While the term genocide has only been recognized since 1944 and categorized as an international crime since 1946, the practice had been in place for centuries prior. It was not until the world took notice of Nazi Germany systematically killing approximately six million European Jews that the United Nations declared this to be massively immoral and against the law. Really though? This is unfortunate.
What is even more unfortunate is that we still see the same crimes against humanity happening to this very day. SES Vth brings light to this in his latest release. The emotionally triggering lyrics give voice to the Black experience in many inner city and urban environments. The referenced examples of destructive institutional and cultural practices raises an important question: why is it that we don’t typically hear the four hundred plus years of the ongoing oppression of Black people being referred to as genocidal? Let’s take a close look at the term genocide.
According to Article II of the Genocide Convention, genocide is defined as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”. These include: “killing members of the group; Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”.
There are countless examples in the U.S., past and present, that map very easily to these acts. Whether we are talking about the mass incarceration of Blacks; medical experimentation on Black subjects; forced sterilizations and the Eugenics movement; Jim Crow laws; or terrorist attacks on thriving Black communities, like in Tulsa, there is a compelling case that qualify these as acts of aggression aimed toward the gradual elimination of a “race” of people. So let’s call a spade a spade.
“Genocide” drops at a critical moment in our society. In various parts of the world people are expressing their frustrations with the status quo of inequity, divisive politics, and brutal law enforcement practices. Organizations of all kinds are being called out for their silence and implied complicity. We need this energy sustained until change and reform are tangible rather than symbolic.
We also need accountability. Institutions that continue to uphold these genocidal practices should be tried and prosecuted as international criminals. Only time will tell what outcomes we will see. Until that time, let the powerful words and imagery of this song motivate and inspire your actions. Peace!