BY JEANETTE LENOIR
The systematic killings of black people in America has turned into a Holocaust. Just count the bodies. All of them. From the start of the African Diaspora, through Emancipation, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights movement. Millions of black people have met brutal ends for no other reason than for being born black. Today, our killings are carried out by racist white supremacists and law enforcement backed by our government. There’s just no other way to describe the ongoing lynching’s and brutality inflicted upon African Americans. Just because we’re not being openly marched to gas chambers or kept in concentration camps doesn’t mean we’re not dying in mass numbers by the hands of police officers emboldened by a government who refuses to recognize our humanity and rightful place in the world, let alone America, which owes its black citizens so much of its glory and might.
And Donald Trump and his posse are steadily paving the way for more unjust killings and atrocities only black people seem to know intimately. The “oops, we did it again, wrong house” is played out and starting to look more like a covert strategy to exterminate black people. One by one. Steadily and strategically. I have no more tears to cry, as I live with pain and grief for the family of the latest victim of police brutality: Breonna Taylor. We are at war with deputized individuals, trained to battle us as if we’re in Fallujah. Taylor was in bed. Never suspecting her brutal demise would be carried out by government officials who took oaths to protect and serve all Americans. Evidently, the three-fifths compromise, the solution to count three out of every five slaves as one person for legislative representation, is still in play when it comes to the number of black people who are killed by the police or vile racists. Today, it could be that killing 3 black people out of 5 that have been victimized amounts to 1 death. Our lives are not valued. This is evident everywhere you look. From small town America to big cities like New York and Las Angeles. While the NYPD is handing out masks to white sunbathers in Central Park during COVID-19, gently warning them to exercise social distancing rules, they’re beating the hell out of black people for the same offense. There truly is no justice. Not yet, at least.
Comedian Dave Chappelle discussed the brutal killing of Emmett Till during his show recently. He made some important points about how the tragic event of Till’s death led to the world seeing the brutality inflicted on blacks by whites in America. He said it led to many changes and liberties we as Americans enjoy now, hence his celebrity and packed shows with diverse audiences. He’s right. Times and circumstances have changed. We no longer drink from different water fountains, ride in the back of buses, or hang from poplar trees for no reason other than being black. But Emmett Till had to die a horrible death for some of these changes to happen. Many, many others did too. And, the killings of black people haven’t stopped. Ahmaud Arbery is the latest example of a good ol’ fashion American lynching by some inbred, backwoods hillbillies who hate black people for being…you guessed it, black.
And Breonna Taylor is yet another awful example of our over-militarized law enforcement who kill us like battlefield combatants. If our disproportionate killings are not an active Holocaust, I don’t know what is. According to some historians, the African Diaspora and the subsequent slave trade ended in the deaths of over 30 million black people. Now add all the other bodies onto that pile from Emancipation to today. That’s a lot of black people who have unjustly met tragic ends. The killing methods has changed but not the body count. I understand the point Chappelle was making. But how many more of us need to die to finally bring about lasting change? How many more black bodies does America need to satisfy its thirst for our blood? And racism still shows its ugly head in every sector of our society. Case in point, Senator Mitch McConnell can blatantly lie about the first black president not leaving his successor a pandemic guide and telling him to “shut up” when he’s asked to give his opinion on the Trump administrations’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic without any repercussion or rebuke from his “dear colleagues.”
Taylor’s brutal death happened in his state; Kentucky. And McConnell has yet to humanize Taylor because he’s too busy trying to call Barack Obama an “uppity nigg*r” with a dog whistle we all know and understand very well. And yet, despite taking arms to fight countless wars for America, here and abroad, most white people remain idle. Watching. Seeing black people come home from wars to face racist brutality for a country many of them died for, they remain still. Accepting this shameful display of hate and calling themselves Christians. The German people watched and sat idle, too. Today, many just feign shock that in modern society racism still exists. Some take to social media to vent and share their outrage but quickly get back to Netflix and the life they enjoy despite the inequality we all know exists. That police still kill us disproportionately. That we’re still denied jobs, access to adequate healthcare, equal educational standards, curriculum and schools, or even healthy foods and an environment. We continue to bear the brunt of the cost of industrialization when rich corporations are given passage by our government to pollute the areas we live in, allowing companies to burying their toxic and cancer-causing waste in our backyards and pollute our water. Some whites certainly grieve, fight and even die with us for justice and change but clearly, not enough to make a real difference of our unequal American lives. So I have no more tears left to cry for my people, as I continue to bear witness to our systematic killings of which I can only call by its dirty name: a Holocaust.
Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, interviewed Marcus Rediker, author of, The Slave Ship: A Human History, where he discussed, “floating concentration camps and why the black community should never forget.” It’s worth a read. Included in the report was this discussion: “Before he won the Best Picture Academy Award for “12 Years a Slave,” director Steve McQueen accused Hollywood of ignoring the subject of slavery. “The Second World War lasted five years, and there are hundreds of films about that and the Holocaust. Slavery lasted 400 years and yet there are less than 20 films about slavery in North America,” McQueen said, in an interview with the British paper The Voice. “We have to open our eyes and look at it and other people have to acknowledge it.” The black community, he added, must remember slavery in the same way the Jews remember the Holocaust. “They believe in the saying ‘Never forget’ when it comes to the Holocaust, and I think we should be the same when it comes to slavery.”
Rediker was also asked if, “Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day could act as a model for remembering slavery in the United States. And he answered, “I think it would be absolutely impossible in this country, because the majority of the white population is utterly opposed to reparations and would not like to remember slavery in any way that might lead to economic and political conclusions. The difference is that the people who want to remember in Israel are in charge in the government. John Conyers has for many years proposed, at the beginning of each Congress, a bill to study the effects of slavery in American history. And every year, it’s voted down.”
Comedians Key and Peele joked about Negrotown, once. I laughed and thought nothing else of the “utopia for black people.” Looking back, perhaps that’s the only solution left for us. Maybe we do need a Negrotown, where the duo joyfully sang, “you won’t get followed when you shop, you can wear your hoodie and not get shot, no white folks across the street in fear, no trigger happy cops or scared cashiers. And loan applications can’t get turned down, [because] you’re always approved in Negrotown.” Art imitates life. But the brutality and killings we experience are real. Perhaps to save our lives and finally stop the Holocaust of African Americans, is to find our way to Negrotown. McQueen’s suggestion to adopt the Jews saying, “Never forget” when it comes to slavery is ideal, but we must first break out of our bondage and finally stop the black Holocaust in America.