The myth of black inferiority has and continues to plague the Americas, resulting in the suppression and denial of the African influence in the Americas prior to Columbus’ trip in 1492. There is overwhelmingly convincing evidence that not only names Africa as the birthplace of modern human beings but also as the birthplace of civilization and of technology far ahead of its time. Civilizations such as the Olmecs, though they have numerous similarities which seem to connect them to Africa, many scholars, primarily latino scholars, have unsuccessfully attempted to discredit the theory that Africans came to the Americas before Colombus, which helps explain the striking similarities between Egyptian culture and Mesoamerican culture. According to Michel N. Laham, M.D. and Richard J. Karam, J.D., in their informative essay, “Did the Pheonicians Discover America?,” claim that evidence shows that there were actually two trips made to the Americas long before Colombia. The first of the two trips was taken circa 600 BC, by the Egyptian Pharoah, Necho with the aid of the sea faring Phoenicians. The second trip took place circa 450 BC by the Carthaginians, however, these voyages have for some reason been excluded for the traditional history books. This, however, comes as no surprise considering the fact that much of the overwhelmingly convincing evidence that ties Native American civilization to Africa are suppressed. Genetic trees were recently produced which prove that the entire human population descends from an African female that the media named ‘Eve’ and geneticists subsequently found that same for the male they named ‘Adam.’ Since the introduction of the ‘Adam and Eve’ genetic trees, they have also been used to determine, in the first exodus, the routes the early Africans took out of Africa.
The Costa Chica region, near the Gulf of Mexico, is the area in Mexico with the highest population of Mexicans with African roots. This is primarily due to the fact that Veracruz, a city in the area, served as a slave port throughout the early colonial period, however, there is sufficient evidence to prove that the African presence preceded the colonization of America by the Europeans. Some evidence introduced by Ivan Van Sertima in his article entitled, “Presence in Early America: Van Setrima’s Address to the Smithsonian,” to support this claim would include: ancient monuments, such as the Olmec Heads (statues with African features), pyramids with kings buried inside as they were in Egypt and dark figurines made to look exactly as some of the mummies were in early Egypt (with arms crossed over chest, fingers spread and ribs outlined) as well as a sculpture of an Olmec women form Xochipali in pre-Christain Mexico, approximately 3000 years old and with African headdress and ear-pendents (41).The Gulf of Mexico, the end-point of the currents that flow from Africa to the Americas, was the coastline upon which Olmec civilization, considered to be the “mother-culture” of America, thrived. Sertima reports that in 1964, the International Congress of Americanists argued “There cannot now be any doubt but that there were visitors from the Old World to the New before 1492.” To support this claim, in 1858 an enormous stone head was discovered and described as having “Africoid” features. Upon further examination, this head was discovered to have seven braids (signifying African headdress). Brian Smith, in his scholarly essay, “African Influence in the Music of Mexico’s Costa Chica Region,” further supports the claim of the suppression of the African influence on Mesoamerican civilization and notes how the European and Indigenous contributions in Native American folk songs are thoroughly celebrated, but the instruments with African influence are not as highly publicized. Of those instruments are the marímbola, the quijada and the tambor de fricción. This serves as just another example of the suppression of the African contribution to Mesoamerican culture and tradition.
Discrimination in Latin America is also widespread and prevalent. John Logan, in his educational research paper, “How Race counts for Hispanic Americans,” places Hispanic people in three categories: Hispanic Hispanics, Black Hispanics and White Hispanics. He reports that Black Africans are significantly more subject to discrimination, especially in major Latin American cities. He also stated that they live in more densely populated neighborhoods with similar conditions to non-Hispanic blacks. According to John Mitchell’s Los Angeles Times article, “Mexico’s Black History is Often Ignored,” Mitchell writes that Mexicans are a “mixed race,” and states “but it’s the mixture of indigenous and European heritage that most Mexicans embrace; the African legacy is overlooked.” This only further solidifies the theory of discrimination and the myth of black inferiority in Latin America.
