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Why We Need Black Anger

The entire world witnessed American police murder, but time stopped for black people when Alton Sterling and Philando Castille died on camera. Alton Sterling was killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, shot to death as he lay subdued and helpless. The trauma of that moment was still fresh when Philando Castille was shot after he told police he had a licensed handgun. His partner Diamond Reynolds was composed enough to film the scene. Castille lay dying but she understandably felt compelled to address his killer as “sir” as she and her four-year old child were treated like criminals.

The reaction of rage was immediate and was tempered only by grief. It is not the first time that 21st century lynchings were seen by millions of people. But by now we know that the outcome doesn’t change whether the victim died in secret or on camera. There is rarely any justice because the system is designed to potentially treat every black person the way it treated Sterling and Castille.

That anger was short lived and disappeared when the tables were turned on police in Dallas, Texas. A man by the name of Micah Johnson, now dead at the hands of police himself, is the named suspect in the shooting of five officers during a protest march.

Black people are taught to hide their anger. The deaths of the Dallas police were a signal to stop demanding justice and begin the foolish and dangerous loop of sentiment. Just at the moment when rage was most needed, hand holding, candle light vigils and pleas for calm became the order of the day.

The corporate media needed to take black anger off of the front pages and the airwaves. Every photo of a black cop crying over his dead colleagues was placed front and center. Black protesters who shook hands with red necks were lionized. Every image of a white cop hugging a black child was suddenly deemed prize worthy.

The turn of events showed the depth of black American miseducation. The same feelings which brought rage upon seeing Sterling and Castille dead suddenly became useless, even damaging.

Even the victims’ families gave condolences and asked for calm. The Sterlings and the Castilles should have felt no need to say anything about the Dallas police killings and yet they succumbed as well.

The two dead men were all but forgotten after police died in the way that black people do every day. Suddenly love was in the air. Love, healing, togetherness are worthy but not when rage is justified. These otherwise laudatory feelings are used to silence black anger when it is needed most.

The media promoted the foolishness and made no attempt to do the work of journalism. Every day an average of three people die at the hands of police in the United States, 1,134 in 2016 alone. Other nations have never had that number of police killings in their entire history. This data alone should be the catalyst for investigative reporting.

Instead the media use well known racists like Rush Limbaugh and Rudy Giuliani to stoke useless anger and divert attention. Their opinions are irrelevant and giving them a forum is a substitute for raising the questions that white supremacy would prefer to keep covered up.

Of course some of the “kumbaya” nonsense was prompted by repression against those who spoke out in their righteous indignation. A black firefighter was under investigation for saying that police need “bullets to the head.” He didn’t actually shoot anyone. That right is reserved for cops.

Of course the sorry spectacle is all reinforced by Barack Obama. His comments on the killings of Sterling and Castille were as Cornel West said, “weak.” It is obvious that Obama never likes to talk about black people. His resentment at having to do so is palpable. He certainly won’t side with people who love him and risk angering the white people that he loves instead.

According to press reports he called the shooting of the Dallas police a “hate crime” and compared it to the mass murder of black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina. This same president never used his authority to prosecute even one killer cop.

Showing anger towards Obama would be the truest test of black political development. For now black people need help even acknowledging that they are angry about their condition at all. Expecting more than that is a vain dream.

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Margaret Kimberley writes the Freedom Rider column for Black Agenda Report, where this essay originally appeared. 

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