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Is Uncle Bernie (Sanders) Black Enough for the Black Vote?

Sanders

Uncle Bernie

This past June (2015) Killer Mike of rap duo Run the Jewels endorsed Bernie Sanders for President. He did this, as he stated, because of Senator Sander’s position to continue the fight for minority voting rights. Killer Mike’s endorsement signaled a major cultural setback for Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations. After all former Secretary Clinton has enjoyed huge support within the black and minority communities, except when, with blacks leading the charge, abandoned her for candidate Barack Obama. The very fact that Senator Obama was the blackest and smartest man in the room made it a fait de compli that he would garner over 90% of the black vote. Yet, during this election cycle Clinton’s black support has returned. Ironically, Clinton’s “black credentials” are suspect and she has little credible evidence or a voting record to show her actions helped rather than hindered black life. Senator Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist worked for decades to uplift black, brown and poor folk and marched with Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., something no other Presidential candidate can claim. His “black credentials” are authentic. However, he might have a much harder time selling his candidacy to African Americans. This is what black folks in the south used to call a conundrum.

Karen-Civil-Killer-Mike-Kendrick-Lamar-Hood-PoliticsKiller Mike

According to a recent Gallup Poll, Clinton received a 71% favorable ratting among nonwhite women. I presume that all facets of the non-white female community wholeheartedly feel an affinity and sisterhood with the former Secretary. Given the ubiquity of gender discrimination this is understandable. But her approval rating among non-white men plummets to just 59%. This is what black folks in the North call ironic. Why is this? What is it about Hillary Clinton that black and minority men seem less likely to support? Is it her gender? My suspicion is that many black men don’t see her as an authentic expression of their worldview. A view marked by the constant necessity to be on guard against societies unsettled relationship toward them. What is particularly interesting about Killer Mike’s endorsement is its veritable validation of Bernie Sanders’ cultural “street cred” which is just another way of saying “cool black M.C. supports my candidacy for President. Who you got?”

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It remains to be seen whether any other black “cool guy or girl” celebrity will rush to embrace Sanders. What I do believe is that this election will test the mainstream Democratic National Committee’s narrative of why it controls the black vote. Here is what I mean. Prior to the election of Democrat Franklin Roosevelt as the nation’s 32nd President of the United States in 1930 blacks were predominately members of the Republican Party and in varying degrees also belonged to leftist radical political parties in the United States like- the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)–If your unaware Bernie Sanders is a self proclaimed democratic socialist (Cornell West is an Honorary National Chairman of the DSA). The Republican Party that emerged from the ashes of the Whig Party in 1854 was formed by radical activists who clamored for the destruction of slavery. After the Civil War newly elected Congressional Black Republicans pushed for Native American, women, and Asian rights. They sought to ensure voting rights were protected and sought to establish free education for all citizens. These very same ideas are those that candidate Sanders has supported all of his political life.

Many African Americans including NACCP co-founder and intellectual W.E.B. Dubois, singer-actor Paul Robeson, economist Abram Harris, Jr. writer Richard Wright, Jamaican American poet Claude McKay, the entire African Blood Brotherhood, members of the Black Panther Party including Angela Davis were all committed socialists. Socialists were always at the forefront of defending and supporting African American civil rights even against extreme white supremacy in the South and in major northern cities. It was socialists not Democrats nor Republicans that defended The Scottsboro Boys, falsely accused of raping two white women in 1931 Alabama. The Boys were defended and supported for years by the International Labor Defense (ILD), a socialist legal advocacy organization.

If candidate Sanders struggles with the black vote it will be with the middle of black America. The middle has always been slow to change course even in the face of injustice (the Black Middle class supported segregationist Woodrow Wilson). However, I believe Killer Mike’s constituency: black men, will be more likely to support Sanders but the real work ahead is with black women. This will require an earnest effort to remind large segments of the black population of the depth and breadth of the black radical tradition. The Sander’s campaign should remind black women that the first African American woman to run for President of the United States was socialist Charlene Mitchell who ran in 1968 (four years before Shirley Chisolm) and Angela Davis who ran for Vice President of the Untied States during the Reagan years. Both were committed to socialist ideals.

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 A 2015 Reason Rupp poll asked Americans to rate their favorability towards capitalism, socialism, a free market economy and a government managed economy. Socialism received a 36% favorable rating compared to capitalism (55%), and free markets (69%). It’s clear that Americans favor a free and fair market economy over capitalism.  Most likely it’s because many Americans have witnessed first hand the destructive force of capitalism.  This should give the Sanders campaign a glimmer of hope and provide the necessary data that suggests favorability ratings of American capitalism are low and that socialism can get a hearing from many open minded Americans, particularly black women who are effected in more personal ways by our gender biased capitalist-free market economy. Black women understand from real economic experience there is nothing free about an American free market or fair in a capitalist one either.

African American’s historical legacy of working as socialists and within various socialist political organizations should give every black political consultant and voter pause to reconsider, rethink and re-prioritize our ties to traditional candidates and to a greater point re-evaluate our almost blind political allegiances. Bernie Sanders appeal to the black community is not an aberration and neither is Killer Mike’s support. It’s mainstream black political thought. Bernie Sanders’ campaign represents a return to or at least a shift back toward our political roots. The question is whether Bernie Sanders, who I believe more fully represents the non-racial aspects of black life, can inspire young black voters, in particular black middle class women to care enough to come to the polls in 2016. Killer Mike’s endorsement is a start but more work has to be done.

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Uncategorized

Terror Revisited: The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the 1822 Plot For Freedom!

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (EAME), the site of the terrorist attack on June 17, 2015, was again thrust into the forefront of the nation’s sorry culture of racism. The EAME’s history is entangled not only in its mission to provide for the spiritual needs of Charleston’s African American citizenry but its history is centered deeply and intertwined within the nations long and troubled history of slavery, abolition and struggle for black liberation. The EAME’s story is worth revisiting in conjunction with one of the nation’s darkest and most tragic incidents the rebellion and hanging of Denmark Vesey.

In 1781, Bermudian slave merchant Captain Joseph Vesey purchased a 14-year old African slave named Telemaque. After a time for reasons unknown, Vesey sold Telemaque to a planter in French Saint-Domingue what is now present-day Haiti. Telemaque suffered epileptic seizures and was returned to Captain Vesey who subsequently refunded the purchase price to the French planter. (Historians believe that Vesey probably faked his epileptic seizures to escape the brutal conditions of slave life in Haiti)

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Telemaque had a gift for languages and learned to speak, read and write in French, Spanish and English. This would serve him later as he became an outspoken leader. Following the American Revolution, Captain Vesey retired from the sea and slave trade, settling in Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston was an international hub connected to the Caribbean’s booming merchant shipping trade, particularly focusing on illegal or contraband slaves (slave importation had been outlawed in 1808), rice and indigo exports. Vesey “hired out” Telemaque as a carpenter, and he quickly became a well-known artisan in the city and a member of the Charleston slave and free black community.

