The State of Black America
The state of Black America depends entirely on your personal perspective. I believe those residing in the middle-to-high income brackets have a more optimistic view of the state of Black America than those in the low-to-very-low income brackets catching holy hell. The numbers indicate we have more families and children residing in the latter than the former.
If you were to drop in from Mars and take a snapshot of how Blacks are portrayed in the media, you might believe all Black people live like Magic Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, or some other athlete, entertainer or actor. You might believe the Black community is doing well. However, if you visit the cities populated by the majority African Americans, you would find massive poverty with all of its trappings (unemployment, failed public education systems, massive incarceration, destruction and demise of the Black family, drug addiction, HIV and health disparities, etc.). You would have a completely different view of the state of Black America.
Unfortunately, for the majority of Black people, our reality cannot be measured against Oprah Winfrey or other wealthy Black Americans; they are a minority. For the most part, Blacks dominate every negative demographic and are invisible in every positive demographic. The disparities are alarming. Sure, we have a few people who have so-called “made it” and, by any measurement, they can be classified as successful and, given the start of most Black people, it is an amazing accomplishment. However, we cannot be fooled into thinking were doing better than we are. If you buy into the media campaign, you might forget how bad things really are for Black people.
When evaluating the state of Black America, we must stop looking through micro-lenses (minority) and look through macro-lenses (majority). “Micro” is a prefix, meaning “small” and macro means “large.” Up until recently in the past 40 years, the success of Blacks was tied to each other. We have always believed we are all in this together. How, then, should we view the state of Black America and by what measurements (what do we measure)? I believe we should start by looking at the state of the population as a whole versus pulling out a wealthy minority segment to determine how well the total is doing.
Brothers and Sisters, what has happened to the Black community is nothing short of a miracle. The fact that we are even here today to talk about our issues, let alone doing something about it, is amazing given what was done to us and for so long. When you truly begin to understand what has happened to us, you will come to the same conclusion. THE PROBLEM TODAY IS: TOO MANY BLACK AND WHITE AMERICANS HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE OF THE BLACK HOLOCAUST.
I take the position Jews have taken regarding their Holocaust, “Never Forget, Never Again.” The phrase “Never Forget” is a commemorative political slogan that originated after the Holocaust and is widely used to encourage remembrance for national and international tragedies, specifically the Jewish Holocaust in Europe during World War II where nearly six million Jews were systemically murdered by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime. This tragedy represents not only a substantial and thorough breakdown in Germany, a massive stain on all of humanity and reflects the cruelty possible amongst humans, which should never be replicated.
Let us put the Black Holocaust in perspective. While the casualties of the Jewish Holocaust are nearly impossible to comprehend, this deplorable system (the scale is just too large until you see the pictures of the mass graves and the mountain-like piles of human bones), the Black Holocaust was ten times greater and for a period twenty times longer. I am not trying to diminish the impact of the Jewish Holocaust. I am trying to make you more aware of the Black Holocaust. Nearly 15 million Africans were forcibly and by extreme and barbaric measures captured, placed onto slave ships and transported to America and enslaved forever (next 300 years) with nearly another 40 million Africans being born into slavery under a chattel system reducing nearly 55 million people to less than an animal. Millions were tortured in ways that are just too horrific even to write about; worked in the most inhumane conditions from sun up to sun down; and millions died as they were born – SLAVES.
Like the Jewish Holocaust, the Black Holocaust should be equally ingrained into the history, culture, and psyche of the American population NOW AND FOREVER. The Black Holocaust was the biggest crime against humanity every committed, yet we treat it like some incidental event of the past. We refer to it like a football game or a moment in history and not the structural, systemic and barbaric institution it was for three centuries. The enslavement of Black people had one goal and one goal only: to maximize profits off the back of Black people at any cost. There should be countless monuments, statues and educational and cultural institutions built and sustained by the American government, with the sole purpose of keeping the Black holocaust’s history alive and not burying it.
