When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it–always.Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
For your security – Always be mindful of your surroundings. Be ready for people to assume that you’re a criminal. Never argue with police. And don’t assume that all white people view you as a threat, but be ready to do everything you can to prove that you’re not.The Black Male Code
As we abandon the traditions and values that made us who we are and the ancestral treasures we know best, in favour of alien cultures, values and instruments of containment we could never perfect in; we are left exposed, vulnerable, and confused. We lose our sense of self-worth, self-knowledge, self-love, self-respect, self-pride and self-dependency. Uniting around a common cause becomes a problem because of acquired selfishness, divisions and egos.Israel Nonyerem Davidson
The death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American on Feb. 26 2012, sparked waves of public outrage and re-opened the long-dormant discourse about race in America. Even President Barack Obama was moved by the story surrounding the death. Trayvon was returning to a gated community after buying candy at a convenience store. He was killed in Sanford, Florida by a Neighbourhood watch captain – George Zimmerman.
Martin was unarmed and was wearing a hoodie when he was shot by George Zimmerman who had called police and reported a “real suspicious guy” wearing a hoodie. Martin was found dead, unarmed, with a bag of Skittles and an iced tea. Zimmerman, a Latino, called the emergency services because he thought Martin, 17, looked “suspicious” the police told him not to confront him. But he did anyway and the two men fought. Martin died. Zimmerman emerged, bleeding from the nose and the back of his head, claiming he shot Martin in self-defence because he was in fear of his life.
The police said there is no evidence to contradict Zimmerman’s self Defence claim. That Police view of the incident is challenged by the fact that Zimmerman, 26 years old, weighs 250lbs and had a 9mm handgun; Martin weighed 140lbs and had a packet of Skittles and a can of iced tea. “Trayvon Martin died for the crime of walking whilst being black in a gated community in Florida” (Freedom Sithol). His right to live was violated because he was black. However let’s be clear; this article is not about passing judgement on Zimmerman or Martin. It is about racial profiling, the concerns being raised all over USA and UK, and the Black Male Code developed to save innocent lives.
Racism, racial stereotyping and racial profiling even by law enforcement agents are among the top sources of threat facing the black race in America and some European countries today, including United Kingdom . In America for example, “much evidence shows that black males face unique risks: Psychological studies indicate they are often perceived as threatening; here in Philadelphia, police stop-and-frisk tactics overwhelmingly target African-Americans, according to a lawsuit settled by the city; research suggests that people are more likely to believe a poorly seen object is a gun if it’s held by a black person”. In a blog on Hoffinton Post, Mr. Sithol remembers:
a time in the nineties when I would be stopped by the police whilst walking or cycling around the more salubrious parts of Coulsdon, Beckenham and Tunbridge Wells, asked what I was doing in the neighbourhood and were I was going. I can still remember the humiliation I would feel at being stopped, especially if anyone else was there to witness it.”
Keli Goff, in an article titled “The gift that Trayvon gave all of us”, documents examples of racial profiling that extends even to celebrities like Opara Winfrey and Condoleezza Rice (US Secretary of State). She wrote:
In the case of Oprah Winfrey on two separate occasions at two different stores the stores in question locked the doors and claimed to be closed when she attempted to enter. In the case of Condoleezza Rice, a sales clerk questioned whether she could actually afford the jewelry she was eyeing. To those who have never endured such experiences, they may sound like minor indignities. But the Trayvon Martin case illustrates how easily subtle racism — which usually involves racial profiling — can escalate from indignity to death.
“Racial profiling is a method of using racial or ethnic characteristics to predict whether a person is likely to commit a crime. The use of this much criticised method has risen in recent years with the perceived rise in the threat of terrorism. .The basis of racial profiling is the assumption that people of a certain race or ethnic background are more likely to commit certain crimes” (civilrightsmovement.co.uk). In journalism, for example, those with the “right skin colour” can criticise European governments’ foreign and domestic policies without being considered a threat by the national security agents. Infact such reports are considered heroic, professional and investigative journalism. For those of us that fall within the racial profiling group, an article aimed at informing and educating the Black race may be considered a national threat and results in lines being tapped and intelligence resources deployed to monitor and harass. Whether this is sanctioned officially by the government is uncertain.
There are other examples of racial profiling. With the “right skin colour” one can throw eggs on the Prime Minister and President and get arrested and detained for a couple of hours. Such act is considered expression of democratic right. However, any other skin colour exercising his/her democratic right differently by, for example, condemning imperialistic policies of European governments can be classified a potential terrorist; surveillance is mounted on every activity of the individual including shopping, visiting surgeries, travels, telephone lines and work place. In other words, freedom of speech is now being racially profiled too. A researcher with “the right skin colour” can publish any controversial material on race and genetic issues and it will be considered intellectual contribution to human knowledge. A counter research by a different skin colour questioning the validity of such controversial publication is easily passed on as trouble making. Trayvon’s death like others before him have shown that racial profiling can escalate from indignity to death. Every right thinking and peace loving world citizen should stand against this humiliating practice that empowers racists and tarnishes the image of law abiding citizens and security agents.
