Is Michael Brown Jr. Just "Another Dead Black Thug?"
"A big, black thug." This sentiment of reducing the humanity of the young, unarmed Black male teenager to what is the racial slur nouveau (see "Dog Whistle Racism") has its roots deep in the dark, racist history of America. It was very commonplace for Whites to talk of the African slave as being brutish, subhuman, and less endowed with the faculties of reasoning, thinking and feeling. This was all part of the systemic and perpetual effort to justify the unjustifiable institution of slavery. The slave was regarded as property, on the same level as a horse, house or hound; "three-fifths" human; and inferior to the White man in every respect, especially morals and intellectual capacity. It was common practice for White slaveowners and those with pro-slavery feelings to falsely characterize the African slave as bloodthirsty savages and criminals in constant need of confinement, supervision and severe chastisement. All of this was done to create a neat, pat narrative that condoned the abominable and morally bankrupt practice of chattel slavery and the crimes, inhumane treatment and abuses that slaves suffered at the hand of the slaveowner.
The more things change, the more they remain the same. False perceptions of blackness and Black criminality abound as prolifically as before. The mainstream media both feeds and reinforces the old prejudices and stereotypes. The sensationalistic, biased reporting of so-called "Black on Black" crime, criminality and decay in the African American community feeds the fears and prejudices of the misinformed and further incites them to racially profile Black bodies as dangerous, immoral and criminal.
The Post-Reconstruction era of America was one of the most violent of in American history. The source of the violence was White southerners who were determined to strike fear in the hearts of Blacks and violently "take back" property and political power that, in their surmise, was snatched away from them during Reconstruction. Those were the days when justice was very swift, brutal and lethal if you were a Black person caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Former slaves who had through perseverance and toil and good fortune acquired some property, were lynched, and their land stolen away from them by angry White mobs. It is estimated (some say underestimated) that over 2,400 Black men, women and children were lynched between 1880-1930.
The threat of death by lynching, and the null prospects for protection of Blacks from "White justice," was real enough to cause millions of former slaves to swiftly abandon their southern homesteads for the promise of safety in the northern states. But we don't hear much about that era. And we are also subjected to a revisionist history of slavery that makes it seem much more genteel than the heinous, cruel and dehumanizing institution that it was. Because the criminality and brutality of White slaveowners against the slave hardly raised an eyebrow. The false narrative of the superiority of White morality to African savagery gained much wider acceptance then. And to this day, the same arrogant, White supremacist fiction gets more positive press than the reality of America's racism problem which has haunted her from the day the first kidnapped Africans were brought to these shores as slaves. If you take away the predominant "thug" narrative now, America will be forced to reckon with its racist past and present.