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Port of Charleston circa 1865

On November 9, 1799, Telemaque, 32 years of age, won $1500 dollars in a Charleston city lottery. This would amount to roughly $31,000 dollars (calculating purchasing power) in 2015. Telemaque purchased his freedom from Captain Vesey and settled in the City as Denmark Vesey, a free man of color (Vesey chose the name Denmark from the country of Denmark). Vesey married a slave and had children. However due to American slave laws Vesey’s wife and children remained in bondage. Vesey made repeated attempts to purchase his family but was unable to do so. Meanwhile, Vesey found fellowship among the free black population. However, the black community had long been subjected to overtly harsh racism by its white citizenry.  In particular the white community had, by law, complete oversight of the where and how its black population worshipped. Generally blacks could not worship after daylight hours, were forbidden to read and had to be supervised by white clergy.

Denmark joined a local white run Presbyterian Church. The local Methodist Episcopal Church of Charleston relegated its black congregation to second-class membership, subjecting it to constant indignities and insults. The church segregated blacks in separate seating, denied them any say in Church governance and forbid blacks a ministerial role. The breaking point came in 1816 when white Church leaders voted to build a Hearse House on top of the black burial grounds. This insult spurred the entire black congregation to walk out and to form what became the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (EAME). Vesey was one of its organizers.

The EAME Church was supported by a few progressive white clergy in the city and rapidly attracted nearly two thousand members, making this the second-largest AME congregation in the nation. However, Charleston had a rabid pro-white-anti-black citizenry, led by, among others Preston Brooks a ferocious advocate of black slavery, preacher of black inferiority and advocate of states’ rights. Brooks is primarily remembered for beating Senator Charles Sumner an abolitionist, with a cane on the floor of the United States Senate, on May 22, 1856 after Sumner gave an impassioned anti-slavery speech.

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Senator Preston Brooks of South Carolina

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The EAME Church became a breeding ground for black pride and uplift. White city officials became so alarmed by the EAME’s growing influence among its black slave and free population that it twice closed it for violating slave laws related to times and purpose of gatherings. In 1818 Charleston officials arrested 140 black church members and sentenced eight church leaders to heavy fines and whippings. City officials again raided the church in 1820 and 1821.

Although the details are sketchy, most likely in early 1822, Vesey a co-organizer of EAME became leader of a group of blacks and planned to start a slave uprising. The logistics were fairly simple as Charleston had a majority black population. Vesey and his followers were thought to have planned to kill slaveholders in Charleston, liberate the slaves, and sail to the black republic of Haiti, which had won its independence in 1804. It’s likely that Vesey wanted to rescue his family from slavery. Word of the plan was leaked, (most probably by a fellow black) and city officials and white citizens terrified that a black revolution, like that of Haiti, would visit its State quickly had a militia arrest the plot’s leaders and many suspected followers in June. Not one white person was killed or injured. Vesey and five slaves were among the first group of men judged guilty by the secret proceedings of a city-appointed Court and condemned to death; they were executed by hanging on July 2, 1822. Later one of his sons was judged guilty of this conspiracy and was among many blacks deported. Interesting enough the Haitian Revolution spurred South Carolinians to ensure that every white male citizen was armed and eligible for militia service.

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In 1822 the city-appointed Court of Magistrates and Freeholders continued to arrest blacks and in July roughly 30 more were executed. The Court examined a total of 131 men, convicted 67 of conspiracy, hanged 35 (including Vesey), deported 31 men, reviewed and acquitted 27, and questioned and released 38. Because Vesey was one of the plot organizers and leader the original church was burned down. It is unlikely that 131 blacks were involved and many believed that whites used the Vesey plot as a means to terrorize the black community and in particular to punish the EAME Congregation. Whites believing that black churches fermented slave rebellions outlawed all-black churches in Charleston in 1834. The EAME Congregation met in secret until the end of the Civil War in 1865.

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View of the last Palmetto tree in Charleston (1865)

On February 18, 1865 the mayor surrendered the city to Union General Alexander Schimmelfennig; and Union troops. After the eventual surrender of the Confederate States of America, Federal forces remained in Charleston during the city’s reconstruction. After the city’s liberation Bishop Daniel Payne (Head of the National AME Church) installed Reverend Richard H. Cain as the pastor of the congregations that would become Emanuel A.M.E. and Morris Brown A.M.E. In 1872, after serving in the South Carolina Senate (1868-1872), Reverend Cain became a Republican Congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The congregation rebuilt the church between 1865 and 1872 under the lead of the architect Robert Vesey, one son of Denmark Vesey. After an earthquake demolished that building in 1886, President Grover Cleveland donated ten dollars ($300) to the church to aid its rebuilding efforts, noting that he was “very glad to contribute something for so worthy a cause.” However, being a Democrat, he also donated $20 ($600) dollars to the Confederate Home, a “haven for white widows.” The current EAME building was constructed in 1891. The location of the post-Civil War churches is on the north side of Calhoun Street (named after rabid racist and secessionist, former Vice President John C. Calhoun); blacks were not welcome on the south side of what was then known as Boundary Street when the church was built.

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The continued saga of the EAME church underscores the continued and disturbing racial animosity, fear and hatred of black religious self expression and the need to consider a move toward a systematic and formalized commitment of black church security.  This would include security guidelines, procedures, and ongoing contact with law enforcement including the FBI and a recognition that no matter how much we are tied to this land there will always be individuals committed to insisting that this is and will remain a “white man’s country.”

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Uncategorized

The Re-emergence of Confederate Nationalism

1386504599880.cachedRecently this month two white female high school students, in what appeared to have been a pre-orchestrated event, stood proudly waving Confederate Battle Flags on one of America’s most hallowed grounds the Gettysburg Civil War Memorial Battlefield. The girls not only shared the photos via social media but also captioned the photos with “South will rise,” and “Already bought my first slave.”

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While one parent attributed the North Carolina’s East Chapel High school girls actions to naiveté their actions are representative of an alarming trend of young white kids from Long Island to California that are not only espousing racial hatred toward non-whites, as in the case where in 2012 Texas’ High School students taunted Mexican American basketball players with chants of “U.S.A.,” but underscore a troubling resurgence of Confederate Nationalism.

Take the incident in April 2014 when a couple of white male students who appeared at Long Island’s St. Anthony’s Catholic high school handball game were suspended for wearing the Confederate battle flag. In another recent case the photo of a group of Denver Colorado high school students dressed for prom, holding guns and the Confederate flag caused a social media uproar. In another example 28 year-old Bus driver Ken Webber of Oregon was suspended for flying the battle flag on his school bus. Rather than removing the flag a defiant Webber defiantly took the suspension saying, “No one here is gonna tell me what I can and can’t believe in.”  Weaver filed a lawsuit and won. Long Island, Colorado and Oregon could hardly be called southern strongholds. Yet, an increasing trend of whites in these areas seem to have gravitated toward what some argue are symbols of white supremacy and slavery.

These episodes whether isolated or falling into a coherent line of Confederate ideology are troubling. Foremost many white students and their parents have elected to reject years of purposeful multicultural education where students were taught the history of the long train of racial abuses suffered by African Americans both free and enslaved. Further they downplay the sacrifices of whites that fought to end slavery and the social, economic, and the political cost of waging the most horrific war ever fought on earth just to hold others in bondage.

The mythology of Confederate Nationalism has long since been debated by those that argued that it developed as an outgrowth of the Civil War and those that denied its existence altogether. Whether real or imagined Confederate Nationalism was always, at least within the African American community, a real and salient feature of white southern culture. Since the end of the Civil War African Americans, particularly those in the southern United States have always had to deal with a type of shadow Confederate Army. Southern white men and women have proudly flown the Battle Flags at state capital buildings, waved them at sporting events and displayed them to taunt Civil Rights marchers. Just recently the battle flag was moth balled as the representative symbol by one American university.

