By Tony Muhammad
When Public Enemy emerged in the late 1980s, they were considered to be one of the most controversial and outspoken groups in Hip Hop. The center-theme to their music was and continues to be the overall condition of danger that Black America is in, the great injustices that it suffers on a systematic level; from governmental repression to corporate exploitation to police brutality, the exposing the enemy’s fear of a Black planet,” and the need for Black self-determination. Many have questioned what their gun crosshairs logo with a targeted man represents. Chuck D, the leader of the group explained in a Rolling Stones interview on August 18, 2014 that “The crosshairs logo symbolized the black man in America.” He added, “A lot of people thought it was a state trooper because of the hat, but the hat is one of the ones that Run-DMC wore. The B-Boy stance and the silhouette was more like the black man on the target.” In regards to the name “Public Enemy” he said that it represents the Black man as well. “The United States Constitution once considered black people to be three-fifths of a human being,” Chuck D says. “If this is a public document, obviously we must be the enemy, so that’s where the name Public Enemy came from.” At the start of 2015, despite all of the progress that is claimed, in the eyes of many, it is most apparent today that the Black man continues to be “on the target” and continues to occupy the status of “Public Enemy” in America.
Highlighting attention to a national protest movement against the rise of police brutality and murder in Black and Brown communities, National Spokesperson for The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and The Nation of Islam, Student Minister Ava Muhammad said at a Kwanzaa gathering in New Orleans, LA on December 27th, 2014 that we do a monumental disservice if we raise our children without regard for the state of emergency that we are in as a people. She noted that America is quickly becoming a “fascist police state.”
In mid-January this state of emergency became even more evident, more real and more eye opening as the North Miami Beach Police Department (located in Miami-Dade County, Florida) has suspended its sniper training program after it was exposed that the mug shots of Black men were being used as targets at a shooting range. Valerie Deant, a Florida Army National Guard sergeant, reported to the media that while practicing at a Medley shooting range, she noticed an image of her brother, Woody, among the mug shots that we shot at. She has stressed that her brother, who was arrested in a drag racing incident in 2000 that left two people dead, did his time, is now married with children and is no longer living a reckless lifestyle. North Miami Beach Police Chief Scott Dennis has attempted to defend the department’s use of the mug shots of Black men by saying there was no “mal-intent or prejudice involved” and that the North Miami Beach Police did not violate any policy, law or Florida Department of Law Enforcement standard that was violated. He has further stated that the department’s use of such photographs is a technique that is widely used and is vital for facial recognition drills.
Is Police Chief Scott lying about the common use of the mug shots of Black men in sniper training programs? Perhaps he’s not and because of his own overexposure to the common practice in such programs throughout the country he doesn’t see anything wrong with the behavior and doesn’t view it as being racist, although it is in fact racist. The act itself is a conditioning that breeds and reinforces psychopathic murderous behavior towards Black people in general and Black men in particular. For many decades and still up to this day, a black silhouette has been and is still used for common target practice, which it by itself to the white supremist mind subconsciously represents all Black men. The gun itself, according to Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, author of the classic work The Isis Papers, is a phallic shaped weapon that comes from the white supremist mind used for the aim and purpose of genetic annihilation, resonating from the paranoia that darker skinned people are “taking over.” Not coincidently, these are sentiments that have intensified atmospherically since Barack Obama was voted in as President of the United States in 2008 as gun purchases on the part of white people throughout the country have increased tremendously. It should not be a shock to us that many white police officers would share these paranoid sentiments themselves. What further complicates the matter is the increased militarization of the police in recent years, as we have witnessed in Ferguson, Missouri and the rest of the country in which the police have used tanks, military helicopters and military gear against those who have been involved in the protest movement. The use of the mug shots of Black men by the sniper training program further intensifies the reactive sickness to target Black men or almost exclusively Black men. It will only lead to more Black men, like Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, more recently Jerame Reid of New Jersey and countless others being unjustly killed while surrendering, often times with their hands up and the murderers walking away free without indictment.
