Commentary: Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death! A Black American Dilemma
MAY 27, 2020 / D’ANDRE THOMPSON
for Black Label / Code NOIR
The famous quote “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” reverberates from a point in our country’s history where a man by the name of Patrick Henry made it eloquently known that his quest for American liberty from the British Crown was worth the ultimate cost. His fiery words galvanized the delegates to whom he was making his protest known in an effort to defend his beloved country from the oppression of the British rule bent on imposing their will on the colonial patriots. To many people, Henry proved to be the protagonist needed to set forth in motion the battle to free the American people and stand firm on what they believed to be true independence. What would ignite a man so much that he would step to his peers and in a cathartic release deliver one of the most powerful speeches of its time? My answer would simply revolve around one word “Liberation.” As I began pondering over the series of events that have sparked so much controversy over the slaying of unarmed black men and women at the hands of a force so great that many contemporaries view it as the “biggest gang in America” the rhetoric chosen by Patrick Henry appears to be a relevant battle cry!
The slaying of Black Americans by the police state that is meant to “protect and serve” has become a reoccurring nuance in the fabric of one of the greatest nations in the entire world. Although, one may consider it an oxymoron to view the place you reside as “great” but at the same time be a detriment to your very existence. As our nation emotionally toils over the loss of Ahmaud Aubery in Brunswick, GA and Breonna Taylor of Louisville, KY both instances highlight the damage of broken systems that disregard black lives making it clear that our country is on the brink of utter chaos. Ahmaud Aubery’s case is unique seeing that a pair of vigilante bigots decided to gun down an innocent black male for viewing a home that was under construction before jogging off. The pubic outrage for this case in particular comes as a result of a conspiracy to not only sweep this incident under the rug, but that it took a video being released showing the murder on camera to finally issue arrest warrants for the individuals involved TWO months after the initial crime! Breonna Taylor’s case provides an even more grim set of circumstances that resulted in a botched raid taking her life even after it was reported that the unit responsible for her death apprehended the known suspect in their investigation.
The weight of these unfortunate tragedies have been the driving force for the black community within recent dialogue surrounding untimely death at the hands of individuals with a supremacist ideology. The culmination of this spree of hateful hyper lynching came to a head for me when learning that yet another unarmed black man by the name of George Floyd of Minneapolis, MN was murdered by Minneapolis police after apparently resisting arrest for forgery and public intoxication. Video surfaced showing officers penning Floyd down with one officer in particular using his knee to subdue him while restricting his air supply for well over 5 minutes. Bystanders and onlookers glanced in horror as George Floyd’s body went limp even while one of the officers remained kneeling on his neck. It was pronounced later that George Floyd died as a result of his incapacitated state. The news sent shock waves throughout the country as the video of the incident went viral revealing the graphic nature of the interaction between Floyd and MPD. Now after a media storm that has been running the story nonstop and protest which have spurred more attention, the officers involved have been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department.
The incidents referenced are only a few of the most recent stories of unarmed black men and women who have been subject of a supremacist mindset seeking to dehumanize a community of people who have done nothing short of embody the term “patriotism” in every sense of its meaning. According to Merriam Webster Dictionary to be a “patriot” is to be someone who is devote or loving of one’s country. Without a shadow of a doubt in my mind I can honestly say that I believe that Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd along with countless other black men and women who have succumb to the throws of supremacy at the hands of this nation would tell you if they were here today that they loved this country. Even with all of its mired history and scars that reveals the reminder of past grievances, this is the place that they called home.
It wasn’t until after I took the time to read the transcript of Patrick Henry’s speech that it became clear to me the liberties that we seek as Black Americans is ingrained in the essence of this country and that we must be willing to unify boldly in the face of adversity and fight for the God given rights bestowed upon us in the only country we’ve ever known. In comparison to Henry’s transformative understanding of succession from powerful adversaries like the British Crown, it is up to us as a black community to move beyond hope in a flawed system that was never created to see us prosper to action through cooperatives that support meaningful growth. One thing that is apparent through all revolutions that took place throughout history, even for Henry and the colonies of 1775, is the need to get behind a unified vision and respond strategically with cooperative execution. Our predecessors marveled at this immense power and what it meant for ratifying laws that changed the course of our history. Just as important as the laws though was the ability for our predecessors to create enclaves that served as a way of ensuring that the economic base in our communities were secure enough to support sustainability and potential growth. Their mindset was so radical that fear itself did not divert them from establishing a way of life that guaranteed a future for their loved ones even if it meant they may not see it fully come to fruition. It was this mindset that fuel the passions of those who came before us that allowed us today to see the fruits of their labor (although currently withering). We mustn’t allow the tragedies of today to drain us of the strength to fight the good fight of faith by failing to cooperate and strategize on ways to share in a unified vision for tomorrow. I’ve heard time and time again that black people don’t operate as a monolith like other groups which results in our demise or inability to gain momentum necessary to reach our collective goals. I’m fully aware that black folks aren’t all the same, but when it comes to seeing our communities struggle with the same issues nationwide we have to call a spade a spade in order to see the future that we seek collectively.
To me, this truly means that investing in our communities is the only viable solution to liberating ourselves from the very systems that result in the occurrences that we’ve become desensitized to. By coming together with a unified agenda that demands accountability from our leaders we will ensure that we’re taken seriously and presented with the best circumstances available. Delegates of our shared vision will be able to communicate our demands to other constituents while town halls continue to serve there intended purpose but with greater culpability. The idea is not to recreate the wheel here but to understand the power behind a focused vision and cooperative execution. Only time will tell if this will manifest into the reality that’s desperately needed, but for now we have to shift our mindsets from individualistic achievement to collective action if we are to see our future generations engage with a world safe from the grips of death by way of morally void cronies.
Reference for Patrick Henry Speech — Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death