by Starla Muhammad and Nisa Islam Muhammad
The shooting of Jacob Blake causes nationwide explosion
The U.S. is once again reeling in the aftermath of a police shooting of a Black man.
The result? A resurgence of conscious Black athletes standing strong; the emergence of unapologetic gun-toting White militias willing to shoot to kill and armed to the teeth to protect their way of life alongside heightened political acrimony between Democrat and Republican leaders at a loss on how to hold a fractured country together.
These latest events add more fuel to an already volatile mix of anger and division in a nation on edge and on the brink of possible implosion two months ahead of a critical presidential election.
At presstime, 29-year-old Jacob Blake continued fighting for his life, laying paralyzed in a Milwaukee hospital after being shot multiple times in the back by police in nearby Kenosha, Wisc., sparking several nights of civil unrest.
Family members said Mr. Blake was handcuffed to his hospital bed after enduring several surgeries resulting in the removal of several of his organs. The shackles were removed Aug. 28, according to a family attorney.
The officer who shot Mr. Blake, Rusten Sheskey, 31, is a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha Police Department. He and the other officers involved have been suspended. Preliminary reports are that Mr. Blake was unarmed but allegedly told officers he had a knife. Police say they recovered a knife in the car after the shooting.
“Stop making f**king excuses. He could’ve had a samurai sword in his f**king car, if he was white, they would’ve found an entirely different solution that shooting him SEVEN TIMES IN THE BACK!” responded hip hop artist Chika on Twitter.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced the shooting is under a federal civil rights investigation. Meanwhile an Illinois judge delayed a decision till Sept. 25 on whether Kyle Rittenhouse, the White 17 year old charged with killing two protestors and wounding a third, during Kenosha protests, will be extradited to Wisconsin to face charges.
Mr. Rittenhouse was seen on cell phone video carrying a semi-automatic rifle walking the streets of Kenosha with other armed White militia members and civilians who said they were protecting property from vandalism by protestors. Law enforcement officials were observed thanking the armed men and distributing water to them.
Wisconsin is an open-carry state for firearms for people 18 and over.
There is also video footage showing the alleged shooter firing his gun and people frantically flagging down law enforcement officials to report they saw Mr. Rittenhouse shoot someone. Police passed by the White teen; gun still strapped to his body. He was arrested Aug. 26 in his hometown of Antioch, Ill., located 15 miles from Kenosha. Mr. Rittenhouse has been charged with killing two men, Anthony Huber and Joseph D. Rosenbaum. A third man Mr. Rittenhouse allegedly shot, Gaige P. Grosskreutz was wounded in the arm.
Mr. Rittenhouse is being charged as an adult and would face a mandatory life sentence if convicted of first-degree homicide, the most serious of the charges he faces. Conservatives have rallied to his cause, some declaring him a hero. Others raising money and getting him a high-profile attorney.
“What we’re seeing is American racism playing out at its apex,” said Attorney Barbara Arnwine, president and founder of Transformative Justice Coalition. White supremacy has been running amok, unchecked and rampant, she noted. She applauded Black athletes, particularly those in the NBA for refusing to participate in playoff games for two nights in response to the police shooting of Mr. Blake. Wisconsin’s home team, the Milwaukee Bucks was the first team to announce refusal to play their scheduled game against the Orlando Magic on Aug. 26. The remaining teams followed suit.
“This is not an acceptable paradigm in which African Americans are willing to live. We are demanding change, to start with the NBA. And when I watched the NBA, I know people might not get the association, but I just started saying to myself, we are not slaves and that’s what their action yesterday said,” noted Atty. Arnwine.
“They said we’re not an economic slave. You’re not going to laugh and enjoy me and let me entertain you in sports when my people are stuck.”
Not ‘business as usual’ for Black athletes
Although players in the NBA ultimately decided to resume play after three days, it caused shockwaves around the sports world when four years to the date of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee to draw attention to police abuse of Blacks and other social injustices, other athletes picked up the mantle for justice in a display of strength and solidarity.
Professional athletes from the NBA, WNBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and World Tennis Association either postponed or delayed games, displayed solidarity with symbolic gestures or released statements in reaction to events in Kenosha. Approximately 40 pro sporting events including games and practices were postponed.
Tennis star Naomi Osaka who is Japanese and Haitian dropped out of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio, before her semi-final match. The 22 year old dropped out at the last minute to protest police violence. “Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach,” Ms. Osaka said in a statement on Twitter. The fourth ranked female tennis player and Grand Slam champ added, “Before I am an athlete, I am a Black woman and as a Black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis.”
In a powerful demonstration of solidarity with the players, former NBA baller and current TNT sports analyst Kenny Smith walked off the set during a live broadcast.
Omowale Clay of the December 12th Movement was impressed with the ability of the athletes to come together and show Black power. “The real position is unity. The Black men were put in the position, where we could discuss an issue outside of White people and struggle around what we should do and the correct position won out,” he said.
“It shows the power of Black people when they clear their heads of all the bull***t and focus on the concern for our people and then we can be as Adam Clayton Powell said, ‘we can be as audacious as we can be.’ ”
Former NBA players Larry Johnson and John Salley told The Final Call they were also supportive of the stand taken particularly by young, Black athletes.
