Nancy Turner Banks, MD, MBA
In 1851, a physician Samuel Cartwright wrote a pamphlet, “Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race” in which he considered the act of fleeing from enslavement a disease he called "Drapetomania". Cartwright, as much of the white population, slave owners as well as those who thought they were free, considered the idea of black self-determination a type of insanity.
That prejudice is so deeply ingrained in the American psyche that whenever there is a public act of defiance by black people that calls into question the land of the free, home of the brave narrative, these uppity Negroes need to be put in their place. So it was predictable that on the occasion of black players in the NFL kneeling instead of standing for the national anthem that some whites would start having temper tantrums, canceling and even burning their season tickets. These black men must be suffering from Drapetomania because only some guy who makes a million dollars or more a year must be crazy to protest, not only the third stanza of that infamous song, but occupation of their neighborhoods by out of control white invaders called police.
One reporter, Jon Rappaport, has attempted to use numbers to discredit the idea that the police are out of control by citing the number of deaths of citizens by police vs. the number of homicides committed by civilians against each other—what has come to be known as “black on black” crime. The numbers are disproportionate. The deaths are one thing, the daily humiliation another and the disproportionate sentencing is not mentioned. One of the reasons he sites for the crime wave in the black community is drugs. However, I am not aware that it was black people who blew up three buildings in NYC and plowed into the pentagon on 9/11 killing more than 3000 people in order to drop bombs on Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya while importing plane loads of heroin into the U.S. I am not aware that it was black people who have been responsible for killing an estimated 20 million people in America’s contrived wars since the end of WWII. Now if you want to cite crime murders, cite that number. I am not aware that it is black people in charge of a criminal enterprise called the CIA that is in fact the biggest drug cartel on the planet and has been deliberately targeting black communities. I am not aware that there are any blacks who are head of the banks who launder this drug money or CEOs of chemical companies that supply the products that process drugs before they hit the street, nor are there any blacks who are CEOs of the pharmaceutical companies behind the opioid epidemic.
The American government and the corporations and foreign nationals who pledge allegiance to a small country in the Middle East who have a tight grip on the reigns of power love this kind of dead end protest, because it is a path to nowhere. Those who kneel, I find particularly offensive, not for the reasons stated, but because the act of kneeling is a position of surrender and a symbol of disempowerment.
But let us raise this option as a solution focusing on education. Suppose the players of the NFL used their financial resources to start a black think tank. Suppose that think tank decided that the best way to solve the problems in the black community would be through education and that that education would focus on developing a curriculum based on the principles of Ma’at expressed as a drive for black nationalism and teach these principles in charter schools. Now this is not just a random idea. For years now, a Turkish national, Fetullah Gülen has been importing Turkish nationals to teach in his publicly financed Muslim charter schools. According to the New York Times, while accepting public money, the schools also lack transparency and hundreds of thousands of dollars are being funneled to Gülen connected contractors when others had offered lower bids. The schools, unless there is a state law enacted, cannot be audited as they are considered nonprofit educational corporations carrying out a public purpose. They are not required to hire certified teachers and the teachers are not required to pass criminal background checks. What I could guarantee is that if these were conditions that were even hinted at in the Ma’at schools, before they reached 120 they would have been infiltrated with Mobutus, raided by the FBI and destroyed by the IRS. So the question is, who benefits from the Gülen schools? Why is it that foreign nationals who plot against the notions expressed in America’s most sacred documents have access to taxpayer dollars, but blacks who are citizens and have only used those documents to obtain the freedoms expressed in those documents, cannot get access to the same public funds?
I agree that this protest is feeble and divisive and that it is time to move beyond being reactive, to being proactive. However, that in itself requires a level of self-awareness and self-mastery that has always been a threat to white domination and has always initiated a reign of state sanctioned terror. This is just how it is.