There should be public schools and higher education institutions dedicated to teaching this history and the legacy of slavery and making sure this never happens again. This is not to embarrass America. This should be viewed as a testament to the true values of America. I believe one of the reasons this has not been done is because many of the racist practices of White supremacists continue well after slavery was abolished. America has yet to heal.
In order to evaluate adequately the state of Black America, we must take a look at the evolution of Black America post-enslavement, specifically:
- the failed strategies of reconstruction (15-20 years immediately after slavery ended);
- the adoption of Jim Crow laws which actually circumvented the emancipation of Black people;
- the post-traumatic stress that has existed with each generation of Black families since slavery;
- the impact of brainwashing that supported white supremacy and embraced Black inferiority represented in the most vulnerable areas like religion, education, and the media;
- social, cultural, and family challenges that accompanied each and every Black person;
- the sub-human, damaged (mental and physical) and overall condition of the millions who were actually freed (for many this was a traumatic experience and hundreds of thousands suffered);
- the learning curve of our citizenship (we had to learn so much so quickly) without having a teacher;
- the imposed interruption after interruption which threatens every aspect of Black life in America making our transition even more difficult (KKK, physical destruction of Black cities, unions, wars, drugs, depressions and recessions, bad behavior against Blacks, etc.); and
- the actual physical and legal denial of Black people’s rights to full citizenship, etc.
I do not want this to be a history lesson, but it is almost impossible to truly measure the current state of Black America unless we put what has and continues to happen to Black people in perspective. The good news is we are not talking about such a long period of time. Everything must be measured from where Blacks started once Blacks obtained physical freedom. For those who are 60 years and older, this 150 year period represents 2-3 generations. It is not that long ago. So, our gains or our state must be viewed based on what has happened to us over the past 3-4 generations. This will take us back to emancipation (1863).
There has never been a time in American life where the Black community has been embraced and equally there has never been a so-called “good” time experienced by the Black community in America. We must come to understand our stay in America has been the ultimate human struggle, which unfortunately, continues today. To understand the state of Black America today (socially and economically), you must come to understand the experiences and circumstances under which these issues were created by white America.
The term “White America” does not represent all white people, but reflects a segment of the white community that advocated and implemented racial hatred of Black people. While not all Whites participated in the massive crippling of our people from every possible level, they have benefitted from the ravages of institutionalized racism. Denial of this reality is in itself racist.
Thank God, there were other Whites who opposed the enslavement and injustices perpetuated against Black people. They possessed a true concern for every American fulfilling the true American creed and they worked in many ways to fight this brutal system. There are many genuinely good White people that lived then and live now (silence is not an option). These were the abolitionists and they supported the freedom of Black people and an end to this embarrassing American institution. The end of slavery was not as glamorous and intentional as history has falsely claimed. In fact, the end of slavery was an unintended consequence.
We Need to Know More About the End of Slavery (Perspective):
Although the United States is ultimately responsible for the Black Holocaust, they were not the only entity that failed Black people, helped to oppress or sought total destruction of the entire Black population. Supporting the American government was all of its institutions and systems, including the judicial (the laws); the political (media); the different levels of government); economic institutions (banking, financial, foundations, markets, competition, power, insurance, wealth); cultural and social institutions (education, family, religious, prisons) and medical institutions (hospitals, cemeteries) just to name a few. The bottom line is that the American institution of slavery was a well-groomed, well-coordinated effort on behalf of many that worked at the total expense to the Black community.
America was organized and established on patterns of behavior that supported the ideal of white supremacy, Black inferiority and the oppression of Black people. All of the original colonies, provinces, cities, towns, highways, roads, and every industry (agricultural, industrial, financial, etc.) were built off the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors with absolutely no compensation. America was the world’s largest importer of tobacco, rice, cotton, sugar, coffee, and cocoa en route to becoming the global leader. Even the U.S. Capital would not look as it does today without the free labor of nearly 500 Black enslaved artisans. Our ancestors baked the bricks used for foundations and walls, sawed lumber for walls and floors, dug the trenches for the foundation, worked the Virginia quarries where the sandstone was cut and laid the stones that hold up the capital today. This is not Rahim’s opinion; this is fact and we have nearly 400 years of proof to describe this phenomenon. Slavery and its aftermath were real oppression for black people.
