|Words by F LoBuono|
There is a key moment in a scene from The Godfather when one of the heads of the so-called "Five Families" (the leading crime syndicate of the day) basically describes the syndicates new business plan. It calls for The Families to enter into the operation of selling illegal narcotics on a large scale. Prior to this (the early 1950's), narcotics was seen as a dirty business and beneath the dignity of The Families. However, when they realized how much money could be made, it was time to rethink their philosophy. Still, even with so much profit to be made, The Families would make one, last ditch effort to keep their misguided honor intact. So, while agreeing that it would now be OK to deal in dope, they would only do so in the areas where "the dark races live - they're animals anyway". He continues, "I don't want it sold to children or near schools. That would be an infamnia".
Think about that: the implication is that dope is OK as long as we sell it to minorities - no one cares about them. They don't even care about themselves. Now, this may have just been a scene in a movie but it depicted actual events that shaped the lives of millions of people. It clearly demonstrates the institutionalized racism that has been pervasive in our County since its very inception. It has happened before that movie was made and it is happening today still.
When people see rioting similar to what has been taking place in Baltimore and elsewhere, the typical, immediate reaction is to condemn the participants. "Look at them". "Animals - they loot and destroy their own neighborhoods"! We wonder what good could possibly come from destroying your own house? Well, that's because, for most of us, we think with a mind set that has been shaped by our relative experience. And, again, for most people making those comments, that experience can never put us in the shoes of those people who live in our inner-city ghettos. Never. These neighborhoods are blighted not because of the people who LIVE in them, but, rather, by the people who keep them there - people like The Godfather. This is what is meant by institutionalized racism. There are forces in place, most of them not even seen, that conspire to keep people of color down. There is no other logical explanation as to why people would WANT to live in such squalor and without hope. Every human being wants, and DESERVES, a quality life. Why, for god's sake, would ANYONE want to live a life of deprivation? Well, they don't! But, there are many who would prevent that. And, unfortunately, it's not just those who directly profit from the results of such degradation. It's often the ordinary person who feels that way. Perhaps, they do so in an effort to feel better about the poor conditions of their own lives by demeaning others.
Often, pent up emotion built up by years of neglect can reach the point of explosion. And, it has. In a response to what has been seen as years of abuse by the police, people of color are reacting with rage. They are lashing out at an establishment that has mistreated them far too long. To paraphrase another legendary film character, Howard Beal from Network: "they're mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore"! Well, they're not. And, when you think about it, the act of burning to purify is not so far fetched. It's almost as if the only way to make things better is to burn it down and start from scratch. Remember, a Phoenix can only rise from ashes.
No, these people are not thugs, or savages, or animals. They are human beings who have reached the point of no return. They are screaming to finally be heard and they are not taking NO for an answer.