October 12, 2006

Lives Undone by Words of Intent

“The man who would deprive another of learning to read and write, and learn wisdom does not fear God. They took my labor to educate their children, and then laughed at me for being ignorant and poor, and had not sense enough to know that they were the cause of it. “
A slave narrative: “The Life of John Quincy Adams.”

Today, that said, the ignorant and poor, although not slaves, have to bear witness, to the truth of that statement of two hundred years ago. The aspirations of freedom have been so corrupted. Those who speak to this, know that without the tethers put on by continued racism the slave would have excelled in their quest and understanding of freedom. The slave reveled in the words of the Declaration of Independence and could not wait until they would have such liberty. They took it upon themselves to become literate when they became free; so that they could become full participants of this society and in a modest way pursue those unalienable rights. The former slave John Q. Adams expresses these intentions.

The great want among us is education, and more particularly those who have been slaves, and deprived of that great blessing of being educated when young. If our fathers and mothers did not have the opportunity of learning when they were young, they are glad to know that their children have a chance to be educated, and enjoy that great and glorious privilege that so many were deprived of. I love my privilege; I love my freedom; I love protection; I love liberty, and love industry. Let every man work for his living as it is said, "let every one live by the sweat of his brow." But not "let every one nor any one live off of the sweat of another's brow without paying for it." Then you will be following the commandments of God. Who ever heard of such a thing as a man working for another for nothing and he sitting down doing nothing, but only violating the laws of God and the just laws of the land, and then say it is ight.
Read his complete narrative

This is our greatest legacy. Every effort has been made to ensure that we would forget and in some that legacy seems to be lost: and now there are those among us who would tell us; the descendants of slaves, that indeed, we were responsible for that lost.

Herein lies the problem; I cannot accept the absolution of whites in this country from the responsibility of propagating racism and then telling me that it’s all my fault. There has been a disturbing stream of thought that is permeating in the blogoshpere and put in the public consciousness with certain pundits. I hinted at my feeling about this in my previous post “Origins.” I think this topic deserves a more complete analysis.

I have been reading a few blogs, mostly conservative ones, for about a year and a half. When the topic of race came up, I would sometime comment. Mostly my views were usually thought of as another black playing the race card or victim. In their challenges, I began to see an attempt to absolve themselves of any blame and any racist action, some even began to try to change my view of history and say that Southern Heritage did not have anything to do with slavery and that the secession issue was about state rights. I did think I knew something about the South, since I grew up there. I am not disputing that blacks share some of what is called Southern Heritage, but my view on how racism played was a part of Southern Heritage was quite different. My view of the South was that of a black growing up in the South during Jim Crow. Finding out at four years old I was different. I could not do certain things or go certain places. I later found out it was because I was not white. At four, so simple those things desired; but so hard to forget. I don’t hate, but I don’t easily forgive.

I thought how curious to try to rehabilitate the South. This post at at Positive Liberty describes the new thought on the right of secession. There is an attempt which to give credibility to new ideas, which I thought that Timothy Sandefur adequately rebukes. Sandefur doesn’t mince words in this post either. I still feel a Southerner, even though I have lived here for more years than there. I know what is was to me, and I still prefer certain things about the South. I do not need a rehabilitated South. Then why is there a need among some whites? I think its guilt, even though they say it is not their generation and they are not the blame for slavery or Jim Crow. I think it is guilt, because they know that they have bought into many racist stereotypes and struggle with the thought that they could have such thoughts. It clouds their minds so much, as with those I argue; that even if I do not disagree with one of their ideas, they don’t see it.

Even more disturbing is how the discussion of slavery is being used as an argument to totally absolve whites of participating in the institution of slavery in America. It’s like they couldn’t help it, it must have been an addiction. Those statements that slavery was good for blacks and blacks are better off because of slavery; and we should be grateful, are becoming another meme. In order to blame blacks for their own enslavement, it is quickly brought up how Africans enslaved other Africans. Those who say this, don’t even know how to distinguish the Africans. It’s all a mishmash. No distinguishing of the different cultures or even how slavery worked in Africa. Just repeat partial truths enough, it slowly become believable. They know the ignorant and racist of their group will latch on anything they say. No questions, just a relief that whites weren’t really responsible, because you know, they had slavery in Africa. There would not have been any slavery in America, if blacks had not sold other blacks. These pundits are espousing this new version of history, having their discussions and pontifications in the public media. The first I heard this type of comment, slavery was good for blacks, was from a black pundit, Walter Williams on local TV. (Unfortunately this was many years ago and I can’t refer to a transcript.) Williams also professes the rehabilitated view of the civil war. There are others that have expressed the same sentiment, Ann Coulter and Dinesh D’Souza. These are not the only two, but they tick me off the most. Their analysis says slavery is what gave a better life to blacks, than if they had stayed in Africa. D’ Souza, in his book, “What’s So Great About America,” even uses quote from blacks to convince us of his view of slavery, although I think he misunderstands the intent of Zora Neale Hurston.