What has emerged, as a new twist to this surge in Confederate pride, is the linking of the Stars and Bars as the flag is often called with being American. Take for example the Colorado students that instagramed the photo of themselves holding guns and the Confederate flag. The kid’s stated, “We didn’t know it was wrong and we were tyring to express our love of being American.” How these kids were able to conjoin their Americaness to the most important symbol of Confederate and Anti-American identity is a twist of logic that only 19th century racial pseudo scientists could only envy. One only knows if Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, is turning in his grave?

One question we should ask is why is this happening? During the 1970’s as a means to skirt school desegregation laws wealthy white parents opted out of public schools and created exclusive private schools. The less affluent white students that were left behind had no choice but to attend schools with minority students. However, beginning in the somewhere in the 2000’s less affluent white parents began a process of creating schools in all white communities after many cities were released from Federally mandated desegregation plans. Propublica reports that the south is seeing a resurgence of school re-segregation to the degree that 1 in 3 black student’s attends a school that looks as if “Brown V. Board of Education never happened.”

But it’s not only the reforming of segregated schools. School curriculums and textbooks have become battlegrounds for pro or neutral revision of antebellum history.   In 2013, Tracy Thompson author of the Mind of the South (2013) wrote of the ongoing revisionist history effort whereby southern schools and churches are still pretending the Civil War wasn’t about slavery. Thompson quoting James Loewen, a sociologist and author of “Lies My Teacher Told Me,” has said that when he speaks to public school educators across the country today, somewhere between 60 and 75 percent say that the Civil War was fought over the issue of states’ rights, rather than slavery.

The re-assurgence of Confederate nationalism seems to me not only a rejection of multi-culturalism but also an affirmation of a kind of distorted form of white identity. When did Confederate Nationalism equate with American identity and why does it appeal to young men and women in Oregon?   Why are so many young people willing to voice their disdain for multi-culturalism by adopting the symbols of hate?

What I fear is that as America continues to brown it may reach a threshold where Confederate Nationalism is not something that remains solely an act of flag waving but the acts and aspirations of a “disgruntled minority” that feels grieved that its white historical legacy is in jeopardy. The America south and the so-called Bible Belt is increasingly arming its citizenry by passing open gun carry laws, the question is for what purpose?

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Afrcan American, Social Action

Where are all the Black Faces? HWCUs and Black Athletes for Sale

Every year during March Madness I am constantly reminded of the never-ending talent of young athletes as they compete in the world’s greatest sporting event the NCAA Basketball Championship aka March Madness. No other event, save the World Cup, offers so little to so many: bragging rights for a year and a ton of illegal gaming activity. For me one of the most astonishing aspects of the tournament is the seemingly never-ending display of NBA ready basketball talent.

This year’s tournament features a number of well-known NBA potentials that include perennial standouts from programs like Duke and Kentucky.   Yet, with all the hype and talk about “The One and Done” (star athletes that only stay for a year and move on to the NBA) my focus always is drawn away from the athletes and toward the audience and the racial disparity.

What always strikes me is that while the best athletes on the court are black most of those sitting in the student sections or the general audiences are white. Other than parents and family members that show up you really have to pay close attention to find any blacks faces. Take for example Duke and Kentucky. While Duke has an unbelievably strong student section and Kentucky’s fans are notorious for filling every seat just for practices one would be hard pressed to find a more than a handful of black faces.   I know its really hard to blame both Duke and Kentucky after all they both are part of CBB’s most enduring legends: Tobacco Road. And in times past the only blacks that could be found at both universities were out on tobacco road, literally. How else do you think both universities were built? But outside of the actual athletic events with the exception of black colleges March Madness illustrates the almost one-sided racialized nature of college admissions and the role that black athletes and their families play in the non-athlete recruiting game, none.

Why does this even matter you may ask? Take for example the recent racist rant by Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity members. The chant that got those frat boys in trouble smacked of exclusion. But exclusion from what? It seems to me that those young white kids placed a value in their fraternities’ ability to exclude blacks from its membership rolls. Exclusion to them equaled prestige, because that’s what exclusivity is really all about: having something that everyone wants but few have. But how many black students are being admitted to OU, let alone being asked to join SAE? Very few–is the answer if you’re reading my mind. While the University of Oklahoma is a fine institution it has never been known as an academic powerhouse so how can members of SAE make claims to prestige? They can and do so because the prestige of the University is generated by the strength of its athletic programs and in particular football. One can argue about the fine points of an OU degree and its relative worth in the marketplace but from my point of view the prestige of their degrees is quite frankly achieved on the backs of black youth and their families that have supported these kids from the junior leagues to college.

Yet, the return that these families receive on their investment is, for at least 50% of black college athletes worse than downgraded Russian government (i.e. Junk) bonds. For example, the NCAA reported that 50% of all black college athletes fail to earn degrees. This is a national embarrassment. Low graduation rates among black athletes speak volumes of the fatuousness of black families that continue to feed their children into one of the most exploitive systems in America. It also speaks volumes of the failure of black leadership in creating the means by which black youth are seen as a precious human commodity not to be handed over to the highest bidder. Take for example, LeBron James Jr. (aka Bronny). As a 10 year old he is already receiving offers from colleges and this cannot be because he is strong pre-law standout. The college coaches are in effect acting as if Bronny is Ganymeade (Meade) the son of Lucrezia Borgia on the plantation Falconhurst. The irony is absurd. It’s obvious why this is being done–Landing the son of LeBron James would be a boon for any college.

I am not suggesting that Bronny or any black college recruit should forgo the use of their talents for a shot at the NBA or for that matter a college education. But Black leaders must begin educating the black community and unsuspecting mothers that truly believe that these Universities have their children’s best interest at heart because they don’t. Just ask the father of one of University of Michigan’s high school football recruits Daishon Neal. Daishon’s father heard it for himself when the coaching staff of Michigan told him that his son probably wouldn’t be able to get into the school without football.  In other words Michigan would not have even bothered sitting in his living room discussing his son’s future but for football. Daishon might not have been Michigan academic material but why recruit him in the first place? After all the Daishon still would still have to earn his degree. Or to put it bluntly, perhaps Michigan doesn’t care whether his son earned a degree or not. Caveat emptor!

Here is some food for thought:

In the south, where college football reigns as the national pastime, every single Governor is Republican. Republicans control southern State Legislatures that have, quite frankly, been rather hostile to black life (i.e. Stand Your Ground Laws).   Yet, with every black recruit that attends a southern university they bring prestige, dollars and add value to their state college and universities systems. So while black athletes run, jump and throw, Republican alumni from their own universities pass laws intended to circumscribe black life. The unanimity of Republicans nationwide to repeal Obamacare is a prime example. (Southern state legislature earn degrees from these universities)

Black athletes increase revenue at these college campuses. The increase in revenue helps to attract better faculty. Top faculty invents, write, build and create industry and jobs for the State. Top students are attracted to top faculty. Top students earn higher salaries that in turn increases revenue for the state none of which goes back into the black community, save for an increase in the amount of riot and police equipment. It’s a zero sum game for regular students and their siblings that are shut out of the loop.   Just ask Silicon Valley, where few if any blacks work. What was a Rose Bowl worth to Stanford? I’m sure they’ll choke on Jerry Lawson’s video game cartridge attempting to find a black spokesperson to answer that question.

