Home / Culture and Society / The Black Survivors

The Black Survivors

Please Share...Print this pageTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Tumblr0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

How can you be sittin’ there
Telling me that you care –
That you care?
When every time I look around,
The people suffer in the suffering
In everyway, in everywhere.

Say: na-na-na-na-na (na-na, na-na!):
We’re the survivors, yes: the Black survivors!

Bob Marley’s song could serve as an anthem for this emotional moment among many in Black America. Troy Davis is dead, but the rest of us survive. At least for now. When I think about his state-sanctioned killing, I’m haunted by the face which has looked out from that photo featured in the news. I keep seeing my own face. I keep seeing the face of my father, the face of my son. I wonder about the value of my own life as a Black man in America.

I’m also reminded of the words of Glenn C. Loury in his book, Race, Incarceration, and American Values:

…we law-abiding, middle-class American have made decisions about social policy and incarceration, and we benefit from those decisions, and that means a system of suffering rooted in state violence, meted out at our request. We had choices and we decided to be more punitive. Our society — the society we have made — creates criminogenic conditions…then acts out rituals of punishment…as some awful form of human sacrifice. 

Human sacrifice. It’s an apt description of the killing of Troy Davis and the many Black men like him who are disproportionately arrested, sentenced, incarcerated and executed in America. Baha’u’llah (1817-1892), Founder of the Baha’i Faith asks us to, “Consider the multitude of lives that have been, and are still being, sacrificed in a world deluded by a mere phantom which the vain imaginations of its peoples have conceived.”

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
(Black survivors),
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.

Powered by

About Phillipe Copeland

  • Glenn Contrarian

    I’ve written enough times about the evils of racism (being a former racist myself) on this site that the BC conservatives are sick of it. Of course, they never seem to question the fact that white supremacists are in (apparently) all cases more likely to support a conservative candidate. They don’t think it unusual that all Republican rallies are almost completely lily-white. They think the weekly race-baiting by conservative pundits means nothing whatsoever.

    They may be sick of me, but I’m sick of racists…and I’m just as sick of those conservatives who refuse to reject the powerful conservative pundits who engage in such race-baiting. It reminds me so much of Bart Simpson: “I didn’t do it – you didn’t see me do it – you can’t prove anything” when it’s painfully obvious that he did.

  • Glenn, thanks for sharing your thoughts and your commitment to writing about racism. I’m wondering if, in your experience that there is racism among people who consider themselves liberal or progressive as well?

  • Arch Conservative

    Glenn……we get it….anyone that doesn’t agree with you is a racist.

    Oh and the icing on the cake is Phillipe positing as to whether or not “those who consider themselves liberal or progressive” could ever possibly be racist.

    You guys don’t want to hear the honest truth, that it was precisely those who consider themselves “liberal or progressive,” that wrote the book on being racist. You’d rather go on with the narrative that all conservatives are evil, racist white supremacists.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Phillipe –

    I’m sure there is some racism among liberals and progressives – but the difference is that the liberal and progressive community as a whole DOES NOT TOLERATE racism…as the conservative and Republican community DOES. The popularity of race-baiters like Rush Limbaugh and Hannity and other conservative pundits are all the proof one needs to know it.

  • Igor

    The very poor record of the Republican party sending black people to congress is VERY diagnostic of racism throughout the party.

  • Arch conservative, you’ve gotten my attention. In what way have liberals and progressives written the book on racism? What do you mean? Glenn I would say that your comment applies to some conservatives but not all of them.

  • zingzing

    archie’s just being archie, phillipe. it’s got nothing to do with reality.

  • The very poor record of the Republican party sending black people to congress is VERY diagnostic of racism throughout the party.

    No, I don’t think that’s necessarily so. Given that the overwhelming majority of African-Americans are Democrats, or usually vote that way, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are far fewer black Republican than Democratic politicians.

    Has anyone actually studied whether a black Republican aspiring to elected office has any better or worse chance of being selected as a candidate (allowing of course for the effect of affirmative action programs) than a black Democrat?

    Now then: the extremely skewed voting demographic of the African-American population is something that should be of dire concern to the GOP, but doesn’t seem to be. That, not the candidate selection process, may be the core of any racism.

  • #8

    I agree. The race card isn’t the only explanation as some would have us believe. It’s a convenient one for those who are so inclined and look to/for simplistic, all-round accounting.

