Thanks to modern media companies, I am frequently reminded of the suffering of poor Whites in America, about their trials due to the economy, the struggles of White men as they find themselves pushed out of the workforce due to aging, the fears of the omnipresent double standards of affirmative action which causes Whites to lose out on everything they imagine is their birthright these days.
The twenty-four hour news cycle rings out with the clarion call of invading minorities from impoverished nations taking jobs, using medical services, driving up costs, and the fear of religious intolerance causing good White Christians to be in fear of Muslim terrorists who might decide to blow up their churches in solidarity with jihadists overseas. A constant cavalcade of fear over the supposedly-declining “White American way of life.”
Looking at the very first map presented at the opening of this article which leads to a variety of other more telling maps, says to me: White people are doing just fucking fine.
If land, the most important resource, the thing Lex Luthor reminds us “they’re not making it any more,” is any indication, most of this nation’s value is in the possession of White people, White-led companies, and under whom powerful White men are running this nation into the ground promoting fear of anything not White.
Yeah, I said it.
As a regular writer on Quora, I am often bombarded with questions like:
- Why do Blacks think they are entitled to get reparations?
- Why are so many Black men in prison?
- Why are so many Blacks undereducated in this country?
- How violent ARE Blacks in America and why can’t they get their populations under control?
- What can be done about violent rap lyrics?
- Why are Black people particularly Black women considered so ugly?
- Why are Black IQs are significantly lower than about every other social group in America?
- Why are Black family incomes 16 times less than the average White family’s income?
Why indeed? Why are these questions even needing to be asked? Because White people made the conditions for which ALL of these problems end up coming into existence in the first place.
For those of you who want to address this properly, we must first keep this in the perspective, shall we? I can sum this up with just one graphic image. I didn’t make it but it speaks volumes:
And if you want this timeline granularized so you can learn, in a cursory way, about the struggles of Blacks in America you can read a much more detailed Black History Timeline here.
This question appeared on Quora the other day and immediately the answers which populated the stream were answers which mentioned the indolence of Black Americans, their inability to get an education, their overwhelming social and cultural poverty and how they are the worst members of American society. Some went so far as to suggest shipping us back to Africa if we couldn’t appreciate how good we have it in America… Here is my answer. Gird your loins. It will certainly make some of you UNCOMFORTABLE.
Welcome to my world.
Young White Americans: when you hear young Black Americans speaking of social injustices from white people, what are your thoughts and feelings?
If I thought the question could be answered honestly AND intelligently, it might not be so bad. But I know when push comes to shove, I know we will see people saying:
- Black people don’t have it worse than White people. With all this “reverse racism” Whites are lucky if they can even participate fairly in our society today.
- Blacks are poor because they are uneducated and choose to stay that way. [A lack of proper or adequate educational facilities in Black neighborhoods have nothing to do with it or so I’m told.]
- Blacks are poor because they live in substandard housing. [Indirectly. It is the forces clustering into poor or undesirable neighborhoods which exacerbate their generational poverty. A lack of wealth and opportunity begets more poverty.]
- Blacks don’t succeed because they won’t try hard enough. [Given the stagnation in wages for the last 30 years, Black families who do work are finding their economic earning power has diminished even when they are putting in more hours or forced to work more than one full, two or more part-time jobs, they still cannot keep up with the cost of living.]
- Blacks aren’t as smart as Africans, for example. Africans come to America and run businesses and become wealthy, and they’re Black, right? [Africans are treated differently that local Blacks without the cultural baggage of being considered lazy, problematic and unsuitable for work, thus having access to greater opportunity that local Blacks who may work just as hard and be just as capable.]
The White consensus is: Blacks have failed to demonstrate any sense of culture or decorum in American society since the changing of the laws which permitted chattel slavery, peonage, Jim Crow laws and Racial segregation in the United States.
It has been fifty or so years since the last of these official laws which legally separated and undermined Black achievement in America.
This means it has been only two generations, give or take, where a Black person could find themselves harassed by a White person, demand legal redress, go to court and expect there was a possibility they would actually be heard and treated fairly.
Look at it. Don’t look away! No one there seems even remotely upset. This was business as usual. So much so, it was documented without fear of there ever being a time where this wasn’t acceptable. How bold! How fearlessly they engaged in this barbarism. Confident of there never being a time this wasn’t going to be the order of the day. No hidden faces, no shame evinced. This was THEIR world.
