Mon | Dec 5, 2016

Post-racial America? Gimme a break!

Published:Sunday | December 7, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Eight-year-old Braylon Willis stands with protesters outside the Dallas Police Department headquarters on December 4 in reaction to the lack of charges in the death of Eric Garner. -AP

Meleisa Witter, GUEST COLUMNIST

Jamaicans, be warned; just being the wrong colour in the United States could get you killed!

The US has become hallowed ground for many Jamaicans seeking a better life for themselves and their families. In fact, it is doubtful that there is even one Jamaican family that does not have a very close relative residing in Uncle Sam's country.

Over the past few weeks, it has been impossible to miss the stir that is being created, first by Obama's declaration to move to legitimise almost five million illegal immigrants who fall under various categories of immigration violation. But in an even more sinister way, almost on a monthly basis, there emerges another story about a black man who has been killed unlawfully by the people who should be upholders of the law. In very instance to date, these cops have got away with their murderous acts.

It's almost as though they have decided, "Obama has been working to keep niggas here; fine! We'll use them as target practice." And the courts agree with them.

The US is being hypocritical. Every so often, it dares to breach the borders of other sovereign states under the guise of human-rights interventions when it is convenient and there is some asset to commandeer. Yet the US allows the murder of innocent young people almost daily if the person is of the wrong colour.

Many young, promising lives are being snuffed out by people who see others with more melanin than they possess as animals not worthy of life. Some of the abuses being reported are downright disgusting.

Thirty-one-year-old Dontre Hamilton was shot 14 times, and the just-released autopsy revealed that the bullet entry wounds were in his back. In his case, the media have sought justification for the police's action by labelling Hamilton "mentally ill". The story is horrendous.

too many cases

The Roots reported that: "The officer who pulled the trigger, Christopher Manney, was antagonising Hamilton for the non-crime of sleeping in a park. Other officers present said that this was not a crime. Still, Officer Manny harassed Hamilton until things escalated into a struggle. At one point, Officer Manney claims Hamilton grabbed his baton and hit him with it. Police officers involved stuck to their story for months, until the autopsy report just revealed that it was a total lie.

"Jonathan Safran, the attorney for the family, said that the autopsy revealed that 'Dontre did have blunt force trauma injuries to his head and face'."

Then there is Eric Garner. Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. And hundreds or thousands more under the radar, especially those in prison for 'drugs'.

But the racially motivated, heinous crimes against minority groups are not limited to the law enforcers. From a very early age, the exposure to various kinds of physical, emotional and psychological abuse begins. In fact, it starts in the classroom. A few examples include the story of Mrs Ramsey, a grade-school teacher who had on her bucket list "to kill all black people if she had only 10 days to live". This was said in her class in the presence of young students who later reported the comment.

So we know that there are crazies out there. Mental illness is much more common than we realise. But the difficult part of the situation is that the North Carolina math teacher has been allowed to keep her job! She was suspended briefly, then reinstated.

But the horror continues. This story is so sick, it is not for the faint-hearted, but I hope more people will become aware of some of the realities of the 'great America' which is so eternally appealing. The Examiner reports that: "Mark Berndt, a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District for 30 years, has been imprisoned for blindfolding students and spoonfeeding them cookies laced with his semen. He recently pleaded 'no contest' when his case was brought to trial."

odd behaviour

The Daily Mail reports: "After an investigation, police uncovered a 'history of 'odd behaviour' spanning Berndt's 30-year career. They also found a cache of nearly 800 photos showing blindfolded children eating cookies made with semen, eating semen from a spoon, and letting roaches crawl on them.

"The distressing thing is that there were numerous complaints long before Mark Berndt was finally arrested, but the authorities failed to do anything about it.

"There were so many things along the way that were signs," [plaintiffs' lawyer John] Manly said, including photographs a parent brought to the head of the school in 2008 of a child eating a cookie covered in white slime.

"This is wrong, do something about it, or I'm going to call the police," the parent demanded, Manly said. "The principal said, 'Don't call the police.'"

Because many of the school's students 'come from poor Hispanic homes' and their parents 'feared deportation', they listened to the principal.

It is without contradiction that white supremacy is not a thing of the past. We would perhaps like to believe that the ascension of a 'man of colour' to the White House is a sign of acceptance; it is not!

Racism is alive and well in modern America. I dare say one does not have to go all the way to America to encounter it, as even in Jamaica some are 'less dark' than others, and so they still retain the right to be house slaves.

It is time we take pride in ourselves. Why can't we build a Jamaica that people won't need to feel the need to flee from in order to thrive and survive? Racism in America and elsewhere will never be completely eradicated. It is just a matter of when and how its ugly head will emerge from the shadows.

Meleisa Witter is a publisher and creative and editorial director of Caribbean Wellness & Lifestyle magazine. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and melcwitter@gmail.com.