Google defines (1) original sin as Christians being inherently sinful because of Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden. Original sin (2) is a wrong of great magnitude as in the case of American slavery that began in 1619.
Crucible is a melting pot used for extremely hot chemical reactions that forge a new element. Ralph Waldo Emerson applied crucible to describe the assimilation of waves of immigrants into US society and the promise of an eventual new American race. Seventy years later, Israel Zangwill, a Zionist, employed Emerson’s melting pot concept to describe
how the masses would discard their foreign ways and be forged into this new free American.
Black Americans, though, were denied that promise of inclusion and are still fighting for full integration into the stream of American life. Systemic racism has blocked many Black and Brown people’s path to normal peaceful life that most White people take for granted. Police behavior has often been viewed as antagonistic to the Black community and George Floyd’s death was a final straw.
Black Americans have endured 246 years of slavery, twelve years of a half-hearted Reconstruction, eighty-seven years of separate but rarely equal segregation, and fifty-six years of fitful desegregation. Their patience has been stretched thin.
Many Americans, not just Black people, were simmering from the 2014 choke hold murder of Staten Islander Eric Garner who was taken down by NYC Officer Daniel Panteleo for selling individual bootleg cigarettes to passersby. It took six years to fire Panteleo because of police union resistance.
Over the next six years, ten Black Americans died suspiciously in police custody – or publicly – at the hands of overly aggressive police officers and tactics. The manner in which Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, twelve-year-old Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Freddy Gray, Philandro Castile, Stephon Clarke, Botham Jean and Atatiana Jefferson all died was deplorable.
The phrase “I can’t breathe” was starting to become a refrain.
These deaths were all avoidable yet no police went to jail. A few were tried but none were sentenced.
DA’s hesitate to bring charges against cops – prosecutors and juries are uncomfortable trying them. The wheels of justice grind slowly and delays can turn into months and years causing the public to lose interest and move on. The families usually can’t and don’t.
Many people were feeling angry and believing that enough was enough. When the Arbury, Taylor, and Floyd crimes occurred between Feb. 23 and May 25, 2020, the growing dam of emotion boiled up and overflowed.
Ahmaud Arbury’s being run down and shot by three white vigilantes while jogging in Brunswick, GA caused widespread shock and dismay. The police dithered while the local DA hesitated then recused herself by handing the case to another county DA who recused himself.
Nothing happened for two months until growing public pressure forced the Secretary of State to order the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) in to Glynn County and take action. Charges of felony murder were issued forty-eight hours later. The below photos show Arbury being chased down and the ensuing struggle with his assailants.
Breonna Taylor of Louisville, KY, while sleeping in her apartment, woke up to a mistaken no-knock bust by local drug force agents. She was shot eight times in her bed. As of July 3, 2020, only one officer has been fired and no charges have been brought.
The Arbury and Taylor killings brought public feelings to fever pitch. The video of Officer Derek Chauvin sitting on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds triggered a broad social explosion that spread globally. Street demonstrations from Minneapolis to Atlanta to LA to Sydney to Cape Town to Paris demanded that black lives matter and policing be reformed.
The above wall mural of George Floyd (left) is located where he was murdered. Pictured also is the site of the Minneapolis riot area (right) where it took place.
The following cartoon illustrates how casually the officer pressed on Floyd’s neck. Three other officers watched and did nothing to stop him. All four have been indicted with serious charges.
The militarization of US police departments began in the 1990’s when the Pentagon began offering outdated equipment to local and state forces at bargain prices. Both large and small city forces purchased armor on the premise they were gaining a firepower advantage over terrorists, criminals and rioters.
Tactical armored personnel carriers do not enhance the notion of community policing, especially during periods of civic unrest and distrust. If you only see yourself as a hammer, your tolerance for civil demonstrations and expressions of free speech might be limited. The police mission is to protect and serve, not judge, beat or shoot.
Over the past two decades, white nationalists and supremacists, in great numbers, infiltrated the US military; also, state, county and local police forces too. Thousands have been discovered and removed from the military’s branches and the nation’s police forces are following suit.
One wonders if racist cops seized opportunities to legally shoot Black males. If farfetched, why the incredible repetition of lethal outcomes?
Cynicism develops when citizens start to lose faith in their social and political institutions. Despair occurs when people struggle to survive and things don’t improve.
The phrases DWB, driving while black, and RWB, running while black as in the case of Ahmaud Arbury, are two examples of common police harassment of Black Americans, especially males. Each fosters cynicism and despair.
The Black Lives Matters street demonstrations were diverse as people from different backgrounds came together in good will and faith to demand the end of racism and police brutality.
The demonstrators risked their health too as the awakening / movement emerged against the backdrop of the Covid 19 global pandemic that has infected 2.8 million Americans and killed 130,000 as of July 3, 2020.
Numerous Confederate and colonialist statues have been torn down in cities across the country. The statues should be preserved in museums and placed in historical contexts that explain our past to better understand the present and prepare for the future. That’s why we study history – to learn from it.
Corporations are re-branding products that have employed racist images as a marketing tool such as Uncle Ben’s Rice, Mrs. Butterworth’s Syrup, and Aunt Jemima pancake batter which may be the most prominent example.
The broad public support exhibited for the BLM movement lends hope that Americans are finally taking steps towards ending systemic racism. When achieved, Americans will have earned redemption for the original sin of slavery, and the continuing sin of racism.
Americans are a hyphenated people and most will never abandon their ethnic heritages and become a true crucible. Regardless, it’s time that Black Americans feel that they are 100% part of the American experience and living the same dream too. It’s time for their long national nightmare to be justly brought to an end.
To the reader:
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