AN EMERGENCY APPEAL TO THE WORLD ON BEHALF OF THE AFRICAN AMERICAN PEOPLE

NOTE: I composed this appeal to the world on behalf of a coalition of African American activist organizations in the summer of 2000 as the Republican Party began it’s national convention in Philadelphia. Anticipating demonstrations and protests against racism and for the freedom of Mumia Abu Jamal, severe police restrictions were imposed on the African American community.

Emergency Coalition Against Police Brutality*

Philadelphia, PA — In 1951 William L Patterson and Paul
Robeson petitioned the UN charging the US government with
the high crime of genocide against Black Americans. In 1964
Malcolm X spoke before the Organization of African Unity
again charging the US government with violating the human
rights of African Americans. In recent years various Black
organizations and individuals have appeared before UN
committees and agencies and have appealed to foreign
governments to intercede on our behalf.

We have called on the international media to alert world
public opinion, international organizations, governments
and non-governmental organizations, to the growing peril
that the African American people face. In two days 45,000
delegates and active supporters of the Republican Party will
converge on this city to nominate their Presidential and
Vice Presidential candidates and to adopt a platform. While
they celebrate, tens of thousands of African Americans
will be under police lock down and occupation of their
communities. This reality manifests the two nations,
separate and unequal, nature of race relations in the
United States. This situation, in its essentials, is
identical to apartheid colonialism of the South African
type.

An accurate understanding of the nature of Black oppression
is critical to mobilizing international support to prevent
what we believe could eventuate in a great human catastrophe;
genocide. Since the passage of the Comprehensive Civil
Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965
the situation for the majority of African Americans has
worsened. Socio-economic and housing data show that African
Americans are more unequal than in the 1960’s. A Black
middle class has emerged with greater opportunity, income
and wealth; albeit, no where near the level of the white
middle class. Eighty percent of our people are, however,
more segregated (the majority of the working class and poor
in deteriorating ghettoes), more unemployed and under-
employed, more criminalized, undereducated and homeless than
40 years ago. The situation resembles the period of legal
segregation known as Jim Crow, which was constructed after
the Civil War. Rather than a rural, peasant, population,
today we are overwhelming urban and working class.

The legal gains of the 1960’s have been trumped by the
structural violence brought on by the rapaciousness of
neo-liberal economic policies, imperialist globalization
and the anti-African American policies championed by the
Republican and Democratic Parties. A stunning reflection
of this is rising infant mortality and a lowering life
expectancy for African Americans. One study indicates that
Black men living in Harlem have a lower life expectancy than
men living in Bangladesh. When this is combined with the
spread of HIV/AIDS, cancers of every type, heart disease and
hypertension the outcomes are horrifying. Moreover, in spite
of the catastrophic health emergency in the Black community,
we have less access to health care than any group in the
nation. From a socio-economic, health and demographic
standpoint the conditions of Africans in America resemble
those of many nations of the developing world.

Of alarming and overriding significance at this moment
is the political and legal status of Africans in America.
African Americans are being deprived of their citizenship
rights. As such, we are becoming a stateless people. In
1857, in the landmark Dred Scott Decision, Chief Justice
Roger Taney declared, ” a black man has no rights a white
man need respect”. We are returning to that legal doctrine.

Approximately 3.5 million adult African Americans are
without the elementary right to vote due to imprisonment,
being on parole, probation or some other way under the
control of the criminal justice system. In several states,
including Pennsylvania, former prisoners who have completed
their sentences are denied the right to vote for up to five
years. Jury pools, which are drawn from voter lists, as a
result, eliminate large numbers of Africans in America. Tens
of thousands of Black people are, therefore, denied the
right to a jury of their peers. Prosecutors and judges, at
the same time, conspire to eliminate eligible Blacks from
juries. These practices violate the equal protection clause
of the Fourteenth Amendment and the voting rights provisions
of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Yet, this is but the tip of the iceberg. Systematic and
violent police attacks upon and murders of Black people is
predicated upon the devaluation of Black life and the idea
that we are merely second or third class citizens; a status
tantamount to being a non-citizen. Black folk, in the end,
are denied most legal protections. Moreover, the police
function as an occupying army in African American
communities and neighborhoods. Rather than protect residents
and citizens, they attack them at will. The widely used
practice of racial profiling is a military tactic adapted to
the specific conditions of an urbanized, colonized working
class population. Its intent is to contain Blacks within
designated, limited and ghettoized geographic areas. Once
racially profiled, or identified as being outside of those
areas, the police assume the right to shoot, beat and kill
on sight. On the other hand, there are street units, made
up of undercover paramilitary thugs, who patrol Black
neighborhoods under the guise of seeking out drug dealers
and criminals, but whose primary mission is to intimidate,
assault and murder innocent working class Black people. The
intent, once again, is to contain and limit the movements
of Blacks. New York City’s street units have been the most
violent and murderous. These methods led to the brutal
murder of the West African immigrant Amadou Diallo. On other
occasions open torture is used. Haitian immigrant Abner
Louima was brutally tortured in a Brooklyn New York police
precinct. Pepper spray, tear gas, choke holds and other
paramilitary methods are used to subdue law-abiding
citizens merely because they are suspected of a crime.