    Fortunately, the world is more complex than that.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Phillipe –

    Rush Limbaugh consistently ranks among the top five most influential conservatives in the nation, despite his even more consistent race-baiting. Tell me, what do you think would happen to a progressive or liberal talk show host who played “Barack the Magic Negro” on air and laughed about it?

    That’s why I say that such racism is tolerated among conservatives. It’s not condoned by most conservatives, true, but it is certainly tolerated. For instance, a Pew poll earlier this year – 2011, mind you! – showed that forty-six percent of ALL Republicans in Mississippi STILL think that interracial marriage should be banned. Race relations there are still so bad that in Sunflower County where I grew up, one private school I went to in the mid-seventies is STILL all white – Google the 2011 graduating class of Indianola Academy. Now compare this to the fact that Sunflower County is seventy-one percent black!

    An all-white school in a seventy-one-percent black county! And guess the political affiliation of most whites in Mississippi?

    What it boils down to, Phillipe, is that racism is the dirty not-so-little secret of the Republican Party. I do not think that most Republicans are racist…but many are even though they deny it outright, as I described in this article, and worst of all, as is made obvious by the examples I gave above, they tolerate the presence of racists within their party.

    I once asked why it is that Republicans tolerate such people (racists and assorted other crazies) within their party – I can’t find where it’s at right now – and Dave Nalle (chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus) answered that they’re votes, and the GOP would never turn away votes.

    Anyway, back to the current racism in Mississippi. I wasn’t surprised. I grew up there, as a conservative, a Republican, and a racist. I know the stench of racism – I lived it. I was nowhere near as bad as some I knew, but I was part of it. Here, please read my story of my journey out of racism. Very, very few whites can speak of it as I can. I hope it will help you see what I mean.

    Again, I’m sure there are racists among the liberals and progressives – but they are NOT tolerated by the Democratic/liberal/progressive rank-and-file as racists are obviously tolerated by the Republican/conservative rank-and-file.

  • Dave Nalle (chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus) answered that they’re votes, and the GOP would never turn away votes.

    Is that so? Then perhaps he can explain how around 45 years ago they managed to turn away almost the entire black vote, which had been a lock for them for a century.

  • Maurice

    Troy confessed. Seven witnesses testified they saw him shot MacPhail. This is not a man black men should defend.

  • zingzing

    simple, ain’t it, maurice?

  • He confessed? When?

  • Maurice

    Troy Anthony Davis (October 9, 1968 – September 21, 2011)[1][2] was an American man convicted of and executed for the August 19, 1989, murder of police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia. MacPhail was working as a security guard at a Burger King restaurant when he intervened to defend a man being assaulted in a nearby parking lot. During Davis’s 1991 trial, seven witnesses testified they had seen Davis shoot MacPhail, and two others testified that Davis had confessed the murder to them among 34 witnesses that testified for the prosecution, and six others for the defense, including Davis. Although the murder weapon was not recovered, ballistic evidence presented at trial linked bullets recovered at or near the scene to those at another shooting in which Davis was also charged. He was convicted of murder and various lesser charges, including the earlier shooting, and was sentenced to death in August 1991.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    (1) SEVEN of the nine witnesses recanted, most saying they had been pressured by police into making such sworn testimony.

    (2) Did the ballistic evidence show that it was the same gun? Or did it show that the bullets were simply the same caliber as Davis’ gun at the other offense?

    (3) Confessions are very often the result of pressure and manipulation by the police and prosecutor – do some research – confessions are NOT as reliable as you think.

    What does this all add up to? REASONABLE DOUBT…and certainly not enough reason to put a man to death!

    FYI, Maurice – look up something called “The Innocence Project”. In some places they’ve been able to prove – PROVE, with DNA evidence – that up to ten percent of capital murder convicts sitting on death row were INNOCENT. This is why Illinois recently put a moratorium on death penalty cases, because it is a statistical certainty that people were sometimes being executed for crimes they did not commit.

    “Gotta break some eggs to make an omelet” is one excuse I’ve heard some death-penalty supporters say when I point out that innocent people are sometimes executed…so what’s your limit on breaking eggs, Maurice? One in a thousand? In one hundred? One in ten?

  • scottie238

    TWO studies

    Heritage.org and FAS.org (PDF)

    Who dies to protect your freedoms? MOSTLY WHITE MALES. Why don’t blacks also enter into Combat Arms jobs of the military?

  • Maurice

    My youngest son has been incarcerated since he was in eight grade. Is it because he is black or because he broke the law?

