The Vester Lee Flanagan Tragedy--Evidence Of Dreams Deferred

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Mass media prefer to dismiss cases like Flanagan as "loonies' rather than critical examination that can inform us all

[Commentary]

In the aftermath of the August 26, 2015, shootings of Journalists, Allison Parker and Adam Ward, in Roanoke, Virginia, and the subsequent  suicide of  the shooter, Journalist  Bryce Williams --aka Vester Lee Flanagan-- a new terminology has been devised to describe the shooter’s acts of violence against the journalists.

He's a "Classic Injustice Collector."  Supposedly, the term describes someone who goes about collecting injustices; but it fails to shed any light on why someone would choose such an odd career path as his or her life’s calling, except, perhaps, that the person was born into it, as in the case of Descendants of American Slaves (DAS). Their circumstances in this country have been nothing but a collection of “lived classic injustices.”

Yet, the media-spin on this historical reality is always to flip the strip and portray DAS as the inflictors and initiators of violence against those who are the true perpetrators of violence against DAS, which includes, by the perpetrators, every kind of violence under the sun, not withstanding economic violence that drives all other forms of violence DAS suffer in this country.

Violence and crime against DAS are systemic and always come down to economic opportunities—who have them and who do not; who are able to work gainfully and who are not; and who survive and who do not. Systemically, as well as historically, DAS have always been on the losing end.

The media, lamenting the recent shootings of Parker and Ward, remind us of just how awful their loss of life was. Parker and Ward were “two young, bright journalists—two deserving young people—who had a promising life and future ahead of them.”  By having their lives cut short, therefore, is an awful tragedy, not only for them but also for the rest of us.

But what remains unsaid is that any untimely death is indeed an awful tragedy, including the untimely deaths of generations of DAS, since slavery.

Slavery, in and of itself, was and remains an awful tragedy, to this day. Almost 400 years later, slavery remains an unresolved issue—a perpetual, awful tragedy in this country that no one wants to openly acknowledge or terminate. 

However, as long as the issue of slavery remains untreated and ignored, is allowed to create double standards and a nation divided, and continues to diminish and cut short the lives of generations of DAS today, as in the past, a culture of violence will continue to escalate and innocent lives will be touched by it, and that too is an awful tragedy.

No one will be safe.

The violence will continue, because the violence is triggered by lack of economic equality and White supremacy and not by "lack of gun control" as the media pundits and political class claim.  To blame guns as the cause for the terroristic attacks of Americans on Americans in America is to attempt to whitewash our history of racial disparities and discrimination in order to ignore the primary catalyst for dissension and unrest, stemming from social and economic inequalities that began with slavery, and that too is an awful tragedy.

That is what the Christopher Dorner and Bryce Williams --Vester Lee Flanagan-- tragedies are about.

Their tragedies recount the untimely deaths of two very promising Black men who had dreams that they pursued through college and into the workplace, only to discover that fulfillment of their dreams were abused and denied, not because of lack of qualifications, but because of their race and the color of their skin and White supremacy practices that are still very much a part of our national culture today.  That too is another awful tragedy!

These men set out to have meaningful, successful lives but instead were deprived of the lives they had dreamed of having and of the economic livelihood they had prepared to have, due to strident, stringent Jim Crow practices against them, similar to what Pre-Civil Rights generations had to endure. That too is another awful tragedy!

They, like most Post-Civil Rights generations, believed what the laws promised their generation, which was to be the first generation ever to live unencumbered by Jim Crow and White supremacy. Ironically, the promises turned into lies, leaving DAS, after the second Civil Rights Revolution of the 1960s, worse off than the slaves when they were let loose and kicked off of the plantations in 1865, without means of economic survival. That too was another awful tragedy!

Like the slaves in 1865, there were no places or people in the system where Dorner and Flanagan could turn to for civil rights justice and fairness. They had lost their economic livelihoods, reputations, and hope; and, moreover, there was no one who seemed to care. That too was another awful tragedy!

Nothing more was left for them but to take relief into their own hands, which they did. That too was another awful tragedy!

Furthermore, to heap tragedy on top of tragedy, Dorner was also a veteran who had deployed twice to defend his country and fellow Americans only to have, in the end, no one here to defend him when he encountered the very evils, here at home, he had been told to go abroad to fight against for others.That too was another awful tragedy!

Therefore, Dorner and Flanagan are not “collectors of classic injustices”; they are victims of both classic injustices --collected from their life experiences-- and of “dreams deferred.” 

As Langston Hughes, in “Dream Deferred,” so prophetically cautioned us to ponder: “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore—and run?  Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over—like syrupy sweet?  Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.  Or does it explode?” [—Or implode?] That too is the most awful tragedy of all!

Instead of honestly acknowledging the crux of the real problem, leaders and politicians hypocritically spin the problem to distract and mislead the country away from the real problem and real solutions.  For example, the politicians and the media tell us that the American people are tired of lawlessness and violence, which are exploding all over the country, such as the recent shootings.

Therefore, to end these crimes, the American people need to elect leaders who will put an end to the lawlessness and the violence.  What they imply is that they, if elected, will go after the criminals by being tough on crime which will put an end to crime. 

However, crime is never simple and cannot be eradicated until the root cause of the crime has been addressed and treated. The lawlessness and violence that are all too frequently occurring in our country today are symptoms of a greater root problem. Until the root of the problem has been dealt with, there can be no real end to the symptoms. 

