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Why is Eric Garner's Unjust Death the Black American's Problem?

Updated on December 11, 2014

You know...sometimes I wonder why incidents like the Trayvon Martin case, the Michael Brown tragedy, and the Eric Garner injustice are supposed to be the black person's problem. It seems as if it's up to us to demonstrate and try to convince white people to change things -- being on our best behavior to keep white people on our side. When black individuals riot, white people often seem to remark, "There goes those blacks -- don't they know that if they don't stay on their best behavior, white people aren't going to listen to them?"

It's demeaning, in a way. To an extent I oblige; I've pulled out common sense statistics proving that black individuals are discriminated against in almost every area of society -- from law enforcement, to the justice system, to job employment, to evaluation of job performance, to relationships -- and I eventually convince most white individuals. I mean, the evidence is overwhelming. And that's what's so humiliating. We need to prove through demonstrations and arguments how oppressed we are to white people so they will listen, but this practice of proving that you're treated as an inferior in America -- it does something to you.

When a black person talks about privilege, it makes sense -- like, it hurts -- but they're going through the same thing. When a white person recognizes it, it's good that they acknowledge it exists, but it's almost as if they're making it clear that they're treated better and are more wanted in this country. And that can make your embarrassed existence feel embarrassing. It makes you feel like maybe you don't belong, like you're a nuisance, like you're bothering white people who would be perfectly happy if you didn't make such a big noise with your petty concerns. And the white people who help you -- you like it, you need it, don't get me wrong, but there is the constant inquiry of the question you have to answer: "How does it feel to be problem?"

I'm not the problem, though. Black people aren't the problem. A history of racism in this country is the problem.

Most people don't realize that the image of black men in this country that we have today was carefully crafted through speeches, books, plays, articles, "scientific" studies, and news that catered to a stereotype and that were marketed by white people to sold-out white crowds in America from the 17th century, to the 18th century (when Jefferson basically described, to a T, the current stereotype of the black "thug" with the slaves he owned), through the 19th century (often with propagandists in the North as the worst offenders), through the 20th century, to today. Strictly historically speaking, black people did not invent this image. White people did, and did their utmost to disallow blacks personhood unless they embraced it, and this is still happening today.

Take, for instance, the typical below quote from the 18th century from Thomas Jefferson, which strikingly mirrors the stereotype of the black "thug" today:

"They have less hair on the face and body. They secrete less by the kidnies, and more by the glands of the skin, which gives them a very strong and disagreeable odour....They seem to require less sleep. A black, after hard labour through the day, will be induced by the slightest amusements to sit up till midnight, or later, though knowing he must be out with the first dawn of the morning. They are at least as brave, and more adventuresome. But this may perhaps proceed from a want of forethought, which prevents their seeing a danger till it be present....They are more ardent after their female: but love seems with them to be more an eager desire, than a tender delicate mixture of sentiment and sensation. Their griefs are transient. Those numberless afflictions, which render it doubtful whether heaven has given life to us in mercy or in wrath, are less felt, and sooner forgotten with them. In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection....in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior....Among the blacks is misery enough, God knows, but no poetry. Love is the peculiar strum of the poet. Their love is ardent, but it kindles the senses only, not the imagination. Religion indeed has produced a Phyllis Wheately; but it could not produce a poet. The compositions published under her name are below the dignity of criticism.... I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind. It is not against experience to suppose, that different species of the same genus, or varieties of the same species, may possess different qualifications. Will not a lover of natural history then, one who views the gradations in all the races of animals with the eye of philosophy, excuse an effort to keep those in the department of man as distinct as nature has formed them? This unfortunate difference of colour, and perhaps of faculty, is a powerful obstacle to the emancipation of these people. Many of their advocates, while they wish to vindicate the liberty of human nature, are anxious also to preserve its dignity and beauty. Some of these, embarrassed by the question 'What further is to be done with them?' join themselves in opposition with those who are actuated by sordid avarice only. Among the Romans emancipation required but one effort. The slave, when made free, might mix with, without staining the blood of his master. But with us a second is necessary, unknown to history. When freed, he is to be removed beyond the reach of mixture." -- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (1785)

And the question white America has refused, for hundreds of years, to ask is, "Why did we need this stereotype of black men? Why DO we need it? What does that say about us, about our own insecurities, fears, and desires?"

Instead, the question it asks (with the preface "I'm not racist, but") is, "Why are black men so perfectly fitting our stereotype? Why do they seem to feel that obligation? What does that say about what's wrong with them?"

The same question they've been asking since, as John Rolfe put it when they came to Jamestown in 1619, the first "20 Neggers" were sold in America.

