By Vernon A. Williams
How free is Black America?
Speaking with my political savvy, intellectual brother Willie Williams Jr. from his Moss Point, Mississippi home about racism in America, I was certain he would ‘thumbs up’ my comment during our telephone conversation that conditions were the worst they have been since the 1950s.
The 81-year-old sage gently but firmly corrected me. “The 50s? Racial conditions in the United States are as bad as they have been since SLAVERY!”
I had to think. Willie seldom employs hyperbole, so even though the contention was jarring, I could not summarily dismiss the notion.
With all this administration has done to divide and conquer the races in this country since that conversation at the end of last year, the more evidence surfaces to affirm the profound accuracy of my brother’s stunning claim.
One confirmation of the disrespect for Black lives surfaced in photos showing contaminated copper-colored water flowing from a Flint, Michigan fire hydrant with absolutely no sense of urgency from the state or federal government to correct.
Images of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands continue to ramble through the minds of conscientious citizens of this nation who see the virtual abandonment of Americans of color in those locations. Not a day passes without the image of brown children in U.S. cages separated from parents under armed guard.
The only images in the streets of urban America more disturbing to the corps than innocent, unarmed Black people shot and killed by those sworn to ‘serve and protect’ are judges and juries handing out ‘get out of jail free’ cards to cops accused of the shootings with a prosecution rate of less than one percent.
The public outrage needle barely moves in the wake of the seismic revelation that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson – who grew up in “the projects” – sought to raise by 20 percent, the rent for the most impoverished families living in public housing in this great country.
Local police departments from coast to coast are reduced to tools of bigots who call 911 whenever they see a Black man, woman or child looking or saying anything they deem suspicious – which is virtually ANYTHING in the minds of these cowardly wannabe vigilantes.
Given the blessings of this administration, neo-Nazi, alt-right, white nationalist groups are on the rise and random acts of contention are increasing accordingly. From the Waffle House, to Starbucks to a dozen lynchings, these types of incidents in America have increased since 2000.
A five-time draft dodger becomes commander in chief of the military and questions the patriotism of those who have given life and limb to defend this country. Hypocrisy runs rampant during this time of fireworks and euphoria over the red, white and blue freedom proclaimed by the majority of Americans.
Despite exclusion from the benefits derived from liberty, Black Americans remain the most loyal and willing to serve this nation. The prayer seems always to be fruition of prophecy of the civil rights galvanizing anthem, “We shall overcome some day.”
The obvious answer to the rhetorical question of how free is Black America is no longer the dominant issue. We know the pathetic reality. Instead, during this celebration of independence, the focus should shift to three areas.
First, it should be understood that Black America is becoming increasingly “woke” and aware of the nation’s contradictions. Secondly, the administration is hereby served notice that we are not only still here but refuse to be forced away from the nation our forefathers built. Lastly, this Fourth of July should explode in resolve to fight the power at its most vulnerable spot – the voting booth – in 2018.
Black America is taking the best shots bigotry and racism can throw. It is a fight. Though backed into a corner, we are still on our feet. Black America is going the distance. Occasionally on the ropes, our guards remain poised and feet keep moving. We ‘duck and dodge’ a few more glancing blows, resolve to eventually land that counterpunch that knocks out racism – insuring liberty and justice for all!
Speaking of things that are not, as though they were, is the ultimate spirit of Independence Day for Black America; the resolve to declare independence from the mentality of enslaved, hopeless victims. Instead, we should fight to the death for the victory that will benefit our children and our children’s children in a true Land of the Free!
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.