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An American Shame

“Disclaimer: This piece is long but it is knowledge everyone should know.”

2There have been many ways to suppress people over time; unfortunately, African Americans have endured the brunt of these efforts. As we know, the history of America reports that it was not only African American’s who were subjected or affected by these efforts. What I can report is that it was always a minority affected by these laws meant to ensure a permanent underclass.

This ideology began as indentured servants, then slavery, segregation, and now could it be conservatism. In each of these classifications there was a design called laws Black Codes, which I suppose make these immoral sanctions sound gentler. The truth is the sole purpose was to suppression rights. Kinda like the agenda behind the States Rights dog-whistles we hear today.

Black Codes were laws passed designed specifically to take away civil rights and civil liberties of African American on the state and local levels. This is the reason Conservatives desire a return to “States Rights” and speak of taking back their country because at the state level they can be unimpeded in turning back the hands of time.

Although, most of the discriminatory legislation, in terms of Black Codes, were used more often by Southern states to control the labor, movements and activities of newly freed slaves at the end of the Civil War. But as Malcolm X once said, “Anywhere south of Canada was south” meaning wherever you were in America you were subjected to discrimination in terms of the “separate but equal” laws, which was the law of the land.

The Black Codes of the 1860’s are not the same as the Jim Crow laws. The Black Codes were in reaction to the abolition of slavery and the South’s defeat in the Civil War. Southern legislatures enacted them during Reconstruction. The Jim Crow era began later, nearer to the end of the 19th century after Reconstruction, with its unwritten laws.

Then there were sundown laws, which meant Blacks, could not live or be caught in certain towns after dark. In some cases, signs were placed at the town’s borders with statements similar to the one posted in Hawthorne California that read “Nigger, Don’t Let The Sun Set On YOU In Hawthorne” in the 1930’s. In some cases, exclusions were official town policy, restrictive covenants, or the policy was enforced through intimidation.

After the abolition of slavery by the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which prior to that African Americans were considered 3/5’s human. Therefore, all former slave states adopted Black Codes. During 1865 every Southern state passed Black Codes that restricted the Freemen, who were emancipated but not yet full citizens. While they pursued re-admission to the Union, the Southern states provided freedmen with limited second-class civil rights and no voting rights. Southern plantation owners feared that they would lose their land. Having convinced themselves that slavery was justified, planters feared African Americans wouldn’t work without coercion. The Black Codes were an attempt to control them and to ensure they did not claim social equality.

The Black Codes outraged public opinion in the North because it seemed the South was creating a form of quasi-slavery to evade the results of the war. After winning large majorities in the 1866 elections, the Republicans put the South under military rule. They held new elections in which the Freedmen could vote. Suffrage was also expanded to poor whites. The new governments repealed all the Black Codes; they were never reenacted – OFFICALLY.

Many of these things are unknown to the generations of today because these injustices have been erased from our history and very little of it is taught in today’s classroom. For example, a sundown town was a town that was all white on purpose. The term was widely used in the United States and Canada in areas from Ohio to Oregon and well into the South. Even in Canada many towns in Southern Ontario, Alberta, and Quebec, were sundown towns prior to 1982, when it was outlawed. The term came from signs that were allegedly posted stating that people of color had to leave the town by sundown. They were also sometimes known as “sunset towns” or “gray towns”. Let me ask if you have ever been to a million dollar community – sound familiar.

The black codes that were enacted immediately after the Civil War, though varying from state to state, were all intended to secure a steady supply of cheap labor and all continued to assume the inferiority of the freed slaves. The black codes had their roots in the slave codes that had formerly been in effect. The premise behind chattel slavery in America was that slaves were property, and, as such, they had few or no legal rights. The slave codes, in their many loosely defined forms, were seen as effective tools against slave unrest, particularly as a hedge against uprisings and runaways. Enforcement of slave codes also varied, but corporal punishment was widely and harshly employed.