It is greatly encouraging to note that many well-meaning citizens of United States and United Kingdom have come strongly against the injustices of racism, stereotyping and racial profiling. The death of Steve Lawrence on the 22nd April 1993 and the brave work and pronouncements of the Lord McPherson Enquiry are noteworthy in the fight against institutionalised racism particularly within the UK law enforcement agencies; though freedom of speech now faces racial profiling under the pretext of fighting terrorism. In the United States there are Whites standing firm and openly against racism, racial profiling and stereotyping. As for politicians, I don’t take them seriously in times such as Trayvon Martin’s case. They say things to suit moments, particularly during election year. Of course there are exceptions. One genuine and heartfelt voice of concern is Michael Skolnik, a political director to Russell Simmons. Recently he wrote about the plight of the Black people not just in America but also in Europe. Comparing his experiences as a White person to those of other races, he observed:
I will never look suspicious to you. Even if I have a black hoodie, a pair of jeans and white sneakers on…in fact, that is what I wore yesterday…I still will never look suspicious. No matter how much the hoodie covers my face or how baggie my jeans are, I will never look out of place to you. I will never watch a taxi cab pass me by to pick someone else up. I will never witness someone clutch their purse tightly against their body as they walk by me. I won’t have to worry about a police car following me for two miles, so they can “run my plates.” I will never have to pay before I eat. And I certainly will never get “stopped and frisked.” I will never look suspicious to you, because of one thing and one thing only. The color of my skin. I am white.”
So, I fight for Trayvon Martin. I fight for Amadou Diallo. I fight for Rodney King. I fight for every young black man who looks “suspicious” to someone who thinks they have the right to take away their freedom to walk through their own neighbourhood. I fight against my own stereotypes and my own suspicions. I fight for people whose ancestors built this country, literally, and who are still treated like second class citizens. Being quiet is not an option, for we have been too quiet for too long.
A CNN’s program, “Black in America,” hosted by Soledad O’Brien, notes “that many black parents are so conscientious of such profiling that those with teenage boys often provide them with a prepared speech for interacting with police officers to avoid them becoming another Robbie Tolan, the unarmed Houston teen shot by an officer who mistakenly believed Tolan had stolen the car he was driving. (He hadn’t.) O’Brien noted that this unofficial profiling speech is so pervasive within the black community it cuts across class lines. From working class black Americans to A-list celebrities, many of them consider the profiling talk just as important, if not more so, than the birds and bees talk” (Keli Goff). A person like myself, in the interest of security for my family, have taken the extra step of taking up my case to the British Government through my member of parliament, Mr Alan Campbell MP. The British intelligence community knows that I have no terrorist connections. However, freedom of speech is now racially profiled that for publishing informative materials aimed at positively transforming the mindset of Africans, I have been placed on surveillance.
The fact that we are responsible members of the society, medical doctors, academic doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, scientists, and high income tax payers do not matter. What seems to matter is the skin colour and our views. They know my profession, where I work, live, shop, worship and even my GP. There is no other reason I can think of why Openmind publications, like this article, should place one on surveillance other than a desire to intimidate and discourage its work. Information can empower liberation of the mind. Liberate the mindset of the Black race, as other races have, and the key to endless possibilities is unleashed. Confine the Black race to the bread and butter mentality, and generations are chained to perpetual slavery while guaranteeing a source of slave and thankless labour for Europe and America, no matter how academically and professionally qualified they are. I hope we are not heading back to the days of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King when security agents hounded them for standing for freedom and equality for all races. However, I take comfort in the words and experience of Mahatma Gandhi who said:
When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it–always.
I have no doubt in my mind that Africa will be free and prosperous sooner than anyone imagined. God is readying great leaders that will implement his will for that continent. Like the momentous events of this century, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse or be it reform of communism, the rise of China, India, and Brazil, the collapse of the South African apartheid regime, and the sudden fall of dictators; the rise of Africa will take the world by storm. No obstacle waged by man, governments, corrupt leaderships or security apparatus, can stop it.
In response to the ever present dangers of racial profiling, many African American parents have developed what has been called the Black Male Code. The purpose of that code is to avoid their kids becoming the likes of Trayvon Martin and others before him. While the argument in favour of such code is overwhelming, some argue that it indirectly endorses racial stereotyping and profiling. It is my view that such code is a strength and not a weakness on the part of African American parents. Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will (Mahatma Gandhi) – in this instance, the will to employ wisdom in overcoming the might of oppression. I must stress that not all White people and law enforcement agents are racists. However in a world where evil has often demonstrated the ability to disguise face and strike terror at the unsuspecting, it is safer to assume a high probability of encountering a racist on one’s daily journey. That’s where the wisdom of the Black Male Code comes handy. It is something a Black kid/adult has to adjust to survive. I recommend it to every African parent in Europe and America.
THE BLACK MALE CODE
- Always pay close attention to your surroundings, son, especially if you are in an affluent neighborhood where black folks are few or on public transport and in other public locations.
- Understand that even though you are not a criminal, some people might assume you are, especially if you are wearing certain clothes. This is difficult to swallow, yes I know. However, do it with pride and self belief in yourself and your integrity.
- Never argue with police, but protect your dignity and take pride in humility.
- When confronted by someone with a badge or a gun, do not flee, fight, or put your hands anywhere other than up. Surrender to authority with dignity.
- Please don’t assume, son, that all white people view you as a threat. Suspicion and bitterness can imprison you. But as a black male, you must go above and beyond to show strangers what type of person you really are.
- When dealing with authority figures, make it clear you are no threat at all — an attitude verging on submissive, but not self-humiliation.
- Keep your hair cut, your pants up, trust God and the Holy Spirit, and always keep your head high. In other words – DRESS WELL & RESPONSIBLY (useful, though White Christian’s code).