“I’m proud of these young, Black men, to be conscious … and to be willing to give up their livelihood, stand tall and not take themselves out of their community,” said Mr. Johnson who played 10 seasons in the NBA for the Charlotte Hornets and New York Knicks. “I commend them for doing it because you can’t take yourself out of the neighborhood. You’re a Black man. If it’s happening to one, it’s happening to all of us,” he added.
“I applaud them. I take my hat off to them. I support them,” said Mr. Salley who won NBA championships with three different teams: the Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. The players are making a sacrifice because the dedication, time and commitment it takes to become a professional athlete, “you don’t want anybody to mess with that,” he explained.
“I’m just really happy that these young guys realize, even though they put their whole life into their career, it’s literally the life of everybody else (that) is as important as you putting your whole life into that career,” added Mr. Salley.
“People who make a stand with their life, showing that I’m willing to give up my well-balanced life by all this so-called money and all this prestige and I’m willing to lay it on the line for my brother, it makes everybody stop and pay attention.”
The backlash particularly at NBA players, the majority of whom are Black, was swift. President Donald Trump called the NBA play stoppage “absurd.” His born into wealth multi-millionaire son-in-law Jared Kushner who is also one of the president’s top aides commented, that the players are “very fortunate that they have the financial position where they’re able to take a night off from work without having to have the consequences.”
Phoenix city councilman Sal DiCiccio referred to the players as “whiny bitches” on his Twitter and Facebook pages. Retired Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher who played for the Chicago Bears criticized NBA players posting in part on Twitter: “NBA players boycott the playoffs because a dude reaching for a knife, wanted on felony sexual assault warrant, was shot by police.” His former Bears teammate Matt Forte responded in a series of tweets one of which stated in part, “It’s evident that you can spend the majority of your life with and around black ppl and still not understand the struggle.”
Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard who play for the New York Giants of the NFL have said their team has not ruled out the possibility of sitting out a game to protest social injustice. The season starts in mid-September.
Players are reportedly pushing team owners to become more actively involved in the fight for social justice and the eradication of racism. Many Black current and former athletes are not holding their tongues in their assessment of what they see happening.
Former NBA player Robert Horry, who is now an analyst on Spectrum SportsNet emotionally described discussing the Blake shooting and police interaction to his teen son. “It’s hard to tell your 14-year-old son that I worry about him when he walks out that door. I have a 21-year-old son, I worry about him. Black men are endangered species pretty much,” he said, voice shaking. Mr. Horry explained he has told his son that at the end of the day whatever he has to do to come home, he needs to do it. He said he told his son, “Don’t take it upon yourself to let that rage you have against that cop come out. Because he has the gun. He can end you and I don’t want him to end you because if he ends you that means I’m going to end him and I know that’s wrong for me to say but I’m so much ‘A Time to Kill’ type of guy like Samuel Jackson,” he said referring to the film about a Black man who kills the White men that raped his daughter.
Mr. Johnson was also blunt. He called the continued killing of Blacks at the hands of police a result of integration and he encourages Black athletes to familiarize themselves with the teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and study the program of the Nation of Islam patriarch including separation.
“My advice to these young brothers is, we need to find our way to the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad as taught by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. We need to accept our own and be ourselves,” he said.
Hypocrisy on full display
Activists and observers point out the glaring double standard on how law enforcement responds to Whites compared to Blacks. “Would police have offered their thanks to a group of Black men carrying assault rifles after curfew? Never! That’s the disparity facing Black men in America today. Instead of water bottles, they would get handcuffs … or worse,” said Atty. Ben Crump on Twitter. The civil rights lawyer is representing the family of Mr. Blake. The stark difference on how Blacks are viewed and treated by law enforcement is nothing new, activists argue. It is just continued evidence of the glaring hypocrisy ingrained in the fabric of the country.
“The PROTEST didn’t turn deadly-—a white boy turned deadly,” observed songstress Lalah Hathaway on Twitter.
Author and filmmaker Tariq Nasheed said White Supremacist groups like the Proud Boys and Boogaloo Boys and White militia groups work with law enforcement and some are even law enforcement officers.
“They are allowing these White supremacist groups to go out here and commit terrorist attacks against people, particularly Black people and even White people who are seemingly down with the Black Lives Matter protests,” he said.
“They’re allowing these people to do vigilante acts, and these aren’t even vigilante acts. These are just terroristic acts where they are allowed to go out here and shoot people and harm people and the police will turn a blind eye to them. They’re letting them do this so that the police will get out of getting these lawsuits. If they get one of these vigilante groups or one of these White supremacist groups to do the dirty work for the police now the city ain’t on the hook. Now the police unions are not going to be investigated. They’ll just turn a blind eye to their buddies in these White supremacist groups. So they want to do this on a mass scale,” charged Mr. Nasheed.