Let me highlight this example: In Texas, the Eleventh Legislature produced these codes in 1866. The intent of the legislation was to reaffirm the inferior position that slaves and free blacks had held in antebellum Texas and to regulate black labor. The codes reflected the unwillingness of white Texans to accept blacks as equals. You do remember “Juneteenth”? In addition, the Texans also feared that freedmen would not work unless coerced. Thus the codes continued legal discrimination between whites and blacks. The legislature, when it amended the 1856 penal code, emphasized the continuing line between whites and blacks by defining all individuals with one-eighth or more African blood as persons of color, subject to special provisions in the law.

Minorities were systematically excluded from living in or sometimes even passing through these communities after the sun went down. This allowed maids and workmen to provide unskilled labor during the day. Sociologists have described this as the nadir of American race relations. Sundown towns existed throughout the nation, but most often were located in the northern states that were not pre-Civil War slave states. There have not been any de jure sundown towns in the country since legislation in the 1960’s was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, although de facto sundown towns and counties, where no black family lives – still exist.

Therefore, we see hints of it in the racism that has raised its ugly head and risen to the surface of society’s consciousness, particularly in this political climate. Since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and especially since the Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibited racial discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing, the number of sundown towns has decreased.

However, as sociologist suggest it is impossible to precisely count the number of sundown towns at any given time, because most towns have not kept records of the ordinances or signs that marked the town’s sundown status. It is important to note that sundown status meant more than just African Americans not being able to live in these towns. Essentially any African Americans or other groups who came into sundown towns after sundown were subject to harassment, threats, and violent acts; up to and including lynching.

As one historian has noted, “Racial segregation was hardly a new phenomenon because slavery had fixed the status of most blacks, no need was felt for statutory measures segregating the races. These restrictive Black Codes have morphed in one form or another to achieve its desired effect to maintain a superior status by the powers that be. I am only suggesting that we know and understand history for it will open the mind to what the future may present.

Frankly, if you don’t know where you came from you will never get to where you are going. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective!!!


The Scene Of The Crime

It is a fact that the history of people of African descent was destroyed by government-sanctioned system of slavery. However, I have resurrected our amazing and often horrific journey many times through this blog. I have tried to bring into remembrance some heart-wrenching events and glorious victories resulting from the unimaginable struggles that African Americans have had to endure. Therefore, I would be remiss if I did not start at the beginning with what I call the scene of the crime.

The Jamestown Colony, England’s first permanent settlement in North America, was a marshy wasteland, poor for agriculture and a breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The settlement was such a harsh environment that only thirty-two of the estimated one hundred original settlers survived the first seven months. HIS-Story describes this as the “starving times,” but all would change.

On August 20, 1619, the first African “settlers” reached North America as cargo onboard a Dutch man-of-war ship that rode the tide into the shores of Jamestown, Virginia, carrying Captain Jope and a cargo of twenty Africans. It seems strange to me, but history cannot tell us why this mysterious ship anchored off Jamestown. It is believed the cap­tain needed food and in exchange for food he offered his cargo of Africans as payment.

When the deal was consummated, Antoney, Isabella, and eighteen other Africans disembarked. Although they were not the first Africans to arrive in North America, they were the first African “settlers.” Regarded as indentured servants rather than slaves, fifteen were purchased to serve their redemption time working for Sir George Yardley, the Gover­nor of Virginia and proprietor of the thousand-acre Flowerdew Hundred Plantation. In ten years, by the 1630’s, the colony, through the use of the Africans, had established a successful economy based on tobacco.

Slavery was born, and the slave trade became big business. These human souls were acquired in Africa for an average price of about twenty-five dollars each, paid primarily in merchandise. They were sold in the Americas for about one hundred fifty dollars each. As the price of slaves increased, so did the inhumane overcrowding of the ships.

This was the beginning of the worst crime ever inflicted upon a people and the most morally reprehensible agenda the world has ever known. Adding to this injustice and more horrifying was that the perpetrators believed their actions were sanctioned by God with a religious manifestation that justified slavery. The next two-hundred years were a designed systematic effort to destroy millions of lives through indoctrination, brutality, savagery, and terror.