I know -- many people I talk to say, "Don't talk about white people that way -- I didn't enslave anyone or segregate anyone. That's reverse racism." Yeah -- but when stuff like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner happens, who do you expect to be out in the street, humiliatingly on their knees on the gravel pavement, asking the cold eyes of white justice to shed a tear? Black people.

But we didn't enslave anybody, either. We didn't segregate anyone. We didn't commit these injustices. And yet we're out here, protesting because we care about justice in America.

It's bloody exhausting. And the truth is that nothing is going to change until the majority in America starts caring, stops looking to black people to prove that there is a problem it already knows exists, and works to change things itself. If you say it's everyone's problem, and not something that is race-specific, then treat it that way.

That's why I'm tired of black people being treated like they brought this on themselves and are thus responsible for the injustices they have suffered, so that they are expected to pick themselves up. No -- history indicates that the only reason we got THIS far is because black people worked hard to convince white people to care about the things white people were doing to them. We're not the ones dragging our feet. We've pushed a long way over the past 400 years. And maybe some of us are tired dragging behind dead weight. Maybe some people need to clean up the mess they made on the fabric of our lives, instead of staring at us rubbing the spot.

I've thought about it over and over the last few days; I've been reading and thinking and figuring. And no matter what we do -- if white people keep, for the most part, seeing this as a black person's problem and see black people as the problem, all while denying race has anything to do with it, nothing is going to change.

Those are my thoughts. This is part of why, in recent marches, I didn't join. It would make me a tad angry that there are mostly black people there, trying to clean up a mess that neither they nor most of their ancestors over the past two hundred years had any responsibility for. And if you're not out there marching yourself, you've lost the right to shame me. The way I see it, the black/white ratio of those demonstrations is way too disproportionate, already.

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    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 16 months ago

      I've heard more than one white person say that African-American people approach them with an aura that isn't shared by non-American blacks, and I'm inclined to agree. But that seems to vary with the level of education. Where I work our black employees are just as educated as the white ones, and there is no problem here. In fact, the only problems that I see are among people of the same race who can't get along. However, we do have a racist problem with a Latino boss who seems to be prejudiced against most non-Latinos, and against some Latinos who come from the wrong side of the Caribbean.

      So please, if you are black, give us whites a chance to be friends. A lot of us would like to be friends with you.

    • profile image

      Dana 2 years ago

      The more you point out the differences, and the fact that it somehow matters, the more fear you will have. My Father was a man who truly didn't see color, he told once, " you take every man one at a time ". In my opinion to be prejudiced because of a persons skin color is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard; Show me the person who choose the color of their skin.

    • S Leretseh profile image

      S Leretseh 2 years ago

      QUOTE:: "I've pulled out common sense statistics proving that black individuals are discriminated against in almost every area of society -- from law enforcement, to the justice system, to job employment, to evaluation of job performance, to relationships -- and I eventually convince most white individuals."

      NONSENSE. The fact is, forced integration never should have been created in the first place!!

      White people DID NOT owe the black man integration rights (civil rights of 1964). No people in human history ever gifted such rights - into their social stratification system - to another distinct people. WHY? Because if that integration was forced, and gifted to a people who created no political or economic systems (insufficient businesses, no industries, no tax bases from their business activities, no urban housing)...everything that didn't go the recipients' way ... they would blame it on their race. And that is EXACTLY what this black male is doing right here. No matter what white people do, or have done, ...it is NEVER enough. REMEMBER, white people did not owe the black man integration (race-nullification). In fact, human nature makes such a thing unachievable. White Christian males created the forced integration act (1964), but it never should have been created in teh first place. It has proven to be a complete failure.

      White people, don't fall for this guilt-tripping. No people in human history have ever gifted more to another people...simply because of the color of their skin, than Blacks in America have received from white Christian people. Unfortunately, in my long history of doing back and forths with blacks, they will recognize NONE of it (charity, generosity, good will). They want MORE. And they perceive guilt-tripping as the way to get it!

      When you come across a guilt-tripping blog, article, hub, mr. white male/ female...give it right back to 'em. Remind them you're aware of the Black Supremacy Doctrine (principle#7...which is to deny any accountability from blacks to what goes on within their community or family).

      Remind the guilt-tripper as well ...what white people endured BEFORE forced integration:

      http://theinjusticefile.blogspot.com/2011/03/afric...

      Then remnd the guilt-tripper... what white people endured AFTER forced integration was launched:

      e.g. The 1960s black male-initiated racist urban riots trying to achieve Black Supremacy...and drive white people out so they could claim white people's homes, businesses, jobs... even entire towns and cities.