It is estimated that more than 2,000 Black and Latino
civilians were murdered by police officers in the 1990’s.
To understand the full impact of these killings they must
be combined with the three strikes and you’re out measures,
which have put thousands of non-violent offenders in jail
for life. Black folk, who make up 13% of the US population,
constitute 55% of those in prison. On any single day over
50% of young African men in our major urban centers are in
jail or under the control of the criminal justice system.

Scientific racist scholarship has emerged to justify police
violence against Blacks. These studies, such as the Bell
Curve, argue that behavior, such as intelligence and
criminality, are genetically determined. Blacks, they
insist, are genetically coded to commit violent crimes
and are thus beyond the bounds of civil society and civil
rights. The police and other societal forces of repression
must, therefore, control them. Corporate sponsored pop
culture, such as gangster rap and the genre of Hollywood
films known as Black exploitation films, stereotype Black
youth as lazy thugs and criminals, thereby rationalizing
police violence against them.

The dramatic rise of Black men in prison has shocked the
world. We now witness the distressing rise of women and
children behind bars. This is exacerbated by the growing
trend to try children as adults and to even execute persons
who committed crimes before they were legally adults.
Furthermore, the prisons are being transformed into
factories for cheap slave labor. This has led to the
rise of a prison industrial economy.

The death penalty is a uniquely racist instrument of the
forces of reaction that are arrayed against Black people.
African American men constitute 45% of those on death row,
although they are but 6% of the population. All white juries
have convicted close to 40% of Black death row inmates.
Disbarred, inexperienced and unqualified lawyers have
represented most of them. Most have been convicted on
the basis of the flimsiest evidence.

Increasingly, the death penalty is being used as a political
weapon to silence politically outspoken African Americans
like Shaka Sankofa and Mumia Abu Jamal. This is, indeed, an
ominous development. The Republican nominee for President,
George W. Bush, has overseen the executions of 137 people,
most Black and Latino, many undoubtedly completely innocent.
The execution of Shaka Sankofa is viewed by legal scholars
and observers of the death penalty as a public lynching; a
form of state sponsored terrorism.

As the situation of police assaults on Blacks increases
new laws have been placed on the books that undermine the
constitutional protections from, or redress for police
brutality and murder. The courts and criminal justice system
have become universal devices to repress and re-enslave
Africans in America. The most endangered group is death row
inmates. The Affective Death Penalty Act of 1996 narrows the
door to federal appeals for wrongful convictions. It under-
mines habeas corpus. It speeds up the death process for poor
and Black people. New judicial procedures and laws are a
return to the form of law and order institutionalized in
the infamous Black Codes that arose after the Civil War and
were enforced by the KKK. A profound transformation of the
architecture of the law is occurring. Changes which portend
profound danger for black people and the possibilities of
democracy in the United States.

Along with this is the continuing presence of COINTELPRO
type surveillance of political activists. Hundreds of Black
Panthers, Black Liberation Army, civil rights and other
activists from the 1960’s and 1970’s languish in prisons for
crimes they are innocent of. Jeromino Ji Jaga Pratt spent 27
years in a California jail in a FBI frame-up. Assata Shakur,
among others, remains in exile. Mumia Abu Jamal is a heroic
symbol of the imprisonment of political activists and
revolutionaries. Tens of our leaders like Medgar Evers,
Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated.
Growing evidence points to government conspiracies in
their deaths.

When added up these are violations of the human rights of
African Americans on a massive scale. It is our contention
that they warrant serious consideration under Chapter VII
of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, as well as other treaties that uphold and protect
human rights.

Our appeal is made because of the dangerous situation posed
to the lives and wellbeing of Black as a consequence of
these human rights violations. We contend they constitute
a form of genocide as defined under international law.
Imprisonment, police brutality and murder, criminalization,
disease, functional illiteracy, social and cultural
marginalization, police military occupation of African
American communities are variables which separately or
in combination over one or more generations could imperil
Black collective existence, as well as our primary social
institutions, such as the church and family.

