Election of a black president in the US has failed to help the the black community in the country to revive their rights.
An African-American pastor based in the city of Baltimore, Maryland tells Fars News Agency that even the election of Barack Obama as the first black President of the United States hasn’t alleviated America’s racial problems and woes.
“Don’t think that the election of a black man as President of the United States somehow alleviates and eradicates the United States racial problems, or that somehow the nation has dealt with racism – it certainly has not,” said Graylan Scott Hagler in an interview with FNA.
“In the United States, institutional racism that creates policies both formally and informally that discriminate and penalize because of race cause those who are the victims of racism to be ones denied opportunities,” he noted.
Reverend Graylan Hagler is Senior Minister of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, Washington, D.C. He received a Masters of Divinity degree from the Chicago Theological Seminary.
Mr. Hagler has served on the Steering and Administrative Committee of United for Peace and Justice, a national coalition working to oppose the radical and aggressive aspects of the US foreign policy. He is the former Development Director of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, a non-profit organization registered with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development responsible for helping the homeless people to find affordable places for living.
Father Hagler spoke to Fars News Agency about the reemergence of racism in the United States and the role of public advocacy in downgrading discrimination against the ethnic minorities, particularly the African-Americans.
Q: The recent uprising in the city of Baltimore following the mysterious death of Freddie Gray has received widespread worldwide attention. Do you think that public protest against anti-black discrimination and police brutality can change the calculus and moderate discrimination towards the African-Americans?
A: Public protest has always been a tool of change. Public Protest challenges the status quo and demonstrates that there is a price, both economic and political for protecting the status quo. In Baltimore, the protest brought special attention onto the grievances surrounding Freddie Gray and the prosecutor and local politicians responded to the energy and activity of the activists. We need to continue with this kind of pressure not only here in the United States but around the world.
Q: Virtually every few months, and even weeks, reports emerge out of the media outlets in the United States that an unarmed black man has been killed by the police cops. How is it possible to account for this kind of practice by the US law enforcement apparatus?
A: The police are using forces excessively. This however is not new. This has been an ongoing and historical practice in the United States; the difference right now however is that there is a plethora of electronic recording devices and something is more apt to be recorded.
Q: In some countries, certain groups of people are socially considered as more inclined to commit crimes and public offenses, and there’s usually an atmosphere of distrust around them. It seems that it’s the case with the blacks in the United States, and the law enforcement authorities usually become more suspicious towards the African-American citizens in the public, even while they’re not really committing any wrongdoing. Is that so? How is it possible to correct the universal image of the blacks, especially now that the US President is an African-American?
A: Don’t think that the election of a black man as President of the United States somehow alleviates and eradicates the United States racial problems, or that somehow the nation has dealt with racism – it certainly has not. In the United States, institutional racism that creates policies both formally and informally that discriminate and penalize because of race cause those who are the victims of racism to be ones denied opportunities. These opportunities include quality and effective education, decent housing, employment, and opportunities in general. This means that as large segments of the community are unemployed and poor, police engage those communities more brutally in order to attempt to pre-empt unrest. In the cases of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray, it resulted in creating the unrest it was designed to preempt.
Q: Do you think there’s an ideology of white supremacy which rules the American society? Some of the protesters who organized rallies in Baltimore and also the Million Moms March in Washington D.C. in the recent weeks demanded the US government and the judicial body to end “white privilege.” Is there really a white privilege that troubles the African-Americans?
A: The visages of white privilege and white supremacy are a reality in the United States. This country was built on chattel slavery, and this division by race resulted in institutions and individuals growing rich because of the human misery resulting from enslavement. When slavery was outlawed in rural areas of the country, a share-cropper system was created to keep blacks tied to the land and indebted to the landowner and therefore remaining slaves de facto. Jim Crow or segregation was instituted in order to maintain a system of ruler and subject [or] white and black; whereas even if you were a poor white, you felt relief relishing in the fact that at least you weren’t black!
Q: How do the young black Americans see their future? Are they optimistic that future holds promising changes for them, respect for their civil rights and liberties, and an end to the prejudice that jeopardizes their security and wellbeing? A young African-American girl has just told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman that her only wish is to be able to survive beyond 18. Does this indicate that the young blacks are alienated and disappointed?
A: Young blacks are alienated, but this alienation is a good thing because maybe less will be attracted to the mindless consumerism and tokens of opulence that competes for our attention at the expense of the work for justice. Now it is clear that we must be vigilant, demanding, protesting and struggling in order to make from the United States of America what it deceptively promises to be.
Q: What’s the role of the US President in eliminating different sorts of discrimination against and mistreatment of the blacks, especially at the hand of the police cops? Is he really intent upon addressing this national concern?
A: The President has little or no power in this regard and particularly as a black President. This President has been fighting the humiliation and insults in his office that the white power structure has hurled his way, and therefore he has faced in a very different way similar insults and attacks faced by brothers and sisters in the neighborhoods. His insults have not however been as deadly or brutalizing as to what takes place in the community every day.