Unending Blackman’s struggles
The plight of the Blackman has not appreciably improved from what it was a few decades ago before emancipation struggles by Black human rights activists of the movement of Martin Luther King Jnr that swept through the United States in the early 60s. There are still gory stories of old, of mistreatment, of downright unconscionable brutality visited on the Blackman circulating despite self-evident strides we have made in all areas of human endeavour over time. Be it in scholarship, whether it is in science or humanities; discoveries, in technology or in enterprises, the Blackman can raise his head. Despite being able to excel, he is still scornfully put down as an inferior entity. If a crime is committed in the United States, the Blackman is the first suspect. The impression that is given is that it is only the Blackman that is capable of armed robbery or of drugs and breaking traffic rules and to whom traffic lights mean nothing.
The police are unsparing in their hot chase of the Blackman on suspicion of this or that infraction. Some five years ago, two White policemen held down a Blackman. He cried out that he was being suffocated, that he could not breathe. But the police would not relax their firm grip on his neck. All his cries of agony fell on deaf ears until, alas, he died in their hands. The Blacks mobilised themselves to protest against the gruesome death.
Earlier this month, a Blackman was accosted by the police. They claimed he fitted the picture of a man on their radar, whom they were looking for. When the police struggled to draw his hands behind him to handcuff him, he asked for the name of the person they were looking for and to be shown the man’s picture. Both the name and the picture were not his. He argued it was a mistaken identity and would “damn go no police station”. Those who knew him joined from afar to demand the identity of the person the police were seeking. They testified to it that he was not the one. The witnesses kept their distance, presumably so they would not be accused of obstructing the course of justice. Despite protestations, he was handcuffed and whisked away.
I have just watched a video captioned “Africa Diaspora” in which a Blackman painted the sorry picture of the Blackman all over the world, and of an average Blackman in America in particular. “In all my travels…. all is cast against the Black people,” he said. He said the Blacks are a race without power and authority. “And a race without power is a race without respect.” With palpable pains in his heart, he said the kind of education given to the Black American is one to teach him that he is in second place; it is one that makes them realise that “they don’t have a right to replace Whites. You can only rise if the White gives you permission.” The education he is seeking is one that will make the Blackman’s children “understand their role in the struggle for freedom”, education that will give the Blackman “a power base that we have not; that will raise the general condition of the Black people. The Black is a race of dependents, dependent on White power structure.” He is seeking independence for the Black people in all areas of endeavour. Black people are not in control of the economy. Blacks are not in the conversation.” He is not happy that Barrack Obama negotiated an agreement with Ghana to put a military base there which he believes is aimed at “making resources safe again for Western exploitation.”
Unfortunately, Nigeria that is expected to lead the assembly of what Professor Bolaji Akinyemi would like to see as medium powers, to stand up, play exemplary leadership roles and give the Black race hope, has a lot on its plate to chew. It is standing on feet of clay, bogged down by widespread spate of insecurity within its own frontiers. Disrespect, distrust and acts of brutality are what the Blackman faces. Mr. Trump in his undisguised White supremacist arrogance has a low rating of the Blackman.
The brutalities the Black American faces reminds me of the case of Rodney King 27 years ago. Rodney King was arrested and viciously beaten by four policemen—Lawrence Powell, Theodore Briseno and Timothy Wind. They were led by Sergeant Stacey Koon. As I did report and comment at the time, and I want to share it again: The horror was recorded on a video tape. The 81-second tape struck alarm in the hearts of thousands of television viewers across the globe who had the privilege of viewing the incident. Anger was provoked. Nerves were frayed. Restive young men, however, held themselves in check and bated their breath as they awaited the outcome of the trial of Mr. King’s tormentors.
The policemen were tried by a 12-man jury comprising one Hispanic, one Filipino and 10 whites. The trial lasted 29 days, at the end of which the jurors returned the verdict of not guilty to the policemen. There was outrage even in distant lands where it had been possible to watch the video tape of the battery, and the subsequent verdict. The injustice was instantly and predictably invested with the toga of racism. The authorities in Los Angeles did not help matters. There was no single Blackman among the jurors that had 10 whites. The case was between one Blackman and four White men. If it was reasoned that the Black men in the jury could be biased in favour of their kinsman, it ought to have been reasoned that so could the White men in favour of their kindred race. Even if justice could be guaranteed with the non-inclusion of the Blacks, they ought to have been represented.
