When I heard the decision not to indict the killers of Eric Garner, my outraged response was, “here we go again!” If the Michael Brown case lacked moral clarity, the senseless tragedy of the Eric Garner case was much more clear. No matter what the circumstances were, here were two more African American men added to the list of senseless killings, arousing strong reactions nationally and internationally.
Some claim that these killings demonstrate the existence of racist structures that permeate our society. Others claim that these killings resulted from criminal behavior or “a lack of personal responsibility.” While both positions point to contributing factors, they both continue to ignore the elephant in the room, namely culture – a factor that dwarfs the previous two.
We have made astounding progress against racism thanks to the Civil Rights and Black Consciousness movements. Yet in the ’hood, conditions have not improved accordingly. Today, there is a growing culture of dysfunctionality eating away not just at the ‘hood, but at our larger society. It is often government funded through well meaning but mismanaged subsistence programs. It is having devastating effects across cultures, yet is felt most profoundly in the ’hood. It is a culture derived from the old “redneck” South – a culture nurtured by structures of oppression and one that wears down initiative and personal responsibility – whose value system elevates and encourages anti-achieverism, fatherlessness, dependency, helplessness, hopelessness, self-sabotaging/self-destructive behavior, fratricide, etc., and in extreme cases, nihilism.