Reimagining policing alone is not sufficient. We have to reimagine America. I am not writing as a Muslim or Black leader, but as a servant to all. As a servant, I must remind us of America’s original sins: slavery and genocide. Contrary to popular belief, the sins of enslaving Africans and genocide of indigenous people has not been erased by a Civil War, Constitutional Amendments, Reconstruction, Civil and Voting Rights Acts, anti-poverty programs, Indian treaties, casinos, or reservations. Why? Because the enslavement of Africans, the genocide of the natives, and the ongoing mistreatment of both is rooted in a mindset of white supremacy and entitlement that endures to this very day. If this mindset is not eradicated, the changes sought and made in police reform will only be temporary fixes and lead to further unrest.
History is instructive. Juneteenth is the celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reaching enslaved Africans in Texas on June 19, 1865, two and one half years after its issuance. Blacks were liberated from enslavement, but have yet to receive equal treatment under the law. The ratified 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution have benefited every ethnic and special interest group besides the Freedmen. Even corporations have greater protection as “persons” under the 14th Amendment than the descendants of the Freedmen. In addition, there are hundreds of ratified treaties and agreements made with Indians going back to the American Revolution, yet, there is hardly one that has not been violated in some shape, form or fashion by America. The conditions on Indian reservations are deplorable and a national disgrace.
The Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (The Kerner Commission) was released on February 29, 1968. The conclusions were correct, but the recommendations were not followed. The Commission’s conclusions were: America would devolve into two societies – one Black, one White – separate and unequal; American democracy would be undermined; and America would lose international credibility as a beacon of equity and justice. Fifty-two years later – despite Black middle class progress, wealthy entertainers, athletes, and billionaires – the masses of Black people suffer from disparities of all kinds. Voter suppression is widespread throughout the country, and now there are protests in the streets of America and around the globe against racism and police brutality sparked by George Floyd’s murder. With July 4th weekend on the horizon, reread what the Second Continental Congress charged King George III with in their Declaration of Independence and see if some of those same conditions do not exist in America today.
A word to the wise: the dissatisfaction amongst the populace, not just Black people, has reached the point where time nor brute force will quell the demand for equity and justice. Today, people of all creeds, classes, and colors are uniting for equity and justice. This is not a time for half-measures or incremental change. Please, do not form blue ribbon panels, commissions, task forces or hold Town hall meetings, hoping to quiet the unrest; especially if the resulting recommendations, legislation, executive orders, programs and policies from such gatherings will not be implemented or properly funded. Removing statues, banning confederate flags, and renaming military bases has its merits. But if America does not destroy the idea and purpose that the erected statues, confederate flag, and whose names on the bases represent, then removing, banning, and renaming them is symbolic and not substantive. At the U.S. Constitution Convention of 1787, George Mason, who ironically was the largest slave owner in attendance, warned his fellow conventioneers over slavery saying, “Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of heaven on a County. As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects providence punishes national sins, by national calamities.”
Today, we must reimagine America, not just policing, lest we reap the national calamities that the sins of inequity and injustice have sown.
To reach Abdul Haleem Muhammad, please contact him AHaleemMuhammad@outlook.com.