Ever since Edward Snowden decided to leak secret National Security Agency documents to give proof that the government may not be as truthful as they claim, many black Americans have either flipped the page and turned the channel, or decided to cozy up a little more to the federal government.
In a recent poll by the Washington Post, black Americans were the most comfortable with the federal government monitoring e-mail and other online activities. 55 percent said that yes, they should monitor while 44 percent said no.
While this more than interesting dynamic has been opined, documented, and debated; it still baffles me that so many African-Americans are ok with the government intruding upon their privacy.
Back in 1919, a young J. Edgar Hoover planted the seeds for COINTELPRO, a secret Federal Bureau of Investigations program geared toward dismantling domestic political organizations and activists.
The cross-dressing Hoover trained his eyes on Marcus Garvey in 1919, stating in a memo that Garvey was “active among the radical elements in New York City in agitating the negro movement.” Hoover also showed his sweeter side by calling Garvey an “exceptionally fine orator,” but that’s where the pleasantries ceased.
Hoover’s infatuation with Garvey eventually led to Garvey’s imprisonment in Atlanta on a charge of mail fraud. Soon after serving only a portion of his sentence, Garvey was deported to Jamaica.
In addition to Garvey, Hoover and the FBI’s surveillance of “negro political organizations” led to the destruction of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Hampton, Geronimo Pratt, Huey P. Newton, and many others.
For me, it seems that there should be a cracked, if not missing, foundation of trust for the government from black Americans. Some, if not all, of those who are considered heroes to the black community have been taken down by the very entity charged with protecting them.
But what may confound the already gentle situation is President Barack Obama. While campaigning for president, Obama strongly denounced the government’s illegal wiretapping program of Americans and declared “no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens.”
Needless to say, that has become a failed campaign promise. But Obama has positioned himself as a leader limited power. His speeches are filled with rhetoric of protecting the least of us. He promotes policies that will aid the middle class, as well as black Americans, but he is turned back by thick headed Republicans who only care about stopping anything he pushes forward.
Some of that is true; Republicans are hell-bent on emasculating Obama at every turn. I think if Obama gave Republicans everything they asked for, it still wouldn’t be enough.
At any rate, because Obama made a 180 degree turn on domestic security, many black Americans may feel as if Obama is only looking out for their best interest. Because he sits behind the big desk in the Oval Office of the White House, and because he is America’s first black president, and because he’s given life to the plight of black Americans nationwide, and because he is privy to information that we are not, he must know more than we do.
I’m not disputing that he doesn’t know more than regular Americans, but what I will quarrel with is the notion that he concerned with the well-being of black Americans.
The little bit of history that I mentioned above should be enough to prove that any surveillance program put forth by the federal government should be met with a serious side eye.
Why in the world are we so willing to give up our privacy for access to freedom that many of us feel we don’t have?
For the answer, use history as a compass.
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- Earl Ofari Hutchinson: NSA’s Spy History Presents a Daunting Challenge for President Obama (huffingtonpost.com)
- Obama’s abuse of the Espionage Act is modern-day McCarthyism | John Kiriakou (theguardian.com)
- Obama Announces Significant Review of US Surveillance in Wake of Snowden Affair (atlantablackstar.com)