May 1, 2015
We Want Freedom, Justice and Equality
Black people, like all other people, want freedom, justice, and equality.
The mere fact that these words were used in the O’Jay’s 1975 song “Give the People What They Want” suggests that Black people hadn’t achieved them then – and, I say, that we haven’t achieved them today. Why has this been so elusive for Black people? As the great Marvin Gaye stated: “What’s Going On?”
I believe that we have been misled, lied to, bamboozled and hoodwinked. What do I mean? I mean that we have been sold a bill of goods that have distracted us from the real focus that we should have been focusing on all along.
Guided by liberal leadership, we have been chasing social equity in this country when the real race that we should have been running is for economic equity. One can’t have social equity in America without economic equity. No matter how you slice it, it’s the economic benefits that America refuses to share with Blacks. They won’t even acknowledge the role that Black people played in helping America become the rich superpower it is today.
Beginning in the early 1600s with the massive kidnapping of Black people from Africa, followed by the torturous “transatlantic passage” and culminating with the enslavement (chattel slavery) of millions of Black people that would last for 350 years, the American institution of slavery and its lethal legacy continues to wreak havoc on the Black community. I reference slavery as an American Institution because there are some very clear distinctions that we must ponder:
1. There has been some form of slavery that has been documented since the beginning of time – in fact, even today, slavery of some sort exists. What makes American slavery so unique is the global scale of it and the number of Blacks enslaved (millions), how many European countries participated, how many industries were supported by it and on a local level, how brutal it was. Unlike other forms of slavery, American slavery was chattel slavery (humans were reduced to being nothing but property). Historically, slaves were prisoners of war or had committed some type of crime. The American form of slavery had Black people hunted and captured like animals and forced into generational slavery.
Other types of slavery provided the enslaved with some rights and there were conditions whereby they could earn and/or buy their freedom; slavery didn’t subject their children and their children’s children to perpetual enslavement (they would be born free). Blacks under American slavery had no rights (animals had more rights) and all of the laws supported a brutality perpetrated against Black people that had never been seen before or since. As stated earlier, this enslavement wasn’t for a few years; this enslavement lasted nearly 350 years where an entire nation and a culture of hate and brutality was created.
America was built on slavery and the brutality against Black people. That’s why today, freedom, justice and equality for Black people is so elusive.
Millions of our Black people were forced and/or born into slavery with no way out (millions of Black people died in slavery). Slavery in America was by far the worst and most prolonged barbaric treatment of human beings in modern history and, even today, the legacy of slavery is nearly as powerful. Black people have been severely damaged by slavery. America was built on slavery and the brutality against Black people. That’s why today, freedom, justice and equality for Black people is so elusive.
2. Like all institutions, it becomes self-protecting and depending on the economic windfall, will dictate and direct all other institutions. Slavery was America’s cash cow and controlled every aspect of American life at the exclusive expense of Black people. The American institution of slavery was a crime against Africa, Africans, and all of humanity, and when you express this in economic terms, slavery was the largest and most lucrative economic windfall the world has ever witnessed. American slavery was the catalyst for the massive expansion of a global economy creating wealth beyond anyone's comprehension. Not only did Americans become extremely wealthy, but nearly all the countries of Europe were direct participants and beneficiaries of slavery on the backs of free black labor. Slavery was beyond profitable; its economic impact was the foundation for today’s $100+ trillion in wealth and has placed America in its position as the clear superpower and global leader today. America was built on the economics of slavery – on the backs of Black people – that’s why today, freedom justice and equality for Black people is so elusive.
America owes a real economic debt to the Black community that it has refused to pay. To make matters worse, America, via its political, financial, educational, and other systems has made Black people, who are the victims, the culprit. This is the result of measuring today’s economic gains without consideration of the start for both groups (why can’t the Black community do better, you’ve been free for 150 years). Too much emphasis is placed on the inadequacies of the Black community without any reference to our past in this country – where you start matters, how you start matters, especially in an economic race. THIS IS JUST NOT FAIR, IN FACT, IT’S DEAD WRONG. Why are all of these people and their systems steeped in denial and why do they blame the victim for its condition? Black people have done nothing but struggle in this country and continue to do so today.
Blacks continue to lose ground in nearly every category with positive demographics decreasing and nearly every negative demographic increasing and the topic of compensation for nearly 300 years of free labor is completely absent. Today, everything is viewed through a lens as if Blacks have freedom, justice and equality and nothing could be farther from the truth. Let’s unpack freedom, justice, and equality and what its potential application would mean for the Black community today.
