by Mumia Abu-Jamal
"The government is only as lasting as
your understanding of administration.
The Army is nothing without people,
the Air Force is grounded without
your endorsement, the ships of the
Navy could never have sailed if
your leaders didn't have you sail
'em, and the brutal depravity of
police would be non-existent if
you didn't wear the uniform."
John Africa, On the Move, (1975)
Black youthful rage explodes in Cincinnati,
Ohio, and several nights of fire, rebellion
and pain reminds us that the much-maligned
and heralded '60s, were really not so very
For like the riots that rocked the nation in
the 1960s, the precipitating event was an act
of brutality and violence by police against
black folks. Police violence against blacks
has sparked rampages of rebellion from
coast to coast, costing hundreds of millions
of dollars in destroyed property, and hundreds
of lost lives.
Over 30 years have passed, and in the
intervening years we have seen the emergence
of the black political class, and the entrenchment
of the black poor in inner cities, projects, and
ghettoes more desolate, more isolated and
more hopeless than the 1960s. We have seen
the explosion of the Prison Industrial Complex,
at rates that would've been unthinkable in the
1970s, with upwards of 2,000,000 men, women,
and juveniles in American jails. The U.S., with
only 5% of the world's population, has 25% of
the world's prison population!
And for black young men and women, the
horror of prison has become a perverse rite of
passage, marking one's transition from youth
So, while things have gotten better for some
African-Americans since the 1960s, things have
gotten demonstrably worse for millions of other,
poorer blacks. Public schools, never quite
outstanding in the first place, have gone into
decline. City services have declined. Industries
have fled cities for the South and the suburbs,
leaving cities with less employment, and with
remaining jobs paying for less money, while
costs have gone up.
Cincinnati, sparked by the police shootings
of a black man, could have happened anywhere
in America. The social ingredients are all there,
in every major city in America.
In every major city is economic and social
despair, mixed with a militaristic police force
that targets black life and liberty. In every
such city are black politicians who function in
the role of keeping the restless natives in
check; keep them suffering in silence.
Cincinnati represented the eruption of youth
who see their position in grim, hopeless
situations. Cincinnati is a harbinger of things
to come. Cincinnati is the fire next time.
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