The Ballot Or Bullet?

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With one eye on France, the other on election results here, the over 35 million African-Americans citizens of this nation are awakening to the self-evident truth that participating in the political process seems to play little or no part in alleviating their ongoing pariah status. Whether they opt for the ballot or the bullet, to borrow Malcolm X’s phrase, is likely to be determined by the extent to which the system persists in negating their humanity and their fundamental freedoms

Could the sort of mass-scale insurgency borne of discrimination that’s breaking out all over France, another so-called democracy, occur here? Of course, it could. The only reason it hasn’t is that, as the descendants of ex-slaves, second-class status is so deeply ingrained in the sub-consciousness of African-Americans that they tend to accept the most inhumane of treatment. But that promises to change soon, given the fact that Islam is the fastest-growing religion in America, particularly among Blacks.

The straw that broke the camel’s back over in Europe was the French police causing two Muslim juvenile delinquents’ electrocution under suspicious circumstances. Here, Hurricane Katrina pulled the trigger on a social grenade just about to explode. It all started with the hateful way in which FEMA Director Mike Brown responded to urgent requests for immediate assistance. When challenged by an exasperated underling on location that “I don’t know who is ultimately running this government nightmare show but please get your acts together now!� Brown responded with vain, vapid comments about his preparation for his next, narcissistic photo-op like, “I am a fashion God� and “Tie or not tonight?�

Personally, I find it profoundly disturbing that the government bureaucrat in charge could behave so cavalierly about intervening on behalf of the suddenly-homeless, the neediest of souls, including the starving, the infirm, the old, and the sick. So, I ask you, does democracy work if a man like Brown is still on the government payroll instead of indicted after responding with flip quips to increasingly desperate emails informing him that the levees were failing? He couldn’t have cared less about the mass scale of human suffering which was unfolding while the world was watching.

And why not? Because he knew that they were mostly Black and poor, and that, as an involuntary political minority, they would never be his constituents. More importantly, he trusted that the psychological sting of the lingering vestiges of the slave master’s whip would continue to keep generation after generation of African-Americans well-trained to adopt a non-threatening manner of interacting with the white-dominated power structure.
 
This also explains why Black and white Americans have radically different reactions to the October 8th beating of a 64 year-old Black man to within an inch of his life by three New Orleans policemen and an FBI Agent. The videotape clearly shows Robert Davis, a retired elementary schoolteacher, being punched in the head repeatedly, knocked to the ground, handcuffed, and then forcibly restrained with his arms twisted behind him at an awkward angle, even though he had offered no resistance, and was bleeding profusely.

In a news conference, Davis explained that he hasn’t had a drink in over 25 years, and that all he had done was chastised an officer for responding rudely to his question about the newly implemented curfew. Whites were still willing to accept the official explanation that Davis was drunk and had resisted arrest, although nothing on the tape suggested that that was the case. By contrast, it was easy for most people of color to recognize the cops’ behavior as routine, a racist attempt to intimidate an individual into “his place.� Why should Black people even bother to vote when their civil rights and basic survival needs are considered totally irrelevant to the political process?

With one eye on France, the other on election results here, the over 35 million African-Americans citizens of this nation are awakening to the self-evident truth that participating in the political process seems to play little or no part in alleviating their ongoing pariah status. Whether they opt for the ballot or the bullet, to borrow Malcolm X’s phrase, is likely to be determined by the extent to which the system persists in negating their humanity and their fundamental freedoms.

Black Star columnist Kam Williams is an attorney member of the NJ, NY, CT, PA, MA & US Supreme Court bars.

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