I am always struck by the use of the word civilization in this matter because the root word is “civil” and there was nothing civil about the institution of slavery. To be clear a slave is chattel – a human being considered property and servant for life. The business of slave trading had one purpose – profit. The process would begin with an African being paid to venture into the interior of the continent, capture other Africans, put them on a death march to the coast and sell these captives to Europeans. Now, if stealing and capturing the victims was not misery enough, what was to follow surely was in every sense of the word.

This horrible journey, known as the “Middle Passage,” ended with a lifetime of bondage awaiting the captives at the end of the voyage. A typical slave ship traveling from Gambia, the Gold Coast, Guinea, or Senegal, would take four to eight weeks to reach New England, Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, or the West Indies. Women, men, and children were crammed so tightly in the cargo ships that out of a load of seven hundred, three or four would be found dead each morning. Africans from Senegal were the most-prized commodity be­cause many were skilled artisans. Ibos from Calabar were considered the most undesirable because of their high suicide rate.

Most ships had three decks with the lower two used for transporting slaves. The lowest deck extended the full length of the ship and was no more than five feet high. The captives were packed into tomb-like compartments side by side to utilize all available space. In the next deck, wooden planks like shelves extended from the sides of the ship where the slaves were chained in pairs at the wrists and ankles – crammed side by side. Men occupied middle shelves and were most often chained in pairs and bound to the ship’s gunwales or to ringbolts set into the deck. Women and children were sometimes allowed to move about certain areas of the ship.

A typical slave ship coming directly to the American mainland from Africa weighed about one to two hundred tons, although some were slightly larger. Slave ships were eventually built especially for human cargo. These slave ships could carry as many as four hundred slaves and a crew of forty-seven, as well as thirteen thousand pounds of food. They were long, narrow, fast, and designed to direct air below decks. Shack­ling irons, nets, and ropes were standard equipment.

The competition at slave markets on the African coast grew so exceptionally that historians estimate that as many as 60 million human souls were captured and taken from the continent of Africa to be sold into bondage. It is estimated that as many as one-third of that number did not survive the “Middle Passage” to reach the shores of a place like Jamestown.

Did you know the first registered slave ship was named “The Good Ship Jesus,” and in the name of God the greatest crime the world has known began in this place called Jamestown? The devastating effects of bondage would have an effect on the race of people for centuries.

I will continue to pray that we will be able, one day, to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.” And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…
 

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Young Gun Down

11The most amazing thing happened Tuesday night that marked the first time since 1899 that the House majority leader was defeated in a primary election; and badly I might add. The prevailing wisdom, at least according to the winner, Cantor was too liberal. Fact of the matter, Cantor should be ashamed of his twelve year tenure because he did nothing and was part of the worst congress in the country’s history, commonly known as “the Do Nothing Congress”.

You proclaimed himself one of the “Young Guns” of the Republican Party, which is nothing more than a code-word for the “New Jim Crow”. This guy was in line to be the next Speaker of the House when John Boehner decided he was tired of herding the opposition. The majority leader was the number two man in congress and the third most powerful republican in Washington. He was also an Arden voice against the president, yet he called himself a patriot.

His loss was devastating and a humiliating defeat. It was sweet vindication that the Republican strategy of stoking up faux-populism of just saying no and never proposing a solution to any problem has blown up spectacularly. Because in their gorgeously gerrymandered districts, their own voters felt things like shouting down the government didn’t go far enough. They said; government is the problem to which I would agree because it was Cantor and folks like that is the problem.

Moving on; the problem as I see it, if Cantor was too liberal – what do you think the guy who beat him to take his place will be like. The endpoint of this insane ideology is the election of a Tea Partiers that if like the rest are not interested in governing at all. Rather dismantling government. It is the mission of the institutional Republicans to gamble that obstructionism alone would give them power are seeing their fortunes turn, and their majority become meaningless.

