MUHAMMAD: Open Season on Black Males … in America?
Askia Muhammad | 8/20/2014, 3 p.m.
“Excuse me buddy, but where can I be?”
“You foolin’ ain’t cha? This ain’t America is it? Oh Lord, where can I be?”
“This ain't America. You cain’t fool me.”
“This here’s the home of the sheriffs, not the land of the Free.”
“In America, folks don’t run through the streets, blood streamin’ from where they been beat.”
“And the cops in the good ole USA don’t think they some kind of gods either.”
“Naw. This ain’t America. You cain’t fool me.”
Those words were written 44 years ago by Melvin Van Peebles for his album, “As Serious as a Heart Attack,” and they sound like they were written last week. Curiously, life imitates art.
Everywhere we turn, the contradictions concerning the time and space continuum abound. What century is this? Where are we?
It’s as though someone, somewhere, up in the sky maybe, has quietly declared “open season” so it’s now permissible to hunt and kill Black males. No hunting license is required. Maybe it wasn’t so quiet after all. These Dixie legislatures did pass “Stand Your Ground” laws, followed by “Open Carry” laws meaning White guys can carry their gun into a classroom, a church, a restaurant.
A court has even said, right here in the District of Columbia, it’s permissible for White guys to carry their gun outside of their homes, for “self defense.” Self defense? Are there savage, wild predators prowling the streets outside of Rock Creek Park or Fort DuPont Park?
“Something’s gone rotten. Smells like justice and liberty,” the song continues as if the author could see decades into the future to the moment when a Staten Island police officer would use a choke hold – a choke hold that was expressly forbidden by his own department – to murder Eric Garner, whom he suspected of selling loose cigarettes. Loose cigarettes?
“I can’t breathe,” Garner complained to no avail. He laid there dying in the street. Emergency medical technicians watched, but did nothing to assist him.
“This ain’t America. You cain’t fool me.”
Could Van Peebles have foreseen Ferguson, Missouri, where police officer Darren Wilson shot unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown “down like an animal,” according to witnesses who said Brown’s hands were up in surrender? Even if Brown had done something wrong (who hasn’t) the Ferguson police chief said Wilson only knew the kid was walking in the middle of the street when he approached him.
But even if Brown had done something else wrong, what crime could possibly justify his summary execution in the street, without ever having been accused or tried by a judge and jury of his peers in a court of law? After that what would make it OK for him to lie for hours unattended in the street in a pool of his own blood?
Then the 95 percent White Ferguson police force used tear gas and rubber bullets to suppress angry, but legal, demonstrations by Brown’s neighbors in the 67 percent Black town, some in their own yards. Then the cops deployed armored military vehicles, and imposed a “no fly zone” over the tiny town with only 21,000 residents. “Hands Up. Don’t Shoot,” protestors declared.