Here are the sobering statistics on the value that black athletes bring to athletic programs:

Compiled by Forbes Business magazine:

School- Current Value- Governor

  1. University of Texas: $129 Million  Republican
  2. University of Notre Dame $112 Million Republican
  3. Penn State $53 Million Democrat
  4. Louisiana State University $96 Million Republican
  5. University of Michigan $94 Million Republican
  6. University of Alabama $93 Million Republican
  7. University of Georgia $93 Million Republican
  8. University of Arkansas $89 Million Republican
  9. Auburn University $37 Million Republican
  10. University of Oklahoma $87 Million Republican

Now take a look at the same schools and their recruiting of minority non-athletes:

Black % Students

  1. University of Texas:             4.5%
  2. University of Notre Dame     3%
  3. Penn State                       4%
  4. Louisiana State University   11%
  5. University of Michigan           4%
  6. University of Alabama           12%
  7. University of Georgia            7%
  8. University of Arkansas           5%
  9. Auburn University                7%
  10. University of Oklahoma         5%

Of to 10 football schools all have a Republican Governor save Penn State. (Pennsylvania has, historically, been an anti-black state) Each of these Governors supports a Republican Party that is consistently hostile to black, minority, immigrant, poor and working class families and in particular black men. Why do black women continue to send their sons and daughters to educational institutions that if their sons or daughters were not athletes would never be allowed to enroll as students?

I offer at least 10 questions as a litmus test for College Recruiters:

  1. What are the Governors and State legislators attitudes toward black families in general?
  2. Do they support schools with predominately large black enrollments?
  3. Is the college or university good stewards of the environment, in particular do they support environmental policies that threaten the health a dwell being of black communities?
  4. Do they support gender, racial, ethnic, and religious equality?
  5. What laws have state legislators passed that would be considered friendly to black families?
  6. What is the percentage of non-black athletes enrolled on academic or need based scholarships?
  7. How many black males police has shot in the last five years in your state?
  8. How many police have been prosecuted for an illegal discharge of their weapon?
  9. If my son or daughter fails at college sports will the university pay for them to complete their education?
  10. Are you a registered Republican or Democrat?

It’s a sad commentary on both communities when white colleges and universities don’t place as much effort into recruiting gifted African American students as they do black athletes and when the black community does not value its most prized possession it young people. However, some of us that attended HBCU have got the memo.

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Afrcan American, Non Violence, Police Brutality, Social Action

Police Brutality, Black Leadership and the Failed Consensus for Social Action

In the wake of killings of black Americans by police agencies across the United States blacks politicians and leaders of organizations attempted to devise responsible tactics and strategies to these brutal slayings without much luck. Some of these strategies include the need for greater emphasis on economic programs, strengthening of Federal oversight, and even the introduction of body cameras and other forms of technology that may deter renegade police officers. While activists like Reverend Al Sharpton have kept up pressure on police agencies no coherent plan of action has materialized and it appears that police intransigence has stiffened.

So why have the collective tactics and efforts of Civil Rights veterans Al Sharpton, Jessie Jackson or the vast number of actions such as #brunchouts, student led marches, sit-ins, bridge takeovers largely failed to bring about any type of consensus or even coherent strategy to end police brutality? Why have the calls for a new civil rights movement and the introduction of economic programs failed to excite the public, in particular black America into a viably coherent and sustained social movement?

The fundamental problem I argue is that America does not suffer from a dearth of civil rights legislation, lack of leadership nor even the lack of economic programs, although the later is always welcome.  What is missing is a coherent mythology that will guide African Americans, and in particular black youth through the maze of obstacles that are a by- product of American individual and institutional racism. My argument does not negate the injustice of police brutality but I believe will go along way in re-aligning the black communities relationship with American society in general, which in turn may offer the means by which collective action may be mobilized. It may also help to assist the community in devising tactics necessary for a broader strategy to reduce black on black violence, police brutality, increase college graduation rates, erase economic disparities and general African American social expectations.

In 1982 William H. McNeil’s article “The Care and Repair of Public Myth” appeared in the prestigious Foreign Affairs magazine. McNeil’s article was a stunning work of cultural and political theory that largely went unnoticed by black America. McNeil’s thesis was simple: “in the absence of believable myths, coherent public action becomes very difficult to improvise or sustain.” In other words societies or people without a coherent mythology will soon find themselves in trouble. Whether these are societies in whole or groups within societies, a coherent mythology provides the necessary psychological base for collective social action.

What McNeil meant by mythology is not what the average person has come to understand about them. A myth is not something that is untrue.  This is and has been a drastic misunderstanding of the term. A mythology as defined by McNeil is a “Statement about the world and its parts particularly nations and other human in-groups that are believed to be true and acted upon whenever circumstances suggest or common response required.” In short a mythology is mankind’s substitute for instinct.  It is the unique way in which human beings act collectively and at times individually.  Without a coherent public mythology collective social action is impossible.  At this very moment African Americans are caught between belief in the mythology of free enterprise in the guise of democratic capitalism and the mythology of America’s inability to provide the benefits of American citizenship fairly and equitably.  This includes equality before the law-one of the hallmarks and privileges of a stable modern democracy.  In many ways African Americans believe the United States still remains an inherently racist and unjust society.  These two opposing beliefs or mythologies cripple coherent public action.

Africans brought to American came with diverse religious, cultural and political mythologies and over the course of time were forced to become a people, an in-group with a set of cultural, linguistic and historical characteristics and shared values.  In short, Black Americans became a nation within a nation. Throughout its history black Americans forged consensus around a set of cultural mythologies. For example, Ethiopianism, a belief in the redemption and value of Africa as a source of cultural pride was the primary mythology through the mid 19th century that blacks used to barricade themselves from demeaning stereotypes of African inferiority.

Self-Help or Black Up Lift replaced Ethiopianism with the ascendency of Booker T. Washington the so-called leader of Black America.  Washington’s form of Self-Help became the mythology that blacks used to build black communities, educate scholars and professionals in the continuous wake of institutionalized and individual white racism.  Self Help’s replacement of Ethiopianism as a guiding mythology was logical as space and time began to distance blacks from their continental roots. And at the same time the belief in the values of individual economic free enterprise wrapped in the gospel the Self Made Man became the mainstream American mythology.  Washington didn’t create the mythology of black uplift he merely re-articulated what was largely an old Puritan mythology re-cast in 19th century America as the idea of the gospel of wealth or what some might call the prosperity gospel.  Washington’s political machine worked to inspire generations of blacks to commit themselves faithfully as a race to a program that relied on individual habits of patience, thrift, cleanliness, honestly and hard work. This became the basis of black collective social action. Collectively, 19th century African Americans believed that hard work would ultimately lead toward equality.

As the impediments and limits of the Self-Made man became evident the subsequent 20th century Civil Rights movement relied on the accepted mythology of equal citizenship as a means to rally African Americans toward the destruction of segregation and the racist class structure that placed blacks in subservient positions of obedience to whites. Martin Luther King, Jr., did not start the civil rights movement, nor did he invent non-violence as a tactic. But what he did was reshape and articulate new ideas and pushed the nation and black America in particular toward a new state of what was right, proper and possible.