In 2017, the FBI reported that White supremacists posed a “persistent threat of lethal violence” that has produced more fatalities than any other category of domestic terrorists since 2000, noted the Brennan Center. “Alarmingly, internal FBI policy documents have also warned agents assigned to domestic terrorism cases that the White supremacist and anti-government militia groups they investigate often have ‘active links’ to law enforcement officials,” noted the group’s website. There has been no national strategy to identify White supremacist police officers or to protect the safety and civil rights of the communities they patrol, said the Brennan Center.
Meanwhile, Black people are disproportionately on the fatal end of police encounters.
“We’re going to have to stop sitting on our hands. We’re going to have to defend ourselves from these White supremacist groups. And we’ll have to do that by any means necessary as per the Constitution. The Constitution gives you the Second Amendment right to protect yourself and the Constitution says that a well-formed militia is needed in a situation of tyranny. So if we protect ourselves by any means we’re following, not only God’s law, but we’re following the Constitution,” said Mr. Nasheed.
Political and psychological repercussions
The video of the shooting of Mr. Blake, a young father, has been replayed countless times to the angst, anguish and astonishment of many who saw it. His three sons ages 8, 5 and 3 were reportedly in the back seat of the vehicle and witnessed police shooting their father.
“What we know in psychology is that there is a thing called genetic memory. This is a recognition of the dynamics of trauma. This is passed on to us from generation to generation. It is an act of trans-generational trauma that then inspires our memory to be in recall of the elements of lynching, castration and dehumanization that has been going on with us for generations,” Dr. Kevin Washington, head of the Psychology Department at Grambling State University told The Final Call.
“This recall, or genetic memory restores the ancestral memory, and the recall process is one in which we are re-traumatized by incidents we see because we are experiencing the same level of trauma that they have also incurred,” he added.
Since the death of George Floyd in May in Minneapolis and Rayshard Brooks in June at the hands of police, protestors from coast to coast have expressed their dissatisfaction to the killing and brutality Blacks continue enduring at the hands of police.
Dr. Washington explained that after having the experience of being re-traumatized the genetic memory finds ways to resolve the entire process. “What we see happening including the athlete activists are that individuals are beginning to take a stand because this element of trauma leads one to either respond with activism or have hopelessness or despair. We find that this trauma has inspired a great deal of activism to begin to resolve the discomfort of the trauma.”
But these traumas will continue if the status quo continues, observers point out. Politics and voting are not the solution, some argue.
“The last thing we need to do is vote, the absolute last thing we need to do is vote because voting in this climate where nobody is offering a tangible solution for Black people, it is useless for us to vote because no candidate is going to punish any of these police agencies that’s harming Black people,” said Mr. Nasheed.
“Trump is not going to do it, Kamala Harris and (Joe) Biden they’re definitely not going to do it. Both candidates have already said they’re going to offer more funding to the police. They’re not going to punish anybody. They’re not going to defund anybody. They’re not going to offer Black Americans any type of extra protections. It’s going to be more of the benign neglect policies” he added.
Protests have continued not only in Kenosha, but in other parts of the country. Thousands gathered with the family of Mr. Blake in Kenosha Aug. 29 in a “Justice for Jacob” rally. It was a peaceful gathering that included Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, and other supporters and activists.
In Portland where protests for Black lives have been occurring for over 90 days, Oregon Black Lives Matter and Pro-Trump counter protesters clashed the night of Aug. 29 resulting in the shooting death of a White man allegedly wearing a hat promoting a far right-wing group.
Wisconsin State Representative David Bowen whose district represents Milwaukee told The Final Call he traveled to Kenosha to participate in demonstrations shortly after the shooting of Mr. Blake. It was in Kenosha that he said his vehicle was vandalized by suspected White supremacists. He said vehicles belonging to people there to protest police abuses were targeted. What he observes is an environment coming to its breaking point, he noted. “When you have White supremacists that are literally crossing state lines and they’re coming to target protestors and they’re coming to target people of color; they’re coming to target people that want to change the system because they benefit from it,” said Rep. Bowen who was elected to the state assembly in 2014. “Law enforcement isn’t doing anything or they’re sitting on their hands and allowing them to operate with impunity. We’ve reached a new level. Wisconsin, especially in Kenosha just like in Milwaukee, there’s long been a history of oppression and the lack of accountability for law enforcement here.”
Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson also traveled to Kenosha where he met with racial justice organizers and local leaders. He also called for the resignation of Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis and Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth for how they handled the arrest of Mr. Rittenhouse. “A young man came across state lines looking for trouble, brought by his parents, killed two people and got a high five from the police and went back home and stayed at home that night,” said Rev. Jackson to reporters.
Krystal Muhammad, chair of the New Black Panther Party said what she sees happening is that the country is at “the dawn of anarchy and at the eve of revolution.” America is as racist as it’s ever been, and what is happening predates Mr. Trump’s time in office, she told The Final Call.
“The government of this United States is as wicked as its ever been and in fact it’s even worse because they have so many of our people in this spell of illusion of inclusion with the Democratic Party, who has locked up more people, more Black people under the policies as their counterparts, the Republicans,” she said.
The difference between who wins in November is the difference between having a rattlesnake and a king cobra, she argued. “They’re both wicked,” said Krystal Muhammad.