Surely we should not have to protest in order to get freedom, justice, and equality in America- at least, not in the 21st century. But it seems that our outcry keeps falling on deaf ears.
After last month’s mass demonstration in Jena, Louisiana, you would think that the country would wake up to the plight of African-American youth being routed out of the school system into prisons. But no, there seems to be this mad insistence in prosecuting six black boys for a schoolyard fight that was instigated by nooses looped over a tree by fellow white students. And to make matters worse, nooses keep cropping up all over the country to reiterate the point that black people still cannot get any respect.
Now people across the United States are asking: What do we do now? We are faced with a situation: Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
On the one hand, when we demand action from the government, we are criticized, for one reason or another. They say we want the federal government to usurp states’ rights to prosecute whomever they will for whatever reason they desire. They say we want big government and a welfare state, without saying anything about equal treatment under the law or that the only protectorate of black people in America has historically been by way of the federal government.
They criticized the protest and claim that black leaders merely pimp the public and pandering to the media, even though they themselves admit the charges against the youth are too harsh.
What do we do now? There is no alternative except to take our money out of circulation, if only for a day. November 2, 2007 is marked as Economic Blackout Day in America. This, according to proponents and radio talk show hosts, is the logical next phase in escalating the struggle to win justice for black youth.
The Jena 6 cases has opened the eyes of many to something we thought no longer existed. There is a pandemic of racism in the backwoods of America. And, the powers-that-be are dogmatically determined to run roughshod over our children’s civil rights.
They think that by characterizing these six black boys as “thugs” they will convince enough Americans that this case is justice as it should be. But as Malcolm X once said, “You can stick a cat in the oven it still does not make it a biscuit.”
They said the same of Shaquanda Cotton, the 14-year old Paris, Texas high school freshman before they sent her to juvenile detention for up to seven years for simply shoving a teacher’s aide. And worse, the appeals court upheld the conviction.
And, what about Genarlow Wilson, the 17-year old black boy sentenced to 10 years in prison for having consensual sex with a 15-year old girl in the state of Georgia, under an antiquated law that has since been changed? Not that this boy-meets-girl scenario is outrageously unusual, but the fact that Geralow is still incarcerated and will be marred as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
No longer can we accept this persecution as business-as-usual. If most American people can outwardly condemn these over-prosecuted cases and still do nothing about it, we must have reason to fear for all of our black children and their future. No, the problem is out of the hands of America. It is personal. It is our problem to solve.
We only thought it was horrendous to see juveniles incarcerated in Texas Youth Commission facilities being raped and sodomized by high level prison officials, only to see legislators sweep their investigation under a rug, under the auspices of confidentiality due to the ages of the victims. We only thought it was outrageous that 473 youth were incarcerated past their release date. We only imagined ourselves appalled at the horrible conditions of their incarceration while private prison contractors like GEO raked in profits, and dried up hellhole prison towns sucked the life out of our youth for the sake of their economies.
We thought that we were shocked when James Byrd was hitched to the back of a truck and dragged along the back roads of Jasper, Texas until his body parts were completely disassembled. By the time we read of Megan Williams being raped and tortured and sodomized with sticks, forced to eat dog and rat feces, by six white assailants who repeated lambasting her with racial epithets, America had lost its collective sense of what constitutes torture and hate crimes.
No More! Not one dollar more on November 2! America should volunteer herself to go to the gallows- for all past, current, and future contemplated hate crimes.
So, we ask you and every decent human being left in America and around the world to just hold your money on that day (November 2). Boycott American products, goods, and services. Maybe then, and only then, will we gain some respect for ourselves and our children.