More than anything else, the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, and the aftermath point to this stark reality: Africans in America are living in bondage. It is not the bondage of chains but it is not so subtle either. It is an apparatus of subjugation that keeps our people in a condition that perpetuates the early Constitutional depiction of us as less than whole human beings.
When white police officers – or any white person, for that matter – see a young black male, it is through eyes conditioned by preconceived notions or fear superiority that form the basis of action. The same ideas do not come into play when a white person encounters another white person.
That is how it has always been in our nation and how it will continue to be. It may diminish as the decades go by but racism is too ingrained in the psyche of white America to ever disappear. It is just wishful thinking to believe that anything can be done to get rid of this cancer.
And what can be done has nothing to do with making more white people become acquainted with blacks and the promotion of cultural understanding through people-to-people interplay.
It has everything to do with the underpinnings of a system that automatically relegates African Americans to an lesser status: the inferior education system, housing discrimination, unequal access to health care, the legacy of financial distress that is part of the post-slavery heritage. And, above all, the criminal justice system that is skewed against black men and makes them felons for life, with many avenues for upward mobility forever closed: voting, getting a good education and a good job and being able to raise a family.
The situation has been made worse down the centuries through the inability of African Americans to accumulate collateral which could have been passed down and gradually enrich subsequent generations, as happened with whites, the descendants of the plantation masters. The lack of good paying jobs has meant small contributions to the Social Security program and, hence, insignificant retirement benefits.
The overall result has been the herding of African Americans into impoverished, racially segregated neighborhoods no different from those of apartheid-era South Africa and increasingly militarized police forces to keep us in our places.
The demand must now echo what President Ronald Reagan told Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachez: White America, tear down the wall of racial subjugation and set our people free.