Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Has America no shame?

Published:Wednesday | June 10, 2015 | 6:00 AM

The United States of America is a wonderful country. That nation and its people are examples of so much of what is good about humanity. Anthemic songs about New York sung first by Ol' Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra and then by Alicia Keys and the Jigga Man, Jay Z, could well be seen as testament to not just what that world-famous city has to offer, but about the endless possibilities that this glorious, multilayered country provides.

"Concrete jungle," Alicia Keys and Jay Z's song says, "where dreams are made of, there's nothing you can't do." And that classic line by Sinatra in New York-New York, claiming that if he can make it there, he can make it anywhere. That song, that line, is about more than the eight million New Yorkers today. It's about the entire United States. In many respects, the USA is all that and a bag of chips, lavishly blessed and with a legitimate claim to being the best country to live in on earth.

 

UGLY PROBLEMS

 

With that said, the USA has massive, ugly problems, chief among which is the way it treats non-white citizens. To be even more precise, the country has a serious problem with how its white police officers treat black people.

Everyone knows of the multiple cases of white policemen killing or seriously injuring black men in the USA over the past 18 months alone. The Guardian newspaper in Britain published a story last Monday, showing that a black, unarmed person is twice as likely as a white person to be shot and killed by the police in the USA. That's horrifying in any developed country. So how can it be the norm in the USA?

A video of a pool party gone wrong in Texas, released on Monday, shows a policeman manhandling a 14-year-old, bikini-clad girl, who makes no attempt to strike or grapple with him. The decorated officer yanks her braids, forces her face down into the grass, and heaves his hefty frame on to her back to pin her down as he handcuffs her. The officer, at one point, pulls his gun and attempts to chase after two boys, only to be restrained from doing worse by two of his colleagues.

There were several white people in the mix at the party and none of them were accosted by the police. Only the blacks. The late, great Billy Holiday has burned into my consciousness the horrors of black men strung up by white men in the USA, presiding in a bush court, in her tear-jerking song, Strange Fruit. Anyone who wonders why blacks in the US have a chip on their shoulder ought to listen to that song and then read the attendant stories of events that inspired the lyrics.

For me, it's no wonder why the rap group NWA recorded the protest song, F*** Tha Police in 1988. Twenty-seven years later and blacks in the US still have reason to sing that song.

 

TAKE BEAM OUT OF OWN EYE

 

The things that have happened to black people at the hands of white police officers in the USA in recent months beg the question of when this issue will be a matter on the national agenda, beyond being just another incident report.

Disgraceful things have occurred in the USA, where, if these same things had happened in, say, a developing country, the US would send an envoy or two, dressed in sharp suits, to remind the government of its obligation to treat all citizens equally.

So why can't the USA see the large beam in its own eye? The US is now officially a dangerous place for black people, resident and non-resident. It seems as if a black man accosted by the police can be shot in the face for not saying 'good morning' clearly enough. Or for not raising their hands quickly enough. If you think that's an exaggeration, ask yourself how an unarmed black man, who's being sought for a traffic offence, can be shot in the back and killed, while running away from a white policeman.

If America is not shamed by these incidents, there are still some shame trees left here in Jamaica that we can export to Washington for planting across the 50 states.

Selah.

- George Davis is a journalist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and george.s.davis@hotmail.com.