While Black people dreamed of freedom, it was not that white America all of a sudden got a conscious. The freeing of the Black people was calculated and done in the best interest of America and not the Black community. For many reasons, we should be measuring our progress as a group (macro) and not as individuals (micro) because just over 150 years ago, the overwhelming majority of Black people (our group) were enslaved in the world’s most barbaric way. Our freedom is our start and becomes our baseline (this is where the measurement begins). What do you think was the state of Black America in 1865?
In 1865, the official end of slavery, nearly 6 million illiterate Black men, women, and children were in a state of abject poverty with nearly 100% occupying the negative demographics (education, wealth, health, housing, business, etc.). The state of Black America was obviously deplorable and while we have made individual and incremental progress, as a whole our progress has been impeded. The conclusion of the Black Holocaust would involve nearly six million illiterate Black people who were extremely sick (physically and emotionally) and extremely poor (penniless).
Sure, we have made progress in America, but how should it be measured? At the time of slavery, nearly 95 percent of all Blacks were enslaved and those that were not, were slaves without masters. Being Black in America was no piece of cake, even when being designated “free.” The reality was that the Emancipation Proclamation paved the way for Blacks to fight for their freedom, but it was not the freeing of slaves as many think. I argue if economic reparations were not part of the emancipation, then the freedom was only to exchange one set of chains for another different set of chains.
Abraham Lincoln was not even an abolitionist. He was at odds with the abolitionists, who fundamentally believed in the abolishment of slavery and that freed slaves should become equal members of American society. He not only had slaves, but many felt that he did not believe that slavery was morally wrong and no matter how he felt, it was sanctioned by the highest law in the land, the Constitution. The nation’s founding fathers, who also struggled with how to address slavery, did not explicitly write the word “slavery” in the Constitution, but they did include key clauses protecting the American institution of slavery, including a fugitive slave clause and the three-fifths clause, which allowed Southern states to count slaves for the purposes of representation in the federal government.
In fact, there is evidence that Lincoln was a racist and did not believe Blacks should have the same rights as whites. His views became clear during an 1858 series of debates with his opponent in the Illinois race for U.S. Senate, Stephen Douglas, who had accused him of supporting “Negro equality.” In their fourth debate, at Charleston, Illinois, on September 18, 1858, Lincoln made his position clear. “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the White and Black races…,” he began, going on to say that he opposed Blacks having the right to vote, to serve on juries, to hold office and to intermarry with Whites. For much of his career, Lincoln believed a majority of the African-American population should leave the United States and settle in Africa or Central America. Given the “differences” between the two races and the hostile attitudes of whites towards blacks, Lincoln argued, it would be “better for us both, therefore, to be separated.”
Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation as a military measure. It did not apply to all states. In reality, the Emancipation Proclamation did not immediately free a single slave. The proclamation marked a crucial turning point in the Civil War and five months after the Proclamation took effect, the War Department established the United States Colored Troops and by the end of the war, over 200,000 formerly enslaved Blacks would serve in the Union Army and Navy.
The Emancipation Proclamation led the way to total abolition of slavery in the United States. With the Emancipation Proclamation, the aim of the war changed to include the freeing of slaves in addition to preserving the Union. Although the Proclamation initially freed only the slaves in the rebellious states, by the end of the war, the Proclamation had influenced and prepared citizens to advocate and accept abolition for all slaves in both the North and South.
The 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States, was passed on January 31, 1865 and ratified on December 6, 1865. The 13th amendment provided that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
In Part Two, I will discuss Reconstruction and take us up to the Civil Rights of the 1960s again with the purpose of examining the state of Black America in the context of our journey in America since slavery was abolished to show that the end of slavery does not necessarily equate to freedom for Black people.