With the rise the 1960’s Black Power movement militant black youth and many critics of white education rejected the mythology of non-violent action in the march for civil rights.  Young African Americans shuttered the American mythology that stressed American self-sufficiency for a complete re-ordering of American society that depended upon the destruction of American capitalism-an economic system that seemed beyond the grasp of so many within the ghettos of America. The Black power movement came to stress white racism would always be a constant obstacle to black economic and social progress and came to believe a form of “separatism,” a complete rejection of white society and move toward the creation of separate black societies was as the only logical path toward collective social action.  Blacks, power activists, with good reason, could not rely on the American mythology of hard work nor equality before the law as reliable mythologies for advancement. However, with the continued criticism and discrediting of Booker T. Washington’s program of Self-Help and King’s non-violent tactic young African Americans found themselves floundering for lack of a guiding mythology.  We see this born out in low college graduation rates, mass incarcerations, black on black crime, low voter turn-out, single family homes, and a host of other economic, social, cultural, political indices.

So where are we today? McNeil’ warned that discrediting old myths without finding new replacements erodes the basis for common action. Today, blacks have no means for building consensus because no single guiding mythology exists for blacks Americans to rally. There is schism in the body social. What do we say to young black males that see President Barack Obama as a black male role model while racist cops gun down other black males with impunity? I argue that the black writers, artists and intellectuals must consider the necessity of creating new mythologies that can sustain black life and bring a sense of clarity and purpose to a people that find themselves facing these two warring disjunctures.

There is no sense in pretending that old wine in new caskets is what is needed. Marches, demonstrations, economic programs have all had their day. There is no sense in getting around the fact that these tactics have all lost their luster and fail to acknowledge that humans have always been and will continue to be a diverse collection of hunting bands prone to violence. However, a viable mythology that recognizes and takes seriously the concept that black lives matter is the only sincere method to build a future where the mythology of “protect and serve” applies equally to all Americans citizens and will assist in making police violence against the black community as common as it is within the white community.

What we need and sorely lack is a new leader with a vision of both past and future that millions will find compelling as to make them wiling and eager to join in common action to achieve a newly articulated goal. In short, we sorely need a new mythology.

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Ok Ferguson, So Now What’s Next?

There is no doubt that the recent events of Ferguson has uncovered a dramatic gulf that exists between the young who seek freedom from oppression and are willing to pay any price to remit that oppression and the old that seek reform only through old tactics of non-violence.   This cleavage between the young and the unyoung comes at a time when youth dominated protests movements have crystalized throughout much of the so-called Third World: The Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, the sit-in at Taksim Gezi Park in Turkey, Occupy USA, the various Arab Spring movements from Tunisia to Cairo including the struggle for dignity in Gaza.

After Ferguson there can be no denial of the truth –no other way than to face facts beyond change: since 1865–the end of the Civil War, segments of American society have been engaged in a low-grade genocidal war against Native and African- American communities.   From the 19th well into the 20th century this war saw the exile of indigenous people to reservations, the destruction of centuries old Indian cultures and the obliteration of all black towns: from Rosewood to Tulsa; the segregation of blacks into urban ghettos, the mass incarcerations and the extension of that war to the deportation of thousands from immigrant Latin American communities residing in the U.S.

Young African Americans activists must realize that their desire for justice must be tied to and understood in the larger world wide historical demand for justice that extends from David Walker’s Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World (1829) against international slavery to the continued war against police and State brutality in Brazil, to the continued suburban ghettoization of European youth. This war is a fight against oppressive government sanctioned and institutionalized power that seeks to force people of color into accepting the status quo where 1% of the world’s population controls 99% of the world’s resources–from land where people of color are in the majority.  Make no mistake this is a genocidal war of domination of such epic magnitude that it would make Julius Caesar green with envy.

Non-violent struggle (the authors assert that non-violence is, and can often be, a form of low grade violence) was borrowed from Henry David Thoreau who devised this strategy in the face of an American government attempting to profit from the expansion of slavery in the west. Non-violence was later taken up by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to unseat a racist European power that, through force of violence, dominated every facet of life in India. Martin Luther King, Jr., borrowed these same tactics and preached a form of non-violence that showed the world the true colors of southern racism as they raped, lynched and destroyed black lives, undermined black potential, and forced blacks into a caste system that relegated blacks to poverty and despair. As Civil Rights victories mounted blacks internalized these victories and began to seek the spoils of American life in earnest.

Over time we witnessed the expansion of the black middle and upper classes that earned their way to wealth and prosperity and in some cases to positions of power and authority in American society. Yet, there remained cracks in the veneer of success. Black urban poverty became a way of life rather than a temporary condition, prestigious black colleges that had educated generations of black intellectuals were abandoned and many closed, black health disparities increased, and the mass incarceration of youth to enrich the prison industrial complex gutted communities of color and with that came the loss of voting rights for numerous black males. This was tantamount to the emasculation of black men. This was largely accomplished through the now recognized failed war on drugs, a conscience effort to funnel children of color into prison (see school to prison pipeline) and through state and local legislative policies that solidified institutional racism. No one was spared–neither the poor, the colored, nor the young. Blacks from the middle and upper classes, who had hoped that the content of their character would be the sine quo non of a new American racially egalitarian society, bore witness to their own struggles of racism at work, in their communities and the countless confrontations with police and state authority.

During the past 50 years the older generation of African Americans strived to enter American society as co-equals with white Americans in the work place and in seemingly diverse communities. And while blacks strove they abandoned historically black colleges and universities, abandoned the poor in inner cities, and failed to create any lasting structures that would enable young blacks any real opportunity to move ahead without losing their culture and their dignity. In effect whites demanded a form of cultural monotony while, at the same instance, they denigrated blackness. Black Strivers incorporated a go-along-to-get-along strategy by adopting white cultural values while abandoning the very black values that had created Washington, Garvey, Dubois, Johnson, Angelou and Shakur.

The young have to understand that their education has been defiled in a way to placate them and give them a sense of duty and loyalty to a country that desires to see them give up their culture for a way of life that has destroyed the environment, emasculated Native Americans, fought catastrophic wars from Vietnam to Iraq for resources–the last being for oil; destroyed Union protections for workers and seeks to give Wall Street cartels carte blanche in enriching the 1% while the middle and poorer classes see their stake in society erode.

Protest marches have failed because black leadership has failed. Boycotts have failed because black strategies and tactics have failed. Old ways must be torn asunder. New ways of thinking and acting must be deployed, a new vocabulary that seeks to honor the environment, seek justice for all regardless of race, creed, gender, sexual and religious orientation must be at the forefront of this and future struggles against the forces of darkness that, if given their way will destroy every ecosystem on this planet and along with it human life.

Black, White, Brown, Yellow and Red youth must envision a new alchemy, a new spirit, a new way to thinking. Old revolutionary talk will not free the imprisoned mind, this will only occur through the creation of new paradigms, and new articulations of justice. We, old must work with the youth to achieve new symmetry that will eradicate race as a dominating factor in the life chances of millions from the impoverished Favelas of Brazil to the Detroit’s 8 Mile.

