Know your history: Understanding racism in the US
Author: A’lelia Bundles
Published: 08/15/15, Al Jazeera Magazine
There will never be an acceptable explanation for what happened between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson in Ferguson but we will never fully grasp why the stage was set for such an encounter unless we know American history.
We cannot fully comprehend why Dylan Roof murdered nine parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston unless we study the Civil War and the Confederacy.
We cannot truly fathom how a minor traffic stop in Cincinnati could result in a white campus police officer blowing out the brains of an unarmed black man unless we delve into the role race has played in law enforcement from the enactment of the federal Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 to today’s mandatory minimum sentencing statutes.
An African American woman yells ‘Freedom’ when asked to shout so loud it will be heard all over the world at the March on Washington in August 1963 [Express Newspapers/Getty Images/File]
Examining American history provides us with the tools to analyse how the death of Michael Brown and the demonstrations on Florrisant Avenue became a tipping point and sparked a movement. Connecting the dots between the past and the present helps us to see the origins of our current national debate – about race, police misconduct, white supremacy, white privilege, inequality, incarceration and the unfinished equal rights agenda.
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