An Open Letter to White America: ‘If you do what you always did, you’ll continue to get what you always got.’

As this nation awakes from what was for the vast majority of its African-American citizens a tenuous slumber, there should be no doubt that America most certainly did not enter into a post-race period as many alleged with the WEBelection of Barack Hussein Obama. Clearly, W.E.B. Du Bois admonishment that “the problem of the twentieth-century is the problem of the color line” is holding sway into the new millennium.

One of the most revealing aspects of this nation is the reality that there are multiple Americas being experienced by a racially diverse and class-stratified citizenry. The noted public intellectual Andrew Hacker’s manuscript, Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal, published in 2003, illuminated this issue. Despite the best efforts of the more privileged segments of this society to deny this reality, the truth remains that neither I, nor my eleven year old son, live in the same America that our average white male peers navigate.

As innumerable scholars have shown in their studies, it is psychologically difficult and morally exasperating to be ‘Black’ in America. It is a struggle that not even those living in close proximity are able to comprehend or kkk2sympathize with. Unfortunately for African-Americans, time does absolutely nothing to lessen the affect of race and racism within this nation; the racial divide is apparently here to stay. A poll conducted by CNN/ORC prior to the Ferguson Grand Jury decision verified this reality with the following findings.

  • 54% of nonwhites say Wilson should be charged with murder
  • 23% of whites say Wilson should be charged with murder
  • 38% of whites say Wilson should not be charged with any crime
  • 85% of nonwhites say Wilson should be charged with a crime
  • 19% of whites said some or most police officers are prejudiced against blacks
  • 67% of nonwhites believe that most police officers are not prejudiced
  • 50% of all whites say that “almost none” or “none” of the police in their areas are prejudiced against blacks
  • 65% of nonwhites disagreed with the above view.

These findings reminded me of an earlier mid-1960s Gallup Poll conducted in the Bay Area, the birthplace of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. The study revealed a racially divided Bay Area over a half-century ago. The alluded to poll revealed a hopelessly separate and unequal Bay Area, one portion occupied by poor African-Americans and the other by wealthy and politically powerful whites.

  • African-Americans were five times more likely to believe allegations of police brutality than white residents.
  • African-American youth were nine times more likely to believe in occurrences of police misconduct, particularly brutality, than the average white citizen.

The National Commission on the Cause and Prevention of Violence, published in 1968, shed light upon nation wide problems occurring between African-Americans and law enforcement personnel.

“For the black citizen, the policeman has long since ceased to be a neutral symbol of law and order…blacks perceive the police as hostile, Charliprejudiced, and corrupt…Many ghetto Blacks see the police as an occupying army…In view of these facts, the adoption of the idea of self-defense is not surprising.”

The head of the Oakland Police Department Welfare Association declared that African-Americans’ unceasing agitation for a citizen review board related a “deep suspicion of our entire system of government since the advocates, by asking for a review board, are saying that they are unable to obtain justice through normal established democratic processes.”

Unbeknownst to our white contemporaries, this issue of police brutality has been as much a hallmark of American history as ‘Apple pie.’ So white America, please forgive us if we have no faith in the ability of a particular Grand Jury system or the entire judicial system to offer a modicum of justice for African-American victims; we have become used to it, not necessarily desensitized to the occurrence of grave miscarriages of justice.

We only ask that you, and your kind, honor the popular saying of ‘if you do what you always did, you’re gonna get what you always got.’ Impoverished African-Americans are simply following your lead and expressing decades of personal frustration and collective anger upon this nation in response to the racial injustice lynch2that you feel so comfortable doling out to them. As they have repeatedly stated, “no justice, no peace.” As usual, the ball is in white America’s court and as long as they continue to serve no justice, the African-American masses will return their service with a volley of no peace.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III


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