They simple don’t want any government action on any issue. They want the current trend to continue to allow states rights to be the objective where individual municipalities push forward minimum wage laws because the federal government is paralyzed. Meanwhile, the gap between the rich and the poor widens every day, and Republicans have convinced many rural Americans that the problem is the tax rate on the wealthy. He also voted all of the fifty plus times to take healthcare away from American citizens.

We should be very skepticism of anything changing for the better. Cantor’s replacement will bring more of the same – nothing. But if college professor Dave Brat’s upset victory over the House majority leader indeed spells doom will certainly bring more of the same.

Here’s the irony. Cantor’s defeat had nothing to do with immigration, amnesty, or the border. It had everything to do with arrogance and the fact that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely – they realized like his cohorts simply did nothing, but leverage their positions to benefit themselves.

In an even more satisfying irony because Cantor was one of the greatest proponent of not cooperating with the administration on every piece of legislation proposed by the president. He, along with his compatriot Paul Ryan, instead has championed “broadening the tax base,” otherwise known as taxing the poor.

So overnight, he became a political dead man walking within hours of his defeat and resigned from his leadership position. So forgive me for having little joy in my heart, even if it means we get another Tea Partier in the House. For a bit, it feels as though there is some sense of justice for the left. No matter how much power you accumulate, your own monstrous sentiments can come back to bite you. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


Snakes In The House

1a

I am humbled by those magnificent souls who’ve accomplished and sacrificed so much to remove obstacles placed before them, which have benefited our lives. Brother Malcolm said, back int the day; if we supported each other instead everyone else. There would be no shackles upon us. Maybe this post will get the village smoking.

I speak for me and not, as Malcolm put it, “as one of those chicken peckin so-called leaders”. Who oftentimes are SELF APPOINTED or appointed by those who oppress us to be spokesmen for us. Frankly, I don’t recall voting for anyone other than President Obama. With that said, these corporate sponsored representatives need to just sit down.

LET ME BE CLEAR; I am not chastising those who represent, speak truth, or are working for the greater good – and we know who they are. But there are some that remind me of my uncle whose name is Tom – and we know who they are too.

So let me start my commentary, as they often do with something Biblical: Their “harvest is plenty, but the labor is lost”. Some of these voices have been little more than co-conspirators, or at best, actively participating in the process of crucifying us. Let me explain; when you are crucified, you are stripped of your garments (in this case reason), put in a position to suffer, hung on a cross to die a horrible death degraded and humiliated. While you remain stationed in this place where they (the system) has put you and know where you will be.

History has demonstrated that any time a black leader comes along with a message or the power to resurrect the masses, they have to be been eliminated. So why would it be in their best interest to put them-selves in a position to be destroyed? Today’s messengers say what they are told to say, by their sponsors, and stay in the comfort zone of the establishment.

Many times these “self-appointed” leaders and their crusades are a lot like cancer, I think, in that there is no real agenda to find a cure or solve the problem, because there is no MONEY in the cure. Am I stopping short of calling some sellouts – I’ll leave that for you to interrupt, but the system is designed to protect the system.

There is, and has been a lot, too much, talk and very little action. We have talked, gathered, and marched enough, in my opinion; it’s time for action leading to solutions. Over the years, we have marched with a million men, a million women, and million youth, watched or attended the State of Black America events to include any number of similar events that were suppose to solve our problems – I’m still waiting. Oh, let’s not forget “The Covenant” that all of us bought that only benefited the author.

In many cases, these folks claimed to have received a “calling” to which I suppose is similar to that of someone standing in a pulpit might allege, when they say they’ve heard the voice of God calling him or her to preach the gospel. Maybe it’s just me, but I have yet to hear that voice – I am waiting though.

I said that to say this, if this is a true calling then passion is the motivator that drives one to obtain results for reasons other than self-serving agenda’s – money. I recently reread the “Mis Education of the Negro” and I have to say it was eerily similar to the condition our people face today. Actually, it could have been published last year and not in 1933.