Understand what this means:
- Whites and their contemporaries have lived in this country for over four hundred years, biting and scratching out a living on the American soil by hook or by crook.
- When deception failed to get land from the Native Americans, (meaning when the Louisiana Purchase amounted to little more than beads and trinkets, the early settlers defaulted to murder and mayhem eventually harnessing the full power of the United States Government (such as it was) to gain control over the land and subjugate the Native Americans nigh unto death.
- Their eventual incarceration within “reservations” — areas of land barely capable of supporting life in any manner let alone a life which could lead to enrichment, beneficial developments of their children, and a future for their descendants would almost destroy these proud Native cultures.
- White slavers imported and imprisoned entire generations of Blacks brought to the Americas in a fashion less equitable than that of the most humble of beasts. Strapped like cordwood, side by side with no sanitary services, barely any food, bereft of language, companionship or family. Then taken to a new country, surrounded by enslavement or death, the only choices which mattered.
If you have made it this far, I want you to take a moment and watch an animated datasheet showing the traffic of slaves from Africa to the United States. It is estimated 11–12 million slaves were taken from their homes in Africa during this period.
2–3 million died en-route. Compare the most populated cities in the United States TODAY and put this number in the proper perspective.
The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes
For those of you who can’t be bothered to pay attention for more than two minutes at a time, I challenge you to watch the entire two minutes of this animated data image presented by Slate regarding the DOCUMENTED ship voyages during the Slave Trade. Each dot represents a ship filled to the brim with Human cargo. Watch the dots flash by during the years. Watch the lives destroyed. Every ship destroyed hundreds of lives every time it left port no matter where it ended up.
- Over the period of the Atlantic Slave Trade, from approximately 1526 to 1867, some 12.5 million slaves had been shipped from Africa, and 10.7 million had arrived in the Americas. The Atlantic Slave Trade was likely the most costly in human life of all of long-distance global migrations.
- The first Africans forced to work in the New World left from Europe at the beginning of the sixteenth century, not from Africa. The first slave voyage direct from Africa to the Americas probably sailed in 1526.
- The volume of slaves carried off from Africa reached thirty thousand per year in the 1690s and eighty-five thousand per year a century later. More than eight out of ten Africans forced into the slave trade made their journeys in the century and a half after 1700.
For those of you Black and White who say, slaves had a choice about being slaves, a choice in which one of the options is Death, is not a choice. The words you might be searching for is coercion or dilemma. From the time of their capture, these were their choices and would remain so much of their lives:
- You don’t want to be sold as a slave and put on a ship bound for America? Resist. The result: Death.
- You don’t want to be chained in a ship? Convince the nine other people you are chained to that your only chance to escape is to jump over the side into the Atlantic Ocean during one or two of the brief above deck visits to check for pressure sores and gangrene from the travel conditions. Many chose Death.
- Upon arrival: You don’t want to be sold on an auction block? Resist and be shot. Most likely you will be injured or crippled severely, enough to be docile but not enough to die. However, if you were bold enough or tough enough to kill a white man: Death.
- You don’t want to travel in chains to your new home with a dozen others who can barely speak any languages you know, you are forbidden to practice any spiritualism which may actually offer you comfort, denied food of your upbringing. Try and escape. Get beaten or shot. Most likely, Death is the result.
- Upon your arrival you are still chained (because you can’t be trusted not to run away) and somehow informed, if you try to escape you will be caught.
- And upon your return, you will be beaten. Severely, with whatever is at hand. Ultimately you will be tamed with the same tools Whites tamed animals with: The brand and the whip.
- Your flesh and the flesh of your children will be marked by fire, often as young as three or four. The mark of the Master will be upon you for the rest of your life. If you are unfortunate, you will be sold again. And branded again. And again. And again.
- If you fail the lesson with the first escape your next is met with a whip, leaving savage wounds. Hanging by your hands, your open wounds will be left open to heal badly and remind you regularly of your escape attempt. Crippled: if you’re lucky.
- Abuse at every level, physical, emotional, mental, these abuses are visited upon anyone who dares to transgress. It is done publicly to ensure both your humiliation, your degradation, your shame and the subjugation of an entire generation who is forced to watch.
- There were other more humane tortures such as the Hot Box, where you are placed in a tiny wooden box with no room to stretch out in and the direct sun shining into the box raising the temperature to easily over one hundred degrees in the Southern summer climate. Three or four days with minimal food and water, no bathroom facilities increases one’s compliance greatly.
