Nowadays it is abundantly clear that policemen in the United States can kill black people with impunity. No matter how passive the black person is during an encounter, the white policeman is never held to blame. No matter what the situation, juries let white policemen walk. Just recently there has been a succession of acquittals of white policemen for murdering black men, women, and boys.
Black leaders concerned about this kind of injustice look at the journey to justice as a process that unfolds in segments. The Reverend Al Sharpton, a longtime activist in the battle for social justice, recalled on his June 25 television show the days when it was impossible to get a killer cop charged. Now, through the work of activists, some policemen are being charged. But even with body cameras and overwhelming evidence, getting convictions is now the problem. Juries treat killer cops as if they are immune from convictions. Sharpton seemed to suggest that further progress will require changes in the law to decrease the impact of the cop’s claim of fearing for his life. Such changes might one day lead to convictions of killer cops.
Black Americans’ capacity for suffering seems as immeasurable as their tolerance for injustice and state violence against them. All through the more than two centuries of the unspeakable savagery of slavery, blacks launched only a handful of notable attempts to free themselves from the white devil’s clutches. There are no records of any black mass armed resistance to lynchings, although blacks were sometimes lynched to the amusement of grinning white picnickers of all ages and genders. There are, however reels of footage of cops whipping black heads and dogs tearing black flesh and water hoses throwing black bodies during the civil rights movement.
The people of the world must look at black Americans with a sad wonder; what kind of people continue to live under such violent oppression in passivity? What kind of humans allow their children to be murdered and their children’s killers to be set free, and all they muster is a protest? Look the world over and you’ll not find another group of people as passive as American blacks.
The root of African American apathy is the acknowledgement that an armed struggle against white people would be disastrous for African Americans – the white citizenry is so well armed that the government militia (police and military) could sit that one out. So blacks do nothing, although no less a figure than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “If it’s not worth dying for, it’s not worth living for.”
Black people, especially southern blacks, are mostly very religious people. They know their Bible. They know the story of David and Goliath, in which a giant Philistine warrior is defeated by the young David, the future king of the Israelites. Goliath was a representative of paganism, in contrast to David, the champion of the God of Israel. Christian tradition see David’s battle with Goliath as a victory of God’s king over the enemies of God’s helpless people, and a prefiguring of Jesus’ victory over sin on the cross and the Church’s victory over Satan.
In the struggle for criminal justice, the police are Goliath and represent Satan, while the helpless African Americans, desperate for a victory over their enemies, have not yet identified their David. Black Americans need a David or they need to take the matter into their own hands. While you wait on David, you need to grip the slingshot yourselves. African American need to have the survival discussion, remembering Dr. King’s Words, “If it’s not worth dying for, it’s not worth living for.” Is the safety of our children worth dying for? Is the safety of black motorists worth dying for? Is fairness to blacks from juries and judges worth dying for? Is reforming a racist criminal justice system worth dying for? If the answer is yes, than black people better start to have a conversation about how to achieve those worthwhile goals.
A couple of things are clear: the police will continue to kill black people with impunity, and protest does not move the needle toward justice. Where, oh where is our David?