Dr. Woodson said, and I believe, “if you control what a man (or woman) thinks you never have to worry about what they are thinking.” So I suggest that you be careful of false prophets and to judge them by the work they do. We have been hoodwinked, bamboozled; we’ve been took, had, and obviously still mis-educated to the point of sustaining this misery. Again, I say this is MY Thought Provoking Perspective; what will you do? Do you have any suggestions that could improve the State of Black America? Are you going to do anything that might require you to give of yourself for the benefit of others? I know many Church Folk say such things on Sunday but what about the other six days and 22 hours?

It seems to me that we are on “Calvary” with the nails ready to be placed. I for one, CRY OUT to these so called leaders and you; “why have thou forsaken thee?” The noble Harriett Tubman was asked by a reporter shortly before her death, if she knew how many slaves she saved while conducting the Underground Railroad? She pointedly said, “I could have saved a lot more, if they had only known they were slaves.” And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


A Created People

2These stolen people, the so-called Negro, was created to be a people without hope, submissive, and robbed mentally of his heritage to be used to for the purpose of building a nation. While all these people have ever desired since being removed from Africa was to be treated as human being and to obtain the basic human right – equality –  simply put for America to honor the promise of freedom that it claims comes with liberty. I’ll quote Dr. King who said, “We were given a blank check” and we would like to cash it – paid in full.

Let’s be very clear, people of African descent are the only immigrates to come to this country against their will – then to be forced into a life of bondage was then and is now amoral. It is also worth mentioning, for the record, that “A Negro” was created by the wretched souls who arrived in America to lay claim to land that wasn’t even theirs. When I say, created I mean there was no such culture or nationality anywhere on earth before Europeans took the captives from Africa and brought them to America. The result was creating a nation of people placed in a strange land to live without a nationality. This was done specifically through the constitution and legislative laws sanctioned by the government.

From the very beginning, the Africans resisted their captivity and bondage which was to include during the ungodly trip across the Atlantic that history calls the Mid-Passage. Once the captives arrived on land, be it in America or the Caribbean, there was rebellion. There were many movements to obtain the promise of freedom like the Abolitionist Movement and Civil Rights Movements in varying forms. Not to mention, the many-many great leaders born to affect change but killed by the wretched system of slavery and/or during the period of segregation. I won’t say they all failed, but I will say they did not succeed because equal treatment, particularly under the law, and freedom is still absent today.

Many African Americans continue to suffer from the untreated wounds of America’s forefathers and their asymptomatic behaviors. These behaviors were never unlearned and have been passed down from generation to generation. Over my relatively short lifetime, I have been referred to as Colored, Negro, Afro-American, Black, and an African American, which were all polite terms assigned to make known that people of African descent were not American citizens.

This legacy of dependency, apathy, and entrenchment of the American social order from the beginning provides clear evidence of those with a diabolical intent to bankrupt the souls of a people based on an ideology of supremacy. These stolen souls that exist today are people who bear the burden of a system that perpetrated, in the name of God, the greatest crime known to man.

The concept of African Americans being slaves, physically or mentally, is as old as the nation itself, designed to deprive a people of its culture and knowledge through sustained policies of control. To overcome these indignities we must realize that education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize the forces that breed poverty and despair.

Regardless of how much we are held down, it is our responsibility to find a way to get up, even if the system is designed to protect the system. The great Bob Marley reminded us to “Stand-up – Stand-up for your rights”. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


A Teaching Moment

2Seems like once a week, particularly when it comes to matter’s of race, we hear pleas or some fool say, “It’s a Teaching Moment”! I am not just talking about the talking heads in the media, but those fools who have proclaimed themselves black leaders who make such statements with no remorse. My question is: are people, those folks, that dumb to ask us to believe that after 400 year of the same that we should learn from what I would call standard operating procedure.

Two instances in particular raised my blood presser! Dr. Kings son, Marty, went on MSNBC and argued the point that black people and their leaders should open a dialog with the Tea Party. Is that not like the chicken trying to appease the fox? First, everybody knows the Tea Party are simply the KKK in suits! Let me add, I don’t know anyone who voted for this guy to replace the “King” or any of them, who claim to be our voice. Seems to me, he has enough trouble in his our house [family] then to offer ANY advice to the black community at large. In fact, his mother and father are rolling over in their graves for their despicable behavior!

