This article posted yesterday discusses the 1998 hate-crime killing of James Byrd Jr. It was reported that John William King, one of the two men held responsible with a life sentences in prison, was executed. The Supreme Court had declined to issue a stay in the case and King was executed an hour later.
The prosecutors said that Byrd was killed after being dragged behind a truck for three miles in a town in East Texas. The article says that the case brought back a time of lynching and racially motivated killings throughout the South. Byrd’s family said that justice was being served and that he was a danger to society, agreeing with his death. This recent action brings to question to what point do we enact the death penalty to receive justice and prove a point. In addition, these killings have been going on for centuries and are sparked out of fear. The fear has not disappeared, but there has been less news coverage of these hate crimes and society’s understanding of these crimes have changed. It does not make it ok, but simply turns a blind eye. The resurrection of this case and the execution of King brings up several new questions about how our society will deal with race and racial violence in a modern era.
Whether John William King deserved to be killed for his actions or not, it is good to remind society that these issues still remain in our world today and have not been resolved. They are being discussed in new contexts and in new ways, but they allow our society to change. We still need to fight for an end so that these crimes do not happen again.
Last night I went to the Ubuntu show on campus, organized by the African Student Union. I went to learn about different African cultures. It was a celebration of African identity and unity of Africans living in the United States. I had experienced a few instances of African culture before, but I had never seen it portrayed through their own eyes of what they wanted to share about their home countries. It reminded me of when we discussed in class of how African Americans want to return home to Africa and embrace the culture of their nations. In fact, the host even brought up that Ghana has called for 2019 to be a year of return, so Africans, even those not specifically from Ghana can return home.
I thought that it was very interesting to see both Africans and African Americans come together and just celebrate life. However, it was also an educational experience for many of the caucasians in the audience. There were skits that discussed African writers and activists, as well as poems that brought to light the effect of colonialism on African lives. There was even a poem about love, which demonstrated that we all face the same human struggles and that we are not all that different deep down. I thought that each segment was special in its own way and was educational for me. It was special to see Black celebrated in a time when all we hear about is how Black is bad.
I recently saw someone post this website depicting the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in two minutes. I already knew and learned about the trade in class before I saw this video, but it was still very startling. I noticed that it depicted ships primarily going from Western Africa to the Caribbean and Brazil instead of North America. I also realized that around 1807 and 1808 the ships drastically stopped leaving Africa, however, there were still ships bringing slaves across the Atlantic. I knew all of this before, but it was interesting to see it demonstrated in a new way.
This depictions gives you an understand of the scale of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade across time. In addition, the depiction allows you to click on the dots that represent each ship and learn about its origin point, destination, and history in the trade. I understand it does not represent every slave or slave ship, but it still demonstrates the intensity of the trade and the impact it had on so many lives. The website also provides more information other countries involvement in the trade and I think it is important more people are exposed to this information and this diagram makes it easier for people to understand. It will spark an interest and hopefully inspire people to learn more about their history and the history of whole African diaspora, especially if it is being spread across social media.
The lecture by Dr. Shakes entitled African Future, American Legacies was very enlightening. She started the lecture by discussing what is missing about blackness in popular culture. She discussed how it originated with the Transatlantic Slave Trade and how these racist ideas are continued throughout history by the mainstream media. Black Panther and Luke Cage are not important because they are the first black superhero, but they are the first black casts. When looking at Black Panther, she explains that there is an ideal African society that has been untouched, a space for African Americans and the African diaspora can call “home.” This society takes a diplomatic approach to international aid, but falls short in expressing black unity in their effort. A contrasting character arises as a villain. This character’s problem is that he wants total power and demonstrates this image that he became americanized; he has a colonialist desire for domination. A similar character was put in Luke Cage. However, Luke Cage did not address many of the issues African Americans face within the United States, such as gentrification. She also brought up the fact that many of the characters in Luke Cage fill specific stereotypes. Dr. Shakes concludes by bring up there simply needs to be more discussion of white interaction within the African and African American communities.
I knew and recognized there was bias in the media, especially in regards to the idea of Blackness. However, looking at specific examples that target African Americans and seeing the importance of these examples allowed me to gain a better understanding of the effect white supremacy, as well as how far we still have to go in order to fully recognize the African American struggle within our society. As I have thought about the lecture, I have come across a question. Is discussion the only way in which we can change? And how else can we change the images that mainstream media presents? What is the new social media?