have been enough evidence for an indictment. What would make the black community put trust in cameras when they watched the unjust treatment of Eric Garner go national? A husband and father of six died because he could not breathe as several police officers attacked him.
Many black Americans have lost count of all the “unarmed” black men who lost their lives to police brutality while being filmed. To add insult to injury, most of these officers never even received an indictment and still walk free. If this is justice, America is in trouble. More recently, George Floyd never made it inside the police vehicle before being kneed to death by law enforcement in broad daylight.
The streets of Minneapolis looked like a madhouse after the murder of Floyd. However, this was just a snippet of how Baltimore dealt with its pain. With this new generation, where a community feels peace has failed them, they resorted to an altogether different type of protest. With a president who encourages police brutality and incites violent behavior, it leaves them little solace or seeming choice. Hope deferred makes the heart sick!
This is what happens when people feel hopeless, angry, and desperate. For these minorities, who are often victims of the massive incarceration process, it is easier for them to go to jail than college. Being raised and having lived in a “third world type of poverty” many of these youngsters cannot even conceive a way out and believe they have nothing to lose. Civil Rights protests within the prior generation were composed of people who had hope for a brighter day. They believed a change was on the horizon, and if they did not live to see it, they were content “fighting” so their offspring could benefit from their efforts.
Protesters of the past generation understood the power of patience. They knew change would take time and they were willing to give it all they had. This is a different day, a time where everyone expects a quick turnaround in all aspects of life. These kids grew up in the microwave generation; many have never put a jiffy pan on the stove and waited for the kernels to get too hot and explode. They stick a bag in the microwave, push the corresponding “popcorn” button and within minutes they are consuming. It is a different day.
To understand the mind of today’s youth, a conversation needs to occur to find out the real issues. No one wants to do that. Instead, America has a leader who encourages police brutality, by telling officers to rough up those they arrest. Does this justify the actions of this generation who have chosen to fight for themselves? Of course not, but before adding insult to injury it may help if “outsiders” were more empathetic to the situation at hand.
People have called them animals and all sorts of derogatory statements. It is a terrible thing to feel trapped or caged. Too many unarmed black men have died at the hands of those designed to protect while the nation, or other cultures, sit back and justify the actions of a tainted legal system. When a person feels unprotected by others, they learn to fight for themselves. As such, many more of today’s youth will be guilty of taking police brutality into their own hands and will not care that the outside world is witnessing their actions.
Many in high crime neighborhoods are left wondering what they must live for. If they do well and find a way out of the ghetto, they still are not safe because they will still be a part of Black America. No matter how educated they are, how well they dress, how successful they become these kids know they will not be exempt. At the end of it, they will still be African American and viewed as a lower-class citizen.
What many do not understand is only a few victims of police brutality make the news. Many youngsters witness the effects of a biased legal system nearly every day of their lives. So, all the complaints and critical comments that are being thrown their way do nothing but fuel their anger and despair.
Is this article an attempt to justify their unruly behavior? Of course not, but it is a window into their world. If people would jump off their high horses long enough to acknowledge the unjust treatment and help push America towards a nation of equality things might really change. Until then, this new generation will continue to take police brutality into their own hands…especially under the leadership of a president who encourages law enforcement to act unjustly.
Before being quick to object to the possibility that Trump incites violence against black America, pause and think back to the country’s response when the first black president, Barak Obama, spoke out about the Trayvon Martin verdict. For those who do not know, Martin (a teenager) was murdered by a “supposed” neighborhood watch citizen while walking home from the store.
On the Friday following the non-guilty verdict, Obama paid a surprise visit to the White House briefing room, where he spoke in personal terms about what it is like for young black men, such as Martin, to be constantly viewed with suspicion. He explained:
Folks understand the challenges that exist for African-American boys. They get frustrated, I think, if they feel there’s no context for it. And that context is being denied.
There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.
Do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened?
There are a lot of kids out there who need help, who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. There is more that we can do to give them a sense that their country cares about them
Obama was slammed for being empathetic and suggesting that the Justice Department work with state and local governments to reduce racial profiling. He also called for a review of controversial Stand Your Ground laws, asking pointedly, “What if Trayvon Martin had the gun?”
However, amid a chuckling audience, Trump instigated police brutality. “Rough Rides,” as they are known in the law enforcement business, are a violation of the constitutional right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment by the state. Just as many other actions of insanity, the statements made by Trump were excused as ignorant or a crude joke. The leader of the “free” world continues to use the bully pulpit of the presidency to provide cover for racist violence against black America. Where is the accountability? America must do better! #ICantBreathe
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
US News: The Brutality President
Huffington Post: Donald Trump Endorses Police Brutality In Speech To Cops
USA Today: Trump Defends Comments in Charlottesville
Paul Butler: The Chokehold (Policing Black Men)
Top Image Courtesy of Gage Skidmore’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of Alisdare Hickson’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Featured Image Courtesy of David Geitgey Sierralupe’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License