The recent revelations that the government is storing all — that’s right, all — of our phone calls and emails and general communication ought to give us all cause to pause. Why would our government want to spy on everyone? Surely it is our friend!
And why the indifference about it in the Black community? In fact, why are our so-called leaders silent?
The prophet Jeremiah, while warning the Jewish state that it was going to face God’s judgment for treating its citizens unjustly, once said (my paraphrase), “From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for personal profit; almost all the leaders and preachers alike pretend to be on our side when in reality they side with power and the power structure. They pretend to address our problems, the deep wounds and disparities in the Black community, but they don’t take our problems seriously. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when clearly the deep inequality, inequities and stubborn racism and aggressive wars prove there is no peace!”
It’s time for everyone, including the Black community, to wake up and stop pretending. The government some of us worship is not what we think it is, and it more often views us as the enemy. I don’t need a lot of proof to demonstrate that Black folks are seen as the enemy. All one has to do is compare the Black unemployment to the White unemployment rate and compare Black and White homeownership rates.
Take a look at Black wealth versus White wealth. Compare incarceration rates and look at how many of our young men are shot down in the streets by those who are supposedly charged with protecting and serving us.
And for those who want to say, “But look, Black folks are killing one another,” they definitely are and they will continue to do so. The question is why they are doing it. Does anyone think that if they didn’t feel second class and treated like second-class citizens and weren’t denied quality public education and denied jobs, and instead felt like a real part of this society, that their behavior wouldn’t be different?
We act the way we do because we are still, after all this time, an oppressed nationality living in the U.S. For all practical purpose little has changed, no matter how much our middle-class brethren complain.
The recent revelations about government spying, the banks stealing but yet being too big to prosecute, the use of drones to kill so-called enemies of the State while actually killing lots of innocent civilians, the fact that Guantanamo Bay is still open and holding and even torturing men who actually had nothing to do with terrorism, all these are signs of things to come. Clearly there is no peace.
No matter how much we go on with our daily lives as if nothing is happening, the specter of government aggression is hanging over us. Well-off Whites ignore our plight and even look at us strangely when we protest what is being done to us. But their day is coming as well.
But before their day comes, Black and brown people will have been offered on an altar of national sacrifice. Just as many Jews in Germany tried to keep their heads low rather than organize to resist and fight back, and even as laws were being passed to disenfranchise them, the Black middle class continues to pretend that what affects other Blacks is not going to visit them.
Rest assured that you will not escape. Black and brown folks are definitely being spied on as well. And you say, “But I have nothing to hide.” That’s not the point.
The point is you live in a supposed democracy and you have a constitution that guarantees you certain rights. Someone pointed out that in our day-to-day communications we sometimes say things that actually constitute crimes that are misdemeanors, even sometimes felonies. Think about what you’ve said you wanted to do to someone, or when you have secretly whispered over the telephone what you might do if you weren’t afraid of getting caught.
It’s not as benign as one thinks. The FBI has said that it has used some of this illegal listening to foil terrorist plots. But they don’t tell the truth.
Many of these so-called plots have been manufactured by the FBI themselves and have entrapped unsuspecting pawns. This was the case of the Liberty City 7, in which a few unemployed Black men hanging out in a warehouse were made to appear as terrorists, and they were tried three different times before six were convicted with little or no evidence.
Does anyone remember COINTELPRO, which was used to spy on Martin Luther King and the Black Panthers, among others? The Panthers were established primarily to defend Black folks against police and racist violence. They advocated for a just society.
Martin Luther King, too, advocated for a society free of rampant materialism, militarism and racism, but he was eventually murdered with the help of government spying. And for the naïve who think this will just go away, the profit motive will play a role in keeping this government spying alive.
As a fellow columnist recently stated, “As the FBI is in the process of demonstrating, paying large numbers of people to find ‘terrorists’ means they will either find or manufacture them to justify paychecks and profits.”
Your government has identified the enemy, and it is you!
Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.