Black inferiority is a notion so prevalent in America that mulattoes (people of mixed, black and white descent) are looked down upon and in Dr. David Pilgrim’s Ferris State University article, “The Tragic Mulatto Myth,” there are many examples of mulattoes, specifically females, portrayed in the media as unhappy and anxious to have a white lover, which would ultimately lead to their downfall. There are also other instances where a mulatto woman who could pass for white would have her secret exposed and commit suicide, other women were painted as seductresses and mulatto men were portrayed by the media as rapists who had both the “greed and ambition” of the white man combined with the “savagery and barbarism” of the black man. Once again, the myth is black inferiority is enforced and the black condition exacerbated by the media. With such vile conceptions of Africans, the question arises, if African history and Africa’s contributions to society and the world were celebrated, would discrimination and mass incarceration of blacks be so prevalent? The obvious answer yes, however a lot of work still needs to be done in order to correct the wrongs inflicted upon Africans in America and beyond and a lot of effort will be needed to rewrite an accurate representation of the history of mankind.
Chicago advertising legend Tom Burrell, in his book, Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority, argues that the subliminal promotion of White superiority and black inferiority has been the biggest and most successful marketing campaign in history. (5) Burrell, leading into the first chapter of the book, quotes W.E.B. Du Bois’ statement:
But in the propaganda against the Negro since emancipation in this land, we face one of the most stupendous efforts the world ever saw to discredit human beings, an effort involving universities, history, science, social life and religion. (1)
With black inferiority being so widespread and prevalent in the Americas, it comes as no surprise that one would want to disconnect themselves from their African lineage and would rather their history be considered “home-grown” or indigenous. Burrell can be quoted in the Dawn Turner Trice’s Chicago Tribune article, “Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority”, when he stated “we have to understand that images, symbols and words can be so powerful and ubiquitious that they affect behavior without us knowing it.” This just goes to show the subconscious effect of propaganda on our society and the way people are perceived and prejudged. Burrell, in his book also writes of the low expectations African Americans, due to propaganda have of themselves and other African American and how even the images of successful black figures can serve to support these thought patterns. He writes that successful black figures being put in the spotlight are seen as “exceptions to the rule”, and further accentuates the myth of a post-racial society by creating the illusion that anyone can succeed, Burrell calls this the “paradox of progress.” The common misconception of a post-racial society combined with propagandized images of African-Americans serve to subconsciously preserved the myth of black inferiority and to preserve the subconscious aspect of discrimination and inequality in todays society.
Wilma A Dunaway, in her scholarly article, “The African-American Family in Slavery and Emancipation,” argues that there has been a preposterous notion that slavery was a “paternal institution” that “civilized and Christianized” Africans and that they were somehow better off than many free northern workers due in part to the fact that they were “cared for” by their masters in their non-working hours and old age. However, much of the research surrounding the institution of slavery in the United States has been conducted by the examination of journals and diaries kept by slave owners and therefore is extremely biased to make the slave owners seem humane and the slaves to seem inferior in order to justify the ridiculous institution of slavery and to downplay the impact that it had and continues to have on people of African descent as well as the shaping of western society.
The ever-present propaganda campaign of white superiority and black inferiority, since slavery, has succeeded in rewriting history without its African roots and has continued to downplay Africa’s contribution to civilization and to the world as we know it. If Africa was more-so promoted as the birthplace of civilization and the beginning source of all sophisticated culture, the myth of black inferiority would be forced out of society because it would then be evident that we are all connected and ultimately, all African.
According to the United States Constitution, the First Amendment is written as follows:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (U.S. Const. amend. I)
There have been many cases in which video evidence has contradicted an officer’s testimony and either an officer was convicted of wrongdoing or a suspect’s charges have been overturned or dismissed. With this great lack of integrity and accountability of the very ones who are paid to uphold the law, it is imperative, in the interest of justice, that civilians’ right to record police be preserved rather than criminalized.