The other thing is, and I have to ask: why are black people or anyone for that matter shocked by the remarks made by Donald Sterling owner of the LA Clippers. There has never been a veil of secrecy surrounding the views of rich people with privilege and power. It is the mentality of these people to be bigots. Their privilege dictates as much. This old fool has benefited on the backs of his million dollar slave that resided on his plantation, and he will benefit to the tune of about a BILLION dollars.

Another owner made statements to suggest, he and all of the other owner are bigoted to some degree, and this guy was supposed to be the cool guy. Get real people – no one cares about you. Not these folks who rob you or pretend to support a cause that might benefit you. All of these folk who are suppose to speak for you are “paid well” to promulgate the same nonsense. Or as Brother Malcolm would say, you’ve been “hoodwinked”! You are supporting these folk and you have never been to a meeting or dare I say, never made a contribution to the cause in any way. Much in the same way most of you do every Sunday when you profess wanting to go to heaven but make sure you are nowhere near the front of the line.

Here is the teaching moment: Teach your kids, and if you believe so strongly in whomever the massager is – give them this message. Put their energy into efforts to improve the education that your kids should get because only then will they make a difference in the world. I am sure you know the old cliché “There’s a sucker born every day.” Does that me today is your birthday!

As in the recent situation involving the NAACP, who sold out for money under the guise of helping black children! What makes you think the rest of them aren’t doing same, as well? When you can name ONE THING these so-called black leaders have done for their people, except take your money, let me know. I am going to be frank, “I would rather go to hell along, than to follow a fool to heaven because if some of these so-called leaders make it to haven – I know I went to the wrong place”.

Lastly, while most of you are facinated with J-Z & B or Kemye who does nothing for the broader culture but lend to destroying it. Yes, when I re-posted an article called “The Case For Reparations” I got the most negative comments. In fact, appalling  were appealing! Every other culture that was wronged was compensated when their injury was not near a great as that of Black People. If you want to do something, ask these so-called leaders to take a stand on this issue. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

The Case for Reparations


The Case for Reparations: An Intellectual Autopsy

2THIS IS A MUST READ!

This is the exact article written by TA-NEHISI COATES a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle. I want to give proper credit, as I was unable to reblog this post. However, this is a very interesting read and has been viral. _________________________________________________

The best thing about writing a blog is the presence of a live and dynamic journal of one’s own thinking. Some portion of the reporter’s notebook is out there for you to scrutinize and think about as the longer article develops. For me, this current article—an argument in support of reparations—began four years ago when I opposed reparations. A lot has happened since then. I’ve read a lot, talked to a lot of people, and spent a lot of time in Chicago where the history, somehow, feels especially present.

I think I owe you a walk-through on how my thinking evolved. When I wrote opposing reparations I was about halfway through my deep-dive into the Civil War. I roughly understood then that the Civil War—the most lethal conflict in American history—boiled down to the right to raise an empire based on slaveholding and white supremacy. What had not yet clicked for me was precisely how essential enslavement was to America, that its foundational nature explained the Civil War’s body count.  The sheer value of enslaved African-Americans is just astounding. And looking at this recent piece by Chris Hayes, I’m wondering if my numbers are short (emphasis added):

In order to get a true sense of how much wealth the South held in bondage, it makes far more sense to look at slavery in terms of the percentage of total economic value it represented at the time. And by that metric, it was colossal. In 1860, slaves represented about 16 percent of the total household assets—that is, all the wealth—in the entire country, which in today’s terms is a stunning $10 trillion.

Ten trillion dollars is already a number much too large to comprehend, but remember that wealth was intensely geographically focused. According to calculations made by economic historian Gavin Wright, slaves represented nearly half the total wealth of the South on the eve of secession. “In 1860, slaves as property were worth more than all the banks, factories and railroads in the country put together,” civil war historian Eric Foner tells me. “Think what would happen if you liquidated the banks, factories and railroads with no compensation.”

