A View From the Grassroots
Tragic consequences of a culture of violence
By Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid, Deputy Amir, MANA
Anyone who has ever flown in an airplane knows that the view from above the clouds, far from the earth, is never the same as that on the ground. The perspective, ability to see details, and perception of reality of those on the ground versus those above it, are vastly different. So it is with the grassroots people.
Grassroots people view events from a perspective denied others, and this view gives us a different perception of reality from those detached from it. Two cases in point are the recent murder of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah (May Allah have mercy on him, forgive his sins, and reward him with Paradise, amin), and the tragic killings at Fort Hood.
Those detached from the everyday suffering and reality of the Black poor, like federal Law Enforcement officials for instance, see no problem with establishing “sting operations” that entrap politically, economically and socially vulnerable grassroots people. This is why entrapment has become the primary means for establishing operations, which lead to the arrest and possible convictions of those who become caught in a web of deceit and lies.
Further, it is the Black poor, and those who advocate for them or lead them, who since the days of slavery have been considered a national security threat. Militant and mild, assimilationist, rebel or revolutionary – they have always been viewed the same by the power elite who only differentiate amongst those whom they monitor, based upon levels of threat assessment – actual, imagined, or projected. But grassroots people see the power elite itself as the threat, which some choose to capitulate to, and others choose to resist.
To the agents of what the African American intellectual, bell hooks, describes as a “imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy” that seeks to maintain “…dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence”, there is no problem with deputizing a police dog and “sic-ing”it on a Black man, as was apparently done with Imam Luqman. In many legal jurisdictions, a police dog is an officer of the law, equal to a human being .They are assigned badges, considered sworn officers, and receive a full police funeral if killed in the line of duty. (By the way, when and how did that happen?). Therefore, to repel an attack by such an officer-dog, to assault much less to kill one, is a felony punishable by immediate execution by firing squad.
The grassroots people, especially the Black poor, see such dogs differently in our communal memory and experience. When our captive and enslaved ancestors - who were the innocent civilian victims of state sponsored terrorism and injustice - ran away from the Southern plantations of their enslavers, it was the enslaver’s dogs that were used to hunt them down. The runaways were then either returned to captivity, or slain for their acts of defiance.
When the grassroots Black poor in the South resisted the evil exploitation and violation of their civil and human rights by demons wearing badges enforcing unjust laws, they were beset upon by human law enforcement agents who beat them, turned fire hoses on them, and in too many cases, shot them. The agent’s “back-up” in these actions were canine law enforcement officers – police dogs – who simultaneously, or sometimes as an advance assault force, bit and attacked the poor Black citizenry. Grassroots people believe in defending themselves when attacked by anyone or anything. Self-defense is a human right and natural law. The power elite only believe in self-defense for themselves and their agents.
FBI agents have already admitted that they “sic-ed” a canine officer on the male, Muslim, poor Black citizens, whom they had come to arrest that day in Detroit, for alleged crimes (which incidentally were devised and executed by the same government agents). According to them, Imam Luqman fired a weapon not at the human agents, but at the police dog. The Imam was a grassroots person, and we know about such dogs.
But, federal officials say they took the attack upon their fellow officer, a canine, as an attack upon themselves, and so they shot the resistor 18 times. They then handcuffed him as if he needed further restraint upon his bullet-riddled body, and evacuated the dog from the scene by helicopter, for emergency medical treatment.
To the agents it was just business. To the grassroots people it was the customary treatment we have always received from those who value the life of a dog more than that of a Black human being. The agents of the FBI have never been heroes in grassroots neighborhoods because of what they have done to our people in the name of national security - which is to surveil, frame, and kill not our criminals,—but our heroes.
On a different note, when news broke about the Fort Hood shootings, the horror of those events elicited a different response from those on the ground, than those perceiving what happened through reports from media satellites. Grassroots military veterans remember the “fragging” incidents that have always occurred in American military experience, wherein poor, mostly Black and other people of color soldiers, victimized not by their enemies in combat but by those in their same ranks, turned their guns or grenades on their tormentors (perhaps that’s why the military’s leaders didn’t want to give them weapons in the first place).
In fact, when the Iraqi war erupted, such an incident occurred almost immediately. The soldier so charged was an African American Muslim who apparently “snapped” upon allegedly hearing White soldiers bragging about how they were going to kill Muslim “sand niggers”, and snatch the long dresses off their women and rape them. Army Sgt.Hassan Akbar, who reportedly suffered from mental illness known to his superior officers, was sentenced to death in 2005, but his case is in appeal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasan_Akbar_case).
Grassroots people who engaged in research, found that at least 75 soldiers stationed at Fort Hood, the nation’s largest Army base, have committed suicide since January. Others there have engaged in acts of domestic violence against their spouses. Others are too sedated to do anything because they are “the walking dead”. Grassroots people seek a context for understanding seeming random acts of violence.
In fact, John Allen Muhammad, a self-proclaimed African American, was recently executed for his crimes committed as “The Beltway sniper”. Much has been made of the fact that he was a Muslim, but he was in the American military longer than he proclaimed Islam. In fact, he terrorized and murdered American citizens with the skills he learned and mastered in the military. Like Akbar, he too was an Army Sgt.
Over the years since his reign of terror and subsequent arrest, much attention was given to John Allen’s Muhammad’s domestic problems, his growing anti-social behavior, and his steady mental deterioration—which was attributed to everything but his real problem. Now released court papers (http://cnnac360.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/muhammads-petition-to-supreme-court.pdf) prove conclusively that Muhammad was “severely mentally ill” and that his mental state steadily crumbled after his return home from the 1991 Gulf War as a veteran.
Medical tests performed after his arrest for his crimes revealed brain damage, that was most likely the result of childhood abuse. Psychiatrists determined him incompetent to represent himself in court but he was allowed to do so anyway. The jury wasn’t charged to consider mental illness during their deliberations. His execution was rushed past normal review time for an appeal (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/11/us/11sniper.html?_r=1) .
Rather than just looking at an isolated incident, grassroots people, without minimizing the horror of what happened; also look at the tragic consequences of a culture of violence that is taking an unprecedented psycho-spiritual toll on those in the military. Have there ever been so many soldiers who have taken their own lives since America switched from the selective service of a draft of the mostly poor, to a volunteer army that recruits disproportionately among the same? All of these men and women need support, assistance, and many need medical treatment.
When such tragic events occur, prudence demands that MANA respond as an organization with a measured tone. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t see things from the ground up. Even those of us who are above ground are like eagles or hawks from the masses. We fly high, but we have keen vision that we use to see what’s happening on the ground, with clarity.