The trial itself was removed from Los Angeles county to a prosperous, suburban and white Ventura County with a black population of two per cent compared with 10 per cent in Los Angeles. According to US News and World Report magazine at the time, there were only 400 people from among whom the jury was selected. The area is one of the worst pro-police communities in the United States. The jurors did not bother themselves with Rodney King’s side of the matter. They rested their case on the version presented by the attorneys for the policemen. While not dismissing the brutal beating meted out to Mr. King, the jurors said the policemen were only reacting instinctively to a case of resistance to arrest, and force was necessary to effect the apprehension.
When Mr. King, a 25-year-old unemployed construction worker, encountered the policemen he was drunk and police gave him a hot chase at 12:30 a.m. When they caught up with him, Mr. King who had had a record of imprisonment for robbery, refused to get out of his car, and the police believed he was under the influence of a hallucination drug. Tests later proved the suspicion unfounded. One aspect of the trial that was unmistakably striking was an all-out stout defence by the attorneys to the police. Their strategy was to paint Mr. King as an aggressive and dangerous criminal who needed reasonable force to subdue. Expert witnesses were called to testify to the use of force the police cadets were taught during training. Reported Time magazine: “What are you trained to do with your batons?” a defence lawyer asked his client on the stand. “To break bones” was the answer. Another lawyer was reported as saying that his client “dealt with the situation as it unfolded in accordance with his experience and training.” And yet another said: “I tried to put the jurors in the shoes of the police officers. We got the jurors to look at the case not from the eye of the camera but from the eyes of the officers.”
In a bold reversed line lettering, the Time Magazine stated: “Defence attorneys for the four accused officers had to overcome the overwhelming evidence of the videotape that showed their clients clubbing in 81 seconds. To make their case, they showed the tape to the jurors in frame-by-frame slow motion, drawing attention to key moments that they claim showed, despite appearances, that King constituted a serious threat to the police.” And concluding, it said; “To most Americans, black and white, in this case good lawyering triumphed over justice itself.” This conclusion is the heart of the matter. What should be worrying are the consequences of the triumph of ‘good lawyering’ over justice. One is that the policemen may have been let off the hook, their victory is a transient one. They each bear personal responsibility for their actions before the natural mechanisms of life, the adamantine, immutable and self-acting Laws of Nature. The automatic and living mechanisms of life pay no heed to the opinions of men, the society, courts, beautiful arguments nor even the laws of the country. The laws of men can stand only where and when they conform with the Natural Laws. No one is protected by man-made laws in the face of higher laws. Nor the state, for the Laws recognise only human spirits who may have congregated in a particular area, driven by their homogeneity to develop and mature according to their own nature and at their own pace. Protection by the state in an act of wrong doing is a delusion. Only what is right stands and everyone can feel what is right to his fingertips.
In the Rodney King’s case, many a Blackman across the globe saw the brutality inflicted on Mr. King as racism-induced and the victory of the policemen at trial as cover for the White. The positions were predictable and understandable. Racism, of course, exists. Those who experience it regularly would laugh to scorn any suggestion to the contrary. Racism is immaturity, although racism by the immature, ignorant and severely limited White is sometimes read into common disdain for laziness, the refusal to face life and pull oneself up in the beneficial struggle of earthly existence. There is also ignorance of the resultant manifestation of incompatibility brought about by differing nature.
The horror King went through culminating in his death was impermissible brutality, simpliciter, which should be vehemently condemned. But the disapproval ought not be because it was inflicted on a Blackman. Evil is evil, whether done to a Blackman or a Whiteman. And the white communities should be unequivocal in the disapproval of the brutality Mr. King suffered. The lawyers who were more concerned with “good lawyering” than justice, and those among the Whites who applauded the vicious beating and kicking are all connected and they bear responsibility for the travail of Mr. King wherever they may be on the globe. To them all, as the seed, so the fruit. The mills of justice grind slowly, but surely and finely, and I dare add, minutely.
This brings me to the bloodletting in several parts of our country and the air of triumphalism that undoubtedly goes with it, even if in secret. In the inviolable, perfect and unchanging Laws of Creation, there is no single killing that will not be atoned for. Reward and punishment are manifestations of their outworking, the outworking of the Power of God anchored in His Will expressed in those Laws, sometimes referred to as Divine Laws or as lawyers would say, the Laws of Natural Justice. These laws are real and incorruptible.