In the constitution of the United States, penned in 1787, it states that that congressional representation is to be based on the “whole number of free persons” and “three fifths of all other persons,” a reference about African Americans. Known as the 3/5ths compromise, the founding fathers valued Africans enslaved in America and their descendants as less than human. Even though the 3/5ths compromise was officially repealed in 1868 by the 14th Amendment, its sentiment has been internalized by American culture throughout the generations and black life continues to be reduced in America today.
How else does one explain institutional racism or subtle policies, practices and procedures that benefit Caucasians and exclude people of color like redlining, racial profiling, and our misrepresentation by media? How else does one explain laws and policies that have blatantly disenfranchised African Americans like the Dred Scott decision that said African Americans were not U.S. Citizens, Jim Crow laws that mandated racial segregation and preached black inferiority, the Anti-Drug Abuse act of 1986 that provided more stringent punishments for the distribution of crack that is associated with blacks than the distribution of powered cocaine that is associated with whites, and voter ID laws that will disproportionally affect African Americans? Or how else does one explain the unjustified murder of 18 year old Michael Brown, another African American killed by a police officer just like Eric Garner, Marlene Pinnock, Sean Bell, Kimani Gray, Ousmane Zongo, Timothy Stansbury, Jr., Kendrec McDade, and Amadou Diallo?
Black life is not valued in America. Perhaps that’s why protestors in Ferguson have been seen carrying signs that state, “I am a man,” just like the sanitation workers in Memphis, TN that fought for the right to unionize when the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered. “I am a man” is the battle cry for human dignity. “I am a man” is the demand for police accountability (of course, not all cops are bad; however, the bad decisions and criminal acts of a few have the ability to mare the reputation of the entire department just like any other institution). “I am a man” is the demand that media stops depicting African Americans as thugs, sexual objects and criminals. “I am a man” is the demand that we end the cradle-to-prison pipeline and stop directing resources to building new prisons instead of preventive programs and treatments. “I am a man” is the demand that all men and women be treated equally. “I am a man” is the African American community’s recognition of our own worth and rallying the rest of the world to see our worth by how we vote, hold our government and create a more perfect union.