It is not news that the political situation in the US
has moved dangerously to the right. Both Democrats and
Republicans are right wing. The police state measures and
terror targeted on Black folk have given rise to fascistic
elements within each party, but in particular in the
Republican Party. The law and order slogans of each party is
coded language for a dictatorship of terror and repression
against Black folk. These forces of repression rely upon
legal, extra-legal and illegal measures against the Black
community. Along side these developments is the rise of
fascist and nazi paramilitary organizations that express
admiration for Adolph Hitler and the KKK. Pennsylvania
leads the nation in the sheer number of these groups.

The appearance of fascism and ultra-rightwing forces at
the highest levels of the major political parties and within
the government and the Courts, as well as armed paramilitary
groups whose members number in the hundreds of thousands, is
not just a threat to Black folk in the US, but to democracy
in the world and to international peace and security.

We are appealing for emergency action on the part of the
world community to act to interrupt and reverse this growing
and ominous threat to the lives and well being of Black
folk. We make this appeal not just on our behalf, but on
behalf of world peace. We look first and foremost to Asia
and Africa, who like us have experienced racial, colonial
and neo-colonial oppression.

We repeat, we foresee a horrific human tragedy if concerted
international action is not forthcoming. Black folk live
under a regime of terror in their communities and homes.
Seldom does this terror intrude into the lives of White
America. They, therefore, support the police and courts. In
this respect there is a crucial political disconnect between
Black and White opinion. A separation that bespeaks an
apartheid/neo-colonial reality. Whites, generally, enjoy
bourgeois freedoms and liberties, within the structures
of US capitalism. Africans Americans are politically and
legally marginalized and under assault. Hence, while most
White Americans deny any affinity with racism and racial
discrimination, their social and political practice belies
a profound investment in the oppression of Black folk and
the continuance of white supremacy.

On the eve of the Republican Convention a Black man was shot
five times then viciously beaten by a gang of Philadelphia
cops. Pictures of it, like the Rodney King beating, went
around the world, painting a live and dramatic portrait
of the Black condition in Philadelphia. A few days later
a homeless and mentally ill man was shot to death in the
city’s main train station. The brutal reputation of the
Philadelphia police is well documented. In the 1970’s the
US Justice Department took control of the Department due to
its documented racial discrimination and brutality. In 1985
they firebombed a Black neighborhood and murdered 11 people,
including five children. In recent years a 19 year old,
Donata Dawson, was shot while sitting in his car. Police
murdered a twenty-six year old worker, Erin Forbes; stopping
him on suspicious of a minor crime. Philadelphia is but
a microcosm of police treatment of Blacks nation wide.
Rather than aberrant behavior this brutality and murder is
government policy. Testament to this is that cops are seldom
if ever convicted of their crimes. As was the case in the
Amadou Diallo case prosecutors and the attorneys for the
cops conspire to prevent guilty verdicts.

We believe the authorities have declared war on Black
people. This war begins with politicians, policy makers and
judges at the highest levels of government and are carried
out on the street level by police departments. The major
political parties are complicit, neither opposes police
brutality, each supports more police, law and order
policies, police “get tough” tactics and more prisons.

The conscience of the world must be awakened to our plight.
We call upon humanity to speak out on our behalf. This human
calamity which is occurring to Africans in America portends
disaster for humanity. We make our appeal on the basis of
humanity, mutuality, human decency and peace. We cannot wait.

African Americans have stood and fought along side all
progressive and freedom seeking forces throughout the world.
We have stood shoulder to shoulder with Afro-Asiatic and
Latin American liberation struggles. We stood with India
against British colonialism. We heralded the Chinese
Revolution. We were with Nkrumah of Ghana, Azikwe of
Nigeria, Kenyatta of Kenya and Castro of Cuba. We stood firm
and actively opposed Portuguese colonialism, white settler
rule in Zimbabwe and South Africa’s annexation of Namibia.
We were among the first to raise the cry “Free Nelson
Mandela and All South African Political Prisoners”. We
demonstrated and fought for sanctions against the apartheid
regime. We now call upon humanity to come to our assistance
in this dark hour of our resistance.

*Statement Endorsers/Coalition Members include:

Sisters Supporting Sisters
Black Radical Congress, Philadelphia
African Peoples Solidarity Committee
Black Women Defense – Million Woman March
National Peoples Democratic UHURU Movement
National African Liberation Front — Dec. 12th
African American Freedom and Reconstruction League
Caribbean American Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
Int’l Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal/MOVE
Nat’l Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA)

About Anthony Monteiro

I am a activist and scholar who is a professor in the Department of African American Studies at Temple University.
This entry was posted in Black Oppression, AIDS, Poverty and Unemployment. Bookmark the permalink.

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