Winter in America
3rd March 2014 · 0 Comments
By Edmund W. Lewis, Editor
And now it’s winter/Winter in America//Yes and all of the healers have been killed/Or sent away, yeah/But the people know, the people know/It’s winter/Winter in America/And ain’t nobody fighting/’Cause nobody knows what to save/Save your soul, Lord knows/From Winter in America.
The Constitution/A noble piece of paper/With free society/Struggled but it died in vain/And now Democracy is ragtime on the corner/Hoping for some rain/Looks like it’s hoping/Hoping for some rain.
—”Winter in America” by Gil-Scott Heron
Greetings from New Johannesburg, aka the City That Forgot How to Care for Its Poor and Destitute. AKA The Big Uneasy.
With a never-ending stream of northerly winds and an unmistakable political chill in the air, it’s not looking good for the mighty people of the sun.
We’ve been down and we’ve been out — and we’ve been down and out before, but this feels different. It’s as if the externals attacks being orchestrated against this African stronghold are doing unprecedented damage to our collective psyche and will to keep fighting. Oppression, repression and subjugation are nothing new but now we must contend with self-doubt, self-hatred, abandonment and betrayal by an increasingly large number of those who look like us but clearly march to the beat of a different drummer.
This inner and outer turmoil, best described by W.E.B. DuBois as a sort of double-consciousness, has the power to completely sever the cultural ties that have bound us together as a people since the beginning for time.
On top of that, the elders are getting weary and the youngest among us are lost in this maelstrom of oppression and confusion. The circle of life that has protected the young and placed the elders at the center of our lives is being pushed to its limits. We need to make every move we make count.
Still, despite a few major setbacks, the resistance remains strong and resolute about fighting the good fight and dismantling this draconian system of economic, educational and social apartheid by any means necessary. We must fight for our right to be, and fight we shall.
Some of us are brave and have our sense of purpose and knowledge and love of self to keep us warm against the onslaught of the bitter coldness.
It’s winter in America, y’all. Literally and figuratively. And the coldest part about that (pun definitely intended) is that it’s only going to continue to get colder and less humane.
We are teetering on the brink of another cultural and political Ice Age like the ones the world witnessed after the end of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and passage of major civil and voting rights legislation in the 1960s.
Moves are being made to ensure that the poor, huddled masses will never again hold the winning cards in a major presidential election and that publicly funded schools are no longer capable of preparing the minds of young people to challenge the status quo.
Voter repression has taken on a new sense of urgency in this era of so-called “Post Racial” America and the powers that be have decided that a poorly trained, undereducated generation of Americans will be less capable of matching wits with the brain trust of the ballyhooed 1 percent. They will be easier to control and manipulate.
The most tragic part of all of this is the class of willing co-conspirators who look like us. We must keep our eyes open for oppressed brothers and sisters who identify with their oppressors more than they do with fellow sufferers. It is this group of lost souls who would “hurt all mankind just to save their own” and would not hesitate to sell out their own to the highest bidder. To learn more about this group of miserable beings, check out Albert Memmi’s book The Colonizer and the Colonized.
Those who can be saved should be saved, but the rest must be neutralized to prevented from infecting the rest of us with chicanery, self-hatred and treachery.
Now that we’ve been updated about the state of New Johannesburg, let’s throw a few questions around. Here goes:
• With Louisiana laying claim to the highest incarceration rate in the world and New Orleans doing more than its fair share to provide fuel and human capital for the ever-expanding prison-industrial complex, aren’t you proud to be at the epicenter of white privilege?
• After the recent NOPD fatal shooting of a man accused of stealing a bottle of juice, how pleased are you with the new and improved New Orleans Police Department almost nine years after the infamous post-Katrina NOPD killings that led to a federally mandated consent decree?
• How many residents who voted for the incumbent mayor would have done so if they knew he was going to be making a move to raise property taxes in New Orleans just two weeks after he was re-elected?
• How long are the city’s wealthiest residents going to continue to get away with dodging taxes by setting up “nonprofits” to shield money-making ventures from paying their fair share of taxes to the City of New Orleans?
• Why can’t the City of New Orleans and Public Service Commission find energy, cable and communication companies to give the ones that currently charge residents a king’s ransom but offer very little in return a run for their money?
• How many people who know about the latest fatal NOPD shooting in Hollygrove — one of three shootings involving NOPD officers over a seven-day period — think this city’s police department is on the right track and is capable of reforming itself?
• Why is the federal government hellbent on making sure that former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin goes to jail for a very long time but so careless about the way it has handled its cases against the Danziger Bridge cops and those involved in the murder of Henry Glover in 2005?
• What elected official, agency or government branch is going to hold Louisiana Governor Piyush Jindal accountable for the despicable way he has trampled upon the rights of the state’s poor and elderly residents?
• If Piyush Jindal knows so much about stimulating economic growth and expanding economic opportunities for Louisiana residents, why is Louisiana always at the bottom of the totem pole?
• How many Black people in New Orleans actually know who Chokwe Lumumba was and what he meant to Black people struggling for their human rights in 2014?
• What makes a 47-year-old white man in Florida think he has the right to verbally attack a carful of Black teenagers because he thinks their music is too loud and to fire his gun into their car when they respond accordingly?
• What will ultimately happen in a city, state or nation where justice is repeatedly denied, democracy is never allowed to take root and a small, privileged class of individuals routine ignores the needs and will of the oppressed masses?
• Who doesn’t think New Orleans and the rest of the nation need a “justice transplant”?
• How do you feel about former NOPD officer Travis McCabe, the officer who being reinstated to the police department two weeks ago by the Civil Service Commission?
• Was it a coincidence that Ray Nagin’s trial took place during the 2014 mayoral race?
• Who thinks that a cop with a laundry list of complaints of police brutality and excessive force against him should be allowed to patrol or respond to calls in areas of the city where the people who filed those complaints live while the self-reforming NOPD continues to claim to be carrying out its duties better and smarter?
• What’s going on with the investigation of former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and his administration?
• How do the people who do the most to avoid paying taxes and say they hate Big Government and government handouts get away with demanding the best-paved streets, well-kept neutral grounds and extra police protection?
• After 15 years, why is the family of dragging-death victim James Byrd Jr. still waiting for justice?
• What do you think about Sen. Mary Landrieu’s decision to not support a raise in the minimum wage?
• Why don’t local elected officials, state legislators representing New Orleans and congressmen from the New Orleans area have anything to say about the failure of Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and a state grand jury to indict City of New Orleans employee Merritt Landry for shooting an unarmed 14-year-old Black boy he found in his back yard in the head?
• What would you give up to be free?
This article originally published in the March 3, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.