The Civil Rights Dream is deja vu in the Deep South. In Louisiana we have great food, good drinks, and nice racism. The kind of racism that manifests itself in the, “you are nice looking for a black boy,” way. The kind of racism that admits, “I have black friends.” We have cultivated on the banks of our bayous, over our bowls of gumbo, and throughout our fields of sugarcane a set of subversive unspoken behaviors that subconsciously gives permission for racism to exist. Right below the surface of our “Southern Hospitality” looms the insidiousness of rotten bigotry and generational hatred for people of color. This is not an indication that everyone has racist tendencies, but it is an indication that the silence of the majority gives permission for those who harbor hatred to continue it unchecked.
In the society we live in racism only matters in states that it might shift an election, or when things start getting burned down, looted, and destroyed. This behavior sells newspapers and this news has brought our country to the brink of inflamed racial tensions. Our reality show world has changed its focus from celebrities to chaos. It sells news when we have fanned the flames of racism, bigotry, and hatred so intently that we are unable to have a thoughtful conversation and dialogue with one another. Louisiana does not fit the bill for shifting elections so we are expected to suffer in silence.
The killing of Trayford Pellerin, a black man executed by police, unearthed something that Lafayette, Louisiana had never really encountered, a real Civil Rights Movement. The 11 shots that murdered another black brother sent shock waves through our small town; however, because our protesters decided to apply pressure without destruction, the media attention has been minimal. I would suggest that as a group of activists we are more interested in systematic change than we are interested in tearing down what our ancestors built.
More explosively, it has been reported the final minutes of his life, Mr. Ronald Greene pleaded to live and apologized. Seventeen months ago he was murdered by the hand of Louisiana State Police. The lie was told that he died as a result of an accident; however, now we know he was brutally beaten and tazed. For 17 months the offending officer continued to patrol our state, until the story broke and he was placed on leave. This is an example of Louisiana police killings that are buried under the bureaucracy of systemic racism. In Louisiana, it’s the state police that do the “lynching,” and try to cover-up under the guise of protecting and serving.
This is not new across Louisiana, and the Deep South, there have been issues percolating under the surface in cases like the Jena 6 and Alton Sterling to name a few. In many of our previous incidents, we have allowed our righteous indignation to be quelled by false promises and Judas-like elected officials and clergy that are more interested in their own upward mobility than racial equity. These clergy and politicians utilize their “influence” as tools to beat back any civil disobedience, protest, or activism that would disrupt their greased palms. This sort of self-defeating principles is what has driven political morality into the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana.
We must shake and destroy the roots of racism in all of the Deep South, as well as Louisiana, and we must do so directly. The protests in our state have been positive and dedicated to sustainable positive change. We are not interested in destruction, but we are interested in honesty and transparency. Our ability to mobilize around change in this state is severely hampered by the true Jim Crow attempts to directly disenfranchise anyone who would dare disrupt the status quo. In our state, even some people of color prefer to quell activism that seeks change in order to “work it out” behind closed doors. Alanah Odoms once ironically said, “In Louisiana you are better off if you are guilty and white, than you are if you are innocent and Black.” This quote is an example of a broken system ripe with the fruits of slavery. The slave-like mentality from people of every hue is a testament that we have work left undone.
The only thing that I am absolutely certain about is that I am tired of accepting the idea that racism can go unchecked in this state. I refuse to continue to suffer in silence. The veil has been pulled back and we realize that the South never really changed. The truth is, many racists just traded their hoods for badges and political positions. The deafening silence of the governor, the legislator, state police, and clergy have brought on a category five hurricane of racial upheaval. The protesters are ready to meet the challenge to change it. The media fallacy of elevating chaos gives Donald Trump permission to continue to wage war on the morality of this county. If we don’t change course quickly the hurricane of racism will destroy the fabric of this country.
Jamal Taylor is a Black Civil Rights Activist in Louisiana on the front lines of the protest against police brutality and systemic racism. He dedicates this piece in honor of justice for Trayford Pellerin, Ronald Green, and Breonna Taylor.
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