      Then there's the black-on'white crime that blacks fail to acknowledge:

      http://theinjusticefile.blogspot.com/2012/04/image...

      Remember, when you see guilt-tripping...give it right back to 'em! Blacks were a completely FREE people after 1865, free to build their own towns, cities, businesses, industries, build their own communities, their own homes, their own distinct culture... Can't get much freer than this people. White people, prior to 1964, wanted racial separation so as to require the black race to achieve self-reliance as a distinct people. All of human history demanded they (blacks) should do that. Instead, blacks marched for integration - and dependence on white people. And how does "dependence" dovetail with Black Supremacy, you ask? Once political systems have been created by white people, which is based on white people creating business and industries, which produce a sustainable tax base for gov't services, then the Black Supremacy Doctrine kicks in i.e. dive white people OUT. This Doctrine has been in full force since 1964..and this Hub here is completely consistent with many of the principles within the Doctrine.

      Don't fall for the guilt-tripping!

    • profile image

      big daddy oreo 2 years ago

      I am going undercover as a black man. I am going to use my blackness to get more productivity out of black employees.

    • Edithe Estelle profile image

      Elizabeth Downing 2 years ago from Milky Way, Galaxy

      This was really great and I agree with most of what you're saying. I've written something along the same being myself in that American history both Black and White is a reason behind a lot of the issues happening today. I don't get why they are viewed as separate but my suspicion is that many just don't want to acknowledge their role and then be responsible for fixing it.

      As someone who's joined in several of the vigils and marches in New York over the last couple of years I can tell you that there's just as many White people out there as Black people, possibly more and that bothered me. I find that some Black people just don't want to have to think about this and I understand because it saps the joy out of life and who wants to be angry all the time?

      The fact is the steps that would need to be taken to create a more even playing field for all would mean taking what has unfairly and disproportionately given to Whites and spreading it around. Now a THAT'S when you'll see total involvement by White people! Already people look down on and speak derogatively of things like Affirmative Action as if it's a handout or welfare when it's meant to force people to open their doors people with the same qualifications, and the biggest beneficiary of Affirmative Action to date has been a White women!!

      But thank you for such a great article, you said a lot of what I think and what people need to hear!

    • profile image

      brian 2 years ago

      Paint the pigs black!

    • profile image

      big daddy oreo 2 years ago

      Say yes to life,

      do you agree that black skin would make the average white man look stronger? Maybe even like a legit badass!

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 2 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      LOL!

    • profile image

      big daddy oreo 2 years ago

      Yes 2 life, she should have hired one of my oreo lawyers. A black face can protect white people much better.

      Black skin is all the protection I need on the road of life.

      They need to take all the white police officers and disguise them as black.

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 2 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      I once had a white co-worker who was racist. She believed whites were superior, and that minorities got ahead by programs designed to promote them without merit, and that they got away with all sorts of things because if they were reprimanded, they could file a lawsuit. She was merely ignorant, though, and never made any trouble for me.

      This wound up working against her when she proudly announced she was pregnant, and wound up getting fired. Though they didn't state that as a reason, it was obvious. She filed a lawsuit for reverse discrimination! Of course she lost. If she'd filed for being pregnant, most likely it would have been no contest.

      Racism hurts whites, too!

    • profile image

      big daddy oreo 2 years ago

      Black skin has a lot of advantages for a male. I want to dye my skin black and live as a black man if it is safe and affordable. Here are the reasons why I want black skin.

      1. Black skin makes you look stronger.

      2. Black skin makes you look younger.

      3. Black skin is good for street protection. You are less likely to get robbed walking down the street if you have black skin.

      4. Black skin you reduce your chances of getting fired for something petty.

      5. Black skin gives you sex appeal.

      6. Black skin gives you much more flexibility on what you can and can not say.

      When it comes to dealing with black people a white man could go undercover as a black man to do the following things.

      1. Oreo bosses. A white boss could go undercover as a black boss to get more productivity out of black employees.

      2. Oreo teachers. A white teacher could go undercover as a black teacher to help black students.

      3. Oreo cops. If it was up to me every police officer in america would have a black face on him. Every single cop would be protected by black skin. Let them handle troubled black youth. I am tired of all the drama paint the pigs black! I am serious!

      4. Black votes. A white man could go undercover as a black man to help white people get more black votes.

      5. Oreo lawyers. I don't know about you but if a black person accused me of discrimination I would prefer a black voice protecting me. Why not have a white person disguised as a black man.

      Black skin is the answer!