Aug 24, 2016

Inequality in America: W.E.B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk and HBO's The Night Of

A black stranger … for instance, is liable to be stopped anywhere on the public highway and made to state his business to the satisfaction of any white interrogator. If he fails to give a suitable answer, or seems too independent or “sassy,” he may be arrested or summarily driven away. 
W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, p. 113

Du Bois wrote The Souls of Black Folk in 1903. I like to use this book as a point of reference because every time injustice is carried out, deniers will often remonstrate thusly: "But, that was then, this is now."

No. History tends to repeat itself. And not only that, old wounds heal slowly when subsumed under the relentless wheelhouse of time.



The tyranny of the interrogator persists. It hides behind "gun rights" lobbyists and political candidates using fear of the other to keep constituents voting for them on election day.

Americans live in a country where last year 1,134 people were killed by armed police officers. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., an African-American History scholar at Harvard, was arrested in front of his own home. American children do not have equal access to education. The United States, one of the world's most developed nations, fares poorly in its citizens' share of the wealth. Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Slovenia, and Ethiopia have better equality in the distribution of income across families than the United States. I am not just throwing out facts. I am suggesting that inequality spikes through multiple layers of society.

In The Night Of, Nasir Khan is accused of murdering a white woman.
I can't help but think about popular culture. In the HBO miniseries The Night Of, Nasir Kahn, a Pakistani American from Queens, is brought in as number one suspect in the murder of a young white girl on the Upper West Side. The season finale has not aired yet, so viewers don't know the identity of the killer. As a crime drama procedural puffed up as a cable television series, we're not sure if Naz is a killer or not -- but one thing the show makes clear is that once interrogated Naz is drawn into the bone-crushing bureaucracy of the criminal justice system, the perception of a mindless crowd, and the truth that even if Naz is innocent, once spooled through the system, Naz is transformed -- and it is not exactly a pretty transformation.

I digress a little bit. My main point is that the United States, with all of its proclamations of freedom, democracy, and justice for all, has difficulty in being honest about who exactly enjoys this so-called freedom, democracy, and justice.

Image Source: HBO

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