Racism in a “civilized” country
The case of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri
by Jacques Leblanc
Exceptional? Yes, and stupid too!
“We speak often and with pride of
America's exceptionalism [……] by which we mean our rights,
our freedoms, our values. And they are, make no mistakes,
among the finest in the world […….] But there are days when
the bullets fly and the blood flows and no one give you
gives a good reason why this had to happen[………..] Last week
brought another such a day. A man was killed by a 9 year old
(a girl) wielding a submachine gun [……….] only here, only us.”
Leonard Pitts Jr.
Miami Herald Sunday 8/31/14
Many people are bothered when the
question of race is raised. They feel it is inappropriate to
talk about it, under the pretext that it is increasingly
irrelevant and will eventually die a natural death. Let's
recognize, right off, that racism reflects a social reality,
and whether we talk about it or not will not significantly
affect it one way or the other.
Prejudice, which issues
from the basic contradictions of our social structure, will
not go away by itself. It has been closely intertwined with
the history of the American people, sometimes lying latent,
sometimes bursting to the surface with extraordinary fury.
Is there not some cause and effect relationship between our
periods of economic depression and the resurgence of racism?
Also, we continue to
believe that racism is more likely to be resolved by
teaching economics than by moral lessons or sermons on human
equality among men. For talking of brotherhood in a social
system where the economic base, the material conditions of
life, make that fraternity almost impossible, is only of
We're not saying it's not
good to preach brotherhood, but it is hardly worthwhile to
do so under the present societal organization, and when the
inner feelings of those who preach it are often shamefully
In the small town of
Jefferson, Missouri, after more than a month and a half of
violent protests, outcry has apparently subsided and the
streets are once again calm.
It is like the quiet days
of nice weather that come after a ferocious storm. Jefferson
City, given the great agitation of the last few days, seems
to have returned to normal. During the storm, there were
fears that all would be lost in the violence raging until
gradually the skies cleared. A new and radiant glow followed
the darkness. The terrifying threats of danger have faded.
Hope is reborn in hearts, a hope full of comforting promise.
But even if the winds have
subsided, the clouds have dissipated, and the river has
stopped overflowing, nonetheless here and there on the
mountain we see signs of erosion. The people, whose voice
had roared like a rushing stream, a roar which upset and
frightened the oppressors, has died down again and resumed
its law-abiding state. It had shouted loudly its demands and
pointed assertively to the new direction it intends to go.
This is when the conscious observer should take advantage of
this situation and try to identify obstacles which sparked
In the lives of peoples and
individuals it is sometimes necessary, after hard work or
before acting decisively, to stop and reflect, especially at
a moment of major decision. In Ferguson this time has come,
because the social cohesion so necessary for political and
economic stability is threatened. As everyone knows, the
findings about this sad incident will perhaps be the straw
that breaks the camel’s back. We are not a prophet of doom
but no one can help but notice that the divide between the
races and classes is widening and threatening this nation’s
political and economic stability.
Our march towards a higher
destiny is often dangerous, and we need to know where to
step so as to avoid the pitfalls and cracks in the road. No
people has ever climbed the heights of happiness without
paying countless offerings of sweat, tears, and blood to the
Wisdom is the fruit of
trials, for he who now sings the hymns of hope is the loser
who yesterday cried out from hard-knocks received and
setbacks endured. As lessons learned with pain are never
forgotten, one overcomes weakness by learning from one’s
mistakes with people and things.
Never since his time has
the home of Lincoln faced more serious dangers and been
threatened by greater perils. Standing uncertainly at this
crossroads, torn right and left by enemies and ignorant
sons, the nation is trying to decide whether she wants to go
ahead, to be fully integrated as part of full democracy, to
give all her citizens, without distinction of creed, rank,
and skin color equal opportunities, or remain prisoner of
stupid racism and blatant injustices that will only delay
the evolution of the land of Lincoln.
The assassination of our
African-American children must stop immediately. Derogatory
and racist remarks vis-a-vis our black President must also
When we see that such
practices persist in the land of Lincoln, of Washington, of
Roosevelt, in this the 21st century, in this great country
which today sets the agenda for the old and the new world
after her sons sacrificed their lives for the triumph of the
ideas of justice and freedom, one is entitled to anxiously
wonder if the atomic age has not returned to the scenes of
ancient barbarism whose narrative frightens the human mind.
Hunger must stop plaguing
not only African-American households, but all households
that suffer from it.
Freedom, justice, equality,
should flourish in this most blessed of all nations on
We never claimed that
Michael Brown was an angel. But one thing is certain: the
white police officer who shot him is far from being one. Has
anyone ever seen an angel shoot a child with his hands in
the air? There must be justice. One way or another, justice
must prevail in a human society, and again we are choosing
our words carefully.
Jacques Leblanc, who lives and works in Miami, is a
professor of French and a collaborator of Haïti Liberté.