Rahim Islam is a National Speaker and Writer, Convener of Philadelphia Community of Leaders, and President/ CEO of Universal Companies, a community development and education management company headquartered in Philadelphia, PA. Follow Rahim Islam on FaceBook(Rahim Islam) & Twitter (@RahimIslamUC)
“The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, But It Bends Toward Justice.” Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King
What Dr. King was saying is that justice will eventually come for the Black community, but it’s not immediate and it’s not instant – it’s a long struggle but it will come. The Black community can’t just wait for justice to come even if it’s been nearly 400 years and millions of our ancestors have died in the process. We must fight for it, we must continue to demand it, and we must lead the effort. Until we are told differently, as Americans with the Constitution being the supreme law of the Unites States, the Black struggle is an American struggle – we weaken our argument when we make the Black struggle just a race issue.
Unfortunately, there are just too many White Americans that are absolutely ignorant to American history and/or steep in deep denial (White privilege) to this realty. James Baldwin once stated that America created this Black phenomenon and must be held accountable to fix it. These conditions we see today are not the result of Black’s being inferior, even though that is the propaganda being promoted and generally believed by most Black and White people. This and other issues presents an additional set of circumstances that stand in the way of the Black struggle, which requires that the Black struggle be placed front and center into the public square by any peaceful means necessary. The Black struggle must educate and influence public opinion and when that happens, both Black and Whites are educated.
The Black community must work on dual tracks. It must organize itself and develop a strategic plan, and it must protest to keep our issues in the public square, which will allow the “powers to be” to want to meet with the Black community– this is what happened with the Civil Rights Movement. The Black community must be able to organize its leadership and assess the situation in real time. This must be done with a sober understanding of the present challenges and obstacles coupled with an understanding of what resources we have at our disposal to build the adequate infrastructure needed to carry out our objective.
If we don’t have the adequate resources needed to seed this effort, then we must raise those resources, which is a problem within itself. There are too many times that our movements die out because we are unable to build an adequate infrastructure based on finance and resources versus emotional energy. Sooner than later, our emotional efforts are not sustainable and are exposed to our adversary which has the ability to wait us out. Organizing will produce a strategy that has identified and prioritized our issues and a plan that spells out what is being doing, when it’s being done, and who will be doing what. The strategy must produce consequences that bring the public and private leaders to the table with the goal of negotiating a settlement on the issues that we have defined. Dr. King once stated that our issues will cost America billions and that hasn’t changed except it might now cost trillions.
THE BLACK MOVEMENT NEEDS BOTH ORGANIZATION, INFRASTRUCTURE AND PLANNING IN ADDITION TO ADVOCACY, AGITATION, AND PROTEST.
I have a deep respect and admiration for today’s athletes especially Colin Kaepernick for his peaceful protest of the demoralizing murders of unarmed Black men predominantly by White police officers. Nearly one hundred percent of those officers either go un-indicted and those that are charged are found to be innocent. Dr. King stated that the Civil Rights was phase I of the movement (we needed to stop the violence against Black people) which would allow us to enter into phase II of the movement (economic rights). The mass incarceration of Black men and terroristic treatment by police is today’s version of what King and his comrades faced in the 60’s.
Black men are targeted in so many ways and this can’t be some accident. Of all of the arrows aimed at Black men, there is none bigger than mass incarceration and police killings of unarmed Black men. What compounds this current human tragedy, is that, in many cases, unlike the 60’s, we have video evidence of police killings that should make indictment and conviction of police officer as a “no brainier,” and yet these police are vindicated – where is the justice? In addition, nearly two-thirds of all Black men has some connection with the criminal justice system with nearly 1.5 million currently in prison – these conditions are crippling the social-economic capabilities of the Black community.
Today’s criminal justice system’s war against Black men isn’t an isolated situation, this is an epidemic and reflects a historical connection to the murder of Black men over the past 100 years with the lynching of nearly 60,000 of Black men. We must make America aware of our struggle in this country no matter how painful it may be.
Don’t get it twisted, like lynching, these acts are nothing short of terroristic and while many result in death, there are a number of incidents with the police while not deadly produces high levels of terror on the Black community. Let’s also be clear, not all police behave in this way – but many have bought into the “us against them” mentality and have been silent when their misguided brothers behave unjustly. Terrorism by police, coupled with nearly 400 years of physical and mental oppression, has drilled into the psyche of Black men a sense of fear and for many White men it has drilled in a sense of hate and fear of Black men. Fear for their life is the number one reason used by White police officers when charged with killing an unarmed Black man.
Not having the protection of the police has serious consequences for the entire society and has created a hostile and adversary relationship between the Black community and the police. Some say that this is a nonissue and is made up, but how do you address Amadou Diallo, Manuel Loggins Jr., Ronald Madison, Kendra James, Sean Bell, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Alton Sterling to name a few? The Black Lives Matter movement evolved specifically to respond to these injustices yet they’ve been deemed by White America as a hate group – in fact, Black Lives Matter has been put on the terrorist organization list being described by Trump as the “alt-left” or “Black terrorist.”
How can so many murder cases result in either no charge or not guilty if this doesn’t meet a violation of human rights? Black men’s death by police is so common in America today that the Center for Disease Control has now added a new classification for Black murder named “Death by Police.” The hypocrisy of America is that many have stated that global terrorism is the number one enemy of America and yet America refuses to acknowledge that domestic terrorism is connected to the very thing that is supposed to protect our citizens: the law – this is an absolute violation of Black’s civil and human rights.
Police brutality and murders (let’s call it for what it is) represents a need for federal intervention and requires laws that will protect Black men from police that have very bad intentions. This is why Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players have tried to call attention to this issue by kneeling during the singing of the national anthem. This isn’t about disrespecting the flag and the national anthem – just the opposite. It’s exercising one’s rights as Americans which was given to us by the Constitution of America: The First Amendment. It’s about taking this opportunity to call attention to domestic terrorism, a modern-day travesty, that is taking place right here in our backyard. If this not a cause worth fighting for then there is no cause worth fighting for. Jackie Robinson, a Black American hero and patriot said “I can’t stand and sing the anthem. I can’t salute the flag because I know that I’m a Black man in a White world.”
You hear so much about Trump and his base, yet the Black community has a base too, but we must expand our base. Anytime that a Black man in America calls America into question about the treatment that he’s receiving in America, that person is somehow not a loyal American. But no one can tell us how to be American because this is one of our freedoms.
I acknowledge the progress that America has made, but it by no means represents the finality of the struggle when Blacks are under attack by structural racism. Racism that is as lethal even when there is no White slave-owner, KKK terrorist, Jim Crow laws, or known White Supremacist in positions of power until Donald Trump.