Back to Muhammad Ali: I understand him to be making the same point. Slavery was a grave moral crime that inflicted incalculable harm to slaves. But the slaves are dead, and the truth is that their descendants are better off as a result of slavery. Jesse Jackson is vastly better off because his ancestors were enslaved than he would have been if that had never happened. If not for slavery, Jackson and others like him would be living in Somalia or Ethiopia or Nigeria. The enormous improvement in their condition can be verified by simply asking them whether they would consider moving to one of those places. As the African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston bluntly put it, “Slavery is the price I paid for civilization, and that is worth all that I have paid through my ancestors for it.”18 (59)
I think Hurston was stating that her ancestors had paid her dues to be a full citizen in this civilization. I admit that I have not read the source of that quote. To get more of an idea of D’Souza point of view, this is an interview in reference to his book “The End Of Racism,” along with some other quotes from from campusprogress.org. These pundits also point out how blacks enslaved blacks, sort of inferring that if the African had not sought after other blacks to sell, there would not have been any slavery. It is really interesting that I can not find any of Ann Coulters own words on the net. I only see references to what she had said about slavery as here and here. Here’s an excerpt from One Peoples Project, “Ann Coulter.”

This speaking engagement brought a huge number of persons who wanted to call her on the comments on the flag and something else that was in that particular column. Coulter also supports slavery revisionism, the latest thing among conservatives where they suggest that black persons are responsible for slavery in America. "Slavery, as Joe Sobran has remarked, is the only African institution America has ever adopted," she wrote, making reference to a columnist routinely admonished for his anti-Semitic views and white supremacist connections. Once, during an episode of Politically Incorrect, Coulter even said that the Emancipation Proclamation is among laws she felt should be repealed. During one moment in her discussion at Cornell, she repeated the assertion in the column that European slave traders bought Africans who were already enslaved, saying, "It wasn't as if the traders ran into the jungle and kidnapped their victims."
I think their words denigrate blacks and say we are inferior. That as an African without the intervention of the European, we would have been incapable of creating viable institutions for ourselves and if our lives were not exposed to technology; our lives could not be meaningful. These comments are made when they criticized blacks for being dependant on government and how we should follow their way of thinking. As if 12% of the population are 100% of the recipients of government programs, that we look to government to employ us and that racism would not exist if we just would stop playing the victim or race card. They don’t know how much their criticism sounds racist. Ann Coulter believes the Bell Curve and what she says about the races, blacks are inferior. Let us look at her criticism:

— Liberals were afraid of a book that told the truth about IQ ("The Bell Curve") because they are godless secularists who do not believe humans are in God's image. Christians have no fear of hearing facts about genetic differences in IQ because we don't think humans are special because they are smart. There may be some advantages to being intelligent, but a lot of liberals appear to have high IQs, so, really, what's the point? After Hitler carried the secularists' philosophy to its grisly conclusion, liberals are terrified of making any comment that seems to acknowledge that there are any differences among groups of people — especially racial groups. It's difficult to have a simple conversation — much less engage in free-ranging, open scientific inquiry — when liberals are constantly rushing in with their rule book about what can and cannot be said.
I wonder what Ann Coulter would do if she found out she had an African ancestor, would her intelligence take a nose dive. What scientific inquiry is she speaking, “The Bell Curve”? When genetic test are done between the so called races, there are more differences between individuals than groups. It’s possible that my DNA could be very similar to hers. Coulter and D’Souza configure their statistics to prove their points. They are not even trying to give a better analysis using more parameters. Just use one test, that’s quite enough. Even though those pundits know nothing about black people, they should realize that the poor do not survive on government programs alone. The working poor do not get very much either. Many survive in an underground economy, which you would have to live in that environment to understand how it works. Entrepreneurship is not dead in our communities, even though there were efforts to stomp it out. Some of those earlier incidents, Memphis and Tulsa were not just race driven, they were meant to destroy the black competition and instill fear of competing with whites. Of course, I think most whites today, would only think of drug dealing as that alternate source of income. Of course, this is my own prejudice speaking.

