The sun dawns after the third night of rioting in American cities, centered in Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed by a policeman. The incident was a mirror of a story arc in the hit TV Series: Orange is the New Black. Poussey Washington is killed by a Prison Guard kneeling on her neck, and Litchfield penitentiary explodes into a riot and an inmate takeover.
It is doubly poignant that today is the birthday of Countee Cullen, a leading light of the Harlem Renaissance which wrenched a black cultural identity from the grasping hands of the white American establishment. A movement created by the grandchildren of the freed slaves who were shown a glimpse of freedom before being re-enslaved in poverty, landlessness, segregation and a raft of penal laws known now as Jim Crow.
It is triply poignant that this is the anniversary of the memorial day massacre. “On Memorial Day, May 30, 1937, police opened fire on a parade of striking steel workers and their families at the gate of the Republic Steel Company, in South Chicago. Fifty people were shot, of whom 10 later died; 100 others were beaten with clubs.” (Dorothy Day)
As cities across the USA burn the frightened middle class want the violence to stop. They are saying that this is not the way to get the message through. But lets face it – velvet revolutions are few and far between. Rebellion generally ends up with blood on the streets. The elite do not give up power easily.
Since 2016 Colin Kaepernick has refused to stand during the National Anthem at American Football Games. For 6 years you white Americans have turned your backs and closed your ears to this Canary in the Coalmine. Kaepernick was the gentle force for change. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” The reaction of the white middle class was to criticize Kaepernick as being un-American.
There is a loaded term if ever you had one. Remember the McCarthy Era and the Committee on un-American activities?
The problem of course is not the black people. They just want justice and a fair society.
The problem is not the President, the Mayor or the Governor. They are the grasping establishment who want to keep what they control. Donald Trump defiles the presidency, tweeting the words of a famous racist from 1967, Miami police Chief Walter Headley who originated the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. Trump joins the ranks of the Emperor Nero who fiddled while Rome burned, and Marie Antoinette with “let them eat cake”. But while he is a joke, he is not the problem.
The problem is the police. In the USA as in no other nation the police are the henchmen of capitalism. They are the oppressive agents of the establishment. In other countries the Police Force is there to maintain civil wellbeing. If the establishment acts against the people then the police eventually protect the people because the police are the people.
When the police in the USA wake up they will see they are standing on the wrong side of the riot. That is the moment when the riot stops…. and the rebellion begins.
The Wise; by Countee Cullen
Dead men are wisest, for they know
how far the roots of flowers go,
how long a seed must rot to grow.
Dead men alone bear frost and rain
on throbless heart and heatless brain,
and feel no stir of joy or pain.
Dead men alone are satiate;
they sleep and dream and have no weight,
to curb their rest, of love or hate.
Strange, men should flee their company,
or think me strange who long to be
wrapped in their cool immunity.