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New Rules for the Black Community After the Zimmerman Verdict

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People at a rally holding up signs that say Justice for Trayvon

Rule #1 – There should be no need for new rules

This verdict against justice should have been expected. People can only be surprised if they refuse to acknowledge the history of Black murder by law enforcement and the subsequent acquittals in the US court system, including Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Michael Stewart, Nicholas Heywood, Eleanor Bumbers, and Amado Diallo just to name a few. This acquittal is just the natural extension of the “backward progress” currently taking place in America, which includes the recent negation of the Voting Rights Act. A large segment of the white American population is scared of losing “their” country, and this verdict brings us back to the Supreme Court Dred Scott decision that “The Negro has no rights which the white man is bound to respect.” Now, not only does law enforcement have its long-standing pass to kill Black people and claim legal justifications after the fact; now, so does the neighborhood watchman, who joins the shop-keeper and the businessman in having extra-judicial powers. It was also clarified that anyone from any race – white Asian, Latino and Blacks – can kill Black people. In fact, when Black people kill each other, it’s one of the few times that there is guaranteed prison time because the state appreciates a two-for-one deal. These court cases always expose the vapid nature of our short-term memories and our desire to believe that things will be different “this time.” Look at the evidence – after the almost mandatory not-guilty verdict, we feign outrage that this could happen in America. Many of us want to continue to believe that there is hope in this system. The alternative – that we are a hunted and despised people who are the survivors of an enslaved labor pool and that we were not intended to survive – is too much to bear. It is hard for us to accept the truth: The American criminal justice system is not broken. It was designed to work this way. We are the ones who are broken if we believe in it over and over again.

Rule #2 – Get rid of the fake community leaders

Anyone who claims to be a community leader and who sees their role as chilling out the black community’s reaction to this verdict needs to be overthrown. These community leaders – including ministers, politicians, non-profit leaders and pundits – blast the airwaves and community with calls for prayer, peaceful protest, a national dialogue on race and – finally – a “Let us move on and respect the jury decision” outlook. It should be obvious that these so-called leaders take their marching orders not from the community that they supposedly represent, but from corporate media, corporate sponsors donors, foundations and government officials. These people make Black leaders feel important just because they gave them a call. Their parasitic relationships keep the status quo going; they help the powers-that-be to get through this moment. Those in charge ask themselves: How do we get a “peaceful” reaction so that we don’t lose control and hence our authority over the people?” The answer: Get the “community leaders” to calm things down. It’s like the old song “But where are the clowns? Quick, send in the clowns. Don’t bother. They’re here.”

RIght now, real community leaders should be advocating for massive civil disobedience and direct action. They should be putting forward a mid-range plan, a plan that goes beyond calls for the Justice Department to intervene, a plan that targets the shrinking of criminal justice system and the “security state.” Proposals should be drawn up to target community watch groups who authorize their members to carry weapons and to strip their armed toy-cops of their weapons. The call should be to change the structure of policing so that community boards control the hiring and firing of officers on a precinct level. We need to direct this community outrage to reduce the number of prisons, to support the prisoners in California who are hunger-striking for better conditions. These struggles over the criminalization of the Black community are the natural extensions of the protests against Trayvon’s death. A real community leader would say that, “Anytime there is an institution like the criminal justice system that has the power of life and death over you, you must either control that system or destroy it.” Real community leaders speak truth to power. They don’t cozy up to it and do its bidding.

Rule #3 – Move to communities where your people make up the majority

If “your” elected officials are middle-aged, white people who smile at you a lot, it may be time to relocate. Being a “minority” – even a sizable minority – in a city with white officials has become more of a hazard than at any time in the last twenty years. American justice is divvied out across a great racial divide. We don’t believe that Black elected officials are – on their own – a cure for our problems. However, we do have a greater ability to pressure them. You may have more government services, but those services include more policing by officers who think your child is dangerous. If you move, the idea that your child is not as easily singled out can give some comfort.

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Rule #4 – If you can’t move, buy a gun

This is a new rule that people talk about behind closed doors. It’s always controversial to suggest that Black people buy guns. I myself have never been an advocate of gun ownership, but – if you live in a jurisdiction where it’s legal to carry one – don’t be the only person without one. The larger white community is armed to the teeth. Their basic belief system is that Black criminals will get them and the Black militants will seek revenge (Remember – in their distorted view – a Black lefty with his militant wife already are in the White House. If that was only true!). They believe that they are slowly losing “their” country because of the seemingly unstoppable demographic shift taking place. The combination of the unrestricted gun laws and the corresponding “Shoot first, and ask questions later” and “Stand your ground” self-defense laws will continue to give them wide latitude to justify why they just had to shoot you. We will see more death and more trials. This question may be a stark one, but: Would you rather be an unintended martyr or a living defendant?

Rule #5 – For the millionth time, get organized!!!

It seems that we don’t really like grassroots organizations. They are under-resourced, and they are sometime organized more for the personal egos of their leaders than they are for the larger community. They are time-consuming with long, usually unstructured meetings and bad planning. Not a great way to spend one’s time! However, organized people – even badly organized people – are far scarier to the status quo than a bunch of outraged individuals on Facebook. If you spend your time consuming products and not ideas, you are normalized and accepted. But you are usually no better informed than a ten year old child. (No offense to the ten year old child who actually reads about the world!) If you join a group that will place demands on your local officials and on the community, you may not be liked and you may feel alone and crazy, but you will be more effective in finding solutions then you would if you just rant about problems on Facebook. If we get our people organized, then the next time this happens (because this will happen again), we can just skip the trial, assert our power, and demand the justice that American courts will never provide.

Not a rule, but strongly recommended – talk about Black liberation

Here – on the Black Organizing Channel of Organizing Upgrade – we hope to incite some dialogue about what Black Liberation means and what it will take to rebuild a Black Liberation movement in this country. We know this isn’t the only place to have that dialogue, but (we admit we’re a little biased) it’s a good place to have it. So join in. You can:

A) Post a comment to this piece. Agree with us. Disagree with us. Uplift the brilliance of what we say, or rip our arguments apart.

B) Contact Kamau or Hashim if you have something you’d like to write for this channel.

C) Join us for a National Call to discuss the state of Black Organizing in the U.S.


Save the Date: National Call

Black Organizing in the U.S.

Where are we and where do we need to be going?

Thursday, September 19, 7p Est/4p PST

Call info to come! Stay tuned to Organizing Upgrade!