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The city of Cleveland has continued this nation’s travesty-masquerading-as-justice tradition by declaring 12-year old Tamir Rice – unflinchingly murdered by a police officer – was caused by the child’s failure to “exercise due care”. Further, the city’s denial of wrongdoing in response to a wrongful death lawsuit filed stated the complaints of Rice’s mother and sister were also “directly and proximately caused by their own acts” and not the officers involved.

Othered Blacks

Who Will Cry for the Othered? -- Sincere Kirabo

What horrifies me, among other things, is the callous or lax-minded stance many take concerning these events, events that are too disproportionate and frequent to be “coincidental”. I have encountered all types who wish to diminish, ignore, or even redirect this inequitable reality, causing me to – of all things – consider a poem.

Like many, it wasn’t until the debut of 2002 biographical drama “Antwone Fisher” that I first heard the woeful and resilient story of this man who endured hardships unique to what ought to be normal circumstances of upbringing.

A key moment in the film was when Fisher began reciting a poem he wrote titled “Who Will Cry For the Little Boy”. This heart-wrenching introspective is rhetorical where “cry” can be interpreted as a call for those who hear or read its word expressions representing distress, vexation and vulnerability to internalize its witness. It begs for merit.

Blacks experience a kind of othering that causes me to ponder Fisher’s poetical phrasing. Othering refers to an instance in which an individual or group are distinguished as an out-group. This alienation is the viewing or treatment of a person/people as being somehow dissimilar in nature. To the in-group (Whites in the U.S.), said out-group (Blacks in the U.S.) is looked upon as being “not one of us”.

The U.S. zeitgeist—its defining bundle of beliefs and ideas of a time and place—continues a long-standing tradition of distinguishing groups by stereotypical traits and preformed attitudes that sometimes have an ill effect. Logically, there is a high tendency for disparity to stricken the out-group, those who are othered, those who comprise but only 13% of the whole.

Of this, Barbara Jordan, a civil rights leader and pioneering politician, once voiced the following insight:

“Earlier today, we heard the beginning of the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States: ‘We, the people.’ It’s a very eloquent beginning. But when that document was completed on the seventeenth of September in 1787, I was not included in that ‘We, the people.'” – Barbara Jordan, House Judiciary Committee meeting, 7/25/1974

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It’s no secret that the documents commonly referred to as the Charters of Freedom were greatly skewed when it came to what was truly meant by “freedom”. The good-feel notion of “all men are created equal” extended its sense of equality insofar as one were a White male. While the impetus of such bold words are indeed great in theory, the problem has always been actuality and proportionate facilitation of “unalienable Rights“.

Every signer of the Declaration of Independence represented a slaveholding colony. Not a single signer who lawfully owned human beings emancipated their precious “living tools”. Post-civil war brought about neo-slavery – multifaceted Jim Crow, discriminatory imprisonment, segregation and stigmatization. Blacks have always been stratified as less than, as sub-human. African Americans, no longer slaves, were looked upon as having overstayed their welcome. We became an imposition on normality.

Through unrest and civil disobedience, my predecessors chipped away at the indomitable iceberg of marginalization until more headway was realized. More, not complete.

As was the case before, the birth of the African-American Civil Rights Movement era saw many slain, beaten, mistreated, imprisoned, humiliated and yet relegated as tertiary-class citizens. The hate was rampantly overt. Through unrest and civil disobedience, my predecessors chipped away at the indomitable iceberg of marginalization until more headway was realized. More, not complete.

Fifty years later, with much contempt and racial bias subdued to a more implicit, concealed level, I attended the “Justice For All March” held on Capitol Hill. Thousands were in attendance. The event wasn’t held for exercise but in response to a proliferation of attitudes that strongly resemble the mindset long ago etched by forefathers who saw women as subordinate afterthoughts and people of color as bestial things unfit to be included in “We the People”.

It goes without saying that things have changed over the past two centuries, but one would have to be amazingly dim or disconnected to not see how disproportionately the law is adjudicated and, what’s worse (as it informs the former), how our culture conceptualizes Blackness overall. Established beliefs are indoctrinated into future generations despite reduction in excess.

Toxic propaganda pollutes societal memes and conduits with generalizations such as “hoodlums”, “thugs” and like portraiture of Black criminality. We (Blacks) even do it to ourselves, thanks to internalized racism. It’s these same lopsided representations that buttress notions of “talking White” and “acting White“ - equating what’s “proper” with whiteness, and inferring non-whiteness is lacking or deficient.

Once such references and many other inferences of imbalanced reasoning are no longer considered plausible, and once the myriad of benefits rooted in white fraternity become eroded, it will only be then that the proclamation of “Black Lives Matter” and the weight of “I Can’t Breathe” will have lost their salt in the figurative sense.

My mention of “Who Will Cry For the Little Boy?” isn’t an appeal for pity, but a call to recognition. We yet live in a society that dehumanizes people of color on a very fundamental level, which is why it is so easy for people to criminalize or disregard Black victims.

I would hope that the continued protests, push for judicial and law enforcement reform and these word expressions representing distress, vexation and vulnerability cause more to internalize its witness. It begs for merit.

sincere-kirabo

Sincere Kirabo