Published in the St. Louis American, August 15, 2017
Looking at the tsunami of the recent hate-motivated, mean-spirited, anti-black racist incidents going on in St. Louis, in Missouri and in the U.S., reminds me of a favorite saying of my mother: This country is going to hell in a hand-basket!
To that I reply, we’re already in hell. The NAACP’s travel advisory for African Americans coming to or through Missouri could’ve easily been expanded to a cautionary reminder for black folks living in the U.S.
The closing arguments in the trial of Jason Stockley happening on the third anniversary of Mike Brown Jr.’s killing by then-Ferguson cop Darren Wilson was an ironic twist. We don’t know what the verdict will be for the former St. Louis cop who murdered Anthony Smith. What we do know is that Wilson never faced a day in court trying to prove his case. The unintended linking of the two cases is a grim reminder that black bodies are in constant danger of cops who will always see them as a threat. Warning!
In Missouri, black drivers are 75 times more likely to be stopped by police than white drivers. Warning!
Black students already face disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates. The Republican-dominated General Assembly felt the need to add another criminalizing element in public schools making it a felony for students who end up in a fight and one gets hurt. Warning!
Living in certain zip codes can be dangerous to black folks’ health and wealth. So sayeth the For the Sake of All report on the St. Louis region. Warning!
Whether we’re talking about racism in policing, housing, voting, employment, education, health care and all other areas that affect quality of life, there are anti-black practices, policies and laws that continue to erode the lives and life-styles of citizens. Warning!
The NAACP was correct in bringing national attention to these practices, policies and laws, centering on the most recent one signed into law by Missouri’s Republican Governor Eric Greitens. The law makes it all but impossible to sue your employer for discrimination. Warning!
The NAACP’s advisory is the first action of its kind in the history of the civil rights group. In it the NAACP advises “African American travelers, visitors and Missourians to pay attention and exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the state.” What is implicit in the alarm is that there is no place to hide and no real relief or redress when wronged. Warning!
The whole damn country has become a dangerous place for black and brown people. Trump has spewed out misogynous, racist and Islamophobic rants and provided political cover for those who violently acted against others. Acts of racist domestic terrorism like Charlottesville, Virginia will increase with frequency and intensity.
What people in this country should be real clear about by now is that fighting for social justice and racial equity are not spectator pastimes. Because we must deal with the racist injustices daily, black folks stay in perpetual defense mode. We need to go to the next strategic mode of struggle.
And blacks shouldn’t have to go it alone. White people have a colossal stake in this fight for sanity and humanity. After all, this capitalist system was designed to ensure and protect their white privileges. White people must aggressively take the leadership in protesting racist acts like those of “Unite the Right” and racist symbols like Confederate statutes.
Those protests must also be taken to the corporate board rooms, to the legislative halls and to any other space where racist schemes are being hatched to disenfranchise people of color, over-incarcerate them or deny their basic human rights.
When people are passive, indifferent or cowardly, our fragile democracy pays the price. How heavy a price depends on how serious and decisive citizens are in defending those democratic ideals. Right now, racist bigots are calling the nation out on the commitment to its values. You’ve been warned.