Gayle Falkenthal, in her Washington Times article, “All Journalism is Citizen Journalism,” reported that in the case, Glik v. Cunniffe, the court ruled that a citizen’s right to film government officials is protected by the First Amendment. Simon Glik, a client of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), was arrested for “illegal wiretapping” after he recorded threeree officers using force to arrest a young man on the Boston Common. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, on August 26, 2011, ruled that “”a private citizen’s right to videotape police officers performing their duties in a public space is ‘unambiguously’ protected by the First Amendment.”
Richard Winton, in his article, “Sheriff’s Department sued over detention of photographers,” made it clear that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the Los Angeles Sherriff’s Department on the behalf of the National Press Photographers Assn. and three photographers who were harassed, detained and illegally searched while legally taking pictures in public places. The senior staff attorney for the ACLU declared that “photography is not a crime” and that for the police “to single them out for such treatment while they’re pursuing a constitutionally protected activity is doubly wrong.”
Thomas Clouse and Meghann M. Cuniff, in their Spokesman newpaper article, report on one case in which an officer was convicted of wrongdoing after a store’s surveillance tapes told a different story than the officer in question. Spokane Officer, Karl F. Thompson Jr., claimed that Otto Zehm assaulted him in his 2006 encounter in which Zehm was beaten and tased into a coma from which he never recovered. Three years later the FBI launched a federal investigation and the jury, after review of the video evidence in contrast with Thompson’s statement, convicted Thompson of excessive force as well as lying to investigators. This is one case in which video footage has served to ensure that justice was served and that an officer did not completely get away with murder.
Another case in which video evidence has been used to convict an officer was the 2009 shooting of BART (San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit) rider, Oscar Grant by former BART PD Officer Johannes Mehserle. Although many people were outraged with the verdict and the amount of time Mehserle served in custody, it was video evidence from several onlookers’ cell phones that aided the prosecution in the historic involuntary manslaughter conviction. Johannes Mehserle was another case of a cop who almost got away with murder, as well as an officer who’s testimony contradicted the videos of the respective incidents and therefore, yet another reason filming government officials is rightfully protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Ammendment.
According to the May 27th 2011 press release of the San Francisco Public Defender, Officer Peter Richardson arrested Jesus Inastrilla and claimed that three undercover officers arrested Inastrilla after witnessing him spit a crack rock in his hand and sell it to Guerrero (one of the undercover officers), however, video footage shows that no exchange was made. The charges were dropped after Guerrero claimed that he could not locate the alleged seized drugs in evidence. The same day in San Francisco, 25 other cases were dropped due to lack of evidence, police credibility issues and a string of tapes with contradictory evidence to that of the statements of officers. With this lack of accountability and integrity of sworn SFPD officers, without cameras, there is no way of knowing whether or not an innocent person will be wrongfully convicted, therefore, the protection of civilians with cameras is absolutely necessary in the best interest of justice.
SF Examiner Staff Writer Brent Begin, in his article “San Francisco police to carry video cameras during arrests” implies that the misconduct of SF Police officers had become so prevalent and the controversy so widespread that SF Police Chief Greg Suhr proposed the idea of equipping SFPD officers with cameras to record their arrests (Specifically in drug cases and cases that require consent or a search warrant). These ideas come in the wake of the aforementioned string of videos. The officers involved in the arrests in question were all removed from plainclothes duty pending further investigation, however, Chief Suhr insists that the officers are innocent until proven guilty. Being an officer of the law requires a person hold themselves to a higher standard, and with their superior officers brushing such violations off in such a way, justice cannot possibly be served.
By exerting such abuses of authority, officers of the law make justice unattainable without the interference of good samaritans and “copwatchers” who record the cops’ often reckless and over the top behavior. Also, as in the cases of Mehserle and Guerrero, the American people cannot trust officers of the law to police themselves and their fellow officers because time and time again they have lied under oath and violated the rights of, and even killed civilians unlawfully and conspired amongst themselves to continue to sweep things under the rug. The right to film officers while performing their duties in a public space is rightfully protected by the First Amendment and in the best interest of justice, law enforcement agencies must immediately cease the criminalization of “copwatchers,” otherwise the United States government will be deemed to be in violation of its own constitution, the fundamental laws which establish the character of a nation.