In what must be the height of irony, the trial of a middle-aged man for the shooting and killing of a 17-year-old boy after hot words over so-called “thug music”, and his subsequent hung jury instead of a murder conviction, happening during Black History Month shows us that all is not well in America.
Black boys and men are held in the lowest regard in the U.S. That was so historically.
That is so now.
Partly because to the judiciary, to white America, (and far too often, to Black America as well), Black life is cheap.
Some will undoubtedly dispute this, but ponder an event where a Black adult, peeved at heavy metal played by a van-load of white teens, and rebuffed noisily and nastily when he tells the boys to turn their music down, unloads into a vehicle, killing one youth.
Is there any serious question but that he would soon be a denizen of Florida’s Death Row?
But the social fear of Black men by white men strengthened a defense that almost won an acquittal.
That is a commentary on the law, on the courts, and on society at large. It is also a dim reflection on how Black men are still perceived in America.
A truth: white men fear Black men. It may be deep and irrational, but that doesn’t make it any less real.
In fact, it makes it more so.
A century ago, during the teens of the 20th century, Blacks – men and women—just a generation out of slavery, experienced a brutal national wave of white racist mob violence.
Blacks were lynched by the thousands in what scholar/activist W.E.B DuBois called Red Summer.
This violence went on with the silent acquiescence of governments, state and federal. (In fact, in many cases, state officials assisted and cheered on these acts).
One of the triggers of the violence? White male fear and anxiety that Black men, newly freed, would seek white women as sexual partners.
That psychology of fear continues today, now shielded by the illusions of politics, law and entertainment.
A teenager mouths off to a middle aged man, and the white man doesn’t see a boy, a teenager – he sees a Black man, and fear floods his neurons.
That’s a snapshot of Black America 2014.
It ain’t pretty, but it is what it is.