The fight will be hard, and fraught with difficulty. The benefits of justice will require thick skins, strong backs and a firm resolve—but without this resolve what price freedom? What price continued enslavement?

To summarize we assert the following:

  1. African Americans must seek international condemnation for a racist American justice system that unfairly targets people of color; African Americans must seek condemnation for genocidal practices by Federal, State and Local governments that seek to use State sanctioned violence and oppression against People of color;
  2. Build coalitions with minority communities and those whites that seek an alternative structures to replace existing hegemonic institutions;
  3. Create new democratic organizations that value diversity of opinion, diversity of race, color, creed, sexual orientation and religious orientation; and to seek greater and open access to affordable education for all.
  4. Develop institutions that value the natural environment and those creatures that depend on its wholeness for their survival.
  5. Recognize and respect the varied ways in which people seek to govern themselves; and to only wage war only as a tactic of defense and when no other options are available.

 

Also contributing to this article was Major Aldo Putman, USAR. (Ret.). Major Putman served as a combat advisor in Afghanistan.

 

 

 

 

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Behind the Veil: White Racism, White Privilege, and Americas Long Road Ahead. (Part IV – Final Installment Slavery in the Americas)

At last we come to an end of this series on the origins of White Racism. Not wanting to lay waste to years of dedicated research by scholars such as St. Clair Drake, we simply have not the time to give a more detailed evaluation and critique of each of the texts we have covered or those that remain.   In this final installment of Behind the Veil, we end our journey where slavery comes full circle and appears as a particular typology of racism. A type known as White Racism, that often results in the killing of unarmed young black men in America and the continued racism that black Americans continuously face.   The literature that follows will outline a systematic process in which European merchants and governments used slavery (both African and Native American) to enrich themselves and their governments.  After the American Revolution the United States government assumed control of a system of plantation slavery that Laurence Mordekhai Thomas called Vessels of Evil (1993).  As profits from cotton and other cash crops began to make America wealthy the denigration of Africans as an inferior being was necessary to justify the type of brutality that would be required to maintain control and profits.  The U.S. Constitution was written and a Bill of Rights added, not with the intent to give all Americans liberty, but with the intent to provide a system of checks and balances that would provide a small number of alave owners and their supporters to maintain the most profitable industrial system ever devised under the guise of American freedom.                                                                                           

We begin with Laurent Dubios’s Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (2004).  Dubois’ book chronicles the methods authorized by Columbus to secure a foothold in the New World. Avengers is a detailed analysis of the policies that led to horrific genocidal violence the transition of the island of Hispaniola (Haiti or Ayiti) into a plantation economy.  Dubois wrote, “slavery was at the heart of the thriving system of merchant capitalism that was profiting Europe, devastating Africa, and propelling the rapid expansion of the Americas.” Hugh Thomas reminds us of the co-mingling of church, state and private property became intertwined as European merchants began to look for New World labor.  The process of bringing this New World labor (slaves) to the New World developed by aligning logistical, religious, defense and financial networks that laid the legal and moral arguments for the greatest forced migration of humans; an unprecedented theft of raw materials and the forced purchase of the same materials through a world-wide network known as the Triangular Slave Trade.

By the date of Systema naturae’s publishing the Taíno population of the island was already decimated by Columbus. In 1503 the colony began to import African slaves, as a substitute for Indian slave labor. According to Dubois, the Italian Cristobal Columbus’ cruelty along with the introduction of new infectious diseases, to which the Taíno had no immunity, had genocidal ramifications for the population. In just twenty-two years Columbus and the Spanish government had, through colonial policies, reduced the native island population from an estimated initial population of 500,000-700,000 in 1492, to only 29,000 by 1514. By 1650 the Spanish conquest had wiped out through violence and disease nearly 90% of the Indigenous population throughout the whole of the Americas with an estimated population of 30 million.  As indigenous populations throughout the Americas were subjected to slavery they died from disease and cruelty.  Stephen F. Cook asserts that at least 90% of California’s Native American population was decimated by the end of the 19th century through European contact.  By the 18th century, British colonial slave owners began a process of Christianizing Africans as a means to strip away African cultural values. This of course took on a different complexion in the other parts of the Diaspora. In Spanish and French Caribbean the Catholic Church was willing to allow African indigenous religions to syncretize with African religions. This allowed some comfort for Africans as they struggled to adjust to the conditions of slavery.  This, in part, allowed Africans in Haiti and elsewhere to hold onto their native mythologies and religions.  The Haitian Revolution confirms the importance of retaining one’s cultural heritage.  However, in British North America, European Protestants understood the necessity to destroy and denigrate black gods and black skin in the minds of the enslaved to ensure that blacks would be unable to live on life sustaining mythologies necessary for proper psychological health; and naturally they would be less likely to rebel.  The destruction of African religious life undermined the spiritual mythologies that offered Africans life sustaining community values.  There is comparative data to suggest the the number of American slave rebellions in the Americas (Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, et.al) reminds us of the influence of African spiritual advisors in giving these Freedom Fighters a moral compass.

European expansion necessitated the need for cheap labor.  The large white labor supply in Europe proved unwilling to sacrifice comfort for the hardships that awaited them in the Americas.  Without an adequate supply of labor there would be few if any immediate financial gains.  Therefore, European investors and merchants tuned to the enslavement of Native Americans.  As Native Americans began to die in a genocidal process of disease, starvation, rape, and murder the population quite nearly vanished from the Americas, along with–their languages, customs and religions. When Native American slavery proved unworkable Europeans turned to African slavery.   Africans survived and proved more than adequate for European needs.  As the English and later Americans took control of the North American continent African slavery was passed down from one successive government to the next; from British colony to American statehood. The United States of America was born with the institution of slavery already centuries old and with it came the accompanying pseudo scientific racial attitudes toward both Native Americans and Africans.   This is why the comments of Danny Ferry, General Manager of the Atlanta Hawks are so offensive.  De-valuing a person on random stereotypes feeds into a continuing history of white denigration of Africans.

American institutions were born of the compromises between Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist and Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican factions during the Constitutional debates (1787). The compromises between these factions were viewed then and now by historians, as necessary to obtain southern support for the proposed U.S. Constitution (See Massachusetts Compromise). A read of the Federalist Papers indicates the duress the Hamilton-Jay-Madison pro-constitutional faction was under. Hamilton believed that without a strong central government with the ability to nurture commerce the American Revolution would have been, in his view, for not. The compromises necessary to gain the Southern states approval of the Constitution would prove ultimately detrimental to human rights for both black and white free men and women, but more disastrous to black slaves and Native Americans. American institutions eventually outlined in Federalist Paper #45 and later written into the U.S. Constitution worked hand in hand with the formation of an American racist ideology, i.e. White Racism. American slavery, in all of its brutality required scientific support to justify the type of genocidal conditions necessary to break black and Native Americans into submission. Without science American slavery would have been vulnerable to the nascent but growing voices advocating emancipation on humanitarian grounds.  The Jefferson Southern slave-holding faction understood the necessity to maintain both local governmental control and some form of veto power in the national government in light of the wrong that slavery was and the growing but silent abolition sentiment among many Northern Convention delegates. One such Northern delegate was Gouverneur Morris (1752 -1816) a Founding Father of the United States, and a native of New York City who represented Pennsylvania at the 1787 Constitutional Convention.