As with any economic institution of that size, enslavement grew from simply a question of money to a question of societal, even theological, importance. I got that in 2011, from Jim McPherson (emphasis again added):

“The conflict between slavery and non-slavery is a conflict for life and death,” a South Carolina commissioner told Virginians in February 1861. “The South cannot exist without African slavery.” Mississippi’s commissioner to Maryland insisted that “slavery was ordained by God and sanctioned by humanity.” If slave states remained in a Union ruled by Lincoln and his party, “the safety of the rights of the South will be entirely gone.” If these warnings were not sufficient to frighten hesitating Southerners into secession, commissioners played the race card. A Mississippi commissioner told Georgians that Republicans intended not only to abolish slavery but also to “substitute in its stead their new theory of the universal equality of the black and white races.” Georgia’s commissioner to Virginia dutifully assured his listeners that if Southern states stayed in the Union, “we will have black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything.”

An Alabamian born in Kentucky tried to persuade his native state to secede by portraying Lincoln’s election as “nothing less than an open declaration of war” by Yankee fanatics who intended to force the “sons and daughters” of the South to associate “with free negroes upon terms of political and social equality,” thus “consigning her [the South’s] citizens to assassinations and her wives and daughters to pollution and violation to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans…” This argument appealed as powerfully to nonslaveholders as to slaveholders. Whites of both classes considered the bondage of blacks to be the basis of liberty for whites. Slavery, they declared, elevated all whites to an equality of status by confining menial labor and caste subordination to blacks. “If slaves are freed,” maintained proslavery spokesmen, whites “will become menials. We will lose every right and liberty which belongs to the name of freemen.”

Enslavement is kind of a big deal—so much so that it is impossible to imagine America without it. At the time I was reading this I was thinking about an essay (which I eventually wrote) arguing against the idea of the Civil War as tragedy. My argument was that the Civil War was basically the spectacular end of a much longer war extending back into the 17th century—a war against black people, their families, institutions and their labor. We call the war “slavery.” John Locke helped me with that. This was all swirling in my head about the time I saw this article in the Times:

On Saturday, more than 15,000 students are expected to file into classrooms to take a grueling 95-question test for admission to New York City’s elite public high schools. (The exam on Sunday, for about 14,000 students, was postponed until Nov. 18 because of Hurricane Sandy.) No one will be surprised if Asian students, who make up 14 percent of the city’s public school students, once again win most of the seats, and if black and Hispanic students win few.

Last school year, of the 14,415 students enrolled in the eight specialized high schools that require a test for admissions, 8,549 were Asian. Because of the disparity, some have begun calling for an end to the policy of using the test as the sole basis of admission to the schools, and last month, civil rights groups filed a complaint with the federal government, contending that the policy discriminated against students, many of whom are black or Hispanic, who cannot afford the score-raising tutoring that other students can. The Shis, like other Asian families who spoke about the exam in interviews in the past month, did not deny engaging in extensive test preparation. To the contrary, they seemed to discuss their efforts with pride.

I was sort of horrified by this piece, because what the complaint seemed to be basically arguing for was punishing a group of people (Asian immigrants) who were working their asses off. It struck me that these were exactly the kind of people you want if you’re building a country. Even though I am arguing for reparations, I actually believe in a playing field—a level playing field, no doubt—but one with actual competition. It struck me as wrong to punish people for working really hard to succeed in that competition. This paragraph, in particular, got me:

Others take issue with the exam on philosophical grounds. “You shouldn’t have to prep Sunday to Sunday, to get into a good high school,” said Melissa Santana, a legal secretary whose daughter Dejanellie Falette has been prepping this fall for the exam. “That’s extreme.”

