Freddie Grey, Michael Brown and Eric Garner are all recent victims of the shocking upsurge in police brutality, which is not a new phenomenon in America. However as the world peers into a nation, mesmerised by the images of human rights violations captured on the digital devices of bystanders, it is as if we were being taken back to the volatile times of the 50s and 60s when civil rights were thrust to the forefront of politics.
Much seems to have been done to lift persons of African origin beyond the social divide and into equal opportunity, however the truth of the matter is the fact that this dignity has only really been afforded to the wealthy, those with celebrity status and those who have managed to escape ghettoised districts.
In neglected communities we see an alarming absence of fathers who have been carted off through unfair legislation to be incarcerated in the new corporate prison industrial complex. It is no secret that in the aftermath of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and The Black Panther Party there was a deliberate influx of crack cocaine that flooded the crafted ghettos by the aid of the CIA1.
In an attempt for popularity with mass audiences politicians such as Nixon, Reagan and Clinton ranted on about their war on drugs and three strikes and out policies which appealed to the conservatives, however the tough sentences that followed only severely punished offenders involved with crack cocaine rather than the powder format. As crack was the drug mostly found in particular lower income neighbourhoods, impoverished people of African descent became easy prey in a new system that presented judicial inequality in favour of those using powder who tended to be of Caucasian descent living in the more affluent areas.3 Drugs have never merely been a problem for people of color, they are a problem for all communities that have not embraced a real solution.
The old draconian policing tactics of the Jim Crow era seem not to have gone at all, the oppression and incarceration of African Americans has an uncanny resemblance to that of apartheid South Africa where although Africans were part of the police force, they were also part of the system inflicting pain on their fellow Africans.
Will the conviction of police officers for racially motivated crimes and the wearing of body cameras cure the judicial system of America, unfortunately I have to shout a resounding “NO.” The tensions we see are the leaves on the tree and not the root system. Impoverished communities have been engineered through unjust policies and systems of education tailored to keep poor as slaves to the rich. The training of the police still involves racial profiling that targets people of African descent. The rate of ex cons who cannot find work after leaving prison perpetuates the problem of crime due to forced poverty. 3
As the Church internationally, if we pretend as if this problem didn’t exist, we would become the sitting ducks that permitted injustice and unnecessary suffering. So it is important that we martial our spiritual and political intelligence to bring a solution to the problems.
In the meantime although I understand that rioting maybe a language of a suppressed people, but destroying your own local community without the means to better rebuild it is futility. We not only need prayer but social reform, changes to education in these communities and an economic stimulus package that isn’t a welfare handout, but rather a means to encourage budding entrepreneurs so that they provide employment in these areas of mass unemployment.