- If you continue to defy, you will find your family made to suffer, your woman and children will be tortured or raped or for the ultimate indignity they can be sold without warning and their location is never revealed to you. Their fate remains a haunting and emotionally crippling memory.
As a slave this was most likely to be your fate for the next two hundred and fifty years. Some escaped but their lives were only a little less traumatic, and the fear of being returned to that life was always uppermost in their minds and hearts. Women and men have killed their children to prevent them from becoming slaves, so monstrous was the treatment during slavery.
Saint Lincoln to the Rescue
When this period of abomination was ended, not because anyone thought it was a good idea because according to Lincoln’s journals he did not end it because he thought so highly of people of color being enslaved, demeaned and crushed in the fields, or of their need and entitlement of liberty so cherished by the Founding Fathers of this great nation.
“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.”
The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume V, “Letter to Horace Greeley” (August 22, 1862), p. 388.
No. It was purely an economic thing, though fortuitous for us as people of color, our release and the commitment of blood and treasure in this “War of Northern Aggression” was not purely one of liberty, but to prevent the South from gaining an economic hegemony which would leave the North ultimately impoverished due to the free labor provided though slavery.
Don’t be confused. No one is more happy today to NOT be a slave than I am. But when White’s say Lincoln freed the slaves, it was not for our benefit, but his own (read that as YOUR own) needs. He was not concerned about People of Color, no America has never been all that worried about the perspectives of Black, Brown, Asian, Mexican or the disposition of various immigrants if they could NOT pass for White within a generation or two.
White America has always proven itself to be selfish, putting its needs above anyone and everyone else in this nation.
How do I know this? Because from 1885 to 1965, a White man could kill a Black man in this nation and for the most part, suffer no censure, pay no price and experience no accountability for the act. Strange how this particular action still occurs to this very day almost without change; in the case of police officers their badge is a license to kill with impunity and then take a two week vacation while no charges are made, no responsibility taken — just a life snuffed out, in its prime.
Wasn’t this better than slavery? Not much. While we were no longer directly imprisoned, new means of keeping people of color poor continued to exist.
- Peonage: The ability to accuse, arrest and detain Black people, primarily men on prison chain gangs for years at a time without evidence of a crime.
- And America, never to give up when a thing gets good to her, re-established this program with the War on Drugs in the 1970s, shipping drugs to Black neighborhoods and then arresting the users often for extended periods for non-violent offenses ensuring modern Peonage continues.
- Economic Redlining: When Blacks tried to buy land, especially in parts of the country Whites felt belong to them, they were forced away by laws such as economic-redlining making them unable to buy property no matter how much money they had. Without property much of the wealth of Whites in this country wouldn’t exist and they would be as poor as the Blacks they despise.
- Without property, no nest egg, no nest egg, no college fund, no college fund, no leg up in society to make vastly more money than one’s parents made, at least until this modern generation when the robber barons have returned and made upward mobility all but impossible for anyone who wasn’t born White, entitled, wealthy and connected. But its the White part that has the greatest bang for the buck.
When I read about the whining of entitled White citizens who enjoy both the benefits of a four hundred year head start, no legacy of constant, systematic, visible and invisible oppression in every aspect of their existence, from the freedom to go to school, the ability to afford college, a means of getting to work and having work worth having, not having the dangers of living in unenlightened or outright dangerous neighborhoods, living in fear of the very police supposed there to protect you; dealing with health stresses from internalizing micro-aggressions like this question, whose specious underlying fundamental aspect hoped to engender a sense of superiority to a vastly challenged people and it sickens me.
Minorities of all colors in this nation are a challenged people who have been model citizens in a land that overtly despises them, marginalizes them and any who look different, preventing them from enjoying a quality of life similar to the ones presented in the ubiquitous media but which they are almost never depicted in.
Yet they aspire to this life anyway. Seeking this dream of belonging. Participating in any way they can: creating music, but not just music, world-shaking, language transcending musical themes which resonate no matter where they are heard. Rap can be heard in every country where words are spoken and music is played. Without the efforts of hardworking minorities, food would not be grown, nor harvested, hotels would not be cleaned, kitchens in hospitals would not be ready, almost every aspect of life Whites take for granted would likely cease to exist.
Black and other minority citizens of this nation still aspire to be judges, lawyers, astronauts, engineers, teachers, policemen, and one time out of 43 opportunities, the exemplary president of these United States, Barack Hussein Obama.
