The State of Black America
In order to determine the State of Black America, we must examine our start in this country. In order to put things into perspective, we must examine the Black man’s start in this country.
America is extremely divided and when you hear people talk about the “good old days” or our “glorious past,” it invokes different emotions from white people versus Black people. We have different takes on our history. Let us get something clear. When we talk about America’s “founding” fathers (i.e. Washington, Jefferson, Adam, Clark, etc.), we must put things into perspective. The founding fathers did establish a system of government that, after much struggle, including a civil war, ultimately lead to the legal freedom for enslaved Black people. Yes, their efforts did ultimately establish the greatest nation in modern history but at a tremendous cost and sacrifice on the backs of Black people. Our people suffered tremendously.
As a Black man, I have to acknowledge that the founding fathers, like many of those in authority, were racists who might object to the diversity of the country we see today. The founding fathers were 100 percent white and did not acknowledge nor value other ethnic groups. There was no diversity amongst the founding fathers; there were no Black Americans, Native Americans, Latino Americans, or even women members of the founding fathers. While we applaud their accomplishments, we must also acknowledge their obvious flaws. Many of them not only owned slaves, but also believed openly in white supremacy.
We must have a better understanding of America, its founding fathers, the enslavement of Black people, and the end of slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, to evaluate honestly the state of Black America. There are so many facts that have purposely been omitted from America’s history, with the enslavement of Black people becoming only a footnote. The American institution of slavery was much more than a footnote. This omission and minimization of the facts of how slavery and white racism are interwoven into the fabric of everything American has completely distorted the truth to the benefit of white people and at the expense of Black people. The formation, growth and economic success of America are due to the exploitation of Black people and the legacy of this exploitation remains in many forms and is in full effect today.
If you look at the state of Black America without the historical context, you will adopt the belief in Black inferiority, which is being promoted by the media. In addition, there are numerous comparisons about the success of other minority groups in America and how Blacks continue to lag behind. Blacks are the least competitive group amongst all minorities. What is usually missing in these debates is the historical context by which the Black community began in this country. No other minority has been emotionally, psychologically, economically and structurally damaged like the Black minority. The comparisons are unfair and misguided.
It is not enough that the enslavement of our people has been grossly distorted, but America’s founding fathers have been romanticized to the point that their connection to the American institution of slavery and white supremacy is completely overlooked. Because this reconciliation is hardly ever done, any reference about our past will continue to divide us along racial lines. The tailor-made and fabricated history has given the founding fathers a pass in their role as slave-owners and in the brutal treatment of our ancestors. Sure, we must honor their contributions to the formation of America but we must also point to their obvious wrongs. If they did what they did then today, how would you describe them?
Let us take Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, who wrote, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” He fundamentally did not believe the enslaved Blacks were even human beings. Jefferson was a white supremacist and at the time of this writing, he owned nearly 200 slaves and was on the record that the Declaration did not pertain to Black slaves. Jefferson not only owned slaves he also had a Black mistress and fathered children who were also enslaved.
Another American icon, Abraham Lincoln, was credited with freeing nearly 6 million Blacks, but was not as he was portrayed. Lincoln was not even an abolitionist, and in fact, he was at odds with the abolitionist movement that fought to abolish slavery, free the slaves, and make them equal members of the American democracy. Whether he owned slaves or not is in dispute, but it was clear he did not believe slavery was morally wrong and many of his efforts was directed at saving the Union and avoiding the civil war; freeing the slaves was an unintended consequence.
Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation as a military measure, not as a measure to free Black people as has been promoted in American history. The Emancipation Proclamation did not immediately free a single slave although it was a crucial turning point in the Civil War. 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 and were instrumental in the ultimate success and the defeat of the confederate south. This is proof that with a hint of freedom, the Black people can achieve and compete. Therefore, I believe that the baseline for measuring the state of Black America must start at the end of slavery and the emancipation of Black people.
THE BLACK MAN IN AMERICA HAS NEVER HAD IT GOOD IN AMERICA.
When measuring the current State of Black America, we must view and measure progress or the lack thereof in context to our start in this country. Everything Blacks have accomplished should be measured against this reality. In order to measure growth of any kind, you must have a baseline (a beginning) which becomes the starting point used for comparison. What starting point should we use? Should it be the year 1500 when Blacks were forcibly brought to America to be slaves in the world’s most oppressive system? Should our baseline begin in 1865 with the passage of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which legally abolished slavery and Blacks were allowed to begin to build lives as a free people?
Some argue that Blacks were further disenfranchised, and made to be even less competitive because of the massive and crippling factors post 1865, which lasted nearly 100 years, along with the repeated, calculated and racially stifling disruptions Therefore, they say our starting point (baseline) should be 1968 – after the landmark and historical civil rights legislation of the 1960s. Until then, Black people not only had to fight against racist laws, but also against those who held positions of authority. The combination continued to deny Blacks, at every level, access to America’s infrastructure. For nearly 100 years after emancipation, the “playing field” continued to be booby-trapped and legally closed to Black people. While I agree with their position, for the purposes of this article, I have decided to use 1865 (Emancipation) as the starting point (baseline) for measuring and evaluating the State of Black America mainly because Blacks carried so much baggage from slavery into the 1960s, specifically the significant and serious psychological damage coupled with the massive economic disparities.
When Blacks receive a fair or even shot, we succeed. Blacks have made tremendous progress since 1865. In fact, more than any of our ancestors could have imagined. By all rights, like the Native Americans, we should be extinct. But we still have a long way to go as a group. When evaluating the state of Black America, we must look at the entire group and stop looking at the limited individual success of a few Blacks. This is extremely misleading. We must come to the realization that we, as a group, have sustained serious damage. Next week in Part 3 I will continue to breakdown the orchestrated attempts to rewrite the history of Blacks in America………….Yours In The Struggle, Rahim