The product of fear —
When we allow fear to influence our direction in life and what we do, we lose sight of what “humanity” should lead us in doing.
Fear — an unpleasant emotion or thought that you have when you are frightened or worried by something dangerous, painful, or bad that is happening or might happen: (From the Cambridge English Dictionary — cambridge.org)
Fear — a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid. (From dictionary.com)
Fear — an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger (From Merriam-Webster.com)
“Perfect love (unconditional love — my paraphrase) casts out fear.”
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (I John 4:18 NIV)
Now, that the definition has been addressed and a biblical concept has been made, let’s look at what fear has done in our nation.
From the beginning — when the first colonists came to this country — they allowed fear of the Native Inhabitants to influence their decisions and actions. The Native Inhabitants were different — they looked different and had different customs — therefore, they must be “dangerous.” At least that’s the attitude taken when human beings were slaughtered because they didn’t look like or act like the invaders. Never mind the fact that those same “dangerous human beings” helped the first colonists to survive in this land. When the “killing stopped” of the Native Inhabitants, the white people restricted them the most barren lands and forced them into reservations, without thought as to how they would survive. They did and now the United States Government has acknowledged the Native Inhabitants and attempted in some ways to amend the damage done through various laws and policies. Let’s never forget this one — very important fact — the Native Inhabitants were here in this land — FIRST.
Moving on to 1619 — when the first slaves from Africa arrived on these shores (and possibly before they left the continent of Africa) — they looked different, had a different language and did things differently. But white slave owners didn’t care about the fact that bringing them to a strange land would make them unable to comprehend what was expected of them since they didn’t speak the language. So, what did the white slave owners do? They beat the slaves into submission without ever considering what they were doing to other human beings.
Thankfully, the Civil War helped to end slavery when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but it did little to assuage the fear white people had of black folks. Before 1864, there were more black and Native slaves than white people so they made unfair and horrendous laws to maintain control over them (minority rule). Afterwards, during Reconstruction, some white people continued to mistreat and abuse black people, especially the poor, uneducated white people who later made up a large percentage of the “white hate groups.”
Looking back at history and truly understanding the “fear” white people have of black folks is evident in how they continually tore down and destroyed anything black people as a community attempted to build:
The Atlanta Race Riot
Hoke Smith was a former publisher of the Atlanta Journal and Clark Howell was the editor of the Atlanta Constitution. Both candidates used their influence to incite white voters and help spread the fear that whites may not be able to maintain the current social order.
The Atlanta Georgian and the Atlanta News began publishing stories about white women being molested and raped by Black men. These allegations were reported multiple times and were largely false.
On Sept. 22, 1906, Atlanta newspapers reported four alleged assaults on local white women. Soon, some 10,000 white men and boys began gathering, beating, and stabbing Blacks. It is estimated that there were between 25 and 40 African-American deaths; it was confirmed that there were only two white deaths.
Greenwood — Tulsa, Oklahoma — (Black Wall Street)
The neighborhood was destroyed during a riot that broke out after a group men from Greenwood attempted to protect a young Black man from a lynch mob. On the night of May 31, 1921, a mob called for the lynching of Dick Rowland, a Black man who shined shoes, after reports spread that on the previous day he had assaulted Sarah Page, a white woman, in the elevator she operated in a downtown building.
In the early morning hours of June 1, 1921, Black Tulsa was looted, firebombed from the air and burned down by white rioters. The governor declared martial law, and National Guard troops arrived in Tulsa. Guardsmen assisted firemen in putting out fires, removed abducted African-Americans from the hands of white vigilantes, and imprisoned all Black Tulsans, not already confined, into a prison camp at the Convention Hall and the Fairgrounds, some for as long as eight days.
In the wake of the violence, 35 city blocks lay in charred ruins, over 800 people were treated for injuries and estimated 300 deaths occurred.
Chicago Race Riots (1919)
Termed “Red Summer.” On July 27, 1919, an African-American teenager drowned in Lake Michigan after he challenged the unofficial segregation of Chicago’s beaches and was stoned by a group of white youths.
His death, and the police refusal to arrest the men who caused it, sparked a week of race rioting between Black and white Chicagoans, with Black neighborhoods receiving the worst of the damage.
Rosewood Massacre (1923)
Spurred by unsupported accusations that a white woman in Sumner had been beaten and possibly raped by a Black drifter, white men from a number of nearby towns lynched a Rosewood resident. When the Black citizens defended themselves against further attack, several hundred whites combed the countryside hunting Black people and burning almost every structure in Rosewood.
Washington, DC Race Riots (1919)
However, Washington’s Black community was then the largest and most prosperous in the country, with a small but impressive upper class of teachers, ministers, lawyers and businessmen concentrated in the LeDroit Park neighborhood near Howard University.
By the time the “Red Summer” was underway, unemployed whites bitterly envied the relatively few blacks who were fortunate enough to procure low-level government jobs. Many whites also resented the influx of African-Americans into previously segregated neighborhoods around Capitol Hill, Foggy Bottom and the old downtown.