  • You’re inviting comments like #17, Maurice.

    How are you doing, by the way, back at the old job and all that?

  • Maurice

    Thanks, Roger. Yes I am back at the old job and loving it.

  • Clavos

    For instance, a Pew poll earlier this year – 2011, mind you! – showed that forty-six percent of ALL Republicans in Mississippi STILL think that interracial marriage should be banned.

    Mississippi being the cesspit of the USA, it stands to reason that the attitudes of white Mississippians are hardly representative of those of all white Republicans in the country.

    In fact, Mississippi is pretty much the bottom of the American barrel in a number of ways.

  • zingzing

    maurice, read this article. your son is a specific case, but the article details “stop and frisk” arrests by the nypd. minorities are overwhelmingly stopped (less than 10% of those stopped last year were white), and an even more disproportionate number of minorities were arrested. nearly 50,000 minorities in nyc were arrested and put in jail for marijuana last year.

    now, possessing a small amount of marijuana has been decriminalized in new york state since 1977. it’s akin to jaywalking. but as soon as a police officer says “empty your pockets,” any marijuana in your pocket is then “in public view,” and you’re guilty of a felony, thrown in prison and forced to admit that you have been found guilty of a felony in any future job interviews.

    that said, just this week, bloomberg (who oversaw the ballooning of arrests of this type,) has announced that the nypd are to actually follow nys law. those who are caught with marijuana, but not with smoking it or have it in public view, will no longer be arrested or charged with a felony. (although this new regulation is only applied to those caught by “uniformed officers,” which is pretty clever.)

    still, to the hundreds of thousands of minorities (overwhelmingly male as well), these new regulations come too late. 3 out of 4 of those people will reenter prison at some point in their life, and their chances of getting a good job are severely restricted.

    how do you explain those numbers away?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Of course it doesn’t mean anything to you that Mississippi is also the REDDEST state in America…except for the counties that are majority-black, of course.

    And of course it wouldn’t mean anything to you that the other states that fought the Civil Rights Act, that fought against segregation, are also very, very strongly RED.

    And Nixon’s Southern Strategy, that didn’t have anything to with racism either, right?

    Better tighten up those blinders, Clavos. Again, while I don’t think that most Republicans are racist, the Republican party DOES tolerate – and even supports – racists within their own party. As long as Rush Limbaugh remains one of the most influential conservatives in the nation, that much is without question.

  • Clavos

    Well of course Mississippi is a red state, Glenn.

    It’s people are ignorant rednecks — a prerequisite for being Republican.

  • Igor

    I have to laugh:

    ¨Given that the overwhelming majority of African-Americans are Democrats, or usually vote that way, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are far fewer black Republican than Democratic politicians.¨

    Gee, you don´t suppose that black people have correctly divined that republicans are racists, do you?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Your sarcasm is a bit weak in #24. I never said that one had to be a redneck to be a Republican.
    And I didn’t say one had to be ignorant in order to be a Republican, either. But I will say that while you’ll find a few redneck Democrats somewhere out there, redneck liberals are scarce as hen’s teeth.

    But what’s truly sad are Republicans who are NOT ignorant of what they do, of who they tolerate within their own party.

  • Clavos


  • Maurice

    To be honest I never knew if the people staring at me and my white wife were republicrats or demlicans.

  • zingzing

    they’re repobritans or demuclacs, maurice. and they’re idiots. but they’re probably conservatives if they’re staring at the mixed-race couple in 2011. seeing as where you live and all (if i’m correct in remembering where you live).

    did you look at that article?

  • Maurice

    zingzing – I live in Idaho. There is racism here but not bad compared to other places I have lived. Detroit is very polarized. We lived there 4.5 years. I read the first page of your linked article (7 pages long!). I struggle with those kinds of articles for a myriad of reasons. Number one – drugs have invaded and hurt my family deeply. I do NOT want to legalize or decriminalize drugs. I’m sure the racial profiling described in the article is accurate. I am painfully aware of that fact. On the other side of the coin go to youtube and type in Katt Williams Michael Jackson. Sometimes black people do bad things and it is not racist to call them on it. Would I be called a racist if I said I thought Rosie O’donnell probably eats a lot of food? The plain and simple fact is she does. The plain and simple fact is there are a lot of black people that like to get high.