Freedom (real freedom is economic freedom): The Emancipation Proclamation signaled the end of the American institution of slavery. This was no small feat to be free Blacks from slavery. It took a civil war and the threat of the entire economic disruption of America that most didn’t want to see happen. Ending slavery wasn’t a moral issue; it was an economic issue. Ultimately, the freedom of Black people would pit Black people against those who enslaved them, especially poor whites, and chattel slavery would ultimately morph into other forms of slavery which are equally as lethal. In the economic race, these things significantly slowed the progress of freed Blacks, specifically Jim Crow and segregation, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and the terrorism of its lynching, failed public policies, war casualties, mass incarceration of black males, voter suppression, and failed public education systems (and many more). These “economic traps” were all designed by the enemies of Black people that fully embraced the culture of hate which was produced by the American Institution of slavery and have all significantly impeded the social and economic progress of Black people since emancipation. Restated, it wasn’t enough that the Black people, with nearly 100% poverty and 100% illiteracy were freed to become Americans, the truth of the matter is, at every step along the way, the former slave owners would lay out trap after trap to trip up and knock down Black people.
When you consider the following two key facts (there are so many more): 1) Black ownership of the nation’s wealth remains where it was in 1860 near the end of slavery (pre-emancipation) at one half of one percent (0.05%). 2) After 150 years, 100% physical freedom, and America’s token addressing of social issues, Blacks still only own one half of one percent (0.05%) of the nation’s wealth. Why is this? Wealth inheritance is the passing of past benefits and gains from previous generations to future generations. Currently, nearly 90% of all of the nation’s wealth was passed from one generation to another. This wealth is forever locked up (i.e. in cash, stocks, bonds, land, business, trust accounts, endowments, foundations, etc.). While not all White people are rich, there is a massive disparity between the net assets of the average White family versus the average Black family ($100k+ vs. $6-8k). This plays out in educational opportunities, housing and neighborhood selection, capitalization of entrepreneurial aspirations, and a genuine ability for self-determination for Black people.
Let’s look at this differently in a way that might help you to get a better understanding of the economic challenges that Black people face today (many of us can’t handle the truth). The freeing of the Black community can be compared to the release of someone who has been unjustly incarcerated at age 17 for 50 years and who is now 67. During his period of incarceration, he worked from sun up to sun down and wasn’t afforded development of any real empowerment skills, so when he was released, he was completely penniless and nearly illiterate. His captives, who acknowledge that he was imprisoned unjustly, now tell him that his physical freedom is all he needs and to now go out there and compete. There are no reparations; there is no payment for the injustice that was perpetuated; there is no preferential treatment for housing, employment, for food; there is nothing, except that he achieved his physical freedom. He has no skills, no money, yet he has to survive and now, at age 67 he has to compete for resources with those who are educational and economical giants over him. How ridiculous is this? In many respects this is the state of the Black community. TRUE FREEDOM IS ECONOMIC FREEDOM.
Everyone marvels at Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream Speech”, but few know the real contents of this most powerful speech and some say it represented a turning point in the philosophy of Dr. King. He called the Emancipation Proclamation (the physical freedom) a “symbolic shadow”:
“But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds.' But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.”
Today, nearly 45 million Black people struggle in America socially and economically. Our great hero Dr. Martin Luther King said it over and over, but unfortunately this isn’t what is talked about when we mention him – we’ve allowed the same enemies of Black people that created and implemented new types of slavery to also water down his message and the message of so many of our other heroes. Yes, physical freedom was important but where is the economic justice? Where is the deal to repair what was/is being done to Black people and how do the children of those who were captive and enslaved benefit from the economic windfall that is afforded to the children whom enslave them?
Real freedom is economic freedom and Black people want and deserve to have real freedom. Today, Blacks rank dead last in almost every positive demographics, and dominate in all of the negative demographics. All of the negative demographics have worsened over the past fifty years. All of this can be tied directly to our economic struggles in this country. Contrary to the media hype, Black people never had glowing economic numbers at any time since emancipation. Poverty, lack of educational achievements, addictions, unemployment and underemployment, incarceration, and the demise of the Black family all threaten the future of our race and are symptoms of the economic struggle. The Black community has been through it all and continues to struggle with the number of disparities that we face, but there is no bigger disparity and no more damaging to our community than the economic disparity that exists between the Black community and the white community.
Reparations are about making right on wrongs – it is the act of making atonement, mends, and indemnity for a wrong committed against another. I’ve already stated that the wrong inflicted against Blacks in America is the worst in modern history, so why is there not even a conversation about it. The term implies an active repairing of the damage or injury inflicted on the wrong party. The right to reparations has long been recognized in International Law. There are a few that can be referenced – none more than reparations paid to the Jewish victims of the Nazi persecution of the 1930s and 40s. America was built on the economics of slavery acquired on the backs of Black people. That’s why today, freedom, justice and equality for Black people is so elusive. WE HAVE TO GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT AND THEY WANT FREEDOM, JUSTICE AND EQUALITY (THANK YOU GAMBLE AND HUFF).
My next article will discuss the components of “justice” and “equality” and how they too are elusive and their connection to economic freedom.