The death of Black males under American apartheid is not only absolved by white society but also treated as necessary for the upkeep of the status quo.
“The shock troops for the American apartheid regime can depend on the Black misleadership class for protection and safety.”
The word apartheid has generally been used to describe South Africa up until 1994 and most recently Israel’s present colonial arrangement. However, South Africa and Israel received direct support and encouragement from history’s most effective form of apartheid, the United States. The United States, also known as “America,” is an apartheid state—one based on the mass kidnapping African people and the establishment of a white settler regime designed to protect the profits derived from slavery and land theft. Botham Jean is but another victim of the American apartheid police-state. Off duty cop Amber Guyger received ten years in prison for her act of lynching. Whatever real or imagined justice derived from Guyger’s slap on the wrist prison sentence was discredited by the spectacle of forgiveness present at her trial. Brandt Jean’s forgiving testimony and embrace with Guyger gave the corporate media the opportunity to restore white innocence, which is a core assumption of American apartheid’s project of mass Black elimination.
Not a week passed after Guyger was simultaneously convicted and forgiven that Joshua Brown, Jean’s neighbor, was brutally killed. Brown was set to testify in a lawsuit against the Dallas police and had provided the most important testimony at Jean’s trial. For challenging Guyger’s proclamation of victimhood, Joshua Brown was murdered. The swiftness of Brown’s murder and the botched criminalization of his reputation following the capture of his alleged assailant indicates that Guyger and the Dallas police department have facilitated another lynching, this time in retribution for testifying against a police officer. As Tommy Curry makes clear in his book, The Man-Not, the death of Black males under American apartheid is not only absolved by white society but also treated as necessary for the upkeep of the status quo. Black Americans such as Brown who challenge the normalcy of state-sanctioned violence are discredited, defamed, and assassinated.
“Off duty cop Amber Guyger received ten years in prison for her act of lynching.”
In the Black Lives Matter era, America’s apartheid police state has been subject to an increased level of popular scrutiny. Police impunity in the killing of Black Americans has been thoroughly exposed by the Black activist movement and its allies. Still, it remains rare for cops to receive an indictment let alone a conviction for murdering Black Americans. Most killer cops, like Stephon Clark’s murderers in blue, end up back in uniform. Amber Guyger assassinated Botham Jean in his own home, so the American apartheid state felt compelled to give the known racist a slap on the wrist for first degree murder. However, the armed troops of American apartheid were far from satisfied with Brandt Jean’s gesture of forgiveness and decided to make Joshua Brown yet another victim of racist state terror after his emotional testimony exposed Guyger’s crimes against humanity.
White women such as Guyger have always played a special role in the American apartheid regime. Endowed with white innocence and a repressive cult of domesticity, white women from the colonial era into the 21st century have waged their struggle for recognition and redemption on the corpses of Black males. The innocence of white women derived from their assumed need of protection from Black men vilified as brutes, rapists, and criminals by white society. Over one quarter of Black lynching victims, almost all of whom were Black men and boys, were accused by white Americans of sexually assaulting white women. American apartheid’s fascist response to Black freedom, also known as Jim Crow, was taken out disproportionately on Black males. Guyger’s white ancestors of all genders mobilized to prevent Black Americans from exercising their self-determination after the formal end of chattel slavery.
“The innocence of white women derived from their assumed need of protection from Black men.”
Guyger’s revenge shows that American apartheid is alive and well today. Two generations or so have passed since the Black Freedom Movement changed the political conversation about apartheid America and its treatment of Black America. While Trumpian forms of white supremacy have since been disavowed by sophisticated white elites and liberals, the imperial arrangement that sustains apartheid turned to the police state for assistance in maintaining its regime of lynch mob terror in a supposedly “color-blind” society. Botham Jean and Joshua Brown demonstrate that American apartheid’s police state particularly targets Black men for premature death at a rate far higher than the rest of the U.S. population. Police homicide is the seventh leading cause of death for young Black men such as Botham Jean. In 2018, Black men comprised of twenty-two percent of the 992 people who were killed by police despite comprising of roughly seven percent of the total U.S. population. The apartheid police-state effectively targets young Black men for extermination as a means of social and political control.
