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What happens when a nation has no conscience?
Even as the country is grappling with the fact that two Black men were killed by White police officers within 48 hours of each other, so many people in positions of power have said little, if anything.
As some were trying to deal with the tragic shooting death of Alton Sterling, we were jolted yet another time as we watched the Facebook “Live” account of the shooting death of Philando Castile in Minnesota. Police stopped this man’s car because he had a broken taillight and Castile, trying to conform to expectations of police when stopped, apparently did everything right, yet a police officer shot him multiple times. As he moaned, his body bloodied and his arm severely mangled, his girlfriend “told the story” of what happened. To make matters worse, the girlfriend was ordered out of the car, told to keep her hands up, was handcuffed and put into a police car, and her 4-year-old daughter was taken away in a separate patrol car.
In the case of Sterling, his 15-year-old son broke down as his mother tried to give an account to the media of what happened. He didn’t cry. He sobbed. Audibly. His anguish was palpable.
And the powers that be have said little, if anything. They are more concerned about Hillary Clinton’s emails than they are about the lives of two people snuffed out by what looks to be reckless police behavior. There has been no outpouring of concern or compassion by political leaders.
It is curiously painful to me how this nation treats people of color, how the majority population still treats people of African descent, as though they really are only a fraction of a human being. Part of the reason so many Blacks are killed by police as compared to Whites is because Whites operate in a bubble of White supremacy that makes them automatically denounce and denigrate Black people and treat them like objects without feelings.
Police didn’t see 12-year-old Tamir Rice as a young kid, nor did they treat Eric Garner like he was a human being. On the other hand, they took care to take Dylann Roof, who massacred nine people in a church in South Carolina, to a Burger King to get something to eat before they took him to the police station to be booked for murder.
Any nation whose majority population can look at a wife or mother tell a heartbreaking story of unfair stop and seizure, which cannot relate to the cries of a young, 4-year-old child trying to comfort her distraught mother, who cannot understand that people of color are in fact human beings with feelings, has no conscience, and a nation without a conscience is bound to ultimately fall and fail.
Germans during the Holocaust looked at Jewish people not as people but as objects, objects that obstructed the will of the Anglo-Saxons. Consequently, Germans were able to indiscriminately kill millions of people. They could do that because they didn’t consider the Jewish people to be human; they were “things,” and things are made to be disposed of.
This nation had a conscience problem from the beginning, as it worked to extricate Native Americans from the land that was theirs. Our American ancestors thought nothing of engaging in projects o extermination, not any less abhorrent than that in which the Germans engaged hundreds of years later, and they have never been concerned with what their hatred and bigotry has done to the African American population of America. There is no conscience working in the realm and world of White supremacy. The only way White Americans have been to live as they have, denying American citizens their rights and humane treatment, is by them seeing people of African descent not as people, but objects to be used and manipulated.
I do not hear enough remorse or horror at what happened to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. I have not heard news reports expressing horror over the pain of the children of these two slain men. I have not felt the outrage, actually that I felt when the gorilla who roughed up a little boy who somehow fell into his pen, had to be killed. I didn’t feel empathy for the pain Trayvon Martin’s mother must have felt, or empathy for the parents and families of Jordan Davis or Rekia Boyd or Tamir Rice …or any of the others who were slain by police officers.
The lack of empathy worries me. It worries me because it is resulting in a nation that is “failing to thrive.” When a baby is born, it must be loved, touched, connected with – in order to properly develop. If that connection does not happen, the baby can and often does, die. In this nation, people of color have been ignored, abandoned, shunned, ignored and dehumanized. It is the job of a nation to take care of all of its citizens. America has not done that, and it surely has not embraced African American people, no matter how young they might be.
Any nation that is that callous has no conscience, and I am afraid that this very lack of conscience will lead to America’s ultimate downfall.
Rev. Susan K Smith is an ordained minister who lives in Columbus, Ohio. She is the author of several books, including “Crazy Faith: Ordinary People; Extraordinary Lives” and “The Book of Jeremiah: The Life and Ministry of Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. She is available to preach or do keynote addresses. Reach her by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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