The main issue of the Convention and would ultimately be the single greatest political maneuvering in world history was the Southern push to get slaves counted for constitutional purposes. This was called the 3/5th Compromise. The Compromise reached between southern and northern Delegates during the Convention was to decide whether slaves would be counted when determining a state’s total population for allocating Congressional seats and ultimately Electoral College votes. Southerners lead by Thomas Jefferson attempted to mislead the debate on the Compromise by claiming it’s purpose was for the allocation of tax purposes only. This was a rube. The main goal of the Jeffersonian faction, as Morris understood deeply, was to forever secure Southern (i.e, white) representation in the Electoral College and Congress. The compromise unfairly negated small non-slaveholding states in the North while given sparsely populated states in the South more Congressional representation. The effects of this “covenant with death” were soon apparent to many observers at the time. This line of thought is detailed in the powerfully persuasive and damning work, The Slave Power: The Free North and Southern Domination, 1780 -1860 (2000). Leonard L. Richards’ argument is simple: from 1780 to 1860 a slave oligarchy (Known then as The Slave Power) powerfully controlled both Federal and State governments through bribery, threat of secession, coercion, and later black and poor white voter suppression and when necessary genocidal violence: rape, lynching, shootings, burning of churches and homes and the killing of women and children.

Morris was correct when he attacked the 3/5th Compromise for what it was rather than the Southern characterization that the compromise was only intended as a means for direct taxation. Morris understood well that the Southern slave holding contingent’s argument was a smoke screen aimed to misdirect attention way from their ultimate goal-the spread of slavery across the Continent of the United States. To secure this, Southerners won filibuster power in the Senate and additional and disproportionate representation in the Electoral College and Congress.  Alexander Hamilton and his Federalists, seeking to spread their economic vision across the Continent, sought compromise rather equality for all.       As Hamilton envisioned the U.S. Constitution was purposely designed to embrace British capitalism, which would quickly be seen as a disastrous move by many in the 19th century. It also would be the vehicle to embrace a racist ideology of black inferiority, and the destruction of Native American culture and civilization for the sake of economic gain.

With the capitulation by the Federalists slavery could be secured, its profits maintained and a form of White Southern Racism could be secured throughout the newly formed governmental “democratic” institutions. If one has doubts one should consider that of the first five presidents four owned slaves (John Adams did not). The White House and nations capital and grounds were built by slave labor.  The election of Thomas Jefferson, Adams successor, could be characterized as the first “black” presidential election as the 3/5th compromise aided his ability to secure an electoral victory over his adversary Adams. Subsequently, Presidents Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor all owned slaves. Slaveholders dominated the U.S. Congress, Senate, and the Supreme Court until their walking out of Congress after the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

We now turn to the last phase of our discussion to put together a coherent thesis of the current state of White Racism, as understood by Drake. It is the White Racism of Donald Trump, Danny Ferry, Bruce Levenson, Paula Dean, Donald Sterling, Trent Lott, The Tea Party, Riley Cooper, and the kind that killed Michael Brown and Ahmadu Diallo. American White Racism has always represented a threat to the lives of blacks was formed out of 19th century pseudo-science primarily through the polemic attacks on blacks via the writings of Louis Agassiz (1807 – 1873). Agassiz was a Swiss-born and naturalized American biologist, geologist, physician, and a prominent innovator in the study of Earth’s natural history and Harvard Professor.   After immigrating to the United States in 1846 Agassiz became a prolific writer of scientific racism. Agassiz was a staunch believer in polygenism, an idea that races came from separate origins, and were endowed by God with unequal attributes (In recent years, critics have assailed Agassiz’s racial theories, arguing that these views tarnish his scientific record).   In order to build his scientific arguments Agassiz and later his student disciples manufactured, distorted, lied, and when necessary fabricated data in order to justify his crude racial theories. While we can quibble whether Agassiz was a man of his time, one would be hard pressed to argue away the overt deceitfulness of his work, even in his own time.

Agassiz became not only a well-respected “scientist” but also a highly regarded and fully embraced member of the upper-class white, liberal society of Boston, racism and all.   The degree that his children married into some of the most well known Boston families is an indication as to the degree Agassiz and his opinions were accepted by Boston’s finest.   Agassiz’s work, ultimately supported slavery and later segregation by giving Northerners, slave owners and Southern politicians the scientific basis by which to build and maintain institutions that kept blacks as second-class citizens. For example, blacks were repeatedly subjected to voting qualifications based upon the false claim that blacks were less intelligent than whites. Agassiz work justified this nonsense. Fore example, he advised:

We ought to beware how we give the blacks rights by virtue of which they may endanger the progress of whites…Social equality I deem at all times impracticable. It’s a natural impossibility, flowing from the very character of the negro race…They are incapable of living on a footing of social equality with whites, in one and the same community, without becoming an element of social disorder.

When pressed Agassiz claimed his views had nothing to do with politics. Unfortunately, we don’t have any evidence as to why Agassiz took this position.   We can only speculate that he, as were many whites, simply racist. Agassiz’s writings on black intellectual inferiority became the mainstay of writings and teachings in a series of lectures known famously as the Lowell Institute Lectures for nearly 100 years after his death. All one needs to do is read the writings of Thomas R.R. Cobb (1823 -1862) to see the influence of Agassiz on Cobb’s virulent racist attacks on blacks. Cobb was one of antebellum Georgia’s foremost legal minds and most outspoken advocates of slavery and of secession. He fought for the Confederacy as a brigadier general and was killed at the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862. Cobb’s arguments were laid out in an eloquent and imposing, An Inquiry into the Law of Negro Slavery in the United States of America (1858). An Inquiry remains the only legal defense of slavery produced by a southerner.   Cobb’s thesis was that slavery was good for blacks and formed the foundation of all great civilizations. Cobb argued, in respect to the natural history of Agassiz, that it was the will of God for the white race to dominate the African just as the red ant dominated the black ant. African slavery was acceptable in practice because God intended for blacks to be inferior to whites. Enslavement allowed whites to “improve” their slaves by bringing them closer to civilization. In a post war Illiterate society where almost no one could read Cobb and his ilk relied on pseudo-science as justification for slavery.

According to Cobb and many of Agassiz supporters if science said it was so then it must be so. Historians Steve Nash and Matthew Bailey argue that while most of these types of proslavery defenses were discredited after the Civil War (1861-65), some of its legal components continued to influence judicial (SCOTUS) decisions more than a century after emancipation.  We see the foundation of racism working in 1857 when Roger B. Taney argued in Dred Scott v. Sanford that the authors of the U.S. Constitution had viewed all blacks as “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”  These judicial decisions such as Plessy vs. Ferguson (1898) gave American institutions built after the Civil War license to develop discriminatory practices specifically designed to exclude or to segregate blacks.  Take for example the American Medical Association (AMMA), largely seen world- wide as a paragon of healthcare virtue.   The white dominated AMMA used segregation to not only to discourage and exclude black medical school aspirants but also to exclude black physicians from obtaining necessary hospital privileges. This was all done based on the pseudo scientific work we have been discussing here. Even when the AMMA had real scientific and anecdotal evidence that supported something contrary to the beliefs of the racists the AMMA continued its racist policies at a cost of black life.