I was stewing reading this. It offended some of my latent nationalism—the basic sense that you want everyone on your “team” to go out there and fight. But as I thought about it I felt that there was something underneath the mother’s point. In fact there are people who don’t “have to prep Sunday to Sunday, to get into a good high school.” But they tend to live in neighborhoods that have historically excluded children with names like Dejanellie. Why is that? Housing policy. What are the roots of our housing policy? White supremacy. What are the roots of white supremacy in America? Justification for enslavement. A few days later I sent the following rambling memo to my editor, Scott Stossel:

Hey Scott. I have an essay that’s starting to brew in me that I’ve been thinking a lot about. Are you at all interested in a piece that makes the case for reparations? This is totally pie in the sky, but it’s my take on the Atlantic as a journal of “Big Ideas.” There’s this great piece in the Times a few weeks back about selective schools in New York and how Asian immigrants are dominating the process.

I found myself really compelled by a lot of the stories and actually in more sympathy with the Asians (now Asian-Americans) than with the blacks who were protesting. A lot of what they were saying reminded me of the sort of stuff my own parents said. And then something occurred to me. The reason why a lot of these black parents are upset is because the schools are basically credentialing machines for the corridors of power. By not going to a Stuyvesant you miss out on that corridor, so the thinking goes. And moreso the feeling is (though never explicitly said) that black people deserve special consideration, given our history in this country.

The result is that you have black parents basically lobbying for Asian-American kids to be punished because the country at large has never given much remedy for what it did to black people. I’ve thought the same before in reference to gentrification. The notion that DC should remain “black” has always struck me as really bizarre. Very little in America ever stays anything. Change is the nature of things. It only makes sense if you buy that black people are “owed” something. I.E. Since we never got anything for slavery, Jim Crow, red-lining, block-busting, segregation, housing and job discrimination, we at least deserve the stability of neighborhoods and cities we can call home.

I’m thinking about it with the Supreme Court set to dismantle Affirmative Action. Isn’t the “diversity” argument actually kind of weak? Isn’t the recompensation argument actually much more compelling? Except this was outlawed with Bakke. What I am thinking is right now, at this moment, American institutions (especially its schools) are being asked to answer for the fact that country lacked the courage to do the right thing. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision coming down, in the wake of (what looks like) a second Obama term, we could make a really strong case that now is the time renew a serious discussion about Reparations.

And we could move it beyond “Check in hand” discussion to something more sophisticated. Does this interest you? I actually could see us arguing that Obama has nothing to lose, and should explicitly support such a policy. He ain’t gonna do it. But we might–might–be able to make a good faith argument for it. Any interest?

All of this did not stick. (I don’t, for instance, think it would be a good idea for Obama to support reparations. That would actually be a horrible idea.) But by then I had it fully established in my head that we are asking other institutions to answer for something major in our history and culture. The final piece of this was the uptick in cultural pathology critiques extending from the White House on down. There is massive, overwhelming evidence for the proposition that white supremacy is the only thing wrong with black people.

There is significantly less evidence for the proposition that culture is a major part of what’s wrong with black people. But we don’t really talk about white supremacy. We talk about inequality, vestigial racism, and culture. Our conversation omits a major portion of the evidence. The final thing that happened was I became convinced that an unfortunate swath of  popular writers/pundits/intellectuals are deeply ignorant of American history. For the past two years, I’ve been lucky enough to directly interact with a number of historians, anthropologists, economists, and sociologists in the academy.

The debates I’ve encountered at Brandeis, Virginia Commonwealth, Yale, Northwestern, Rhodes, and Duke have been some of the most challenging and enlightening since I left Howard University. The difference in tenor between those conversations and the ones I have in the broader world, are disturbing. What is considered to be a “blue period” on this blog, is considered to be a survey course among academics. Which is not to say everyone, or even mostly everyone, agrees with me in the academy. It is to say that I’ve yet to engage a historian or sociologist who’s requested that I not be such a downer.

This process was not as linear as I’m making it out to be. But it all combined to make me feel that mainstream liberal discourse was getting it wrong. The relentless focus on explanations which are hard to quantify, while ignoring those which are not, the subsequent need to believe that America triumphs in the end, led me to believe that we were hiding something, that there was something about ourselves which were loath to say out in public. Perhaps the answer was somewhere else, out there on the ostensibly radical fringes, something dismissed by people who should know better. People like me.


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