With the ongoing advancement of the New Jim Crow, double unemployment rates, and struggling communities, this potential four-of-a-kind may force us to bet on Black America with house money for social change.
Yes: Michael Dunn is going to jail, likely for the rest of his life.
Despite that, he received the same fate that George Zimmerman did: the benefit of the doubt when facing the charge of confronting, shooting, and killing an unarmed Black male teen with nothing more than inconsistencies in recounts of the incidents, questionable occurrences of abuse in their backgrounds, and their “word”.
Standing in the combined shadows of these results from 2013 and 2014 and previewing the beginning of two more high-profile cases – this time in my native Pennsylvania – it would not be a surprise if a pall appeared over the mood of good cheer and positive outlook that just carried us through the holiday season, into New Year’s Day, and kicked off Black History Month.
For all of the accomplishments that we extol during February, this month brought us yet another example of a changing-reality in America: that, in several ways, we are clearly going back to having a divisiveness on issues of racial realities that will hold back this nation and jeopardize any hopes of a social, economic, or political revival in modern-day America. Further, we seem to have garnered a strange national attraction to the dysfunction of yesteryear that led to Black men being assumed guilty before innocent and destined for jail over college and jobs despite facts showing otherwise.
Despite the trail of broken bodies, dreams, and communities shown in the past journeys of racial tensions in America, we head to a renewed reality where the notion that White fear of Black men – presumed or real – trumps the rights of some American citizens to be innocent until proven guilty of criminality. Just as we thought that perhaps we have finally turned the page on this repugnant chapter in our nation’s history, incidents point to a challenge – that perhaps this chapter is a key narrative to the American story after all, not an ancient obstacle to be permanently cast aside. The actions of both Dunn and Zimmerman along with the juries’ actions over the past several months can be interpreted frightfully as the 21st-century, Stand Your Ground version of White women yelling rape whenever they were “caught in a bind” with Black men decades ago. If the precedent is being made that young Black men can be attacked without consequence because of an unconstitutional presumption of guilt before innocence, perhaps it is time for a reaction and movement to this trend akin to the society-shifting and heart-wrenching days from just a few decades ago.
Are we ready? If we are going to relive the days of societal turbulence in the pursuit of civil rights enforcements and protections for the sake of our children, perhaps it is time to go back to the successful tragedies that won respect and equality within the law as American citizens– even if that includes protests, marches, and boycotts.
Poor Jim Crow-affected Black folks crippled corporate America and challenged our national consciousness with their actions in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, we sit in the face of lost Black wealth during the Great Recession and at the crossroads of a disturbing regression for Black America. Just as our ancestors put it on the line to improve their lives and our future without much more than the shirts on their backs, perhaps today we can bet on a better future for Black America with house money. After all, what else do we have to lose that we haven’t been losing already over the past 10 years?
With the high-profile cases of Jordan Miles and Darrin Manning coming up in March within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, America continues a watch on media-visible, extremely-troubling incidents that strip Black men of their citizenry through policies such as stop-and-frisk, “driving-while-Black”, and the New Jim Crow along with dually-applied laws including Stand Your Ground. The poor within Black America are incapable of defending themselves in courtrooms and forums of public opinion. The Black “well-to-do” are not safe, either. That cancerous trend touches all at an increased rate, whether it affects Black personalities and millionaires to college students at prestigious colleges. It’s not a brand-new phenomenon, either, as I discovered years ago in a “stop-and-frisk” moment as a college student by a college police officer – all while wearing my baseball uniform, carrying a baseball duffel bag, and walking from the baseball field on campus.
If we are headed in the wrong direction, perhaps we need to look back to the past to secure America’s future as a beacon of equality and justice for all. The Dunn mistrial only enforces the notion that we have a divided nation when it comes to justice and perceptions of race. The latest jobs numbers indicate that we have not closed the gap of inequality when it comes to education, employment, and long-term economic opportunity. The upcoming cases in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia – along with recent “stop-and-frisk” problems in New York City and other woes nationally concerning Black men – perhaps foreshadow a time where Black America has taken its last punch in the 21st century without hitting back – in the courtrooms, in the wallets, and in the consciousness of modern-day America.
We are simply betting on the stability and posterity of our homes with house money at a time when Black America continues to lose wealth, political power, and community safety – so what exactly do we have to lose?
Lenny McAllister is a political analyst and commentator featured on various local, national and international outlets including Al Jazeera America, CNN, the American Urban Radio Network, and Sun News Network. The Pittsburgh-based pundit appears on “4802: Final Friday” on WQED and hosts “NightTalk: Get to the Point” on the Pittsburgh Cable News Channel. He is the former host of Launching Chicago With Lenny McAllister on WVON The Talk of Chicago 1690 AM. Follow him onTwitter and Facebook.