My personal hero is right here: Dr. Mae Jamison.
But while we aspire for those things we still have to contend with the systematic undermining of our very existence no matter how many gifts we continue to bestow upon the thief of our ancestors, the destroyers of our heritages, the disconnection of us from our people, the diaspora of our humanity all over the world; we are a people without a people.
You don’t get to tell me about your suffering. You don’t get to undermine my struggles. You don’t get to tell me if I just tried a little harder, things would be better for me. You don’t get to tell me I am a welfare recipient and I should be tested for drugs, when you know good and damn well, if I had money I would be buying food before I bought drugs while you use drugs with impunity because your station in life allows for it and make allowances for your privilege. You don’t get to have an opinion about what I do, how I do it, the manner in which I do it, if it doesn’t hurt you or yours.
Considering the monstrous legacy of Whites in this country, they should at least have the decency to treat us like the vital and significant resource we are because without our efforts, America would likely be a third world nation filled with poor but well meaning peasants whose quality of life would be short, brutish and likely highly oppressed by some other more technologically advanced nation.
Blacks want the same things as Whites do in this nation. We simply don’t have the expectation we will get it.
The new racism is far more insidious than the old one. Whites are in positions of power everywhere and thus: They never have to say no. They simply don’t have to say yes.
As a result, we live in an in-between world where we have all of the work and none of the benefits of being citizens in this nation. The very picture of systemic racism. You work for us, but you can never BE US.
The system is designed to ensure we take the hardest road, the most difficult path, the route fraught with perils, physical, mental and spiritual, dealing with people who vex us, who harass us and use the cover of their powerful roles in society as a club to ensure we never achieve parity with White people.
But still we rise. We get up every day, buoyed by the notion, we are closer than we were yesterday to something resembling success. Cheered by the idea of having a job, an opportunity to learn a craft, master a skill, create a dream of something worth having. A home. A family. A legacy.
And there are those of us who realize their fate is to be ground beneath the wheel of this machine. They have no hope, nothing to strive for, they have no rights, no expectation of future of any merit. They are disenfranchised by a system that simply doesn’t care if they exist. They are minorities of all sorts: prisoners, ex-felons, veterans, displaced senior citizens, mental patients, the homeless forced into the street when economic schemes destroyed society. These people also exist and are a result of the society which promises liberty and justice for its huddled masses. Ask them how liberty and justice taste. Especially those homeless vets. They will tell you of the bitter taste of hypocrisy.
Don’t you dare come here and tell me about your feelings. Because until you understand the depth of mine and people like me, nothing you do or think will ever matter to me. Learn about what happened to the early Blacks and Native Americans erased from history and then ask yourself: “Where is my empathy?”
You didn’t do it, You’re not responsible for the legacy of slavery. I get that. But you still benefit from the results whether you like it or not, whether you know it or not and when you pretend it didn’t happen: when you accept a smiling slave book, when you promote textbook companies saying “The slave trade was a voluntary immigration program,” when you promote the idea minorities shouldn’t be in the office because they affect the “cultural dynamic” of the workspace, you contribute to the oppression, knowingly or not.
Black Americans, indeed any American who struggles under the auspices of minority, the broken slaves and Natives of this land have suffered in ways no other group living has had to endure for a period of time unseen in the history of the world. Period.
We are unique. We are special. We fought. We still fight. We are still here. We are never going away.
We will continue to shape the culture, the viewpoints, the nature, the spirit, the philosophy of this great nation for generations to come. We will make you live up to your promises on the Statue of Liberty. And though they did not apply to us then, we insist on them having the same meaning for us now.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Ultimately, we still don’t care what you think about us.
White people seem to lack the ability to be reasonable where minorities are concerned. If you can’t see it, our nation is in greater peril than you realize. Can we turn this around? Look at the first map and ask yourselves honestly:
What are you so afraid of?
And yes, I recognize this magnificent statue was made by a not-free people in North Korea. One more thing that needs to be addressed.
The spirit of the statue speaks to me; of a freedom to pursue a life with boundless opportunity, whose children are the future, whose families are whole and built upon a bedrock exulting in our mutual humanity.
He is also the Cognitive Dissident, living in desolation, a disillusioned, and despondent essayist who has lost all hope in the improvement of the human species. But, somehow, despite it all, he still remains defiantly hopeful humanity may still escape the Sword of Damocles.