Since the 1980s, The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has been warning us about a war being planned against Black people and in particular Black young men. Addressing the way police have historically handled Black people, the Minister said on October 28, 2007 in a lecture entitled Justifiable Homicide:
“Police were formed to catch runaway slaves, bring them back to their masters and make examples of them to throw fear into other slaves. It’s the same today. Police authorities are trained to kill, as well as to protect. But where Black people are concerned, police legitimize their mob attacks under the name of “back up.” Police back up is often no different than the lynch mobs 100 years ago. The killing of our people, shooting them with many bullets when one would have done the job. And then, that deliberative body which is to discuss the brutal murder of our people by looking into the facts, comes away calling it justifiable homicide.”
Minister Farrakhan continued by saying:
“Injustice, as I said in the Holy Day of Atonement speech from Atlanta on Oct. 16, brings its natural response no matter how long it takes. Injustice has to be answered by justice, and justice demands that what a man sows, he must eventually reap. Jesus said it well—Did he say those who live by the sword will die by marches? He didn’t say that. Did he say those who live by the sword will die by massive protest?; that those who live by the sword will die by prayers in front of public buildings and kneeling and begging and pleading? Did he say that? What did he say? Jesus said those who kill by the sword will die by the very sword that they used to kill others.”
Today, over six years later, government and law enforcement are experiencing the backlash of over 400 years of injustice in the form of protest. Dissatisfaction in Black and Brown communities is currently at an all time high. If some form of justice is not administered, out of rage conditions in America will worsen before they improve as rebellion will move far beyond protest. Justice, as the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan teaches us, is a human need and therefore a human right. The American Government and local governments throughout America must confront the wrong that it has and continues to commit, seek to repair the damage that it has caused and submit to making drastic institutional, cultural and economic changes if it truly desires peace and progress. It must ultimately correspond to The Upmost Desires of a Higher Power if it stands a chance to survive. The $100 billion a year budget to maintain and expand the militarization of police units would serve a greater good if it would instead be used in the re-education and industrial and agricultural development of wasted cities and communities throughout America, with a great emphasis on impoverished Black and Brown communities. This is a fraction of what is owed, a step in the right direction. Change can take place in America if its leadership truly desired it. But is the desire truly there?
I leave you with these lyrics by Chuck D from the Public Enemy song Beyond Trayvon:
FREED THE A**
WITH RAPS THAT KILLED TOMORROW
CANT SUPPORT IT
BUT SOMEBODY BOUGHT IT
COMMUNITY CAUGHT IT
BUT THE GOVERNMENT TAUGHT IT
AND ALL YOU HEARD
VIOLENCE HARD DRUGS SEX AND MURDER
SONGS NEVER HATED ARTISTS WHO
KEEP MAKING EM
STRONG AGINST THE WRONG
WHATS BEEN CREATED
MANY NEIGHBORHOODS STILL DEVESTATED
I SAY IT
I HATE IT
WHEN IT’S DEGRATED AND DOWNGRADED
SOME OF YALL GREW UP TO USE IT
PEOPLE DONT DANCE TO IT AND JUST ABUSE IT
YALL SAY THAT
WHEN I SAY THIS
INJUSTICE STILL GOES ON
THANK YOU NME SUN
FOR THIS WORD TO THE YOUNG
YOU THE FUTURE
SAVE OUR DAUGHTERS AND SONS
Until next time, Allah (God) Willing,
Tony Muhammad has been teaching Social Studies in Miami-Dade County Public Schools for over 15 years. Tony is most noted for his work as publisher of Urban America Newspaper (2003 – 2007) and co-organizer of the Organic Hip Hop Conference (2004 – 2009). He currently serves as a student assistant minister to Student Minister Patrick Muhammad at Muhammad Mosque #29 in Miami, Florida.