By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN
First there was enslavement of the whole race.
Then came segregation, designed to keep the races separate — and unequal.
Then came the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that gives the police almost free rein to shoot and kill.
And then came “stand your ground,” which extended that license to kill to the civilian population.
Now comes a new way to legally curtail the freedom of African Americans.
It is called “Black Identity Extremists,” sprung on the nation in November and only now seeping into the consciousness of the community as yet another effort at race control.
The Associated Press reported that the FBI created this label in a 12-page report. The FBI did issue a similar finding for “white extremists” but it does not take a genius to figure out who the targets really are.
Whites not only challenge the authorities but some of the “extremists” flatly refuse to even recognize the United States of America, as seen in recent armed confrontations in Nevada and Oregon and elsewhere.
Federal intelligence analyst Daryl Johnson warned in a 2009 report about these white “right-wing extremists” but then Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano bowed to pressure from Republicans, disavowing the report and dissolving Johnson’s team.
But, as the AP reported, Johnson’s warning about “right-wing extremists” has proven to be true with attacks that included the 2015 massacre of nine worshipers at the Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, S.C., while they were in a Bible study class.
The authorities have not cracked down on these groups, whether “Patriots” or other forms of “militia men” or those embracing the Posse Comitatus ideology that authority comes from elected county sheriffs and no one else.
The advent of the Trump administration and its embrace of white “nationalism” has meant even less focus on whites who hold such radical views. In fact, the Guardian reported that the Department of Homeland Security’s focus on countering violent extremism has now shifted to “radical Islam” – even though a 2014 survey of 175 law enforcement agencies ranked “sovereign citizens” as the most pressing domestic terrorist threat.
According to the AP, Foreign Policy magazine first disclosed the existence of the “black identity extremists” term and it has sparked deep concern among black leaders fearful that the Trump administration, with its shoddy record towards blacks and tinged by racism, is going after black activists much more disproportionately than it is doing for white extremists.
They have good reason to be apprehensive. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, no friend to blacks, was asked at a congressional hearing in November to explain how federal law enforcement came up with the label. AP reported him as saying it applied to “groups that do have an extraordinary commitment to their racial identity and some have transformed themselves even into violent activists.” The AP added that Sessions “struggled to answer the same question about white extremists.”
The Congressional Black Caucus complained in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray that the “black identity extremists” report “conflates black political activists with dangerous domestic terrorist organizations.”
Some analysts are drawing a parallel with the COINTELPRO operations under J. Edgar Hoover in the 1950s and 1960s when FBI agents were ordered to “expose, disrupt, misdirect or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalists.”
Al Jazeera reported in mid-March that today’s FBI is using the BEI designation to refer to armed blacks who express anti-government views. These people, the FBI said, “historically justified and perpetrated violence against law enforcement, which they perceived as representative of the institutionalized oppression of African Americans.”
But as U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, a California Democrat, pointed out, the BEI designation could be applied “to all protesters demonstrating for an end to police violence.”
According to David Correia, a University of New Mexico professor, “It is part of their playbook. They try to characterize legitimate concerns about something like police violence as somehow a danger so they can disrupt protests.”
So, rather than focusing on the ongoing police shootings of young black men, the targets are, instead, the victims.
The more things change, the more they remain the same and the lesson for African Americans continues to be the need for eternal vigilance.