By Jessica Wright
Martin Luther King Jr., the Black Panther party, Emmett Till, Malcolm X, our very own Tycel Nelson and now Trayvon Martin. All of these African American men, along with women, have been racially profiled, beaten and or/shot and killed because of the color of their skin as well as the position they held in the African American community. They called us together for unity, racial equality and change.
It is now 2013 and African Americans still have not found solace in America. African Americans are displaced and have no home to go “back” to. Africa has been ravaged by war, famine, disease and genocide. Africa — once filled with the purist gold and rarest diamonds — has been dug up and dug out, leaving our exotic land of treasures barren, destitute and insolvent.
Unity is only something we have dreamt of, something we have entertained intermittently. The scarcity of unity now only adds emphasis to the agenda of racial profiling. Even in African we weren’t unified when we were sold off the African coast into slavery. In Africa we were known as rival tribes, in America we are known as rival gangs. Out extinction depends upon our rivalry and our refusal to coexist among one another as the “ni**er” has never lost its popularity, and continues to gain momentum.
The shortened version, “ni**a,” is used as a term of endearment and can be heard up to 15 times in the lyrics of a four-minute song. In this instance it is widely acceptable. When someone of a different race says it — especially a celebrity — we are taken aback. Endorsements are cancelled, productions are pulled from schedules and public apologies are demanded.
The irony of this is remarkable. Black on Black crime is overwhelming as reality TV turns a profit from shows like The First 48 to show us and the rest of America how savage we are towards one another.
I have witnessed other races unite to enunciate the wrongs committed against their brethren and demand the government to rectify the problem and compensate them for their loss. For instance, the Jewish for the horrific events of the Holocaust and the Native Americans who also had ancestors taken into bondage and held as slaves. Both prevailed in their pursuit. African Americans have been allotted welfare, food stamps and Section 8 as pacification and are programs you have to qualify for and are filled with restrictions.
In Tycel’s case no one was arrested, no one went t o jail, there were no riots and Plymouth Avenue wasn’t burned down. America braces itself for a riot when justice doesn’t prevail on our behalf. We are still deemed to be angry, simple and ignorant.
The judicial system continues to exculpate anyone for racially charged millennium-style lynchings, while more and more African American blood continues to imbue American soil. We cannot continue to demoralize and devalue each other. When we do we devalue our own existence.
I don’t want to “fit” the profile of being Black while walking down the street or Black while driving. But to say I don’t want to fit the profile is to say I don’t want to be Black.
We haven’t arrived because we have a Black president. All of our problems as African Americans are not behind us. If anything our problems intensified with his election. The heat was turned up, African Americans convictions went up, prison sentences are longer and gas is higher than ever.
We didn’t get a “friend” in the White House, we got another president who has Congress he has to answer to, a set of rules to adhere to and a code of conduct that is enforced upon him. To divert from any of this would be grounds for impeachment. People are still homeless and hungry. If nothing changes, nothing changes.
For everything good I have accomplished in my life, becoming a journeyman laborer, paralegal and a college-educated mother, society will always view me as the person the background check, computer screen or file tells them I am. Thief, convicted felon, drug addict and unfit mother. For some reason this profile is more appealing.
Jessica Wright is an inmate of Shakopee Correctional Facility.