From The Grio — The dark, long-trodden path to freedom and equality comes at a very high cost. And it seems African-Americans have become masters of the trade: life for death, wisdom for suffering and patience for accomplishment. But innocence is no longer something for which we can afford to pay. Naiveté, in particular, was removed from the menu options a long time ago.

After the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr.Malcolm X, JFK and even, I dare say, Biggie andTupac, black Americans are more skeptical of accepting the conventional wisdom when it comes to assassinations.

The recent killing of the infamous terrorist, Osama bin Laden, proves no different — despite the fact that it is President Barack Obama who sits at the helm of the military apparatus. Perhaps our discomfort lies in the fact that justice continues to elude our communities. For a vast segment of the African-American population, when it comes to matters of criminal justice, separate and unequal remain the status quo. Disproportionate levels in sentencing, policing, harassment, and capital punishment lead many to wonder if the accused criminals are, in fact, the victims of a higher crime.

That sentiment was most recently expressed by Rashard Mendenhall, the famed NFL running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In a message which has now gone viral, Mendenhall tweeted: “What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side.” Mendenhall went further to doubt the true facts behind the events of September 11, 2001, when he wrote, “We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.” For many of Mendenhall’s fans, and African-Americans in general, these feelings are commonplace.

To be fair, the Osama bin Laden theories have been circulating for years. Professor David Griffin, author of Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive, questioned the authenticity of the “bin Laden” tapes, by highlighting inconsistencies like changes in his weight, and facts that demonstrated his ability to be right-handed in one video and left-handed in the next. Afghan President Hamid Karzai lent weight to the theory when he said that Osama bin Laden was ‘probably’ dead.

But what about the African-American community and its history make it more willing to question the veracity of the U.S. government? Could it be 300 years of chattel slavery, during which laws were written for the express purpose of dehumanizing us? Or the 100 years of Jim Crow designed specifically to disenfranchise us? Could it be the images of Emmett Till beaten and disfigured that we have never forgotten? Or the knowledge that Till’s perpetrators walked free? Could it be the Tea Party movement and its incessant attacks on Obama’s citizenship and the need to produce his freedom papers? Could it be the Reagan-era drug laws that placeddisproportionate sentencing guidelines on crack-cocaine (as opposed to powder cocaine) and as a result, left a generation of black youth entangled in a criminal system akin to a neo-slavery?

Or could it simply be that we are conspiracy theorists by nature?

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  • I was just talking about htis. I can’t believe the backlash that he is recieveing for speaking out. I read a few articles about this issue and most people summed it up as he’s a football player so his views aren’t credible. He’s not allowed to have an opinion or “drop knowledge” if he wants to, basically to just “Shut up and run the ball boy”. It’s really said that we have come to a point where only the people with the “Title” are credible sources. And with the history of America I would have to disagree with that because the people with the “titles” or degree’s who we so called trust to speak on issues are lying most of the time. I wish people would think deper and stop accepting everything thrown at them.

  • Tomi-chan

    Gonna quote a friend on this one:

    “A man died last night. An evil man, a terrible man, but a man nonetheless. Remember that.”

    • Clnmike

      Here is my quote, “A murderer died last night. An evil killer, a terrible being, a monster no doubt. Remember that.” Your friend’s definition of a man seems to greatly differ from that of mine.

    • Tomi-chan

      I’m assuming you’re assuming that it takes sympathy not to want support the pageantry Osama’s death has created. I can not and would not celebrate the death of ANY man or woman. I’m not sorry he’s dead, but I’m not going to throw a party– that’s disgusting, we can do better than that.

    • Clnmike

      No, I am assuming it takes a healthy dose of self righteousness to look down the celebration of a mass murder.

    • Tomi-chan

      My answer is not morally superior to anyone’s… it is just that: my answer. We can agree to disagree, but don’t act like your answer is somehow more correct than mine.

    • Tomi-chan

      Also, I don’t look down on people who choose to celebrate his death, don’t assume I do because I never said that. It’s not my place to judge people who choose jubilation when they have to right to, 9/11 was an emotionally scarring event.

      I look down on the actions of the few who party and use the guise of “celebration” as a way to excuse anti-Muslim sentiments. I’ve seen some scary stuff happen because people let their anger speak for them.

  • keke

    There is so much wrong in this article. No one is saying that WE ALL have to celebrate and parade in the streets because OBL is dead, I didn’t run in the streets and I had no intentions to do but I am relieved that monster is gone. But I just don’t get why people feel the need to take others to task for how they choose to process and deal with the news OBL’s death.

    And saying that his tweets resonate with black america and to use the examples of King, Malcolm, Emmit Till and conflate those issues with OBL???? Seriously???? GTFOHWTBS!!!!

  • Clnmike

    ” I can not and would not celebrate the death of ANY man or woman. I’m not sorry he’s dead, but I’m not going to throw a party– that’s disgusting, we can do better than that.” Sounds like someone is passing superior moral judgement to me in this quote. But I agree with you, we can agree to disagree.

    • Tomi-chan

      In case you didn’t notice those two “I”s imply ownership, as in I didn’t say you don’t have to celebrate. Hell, you can tap dance in the street for all I care I am not gonna stop you, it’s within your right. I, however, will not be joining you because I don’t think it’s right. Just like YOU don’t think it’s right for me to be so vehemently against celebration (which isn’t true to begin with because of the reasons I addressed in my third post to you… but whatever, I’m not going to argue for my opinion anymore).

      And furthermore there’s no such thing as a superior form of moral judgment, that phrase implies that we all share a universal relation and rationale when it comes to morality. Which is simply NOT true. Everything is open the interpretation of the person viewing the event. Hence why I keep saying so many a damn time it is within the person’s RIGHT.

      [- Agreeing to Disagree With You -]

  • Nicole

    “We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.”

    This is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read and shows an incredible lack of reasoning. We saw two planes (out of the 4 that were purposely crashed that day) literally fly into buildings at ~500mph in real time. The reason the towers collapsed could be demonstrated by playing a game of jenga.

    Anyway, I’m not celebrating, but I’m not sad either. Bin Laden is in a COMPLETELY different category than MLK, Malcolm X or JFK. Who knows how many lives have been spared because he’s no longer at the helm. We’ll probably never know the whole truth. There are so many classified documents we’ll never read; but how silly would it be to say he’s dead only to have him pop up again? Also, it’s naïve and arrogant to think that only the US is dealing with al-Queda; there have been acts of terrorism credited to Bin Laden and al-Queda ALL OVER THE WORLD. He was a murderer who had no remorse about killing innocent people and has convinced others to think similarly, so I have no sympathy to give. Sorry.

    Skepticism is healthy, it means you’re thinking. However, there has to be some sort of factual evidence or holes in theories to back it up, otherwise it’s just skepticism for skepticism’s sake and it makes no sense to live life that way.