The murder of Black men such as Joshua Brown and Botham Jean has become an expected and normalized occurrence in white American society. Under the American apartheid regime, Black lives are worth less than dogs. The Canton police department celebrated jovially after Kalontre Barefield received thirty-four years for killing a police dog in 2016, likely in self-defense. Alvin Kennard spent thirty-six years in the Alabama prison system for stealing fifty dollars at the age of twenty-two. Larry Dayries was sentenced to seventy-years in prison for stealing from a Whole Foods in Austin, Texas. The endurance of dehumanizing and criminalizing stereotypes has rendered the stories of these Black men unworthy of attention and thus unworthy of justice. America’s apartheid police-state, armed with “three-strikes” laws, militarized police departments, and anti-Black judicial systems, has ensured that few Black Americans have gone untouched by its system of mass incarceration, deemed by some to be a New Jim Crow.
“Under the American apartheid regime, Black lives are worth less than dogs.”
Nowhere is American apartheid clearer than behind prison walls. Fifteen percent of all Black men in the U.S. have been to prison and Black men make up over one-third of the total prison population. The percentage of Black men in solitary confinement, an internationally recognized form of torture, is even higher at forty-five percent of those held in isolation. American apartheid is as cruel as it is brutal. For filming Eric Garner’s murder, Ramsey Orta has spent much of his tenure in New York City’s jail system in solitary confinement. The apartheid police-state does not take kindly to those who expose its regime of racialized terror, as evidenced by the continued torture of Mumia Abu Jamal, Russell Maroon Shoatz, and the dozens of Black political prisoners still behind prison bars in the U.S.
What isn’t being discussed in the wake of Botham Jean and Joshua Brown’s murder is how the police represent a protected class within America’s apartheid regime. In 2018, Congress passed the Protect and Serve Act. This bill made assaults against police officers a federal hate crime. Seventy-five percent of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) voted for the bill, which already exists in some form in every state in the Union. Eighty percent of the CBC voted in favor of preserving the Pentagon’s 1033 program in 2014—a program which has funneled billions of dollars in military weaponry to local police departments. The Black judge who presided over the Botham Jean murder case was endorsed by the Dallas police union in her election bid in 2018. Amber Guyger and the scores of white shock troops for the American apartheid regime can thus depend on the Black misleadership class for protection and safety.
“The Black judge who presided over the Botham Jean murder case was endorsed by the Dallas police union.”
The Black misleadership’s respectability politics have failed Botham Jean and the millions of Black Americans affected by the American apartheid state. Unlike 19th and 20th century Jim Crow, the post-Black liberation movement era has allowed a select few Black Americans to occupy the halls of power; that is, if they express undying loyalty to the interests of the powerful. After Michael Brown’s murder sparked a national movement against the apartheid police state in 2014, brave activists condemned Black misleaders such as Jesse Jackson for attempting to pimp the movement for their own gain. However, others like Alicia Garza have achieved career success by highlighting the privilege of murdered Black men as their dead bodies went viral over the internet. This isn’t to say that Black women or Black trans peoples’ murders at the hands of the police are not equally worthy of protest and outrage. But to equate attention with privilege reinforces the normalcy of state-sanctioned terror against Black men. That this line of politics is good for careerists like Garza was evident in her steadfast defense of the Working Family Party’s endorsement of Elizabeth Warren yet total silence over the murder of Botham Jean and Joshua Brown.
Botham Jean and Joshua Brown are members of a race that Ho Chi Minh called “the most oppressed and the most exploited in the human family” in his groundbreaking 1924 study of lynching in America. In 1963, Chinese revolutionary Mao Tse-tung called upon “the workers, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals, enlightened elements of the bourgeoisie and other enlightened persons of all colours in the world, whether white, black, yellow or brown, to unite to oppose the racial discrimination practiced by U.S. imperialism and support the American Negroes in their struggle against racial discrimination.” Mao’s call for internationalism is more relevant than ever in a world presently divided between imperialist apartheid states, their allies, and the Global South. Black misleaders and their masters in the white ruling elite stand on the side of American apartheid and its imperialist world order. Only a mass Black political conversation and movement in the United States can bring real political life into demands for self-determination and economic emancipation. While the imperialist, pro-apartheid bloc will surely stand against Black liberationist sentiments, history shows that majorities of people in Asia, Latin America, and Africa will stand side by side with Black Americans in their struggle for self-determination as if it were their own. Solidarity is the death of apartheid, which is why the apartheid police state is so quick to lynch Joshua Brown and any Black American that stands up to the forces of power which are completely committed to preventing it.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the book entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News--From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (Skyhorse Publishing). He can be reached at [email protected], on Instagram at danny_haiphong, and on Twitter at @SpiritofHo.
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