The Deadly Apathy of White America | Sojourners

The Deadly Apathy of White America

Recently, we learned about two young black men assumed to be guilty based someone else’s perception.

Akil Carter, an 18-year-old black male was irresponsibly profiled and detained while he was riding home from church with his white grandmother and her friend.

Botham Shem Jean, a 26-year-old native of the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, was shot by a female police officer who’d mistaken his apartment for hers, and fired her weapon after he opened the door — yet another death of a black man at the hands of an irresponsible citizen, erratic police officer, and under preventable circumstances.

The arrest of Akil Carter and death of Botham Shem Jean remind us that the existence of black people in America is continually under subjection. The ability to function freely as an African American in the United States is still a truth unknown to too many — manifested as the assumptive skepticism that a black young man can’t have a white grandmother and another reality highlighted by the horrific actions of an officer killing an innocent black man in his home. This truth is not new to America, it is America. It dates back to chattel slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, the war on drugs, maximum minimum sentencing, government neglect, and many more issues that prohibit the existence of black people in this country.

Famed and acclaimed novelist James Baldwin said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”

Think about it — an officer told 18-year-old Akil Carter that he was handcuffed because of "... a misunderstanding based on someone's perceptions." This is not a misunderstanding or one’s perception, this is bias, racism, and the manifestation of fear, a fear that leads to the oppression and repression of black bodies. A fear that screams boldly, “Your black life doesn’t matter.” This rage is one that the majority of white America is unable to comprehend and contextualize.

Black people in America, since this country’s inception, have been the targets and victims of unprecedented violence, leading to the birth and uprising of generations of black agitators and activists; young black men and women who’re determined to change the reality of the oppressed. If I as a black man cannot live freely in this country, absent of the fear being killed, then where can I exist?

America is still led by an apathetic majority void of compassion, empathy, and sympathy. A majority unable and unwilling to confess their biases, hate, phobia, and toxicity, making themselves apathetic to the reality of African Americans. From their perspective intentional and toxic discrimination, racism, and police practices is not their problem; they have no role in this plight and degradation.

The old African proverb is, “It takes a village to raise a child.” But who will the village have to raise if the children are continually taken from us?