“There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear…”
— "For What It’s Worth" (Buffalo Springfield)
In the classic scene from the '90s movie "New Jack City," drug kingpin “Nino Brown” told a stunned courtroom, “Ain’t no uzi’s made in Harlem. Not one of us in here owns a poppy field..”
As a community activist during that era , I’ve heard that excuse for contributing to the genocide of black people a thousand times. Although many folk may write it off as street apologetics, the fundamental question remains, did Nino Brown lie?
There is a theological question that is often asked: Why do bad things happen to good people? But as an African-American man, every morning when I turn on the news I ask myself, “Why do bad things happen to black people?”
There is hardly a day that goes by that there is not some story about a black person being murdered or getting kicked out of his local Starbucks. Not to mention the, seemingly, endless drama surrounding black incarceration or the disproportionate number of HIV cases or some other deadly disease affecting African Americans.
Unfortunately, the focus is always on what is happening but not why they are happening over and over again like a nightmarish version of "Groundhog Day."
It's easy to make this a moral issue or rehash the timeworn arguments about the failure of the black family courtesy of the 1965 Moynihan Report. It is a lot harder to deal with the genesis of the problems.
Historically, some theologians have used the Bible to infer that black people have been cursed since the great flood. And mad scientists have used scientific racism to try to prove the innate inferiority of people of African descent.
Although, in 2018 ,to most sensible people these ideas might seem ridiculous , in reality some people still believe these fairy tales. The social , economic and political fallout from this ideology has allowed conservative talking heads and politicians to make black people the poster children for everything that is wrong in America.
This is not to pretend that black folk don’t have issues. One of the major problems facing the black community over the last 30 years has been the devastation caused by crack cocaine. While there has been a three decades long “war on drugs” the casualties of Operation Just Say No have been more black men dead or doing life sentences in the tombs of federal prisons.
Although everyone wants to point to the kid hustling on the corner, very few have dared to ask how the drugs got in the hood in the first place.
In his book "Dark Alliance: the CIA , the Contras and the Cocaine Explosion," the late journalist Gary Webb alleged that the blood of the crack wars was on the hands of Uncle Sam. However, his work was discredited by those who prefer us to believe that crack got here courtesy of some coked-up tooth fairy.
Closely related to the drug trade is the proliferation of firearms on the streets. Yet, while police departments often brag about how many weapons they are confiscating in the hood when is the last time you heard about truckloads of guns being seized on Interstate 85? I guess the semi-automatic assault rifles just, magically , appear out of thin air.
Also, can we really discuss the health crisis in the black community without talking about the Tuskegee Experiment that occurred between 1932 and 1972 when a group of syphilis-infected black men were left untreated? (Read "Bad Blood" by James H. Jones.)
Instead of deflecting conversations about mass incarceration and police brutality into strawman arguments about black-on-black violence, how about picking up "Black on Black Violence: The Psychodynamics of Self Annihilation in the Service of White Domination" by Dr. Amos Wilson or Michelle Alexander’s work , "The New Jim Crow," so that these issues can be discussed in the proper context.
Some may say this is just a case of “pulling the race card in a game of Who Done it.” Sorry, Sparky, we don’t have that kind of time. Our children are dying in the streets. Just try playing the blame game with a mother who just lost her only son in a driveby. She deserves more than someone hyperbolizing her parental shortcomings for political expediency. And so do we.
Maybe we haven’t been getting the right answers because we haven’t been asking the right questions.
Paul Scott’s columns appear on the first and third Saturdays of the month. Follow him at NoWarningShotsFired.com or on Twitter @NWSF