The root of the problem is social and economic inequalities that manifest into all forms of violence against society, self, and others in this country. 

Republican Presidential hopefuls are telling the American people that we need to do whatever we have to do to protect people against criminals, such as doing more about mental health in the country and gun control, building walls to keep immigrants out, and enforcing the laws we have.

However, the American people need to ask which laws do we need to enforce and how will we enforce them?  Are they Civil Rights laws that we need to enforce?  Because if they are not, enforcing any other laws will not really matter.

We had Civil Rights laws in place to remedy the historic, systemic social and economic problems which have become the aftermaths today from the erosion of those laws over the last 50 years. Every Presidential Administration, after Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Jimmy Carter, began to appoint Supreme Court Justices to the bench, at the same time that White Americans began to elect legislators to implement resolute backlash against the Civil Rights gains.

Civil rights laws, growing out of the Civil Rights Revolution of the 1960s, were crafted to attack and outlaw systemic, historic inequalities in the country.  However, those Civil Rights laws have been deliberately broken for 50 years now, in favor of Whites, at the exclusion of those for whom the laws were intended to benefit.  The laws were intended to benefit, by leveling the social and economic playing fields for the Descendants of American Slaves, the historically disenfranchised group, in the country since the advent of slavery in the 1660s.

But DAS are benefiting the least.  We know that is so by considering the reasons given in the media for the recurring firing of Williams and Flanagan over the years.

First, we notice that he has been painted in all of the typical, negative stereotypes assigned to Blacks in order to justify denying him equal employment opportunities.

Secondly, the language comes straight out of classic White supremacy backlash, delineating why Blacks must be restricted from having access to employment opportunities, equal to Whites.  The language is commonly used to create pseudo documentation of job performance in order to create negative paper trails that are used to discriminate against Blacks and to wrongfully terminate them from employment.  This form of pseudo documentation is compared to “economic” hanging—the hanging noose of the new Jim Crow. 

Both the hanging noose of the new Jim Crow and the rope noose of the old Jim Crow result in death—one a physical death and the other an economic death. 

An economic death, caused by a bogus paper trail, accompanied by a smear campaign, is much more sinister than a death caused by a rope hanging.  In the latter --the hanging rope-- the evidence is obvious; but in the former --economic hanging-- the evidence is hidden in pseudo documentation that, on the surface, appears to be in compliance with accountability labor laws, which shift the blame onto the worker, instead of the law-breaking perpetrator of unfair hiring and firing practices.

This kind of fraud against equal opportunity employment practices explains why, at a time in our history, when we have more college educated Blacks than ever, we have more unemployed and underemployed Blacks than ever.  The reason is found in the fraudulent ways White resisters are able to bend the laws to hide and covet the White resistance movement against desegregation and equal rights, especially on the economic front in the workplace.

Although the media have not focused on the employment status of Flanagan at the time of his death, the assumption is that he was a formally educated, an appropriately-trained Black man, unable to get and retain work in workplaces dominated by Whites.  He was not some half-put- together person intruding into work areas for which he was untrained.

That is not how Black people roll because it is deeply ingrained in them, by the culture, that Blacks are not entitled to anything and whatever they get, must be earned.

They must work the hardest and be the best at what they do to get ahead, unlike Whites who can rely on skin color, connections, and White privileges to get ahead. Thus it is unfortunate, but highly suspect, that the workplaces Flanagan tried to find work in were workplaces intolerant of diversity and were consequently rigged against employment and retention of people like him --obviously, for purposes of social and economic control.

Such workplaces are racially hostile toward those who are racially different. Moreover, the racially dominant group is known to hoard employment opportunities for only those who look like them.

However, the media and the Presidential candidates are not talking about how the workplace is commonly rigged against diversity and, more importantly, against equal employment and economic parity of DAS. Instead, they are quick to blame and point fingers at President Obama for the violence and lawlessness in the country, while skirting around the historical facts that have given us a broken country, broken words, and broken laws which President Obama did not create. 

The state of our country’s unrest today was caused by generations before who failed to tackle, appropriately, the social and economic inequalities inbred in the nation’s fabric. As a result, the generations who come after them are forced to struggle with and against the same age-old problems, today, which threaten to go on into perpetuity. No one benefits from passing the buck on to the next generation.  We all suffer in the end and should want more for posterity.

The solution to lawlessness and violence is to eliminate racial discrimination and economic disparities, which we would have done 50 years ago, had there not been the systemic backlash to feed into regressive practices of times past and White supremacy. 

The solution is not in building walls to keep people out. The solution is in what we do to tear down walls to heal all the people who are here.  Economic equality and fairness would be a great yeoman’s start --a brave, hardy beginning, long overdue-- to set right the wrongs. The wrongs are not going away by themselves.

Nor are the wrongs going away by creating more laws to bandage up age-old, economic bleed-outs, caused by racism and White supremacy, left over from slavery, which continues to have a negative hold on all of us.

Slavery remains an unresolved issue, incumbent upon us to resolve—to set right—in this millennium. Otherwise, the classic injustices will continue to collect, economic dreams will still be deferred, and crime and violence will continue to escalate in the aftermath.

That will be an exponentially awful, awful tragedy, with very high dividends, impacting us all.

 

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