In July 1919, white men, many in military uniforms, responded to the rumored arrest of a Black man for rape with four days of mob violence. They rioted, randomly beat Black people on the street and pulled others off streetcars in attacks. When police refused to intervene, the Black population fought back.
Detroit Race Riot of 1943 (detroithistorical.org)
Like the successive rebellion that would erupt 24 years later, the Detroit Race Riot of 1943 was deeply rooted in racism, poor living conditions and unequal access to goods and services. The apparent industrial prosperity that made Detroit the “Arsenal of Democracy” masked a deeper social unrest that erupted during the summer of 1943. The KKK was active in the region and riots had already broken out in other cities.
Before and during World War II, workers migrated north to seek factory employment in such vast numbers that Detroit was incapable of adequately receiving them. Because black Detroiters were still treated as second class citizens, they suffered disproportionately from wartime rationing and the overall strains on the city. Factories offered employment but not housing, and because whites violently defended the borders of their segregated neighborhoods, black residents had little choice but to suffer in repulsive living conditions.
Detroit’s 200,000 black residents were marginalized into small, subdivided apartments that often housed multiple families. They were crammed into sixty square blocks on the city’s east side, an area ironically known as Paradise Valley.
Knoxville, TN Race Riot (1919)
In August 1919, a race riot in Knoxville, Tenn., broke out after a white mob mobilized in response to a Black man accused of murdering a white woman. The 5,000-strong mob stormed the county jail searching for the prisoner. They freed 16 white prisoners, including suspected murderers.
After looting the jail and sheriff’s house, the mob moved on and attacked the African-American business district. Many of the city’s Black residents, aware of the race riots that had occurred across the country that summer, had armed themselves, and barricaded the intersection of Vine and Central to defend their businesses.
Two platoons of the Tennessee National Guard’s 4th Infantry led by Adjutant General Edward Sweeney arrived, but they were unable to halt the chaos. The mob broke into stores and stole firearms and other weapons on their way to the Black business district. Upon their arrival the streets erupted in gunfire as Black snipers exchanged fire with both the rioters and the soldiers. The Tennessee National Guard at one point fired two machine guns indiscriminately into the neighborhood, eventually dispersing the rioters.
New York City Draft Riot (1863)
The Draft Riot of 1863 was a four-day eruption of violence in New York City during the Civil War stemming from deep worker discontent with the inequities of the first federally mandated conscription laws.
In addition, the white working class feared that emancipation of enslaved Blacks would cause an influx of African-American workers from the South. In many instances, employers used Black workers as strike-breakers during this period. Thus, the white rioters eventually turned their wrath on the homes and businesses of innocent African-Americans and anything else symbolic of their growing political, economic and social power.
The East St. Louis Massacre (1917)
During spring 1917 Blacks were arriving in St. Louis at the rate of 2,000 per week, with many of them finding work at the Aluminum Ore Company and the American Steel Company in East St. Louis.
Some whites feared loss of job and wage security because of the new competition, and further resented newcomers arriving from a rural, very different culture. Tensions between the groups ran high and escalated when rumors were spread about Black men and white women socializing at labor meetings.
In May, 3,000 white men gathered in downtown East St. Louis. The roving mob began burning buildings and attacking Black people. The Illinois governor called in the National Guard to prevent further rioting and conditions eased somewhat for a few weeks.
Then on July 1, white men driving a car through a Black neighborhood began shooting into houses, stores, and a church. A group of Black men organized themselves to defend against the attackers. As they gathered, they mistook an approaching car for the same one that had earlier driven through the neighborhood and they shot and killed both men in the car, who were, in fact, police detectives sent to calm the situation.
Of course, we could go on for decades describing the indignities and inhumane treatment suffered by black people at the hands of white people and all because of their fear of black people. After the Reconstruction Era, fear motivated Jim Crow Laws which further limited the mobility and potential of black folks. All of this is documented in so many places that it would entail writing a book to list it all. But let’s take another look, with a microscopic perspective at events in recent decades — the killing of black males and females by white police officers. Without going into great detail about what is readily known and has been recently portrayed in the review of the practices of police officers who appear to not think twice about shooting a black person (suspect), but will go out of their way to treat known white killers with dignity and humaneness. Why? Fear of black people motivates the unjust use of force and eventual deaths.
I’m not trying to relitigate the deaths of all those who died at the hands of police officers who appear to have racial bias. That would take too long and not many would read it, but I am trying to show how “fear” in the absence of love, leads to disastrous results. Until we learn how to love, unconditionally, all human beings (that’s not to say we have to agree with them), we will continue to see the ravages of human life at the hands of those who are fearful and promote fear to inflame others. What the world — especially those of us in America — needs more than anything else is “love” and understanding. Where there is no understanding of the experiences of another, we tend to fertilize fear with fearmongering and that has to stop.