Black people in America live on high alert

Paul Scott's column appears on the first and third Saturdays of each month.
Paul Scott's column appears on the first and third Saturdays of each month.

“There’s a war going on outside no man is safe from. You can run, but you can’t hide forever.”

“Survival of the Fittest” (Mobb Deep)

Recently, America went into panic mode over suspicious packages being sent to CNN and various public figures’ homes. While these events might have raised the blood pressure of many Americans, it was just another day in paradise …

To be black in America is to be in a constant state of high alert. Most of us wake up every morning already on Def Con 3, not knowing if we are gonna be shot by some trigger happy cop or attacked by some Confederate flag waving, Civil War sympathizer. Not to mention the real possibility of being hit by a stray bullet courtesy of some kid with bad aim who felt dissed by the guy across the street.

The annals of African-American history are filled with stories of unsuspecting black men and women in the South being brutalized by a slave master for getting out of line or maybe just because he was having a bad day. Even those above the Mason Dixon line lived in constant fear that some slave catcher trying to meet his monthly quota would snatch them up one night and drag them back down to Dixie.

As a child growing up in Fayetteville during the ‘70s, I remember horror stories that my parents and grandparents told about the Ku Klux Klan hanging people and police dogs being let loose on demonstrators fighting for equal rights. Perhaps the story that gave me the most nightmares was that of the four little black girls who were blown up at the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 in Birmingham Alabama.

For black children like me, the message was clear, if it could happen to them , it could just as easily happen to us. Even when, I started my community activism during my mid 20s , I would still get warnings from “well meaning” friends and family members that if I kept on being a rebel rouser, something very bad was gonna happen to me.

But fortunately, I was aware of the history of African Americans who had the courage to stand up in the face of danger. Although, not mentioned in many history books, there have been groups in the South such as the Defenders of Alabama (read “Black Power in the Belly of the Beast” by Judson Jeffries) and the Deacons for Defense in Monroe, North Carolina (read Robert Williams’ “Negroes with Guns”). So, instead of wallowing in fear, I drew my courage from such groups.

But fast forward 2018, when many people, especially women and the elderly, are afraid to walk the streets at night. This is especially true after the end of Daylights Savings Time when the days are shorter and the nights are longer. It seems as if during this period, the frequency of women getting their pocket books snatched and elders getting assaulted while shopping seems to increase.

So what do we, as a community, do about it besides cower in fear behind closed blinds? What if the men in Durham would appoint themselves as guardians of the Bull City and took it upon themselves to ensure the safety of the women, children and elders? How about groups of men patrolling dark shopping-center parking lots or riding the city buses to make sure that no purses get snatched? These are just random acts of right that we can do to make the Bull City a better place. It sure beats the heck out of being locked in the house all winter, peeping through the blinds at each car that passes by. As a community, we must break the bondage of fear that imprisons us. Like Karl Marx said, “We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Paul Scott’s columns appear on the first and third Saturday of the month. He can be reached at NoWarningShotsFired.com or on Twitter @NWSF

Related stories from Durham Herald Sun