Leading with Art
By Harry Colbert, Jr., Managing Editor
To quote the title of the movie and Netflix series, “Dear White People …”
We see it on social media, we hear it in the stands of sporting events, we hear it while taking to the streets. “What are ‘you people’ so upset about?” Well, quite frankly, “us people” are upset about a lot. But let’s be 100 percent crystal clear … the reason athletes are talking a knee (which, ironically is taking a stand) during the playing of the national anthem is not to dishonor the men and women of military, but to express sadness and outrage at the continued unchecked brutality and killing of people of color at the hands of U.S. law enforcement officers. That is the foremost issue that dropped blacklisted quarterback … former Super Bowl quarterback … Colin Kaepernick to his knee.
Most recently it was Patrick Harmon whose killing went unpunished. Harmon, was stopped Aug. 13 in Salt Lake City for a bicycling infraction, when he was killed. Yes, you read right, a bicycling infraction. Admittedly, Harmon attempted to run away on foot from officers, but many are questioning why he was shot three times … in the back. The official narrative is the officer “feared for his safety” (where have we heard that before) and Harmon turned toward the officers with a knife, but the body camera footage does not back up that claim. Still, the officer involved will not face criminal charges, as announced on Oct. 5 by the Salt Lake City district attorney.
Harmon should have gone to jail that night, not the morgue.
So again, that’s why many are refusing to stand for a song that doesn’t stand for them. And let’s make it plain, the “Star Spangled Banner” was written by a racist slave owner and a verse written (but not recited) revels in the death of Blacks who fought against their former captors in the War of 1812. Frances Scott Key, author of the national anthem, said of Blacks they were, “a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.”
So, yeah, I’m not too keen of that whole “Star Spangled Banner” thing. Give me “Lift Every Voice and Sing” any day.
But beyond the brutality; beyond the killings, let’s explore the other reasons we kneel, as illustrated by artist Don Walker on this week’s cover.
The U.S. unemployment rate for whites is 3.7 percent, yet the Black unemployment rate is 7.3 percent (Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 2017). The U.S. graduation rate for whites is 87.3 percent compared to 72.5 percent for Blacks (“The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education”). The U.S. home ownership rate is 71.9 percent for whites but just 41.3 percent for Blacks (Trulia, third-quarter 2016 national data). According to U.S. Census Bureau, 22 percent of Black people live in poverty, compared to 8.8 percent of whites. A gaping disparity, the median income for whites is $62,950 to just $36,898 for Blacks (U.S. Census Bureau). Overall Blacks are incarcerated five times more than whites. In some states, it is 10 times more frequent; this according to the Prison Policy Initiative. The Black infant mortality rate is two times higher than the white rate (National Vital Statistics).
Blacks are 2.5 times as likely as whites to be shot and killed by police (Washington Post). Blacks are 2.5 times as likely as whites to be shot and killed by police.
So again, what was the question? Oh yeah, you were wondering why we are taking to our knees. Well there you have it in black and white … and in red, white and blue.