The current presidential election campaign has awakened the racial divide in this country. And it’s not a pretty sight. The latest example of this divide is the controversy swirling around the “fist salute” given by 16 graduating African-American female cadets at a traditional photo-taking ceremony at West Point. Many through social media outlets have construed this gesture as some kind of socio-political support for the Black Lives Matter group.
The tragedy is that had the photo been about 16 graduating white female cadets giving a “fist salute,” it would not have garnered much more than a second glance.
The Calculated Racial Divide
Nothing it seems escapes the tentacles of our racial divide.
Not even the Super Bowl.
This past February nearly 112 million people watched Super Bowl 50 which, unfortunately, was tarnished by this racial divide.
The third most watched television program in history pitted a white, All-American quarterback against a young, some would say unprofessional, black quarterback. The pregame story lines were fueled by hype from sport writers who prognosticated about whether the ultimate game would see Peyton Manning “winning and riding off into the sunset” or the “Superman” Cam Newton transforming the Super Bowl with physical feats never before witnessed.
Perception never fares well under the glare of reality.
Peyton’s performance was mediocre at best while Cam’s performance revealed he is simply mortal. In the game’s quirky aftermath, Peyton was seen—mostly by white Americans—as a class act while Cam was seen—again, mostly by white Americans—as a “sore loser.”
Another Fist Salute Breeds Outrage
And then there was Beyoncé’s halftime performance.
Social media trolls, law enforcement officials and conservative political pundits immediately characterized her performance as a tribute to the 1960’s militant “black power” fist salute and a glorification of the Black Panthers militant attire. Some went as far as to say her performance was anti-police. Critics who lambasted the performance played to the growing racial and cultural divide in this country between black and white Americans.
Again, reality slam dunks perception. Her performance, aptly aided by Bruno Mars, unquestionably overwhelmed the “headliner” performance of Coldplay. Beyoncé’s performance was stunning while Coldplay’s performance was average. It didn’t take an entertainment critic to see that.
The people who create the racial divide currently polarizing America are the modern-day philosophical descendants of the people who supported the Jim Crow laws of the 1930s and who violently and murderously opposed the “civil rights movement” in the 1950s and ‘60s. Today, they criticize simple gestures of solidarity and independence and ignore violent acts of brutality and racism.
Insulting Our President
This, we believe, is more than a mere assumption. These modern-day racists use slogans like “take the country back” and routinely vilify our nation’s first African-American President with all sorts of coded racial slurs and insults.
President Barak Obama has created more than 14 million jobs in an unparalleled sustained 70-month-plus growth period, reduced the deficit by one trillion dollars. His economic policies have allowed the stock market to triple its growth during his presidency.
Yet most Republicans and Tea Party fanatics hate the man. They charge that he, like Beyoncé, is responsible for the racial divisions in the country today. More than one-third of Republican voters still believe he is an anti-Christian Muslim because he supports religious diversity.
Racist Running for School Board
This is what Mary Lou Bruner, a leading Texas board of education Republican candidate, said about the president last October:
“Obama has a soft spot for homosexuals because of the years he spent as a male prostitute in his twenties. That is how he paid for his drugs. He had admitted he was addicted to drugs when he was young, and he is sympathetic with homosexuals; but he hasn’t come out of the closet about his own homosexual/bisexual background.”
And these are some of the kinder, gentler remarks Tea Party activists like Bruner have said about the president during his tenure in office.
But what are the real racial realities in this country?
Why the Black Lives Matter Movement Still Matters
The following statistics, gleaned from a number of news sources, underscore this nation’s racial divisions:
- One in three young black males will go to prison in their lifetime as compared to 1 in 17 young white males;
- While black people represent 13 percent of the nation’s general population, they constitute nearly 40 percent of its prison population;
- The black homicide rate (19.4 per 100,000 deaths as compared to the white homicide rate of 2.4 per 100,000) is one of the highest in the world;
- Of the 1140 police shootings in America in 2015, 26 percent of them involved black people, a significant disparity considering blacks represent only 2 percent of the population;
- In 2014, the nation’s police killed at least 253 unarmed people and another 91 who were stopped for mere traffic violations, a disproportionate number of whom were black;
- Black males represent 6 percent of the American population but represent 40 percent of the unarmed people killed by the nation’s police;
- Black students are twice as likely not to finish high school as white students;
- Black students are suspended or expelled from school three times the rate of white students;
- 13 percent of black high school students end up with a college degree while 21 percent of white students get a college degree;
- The median income for black Americans is $23,000 while it is $53,000 for white Americans; and
- The median black household has just six percent ($7,113) of the total wealth of the median white household ($111,146).
And yet, these figures notwithstanding, political conservatives accuse Beyoncé and activist groups like Black Lives Matter of being responsible for the racial chasm in this country. The accusations would be hilarious if they were not so tragic and mean-spirited. Roughly 60 percent of both black and white Americans believe that race relations are deteriorating in this country, but neither group understands the reasons for the divisions.
We’re not sociologists. We do not understand every aspect of the worsening of race relations in this country. It is a multifaceted problem fueled by hate groups and right-wing politicians trying to trade on fear and economic dissatisfaction.
Black Lives Matters Movement Does Matter
What we do know is this: The Black Lives Matters movement does matter. The movement is long overdue to confront the majority of white Americans who don’t understand, or cannot see, the gross injustices and inequities that still face African Americans. The movement is necessary to confront the growing, hateful rhetoric that is spewed out by politicians who contribute to the acceptability of coded racist language and innuendo. It is necessary to spot-light and confront the violence being perpetrated on the black community by those sworn to serve and protect. It is necessary to take a stand for human dignity and racial justice in this great country which espouses both to the rest of the world.
So yes, black lives matter…