Commentary: America is wide awake

By Francis A. Bethel III

This is in response to Hylton Phillips-Page’s commentary “Wake up, America!” (July 6).

Don’t link the Black Lives Matter and the antifa movements together. They are contrastingly two totally different entities with two distinct purposes. Antifa is a political protest movement comprising autonomous groups affiliated by their militant opposition to fascism and other forms of extreme right-wing ideology.

Black Lives Matter simply means what it stands for, which is Black lives need to be valued, esteemed, and looked upon as important and equal, which was written in the Declaration of Independence. The word “equal” does not apply to the vast majority of Black (people) in America today, and has not since the first slaves were kidnapped and brought here in 1619.

So much for the history lesson. Just because this country has had a Black president elected twice and some other Blacks have reaped the benefits of good living does not mean that it applies to all Blacks. Sadly, it doesn’t Besides everything that’s been going on with education, employment, housing, health care and voting oppression – which is all in direct correlation with discrimination – let’s talk about mass incarceration, which is the new Jim Crow.

Ever since the so-called war on drugs was manifested, U.S. prison populations have exploded. This country has more people in prison today than any other country and the majority of them are Black. Now that the police have been given the authority to stop and search anyone at any time and for any or no reason at all, Blacks are the main targets for these stop-and-frisks. It doesn’t matter where you are, whether you’re in a car, walking down the street in your own neighborhood or on your own property. This nonsense has been going on since the days of Nixon! Unfortunately, everyone else in government since then has taken the baton and run with it.

What’s going on now is not political but Trump has made it so, the way he’s made everything else political, including the coronavirus. This is why this country is doing far worse than a lot of other countries in containing the virus. The evidence of his failed leadership speaks volumes.

Back to my original point: Why do you think the majority of Americans get it now, Mr. Phillips-Page? Why do you think that a lot of people (Black, and yes, white) are protesting for change? This pandemic has torn the cover off and exposed this country of its transgressions.

Blacks are more likely to be stopped and more frequently than whites are. Blacks are more likely to be arrested than whites are. Blacks are more likely to be abused and murdered than whites are. Blacks are more likely to receive twice the sentencing for a minor, first-time drug offense than a white person is. These are facts. Contrary to what you believe, Blacks have not been treated fairly and equal to their white counterparts.

Whether you are white or Black, when you watch not one, but two, Black men get murdered by police on national television, it changes you on the inside, that is the ones that really care! As a case in point of the cop who shot Rayshard Brooks in the back twice, then kicked him while he was down on the ground and dying. This was not even a week after George Floyd’s funeral.  For this cop to kill Rayshard Brooks in the manner that he did – at a time when the whole world was protesting police privilege and brutality – was wrong. Everything that was going on meant nothing to him! That is a culture that has been embedded in the police system since the ’70s.

Slavery may be over, Jim Crow may be gone, but this is a whole new system of systemic racism that appears to be colorblind by choice. Thank God that the majority of Americans do get it. The majority of Americans do not want to go back to the good ol’ days of Jim Crow or slavery, and want to be unified and inclusive and diverse. The majority of Americans realize that we can accomplish more together than we can apart.

I really don’t know who this Republican Party is anymore. It’s not the party of Lincoln, not the party of Reagan. It’s not even the party of Nixon! They don’t stand for anything that’s in the best interest of the country or American people.

Their day of reckoning will come Nov. 3. The soul of our democracy is at stake in this upcoming election, make no mistake about it. It won’t matter if the American people will have to vote by mail or go to the polls. People are not going to stay home like they did in 2016. This current administration has shown us that if we all don’t stand for something, we’ll fall for anything. Until we can change the laws within our government, our cities, our state legislations – starting with holding police officers accountable for bad or intentional choices – we will keep going through the same cycles of oppression and discrimination.

The majority of America is wide-awake, Mr. Phillips-Page. Are you?

Francis A. Bethel III resides in Dover.