By Vickie Wilcher
Last night bombs fell, or better put, were launched onto Syria. This multi-country military attack, led by the United States, was ostensibly provoked by the beheading of two journalists. But it’s no secret that governments, ours (the US) included have gone to war for many reasons other than those publicly stated. So, on this matter it will likely be wise for the mass to examine all the possibilities before we co-sign on yet another senseless war.
But sense so many of us—President Obama and other world leaders included—have already made it painfully clear that war may well be probable, I am moved to wonder how it is that the deaths of two young men could spark such a response. No such response followed the brutal, barbaric murders of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown or the countless, nameless other young Black men who have been murdered right here on American soil—to say nothing of the innumerable children, black, white and other innocent children who are slowly murdered by the hunger and poverty that at some point they simply can no longer endure. No war is declared on the perpetrators of these vicious crimes.
The question then, simply must be: why are the lives of two white men more valuable, more precious, than the lives of two black boys? Likely answer: “Because untold Americans, Black folks, and far too many onlookers have reduced the African American being to something less than human and undeserving of even life’s most basic protections. I’m not suggesting that there are none among us who care and will fight to our deaths to preserve our own integrity, the righteousness of our souls and our communities. This is evidenced on some level by those who work hard to live honorable lives and who are not afraid to express virtuous outrage when our sons and daughters are mistreated and even murdered for no other reason than that they are Black.
Sadly though, there is also evidence of the systemic, longtime degradation of the Black spirit, person and existence. The simplest example of this is found in the mere fact that even after Blacks were “freed” from Slavery, the Jim Crow era, a time in history that spanned nearly 100 years, kept many, if not most, Blacks in subservient life positions. Moreover, the responses, or lack thereof, to the murders of young Black men then and now should tell us how unimportant, at least to some, the lives of Black folks must really be.
“Ash-shaʻb yurīd isqāṭ an-niẓām” (“the people want to bring down the regime”) is an Arabic slogan used (chanted at rallies spray painted on walls) during many protests and revolutions across several countries in the Middle East; as people, young and old fought/fight against, oppression and/or for equality in form or another. My use of this phrase in this writing is not to disclose any personal political allegiance to any warring or protesting faction in the Middle East. Rather, I have chosen to highlight this particular expression in the hope that it might incite some readers to begin work to tear down the “regime” that has long compelled Black people to not only allow others to devalue our lives, but has also forced us to commit heinous crimes against one another.
President Obama said of the person(s) responsible for killing the journalists, “It’s not only that we’re going to be bringing to justice those who perpetrated this terrible crime against these two fine young men; The United States will continue to lead a regional and international effort against the kind of barbaric and ultimately empty vision the group represents.”
I submit that if this country’s leaders took this position and issued this kind of warning when young Black men were killed, the killing would stop. Unfortunately, the sad fact is that no such action or even the threat of such a course is ever issued—not since the first Africans arrival on the shores of the United States of America. Recall if you will, a time when it was nothing for Black girls and women to be violently raped; and when crowds would gather to watch the lynching of a young Black man, after he’d been viciously castrated—they were indeed a “Strange Fruit.” And then there were the murders of Emmett Till,
Fred Hampton, Amadou Diallo, Timothy Thomas, Sean Bell, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown—these young men alone represent the fact that over the six decades since Emmett Till’s murder, the monsters that kill young Black boys have in no way been degraded or destroyed. Yet President Obama and other leaders have vowed to “degrade and destroy” those responsible for the murder of the two journalists.
It’s been said that “evil flourishes when good men do nothing;”” it’s also been said that charity begins at home.” If we are to take anything from these platitudes, give them any substance, any real meaning, we will need to actively engage in consciously doing good work for ourselves, our families and our communities—this will strengthen us and cause us to work harder at treating each other better. We will also need to unequivocally deny anyone else the freedom cause us harm with impunity. As for Charity (Love), any social scientist will tell you that until one loves him/herself, it will be difficult for him/her to love anyone else; and for anyone else to love you.
Perhaps this is why the President and other leaders have opted over the years to disregard the loss of Black life. The resolution then has to be for Black people to bring down that “regime,” that way of thinking and being that telegraphs the message of our own disregard and stops us from even loving ourselves.