Being a black man in America comes with more challenges than I care to list. Just when I think that this country has progressed, there is more evidence that it has not.
No, the ONE black president we’ve had did not rid the country of its racist ways. If anything, the underlying racism has reasserted itself and we’ve gone further in the wrong direction.
Why these tensions continue? Heard it all before? I have too, but it’s Black History Month so you’re going to hear it again.
Slavery. This is where it all started. If you truly want to heal broken relationships, you have to start at the beginning and have the tough conversations.
Have you heard the expression “this country was founded on the backs of slaves?” I have considered the validity and implications of that statement. Sit right down, here’s a little lesson for ya. The first slave ship landed in 1619 and the Mayflower landed in 1620. 70% of the prominent Founding Fathers were slave owners.
It is not hard for African Americans to be disillusioned when you realize that “We the People” did not include you.
In school, we learn that slavery happened in the South, it was bad, and then Lincoln freed all the slaves. Go Lincoln!!
Unfortunately, that was all politics, lies and conjecture. What Lincoln actually did was think of a clever way to add manpower to the Union forces by outlawing slavery, and promising runaway slaves their freedom if they were willing to fight in the Union army. Not a bad deal when compared to slavery, that is unless you died in the war. Let’s not forget that many of the slaves in the south remained in virtual slavery for years post Emancipation Proclamation because sharecropping was still slavery without the whippings.
The Economics of Slavery
Like always, this struggle continued to be about power. The Northern economy relied on slaves just like the south did. The Northern states differentiated their economic strategy more quickly to industry and manufacturing, which diversified their income sources. Their lessened reliance on slavery insulated their economy It sure as hell wasn’t because they were all such nice liberal-minded people.
The Real Civil War
My 10th grade history teacher taught us that as people moved into the Western states, the South was hoping to establish slavery there. They were worried about the Federal Government banning slavery in the new states. If they seceded from the Union, they could keep slavery and have control over states’ rights and tariffs. The Union wanted desperately to keep the country together; however, 7 states seceded from the Union in 1860 forming the Confederate States of America. Ultimately, negotiations with the South had failed and in April of 1861 the fighting began.
Mrs. History teacher skipped a few things in her lesson. We didn’t learn that during these negotiations before the war, the Union gladly offered to keep slavery going. They were willing to do anything to keep the Union together, including starting a war. Aside from the abolitionists, most Northerners had no moral obligations to slavery, including Abraham Lincoln.
Southerners hold onto the idea of the Confederacy because it represents a time when they had wealth and control. The Union stripped away all the wealth out of the South. After slavery, many farmers were not profitable having to pay for labor. Some resorted to offering food and shelter instead of money to former slaves in exchange for their labor.
The South Made It About Color
Slavery has been around throughout history. American’s did not invent it. However, when we hear slavery and our mind goes to Colonel Sanders snatching Levar Burton and putting him in chains. Ok maybe that’s just me.
Either way, many people do not know about the origins of slavery.
The slave trade featured Africans selling other Africans to anybody who could buy them.
It was not about inferiority. Stronger African tribes would keep the prisoners of war and then profit by selling them to slave traders. This began long before slaves were coming to America.
African countries that took part in the slave trade grew rich. Only 10% of the slaves in the Atlantic Slave Trade made it to North America. 10 times as many went to the West Indies and to South America. Unfortunately, slavery also continues to affect race relations in South America contemporarily.
Slavery ended in the ‘60s…. the 1960’s
When we talk about the effects of slavery on Black America, we think of our ancestors in chains. However, our history lessons didn’t go into much detail about the time period between 1865 and MLK. Think about this for a second. The Supreme Court, guardian and interpreter of the Constitution, said that blacks and whites must have separate accommodations. This was after the 14th amendment granted blacks equal rights. Blacks were free on paper, but every part of daily life was restricted.
This continued until the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement when Plessy v. Ferguson was reversed. The Civil Rights Movement continued until the year Martin Luther King died in 1968.
It Has Not Been That Long
The impact of slavery is still with us. We see it in our poverty rates, our unemployment rates, our rates of incarceration and our relative lack of wealth. I’ve heard about how slavery still impacts us today and at one time that was hard for me believe. MLK was shot fighting for Black rights 50 years ago. We all know somebody older than 50. Just imagine that when they were born, white people violently opposed being in the same space with black people. I am not surprised at all that some of those white people still feel that way. I am not surprised that their children share those same sentiments.
These recent events makes it apparent how steep the climb to equality is. Racism is a disease, a disease that infects the thoughts and the rationality of the infected. We need a cure now.
Brian, Creative Conduct