  • zingzing

    everyone likes to get high, maurice. the point of the article is that the nypd is targeting minorities (and now the mayor is trying to throw money at them after the fact).

    i love getting high. i don’t do it that often because it fucks up the next day.

    if you keep reading the article, you’ll find out that white people like marijuana more than black people. or at least they’ll admit to it more often. if the police were working on suspicion, they’d be targeting white people. but no, that’s not how it happens.

    say you were a black man in harlem or queens or some such place. would you walk around smoking dope? nope. you’re going to get your ass arrested.

    say you’re a white man in the village or williamsburg. would you walk around smoking dope? happens all the fucking time. i’ve gotten hits off random dudes. no fear.

    keep reading the article. marijuana is decriminalized for a good reason. it’s a drug, but it’s not a bad drug.

    if you’re in idaho, i’m thinking the drug that’s affected you is probably meth. i could be wrong. but that’s a fucked up drug that makes people do fucked up shit. it changes people.

    drugs do everyone in. and, apparently, black people don’t take to them any more than any other race. they just get arrested for them more.

  • zingzing

    and yeah, idaho. come on.

  • Maurice

    z – you’re killing me. My wife gets high every day but I have not in about 20 years. You nailed it! That is the funny part. My sons have spent too many birthdays in jail because they started with pot and moved on to meth. I don’t think pot is as innocuous as you do. As far as racism, yes it is there but I was just trying to point out that sometimes people are guilty – no matter their skin color. Did you check out Katt? Funny as hell and right on the mark. I gotta go to bed. Peace everyone.

  • zingzing

    i watched katt. funny… but i felt a bit horrible watching it. i can see his point but he was homophobic and misogynistic at the same time. all is fair in humor, as far as i’m concerned, but he wasn’t turning that shit in upon itself, and that goatee… damn, man. maybe i missed the point, i dunno, but he left me a little bit uncomfortable.

    pot is a gateway drug, as they say. but by itself, it’s nothing to worry about, no more than alcohol, which is legal.

    i’m not a big proponent of legalizing marijuana. i don’t really care. occasionally, i’ll get high and fucking listen to music all night long. it’s certainly good for that.

    i’ve done nearly everything under the sun and i escaped it all. i know i’m lucky. i’ll not fuck with meth.

    yes, if your son got hooked on meth, he’s guilty. but he’s only guilty of making a stupid decision many times. there are worse things someone could do. it’s not his choice at this point. all you and he can do is try.

    i’ve come off of drugs a couple of times and it wasn’t pleasant. one involved a month of insomnia, the other prolonged pain. it’s not an easy thing for anyone to do.

    i’d bet you’ve tried it before, but kidnap his ass and tie him down and fucking make him stop.

  • zingzing

    that last bit may sound stupid. i’m sorry if it does.

    but ask him again.

  • what if a gun had caused problems in your family, Maurice? Would you want those prohibited as well?

  • @ #15: Maurice, a single acquaintance testified that he confessed to him. That’s hearsay. He didn’t confess to police, to a lawyer, to a correctional officer or in court. As far as Davis’s public utterances were concerned, he maintained his innocence from the get-go.

    As far as the witnesses are concerned: eyewitness testimony has been repeatedly demonstrated to be just about the least reliable form of evidence there is. Inexplicably, it’s still regarded as the holy grail of criminal trials.

  • Maurice

    z – I could kidnap him and keep him sober for awhile. His record is 8 months. Drug addiction is a bitch.

    El Bicho – I think I get your point. It is not the drugs but the personal problems that my boys have had that causes them to be addicts. I have had enough counseling to know that is the case. I just resent the fact that drugs have robbed me of my children.

    Dr. Dreadful – I understand your point. It is aimed at the justice system. I assume you would feel as strongly if Mr. Davis was white. I will admit to not knowing that much about the case. My info was pasted from wikipedia. It appeared pretty cut and dried. You seem to have more insight.

  • I assume you would feel as strongly if Mr. Davis was white.

    Yes, I think I would. I’m opposed to the death penalty anyway, and it seems particularly irresponsible and vindictive to insist on it when there’s as much doubt in a case as there was in this one.

  • Maurice

    Dr. D – There are 2 issues with Phillipe’s article. Racism and death penalty. My contention is racism is not involved in this case. I am going to bed now. Peace everyone.

  • Arch Conservative

    Allen West and Herman Cain got it right……..the Democratic Party is the new plantation for blacks.

  • zingzing

    and they’re just too damn stupid to realize it, eh, archie?