Black America, white America: the great divide getting wider

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Waseem Shehzad

Shawwal 21, 1417 1997-03-01

Special Reports

by Waseem Shehzad (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 26, No. 1, Shawwal, 1417)

America is a deeply divided society. Nothing symbolises this better than the perception of blacks and whites towards O J Simpson, the celebrated football player whose trial has gripped America for more than two years.

Two-thirds of all blacks believe that Simpson is innocent; two-thirds of whites believe that he is guilty, according to David Shipler in the New York Times (February 7, 1997). Who is right? O J Simpson was acquitted by a predominantly black jury in October 1995 in the criminal trial in Los Angeles. On February 4, 1997, a predominantly white jury found him liable (he could not be tried and found guilty on the same charge again because of double jeopardy). Why the contrasting verdicts?

White America’s obsession with the Simpson trial is not about the murder of two people. The real reason is that a black man was accused of murdering two whites--a male and a female. Whites immediately lambasted the judicial system as well as the blacks’ ‘inability’ to deliver justice. Would they care more than a dog’s bone had the victims been black, and the alleged perpetrator white?

Two years earlier, a predominantly white jury had acquitted two white police officers of beating Rodney King, a black motorist, in Los Angeles in March 1991 despite being caught on video camera. Few whites gave much thought to the verdict. Only after parts of Los Angeles were set on fire by irate African-Americans was the US president forced to move to redress this blatant act of injustice and racism.

Racism, however, is not confined to the Los Angeles police department. The St. Petersburg Times reported that the town police (in Florida) use more force on blacks than they do on whites. According to a UPI story of December 24, ‘the newspaper conducted a computer analysis of arrest records and determined black men under the age of 35 are twice as likely to be involved in hostile police encounters than white men in the same age group.’

Lynching of blacks by white mobs is part of American history. While slavery has officially ended, the lynching mentality lurks just beneath the surface. American officialdom wants to build more prisons than houses. African-Americans, between 15 to 20 percent of the population, make up 51 percent of the prison population. Courts have a propensity for sentencing blacks and letting whites go for the same crime.

American homicide statistics also speak for themselves. Each year, more than 20,000 Americans, most of them black, are killed. Californians voted last year to end affirmative action programmes to aid minorities. But it is at the larger, government level, that meanness is gaining respectability. US president Bill Clinton, a democrat, joined the republican-dominated congress to cut welfare assistance. On December 7, he boasted that welfare rolls had dropped by 2.1 million people since he first took office in 1993.

America’s mayors are appalled at the drastic measures proposed by the president and congress and have warned that some cities would face disaster without increased training and education programmes to put welfare recipients--both black and white--back to work. But the welfare recipients get about $300 million in cheques per month. The corporations get billions in handouts, as Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate pointed out in a speech delivered at the Pennsylvania’s Haverford College last fall. Nobody, however, has asked that those handouts be cut.

The cuts for welfare recipients have come amid warnings from private research groups that four million American children under the age of 12 do not get enough to eat and 20.8 percent of American children under 18 live in poverty. In a report released on December 11, the Food Research and Action Center found that 8.3 percent of children under 12 were hungry. The center’s findings were based on a survey conducted in 1995.

Equally grim news came from the US conference of mayors on December 16. They reported that requests for emergency food aid rose by an average of 11 percent in 1996, with 83 percent of the surveyed cities reporting an increase. Requests for emergency shelter rose five percent, with 71 percent of cities showing growing need.

The mood in America is getting nasty. The rise of white militias is one manifestation of this. Soft targets like Muslims are picked on easily. Divided and without leadership, Muslims are the target of a campaign of hate and xenophobia which is also fuelled by Zionist agents like Steve Emerson. Mainstream media outlets like Public Broadcasting System (PBS) television network provide him a platform to spew his poison.

At another, larger level, the American establishment is concerned that by the year 2020, whites would be a minority in the US. It is this fear of the growing numbers of non-whites that is fuelling white xenophobia. Unable to stop the growth in non-white population - whether Blacks, Hispanics or Chinese - despite a clampdown on immigration and the deportation of Muslims, white America is getting paranoid.

It would, however, be wrong to assume that all non-whites would take such abuse lying down. The African-American community will fight back for its rights. It is the white racist groups, however--and there is no shortage of such people in America today--who may trigger a race war.

Two well-known Americans, Carl Rowan, a notable black journalist, and Richard Degardo, law professor at the university of Colorado, have predicted such an eventuality. Both published books on the subject last year, titled: The coming race war.

Should that happen, America would have lit the fuse under its very fabric. The ensuing explosion would rip America apart. The fallout would be felt far and wide but America would no longer remain the ‘United’ States. Is it too early to talk about the ‘Divided’ States of America?

Muslimedia - March 1-15, 1997

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