We can not imagine the African without the European. Portugal ships arrived in Africa during the 15th century. There were emerging civilizations at the time, Benin and Songhay. What were lacking in these civilizations and other societies were gunpowder, and the associated weapons technology. No superior intellect, just brute force. I’m sure those societies who had slaves and moved into the interior to catch more, found it profitable to sell slaves to get that technology. Most Africans were taken directly from the western cities by force. Why pay for them if you could capture them yourself? The African was not responsible for transporting Tens of millions of slaves across the Atlantic. They may have works on the ships, but they didn’t profit like the European from the transport of slaves. The big bucks were made by the Portuguese, Dutch and English. Less than a hundred years after the transport of slavery was abolished, the Europeans after WWI divided up the African continent and the Middle East into colonies. How could the African recover from having their population stripped, their land and resources taken over and then left ignorant? Then they compare the American black’s condition. Of course we are better off, but it should not have been because millions of slaves suffered and died; or from living in fear instilled by Jim Crow; or acknowledging the devastating and deteriorating conditions of many African countries.

My last comment from “Origins” was not meant to trash Western Civilization or what is called “The Enlightenment,” but to imply that it is not perfection. Where were the philosophical ideals at work for the African? Some whites at that time; did not think of us as equal and many more did not think of us as human. We were some sort of an advanced ape. Slavery was not seriously challenged at the beginning of this country. Only discontinuing the importation of slaves was in the constitution. That was a compromise, because the Virginians thought that blacks reproduced rapidly enough to provide ample supply; a self propagating commodity. Some of the “founding fathers” ideals were not a reality in there lives. When I first read the Declaration of Independence, naively I thought it meant all of man. In later years, I was disappointed that they could not share their own ideals. When much older, I just thought they sold their souls. I finally came to the realization that all my icons were tarnished. America has become a myth, which doesn’t even include me. This does not mean I do not think of myself as American, I do. I don’t like to be called an African-American, because my ancestors have been here since the beginning and their blood is in the dirt. I am only three generations out of slavery. I am an American of African descent. Other ancestry doesn’t count, because my life has been only defined by my African ancestry.

Since, I have just started this blog; I don’t think this essay will reach or influence many people, so I comment at other blogs when the subject comes up. I have written to a few bloggers about my views, hoping that if they agree they would speak out. Those bloggers have a better voice than I and reach more readers. There are very intellectual arguments that redefine the Southern secession and slavery, its difficult for me to challenge those ideas. I have read one blog, that I think successfully challenges those ideas, Positive Liberty. I hope to find others. Since, I have started writing this post, another idea is surfacing. Now, slavery had nothing to do with the economy of this country. America would have grown as fast as it did without slavery. This is to say, blacks are owed nothing; in which I conclude, that we are not even owed respect for the inventions and everyday gifts of our labor for all those years. The gift of leisure, we gave to most of the founding fathers, so they might have time to ruminate over the issues of freedom and liberty.

The remnants of the ante-bellum South still exist, like this organization, American Renaissance, dedicated to the preservation of the white way of life and the belief that black are naturally inferior. I fear that if this rhetoric is not challenged, that blacks could become more demonized and we will be responsible for all crime, for defrauding government programs, and coercing business and other institutions in order to work; we will become a scapegoat for all white’s failures. This may degenerate into black offenses which would make it permissible to commit genocide, perhaps not in my lifetime, but sometime in the near future. We suffer now for the offense of crack cocaine use. I feel I have to say something or else someday, someone again may say the words of Martin Niemoller, “When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.”


Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hathor, these are interesting observations. Thanks for posting on my blog, or I probably never would have encountered your own blog.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

Hathor said...

Thanks and thanks for letting me know you read this.

Beach Girl said...

Hathor, I have read this post and, like Jeffery, thank you for commenting at my blog. I have a good readership and would like to list you in "blogs I read" with your permission.

You bring a fresh face to the table. Yes, interesting observations that deserve a wider audience, observations that would be of benefit to me as well.

I feel as though, upon occasion, that my country has passed me by. I appreciate your emphasis and ask you to look a little farther into the immigration issues that have come out of the 1965 act. The South did seem to be only black and white during the 60's but the 1965 act did and continues to adversely impact goals many of us hoped for with the passage of the 1964 act.

Let me know if it is okay to list your blog. If not, I won't. I appreciate your comments and acknowledge the limitations placed upon us through the "impersonal" that is the computer.

I'll also come back and take a look at the links you have included in this particular post.

Hathor said...

I appreciate your visit and reading the post I suggested.
I have no objection to be listed on your blog. I don't have any policy regarding that or the content of my comments.

Beach Girl said...

Thank you. Right now I'm getting things lined up to see doctor about blood pressure - 225/115 so when I get back, hopefully, I'll add your blog.

We are come from different experiences - each and everyone of us - we are Americans - seems our ancestors have been here about same length of time, mine in tyrannical Mass. Bay Colony but they got out of there in 1630 and moved to establish Trenton and other cities. I do not and will not call myself a European American 'cause I'm not.

Thanks again. I'll get you set up. Maybe right now while I can.