One of the definitions of a phantom is something dreaded or despised. The other is an image that appears only in the mind; an illusion. The Black male has long been America's chosen bogeyman, but the images associated with us have never been consistent with our reality. So long as this phantom lives in the American mind, our criminal justice system will continue to serve as ritual of human sacrifice rather than an instrument of justice. That Black men in power have aided and abetted this process is ironic, but should surprise no one. This phantom has the power to possess the mind of any American, regardless of race.
Those of us who have survived the centuries' long effort to enslave, segregate, and now incarcerate Black folk can celebrate our resilience even as we mourn our martyrs. As brother Marley has sung:
We're the survivors, yes: the Black survivors!
Tell you what: we're the survivors, yeah! - the Black survivors, yeah!
We're the survivors, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
Thrown in the fire, but-a never get burn.
So I Idren, I-sistren,
The preaching and talkin' is done;
We've gotta live up, wo now, wo now! -
'Cause the Father's time has come.