One of the most heartbreaking books on the subject is Sick From Freedom by historian Jim Downs. According to Downs, life for slaves and later free men and women was so heinous that between 1862 and 1870 at least 1 million out of 4 million blacks (many of them now free due to emancipation) died of malnutrition and disease. Downs recounts one example that is representative of thousands. (I have quoted liberally here for clarity from: “Downs reconstructed the experiences of one freed slave, Joseph Miller, who had come with his wife and four children to a makeshift freed slave refugee camp within the union stronghold of Camp Nelson in Kentucky. In return for food and shelter for his family Miller joined the army. Yet union soldiers in 1864 still cleared the ex-slaves out of Camp Nelson, effectively abandoning them to scavenge in a war-ravaged and disease-ridden landscape. One of Miller’s young sons quickly sickened and died. Three weeks later, his wife and another son died. Ten days after that, his daughter perished too. Finally, his last surviving child also fell terminally ill. By early 1865 Miller himself was dead.

“A Snapshot of U.S. Physicians: Key Findings” from the 2008 Health Tracking Physician Survey, Data Bulletin No. 35 reported that three out of four physicians identified themselves as white, non-Hispanic, while just 3.8 percent were black, non-Hispanic, 5.3 percent were Hispanic, and 17.2 percent were Asian or other races. However, among physicians under age 40, about two-thirds were white and 33 percent were minority—black (4%), Hispanic (5.4%), and Asian or other race (24%).   The AMMA as an inherently American institution is culpable in creating genocidal conditions with black health care. The report found the number of black male applicants proportionate to all medical school applicants decreased from 2.6 percent to 2.5 percent from 2002 to 2011, while both Asian and Hispanic male medical school applicants increased. Black female students are having very similar issues. Not only did the proportion of African-American female medical school applicants drop from 5.2 percent to 4.8 percent but also the proportion of matriculates went from 4.5 percent to 3.8 percent.

The AMMA officially apologized in 2008 for excluding black physicians from membership, for listing black doctors as “colored” in its national physician directory for decades, and for failing to speak against federal funding of segregated hospitals and in favor of civil rights legislation. The end result of this is blacks suffer from health related diseases and death at far greater numbers than the general population. Blacks are more likely to die of cancer than whites, have the highest death rates of heat disease and strokes and are least likely to see a physician, or have health care. While the apology is appropriate, the cost of black lives, suffering and humiliation is untold.

The Civil War abruptly ended the grip of the Slave Power in American life but not the lasting work of Agassiz and Cobb. During Woodrow Wilson’s Presidency (1913- 1921) blacks were viciously segregated and regulated to low-level employment in government offices. The justification?–Blacks were inherently inferior to whites and to keep both races pure and undiluted they would need to be separated. The Ku Klux Klan became not just a domestic terrorist organization bar none. Membership became a necessity for many white politicians. Outed and known U.S. politicians and members of the KKK: President Harry Truman, Senators Robert Byrd, Theodore G. Bilbo, James Eli Watson, R. W. Means; Governors Bibb Graves (Alabama), Edward L. Jackson (Indiana), Charles Morely (Colorado), Clifford Walker (Georgia); Rep. George Gordon; Mayor John Clifton Porter (Los Angeles); SCOTUS Justices Douglass White and Hugo Black. These men had significant influence on American society for generations. Some like Congressman George Porter became Grand Dragons and even Los Angeles Mayor Clifton Porter was a senior member of the Klan. Without a doubt an ethos of white supremacy was vital to the continued domination by a new Neo Slave Power that emerged after Reconstruction.

As black life became increasing perilous and the Neo Slave Power began consolidating white domination, a form of national black consciousness or nationalism developed as a means to address the slow but deliberate attack on black life. The more militant forms of Black Nationalism were attractive was not a sufficient mythology to carry African Americans across a (liminal) threshold from civil rights to a post civil rights era, and was ultimately doomed. For one, the humiliation of slavery both from the perspective of the slave owner and the chattel could only be maintained by the humiliation of both master and slave. Now that slavery ended and voting rights were extended to black males, local requirements were instituted to deny blacks the right to vote. Literacy tests, poll taxes, mass incarcerations, failing schools, lack of or poor health care, lack of meaningful jobs, beatings, murders, lynchings, were all employed to keep blacks from gaining political power. Federal, state, and local government institutions were used to reconstitute and maintain white supremacy. It wasn’t until white segregation was deemed an anathema to American society in 1954 with the SCOTUS decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, and the prohibition of the all white Democratic primary (Smith v. Allwright, 1944). But unfortunately, the foundation for American supremacy had already been cemented. This is exactly what the Black Panther 10 Point Program was created to negate domination or to put it another way White Power.

Today black Americans are faced with an ever-growing problem. The face of White Power has remained a constant in America and has been politically, socially and intellectual consolidated in various cities, counties, and states were black populations remain poor and marginalized. White Power has consolidated itself through various forms of grass roots organizing in the form of political organizations, gun clubs, all white communities, voting blocks in state and city council governments and the having judiciary. But its most formidable constituency is the American public.   For this there are few options. Black Americans can choose to remain in the United States, to brave the future of a possible multicultural America as many on the Left envision. George Yancey’s most reveling work, Who is White?: Latinos, Asians, and the New Black/Nonblack Divide (2003), offers an entirely different view of the progress of whites becoming a racial minority. Yancey argues that white predictions of minority status are incorrect, in large part because they are built on faulty assessments of the growth of racial minorities. But even more sobering is the shifting definition of who is “white.” White has never been a static concept. Yancey argues as more non-black minorities come into the United States they will choose to categorize themselves as White in lieu of Latino, Asian or other. Surveys reveal that other minorities are more willing to allow their offspring to marry whites, live in white communities and declare themselves white than blacks. According to Yancey what we are facing is an America that is divided into Black and Non-Black. If Yancey is correct in his assessment White Power will find new support. The case of Latino George Zimmerman, who might have been targeted for deportation by the Tea Party, nevertheless was embraced by the white community because he ultimately stood in opposition to the black community.

The choices are never simple. But its my hypothesis that we may be facing the extinction of the African American community in the next century if African Americans don’t find a way to consolidate the community behind a set of shared values and purpose. This way the best possible solutions to our dilemma behind the Veil can be approached with reason and hope.  A possible corrective action may lay in the idea of William McNeil, authored The Care & Repair of Public Myth, (1982). McNeil’s hypothesis is that mythology (not used in the pejorative sense) lies at the basis of human society. Myths are in fact statements about the word and its parts particularly nations and other human in groups, that are believed to be true and acted upon whenever circumstances suggest or common response required. It is man’s replacement for natural instinct. McNeil asserted that a people without an up to date mythology find it impossible for common action. Common action once bound those who believed in the idea of a public body, capable of acting in accord, whether it was the Self-Help philosophy of Booker T. Washington, the Talented Tenth of W.E.B. Dubois or even the revolutionary ideology of Black Power, these were at once viable African American mythologies.

The alleged gains of the Civil Rights movement pushed the African American community toward materialism and the quest for wealth. Black exploitation films illustrate the depth by which the community lost its focus and turned outward to find its full cultural patterns of expression.   Without the development of a mythology to bind African Americans toward a greater purpose beyond material wealth but toward the preservation of the community will be the communities only chance for true liberation and self-preservation. I just hope this can be accomplished and the African American people escape the fate of the Taino.

This brings to and end the series on the intellectual history of racism in America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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