Tags: African Americans, American Education, American History, bigotry, black, black churches, current-events, Esso Gas Stations, ethnicity, European Americans, Jacinda Townson, Negro Urban League, Paula Wynter, Prejudice, race, Smithsonian, St. Louis Black Pages Business Directory, The Green Book, Victor H. Green
Today many Americans take their freedoms, liberties and privileges for granted because seldom are they challenged. One of the freedoms we all enjoy today is traveling all over the country seeing and experiencing the majesty of America the beautiful. A recent publication by the Smithsonian, and writer Jacinda Townsend, entitled “Driving While Black”( April 2016) tells of the challenging experiences encountered by African Americans before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the efforts of one man to help relieve some of the dangers.
Townsend states that “Driving interstate distances to unfamiliar locales, black motorists ran into institutional racism in a number of pernicious forms, from hotels and restaurants that refused to accommodate them to hostile ‘sundown towns’ where posted signs warned people of color that they were banned after nightfall.”The fabric of ethnic bigotry increased after the Civil War because African Americans through their quest to become American citizens with all rights and privileges created a problem for European Americans could not see them as social equals. Therefore, in whatever manner African Americans could be deprived of liberties and freedoms, many European Americans invented and promoted these challenges.
As one might expect, African Americans traveling by automobile during segregation presented many problems. For example, some gas stations would not sell gasoline to African American customers and certainly would not allow them use of the restrooms. In some cases, the stations would sell the gasoline to African Americans, but at a higher price than the price at the pump. Because segregation was sanctioned by the government, no recourse was available to the African Americans; they were on their own. On long trips where they knew purchasing gasoline might be a problem, taking along an extra can of gas was a necessity.
Many African Americans taking long trips had the challenge of finding sleeping accommodations because the hotels or motels would not accept them. Simply traveling at night presented some problems. Townsend notes one experience of Paula Wynter, a young girl traveling with her parents in the 1950’s: “In North Carolina, her family hid in their Buick after a local sheriff passed them, made a U-turn and gave chase. Wynter’s father, Richard Irby, switched off his headlights and parked under a tree. ‘We sat until the sun came up.’ She says. ‘We saw his lights pass back and forth. My sister was crying; my mother was hysterical.’” The cover of darkness protected evil-doing bigots from getting caught from practicing their deeds against African Americans.
Two things African Americans knew to take with them when traveling by either car or bus and train—food and drink. Why? Because in most restaurants they would not be served—even one-room bus stops would not serve them. One practice that was common throughout the South and other areas of the country focused on African Americans traveling by bus. When the bus stopped for a meal break, the European Americans could go inside the establishment and order their food. The African Americans had to go around to a window in the back of the place building and place their order. However, they were forced to pay for their food at the time of placing the order. Because of ethnic bigotry in society, the European American had their orders completed first, so they had a chance to eat while seated in the establishment. Once the European Americans were served, then the orders of the African Americans were started. However, the bus drivers were only concerned that the European Americans were fed, so after their meal, thy returned to the bus ready to continue their trip. The bus driver would order all passengers on the bus at that time. The African Americans who had paid for their food were forced to leave without receiving any food and were refused their right to have their money refunded. So, they continued their trip hungry and with a money deficit for their troubles.
Things began to change for many of the African American travelers in 1937, according to the article, when an African American visionary entrepreneur, “Victor H. Green, a 44-year-old black postal carrier in Harlem, relied on his own experiences and on recommendations from black members of his postal union for the inaugural guide bearing his name, The Negro Motorist Green-Book.” At first, the 15-page book covered “the New York metropolitan area, listing establishments that welcomed blacks.” The book “created a safety net. If a person could travel by car—and those who could, did—they would feel more in control of their destiny.”For the first time, families could plan their road travel knowing that some of their problems would be addressed using the information in The Green Book.
Townsend notes that “The Green Book final edition, in 1966-67, filled 99 pages and embraced the entire nation and even some international cities. The guide pointed black travelers to places including hotels, restaurants, beauty parlors, nightclubs, golf courses and state parks.”More importantly for the traveler, Green’s book included businesses such as service stations, garages, and Road Houses. Although desegregation provided greater opportunities for African Americans to travel, the dangers and challenges of the road did not simply disappear.
Finally, the article notes that “The Green Book was indispensable to black-owned businesses. For historians, says Smithsonian curator Joanne Hyppolite, the listings offer a record of the ‘rise of the black middle class, and in particular, of the entrepreneurship of black women.’”
Green’s book met a need for the African American traveler during the difficult period of segregation. Whether a direct influence or not, a publication that follows a similar philosophy but focuses on African American businesses is The Black Pages, for the metropolitan of St. Louis, Missouri. The expressed purpose of this publication is as stated:
St. Louis Black Pages Business Directory: For 25 years, the Black Pages Business Directory and The Transformational Agenda Magazine has served as an effective advertising vehicle for small-mid-sized businesses, non-profit organizations, and corporations across the St. Louis Metro area who have a vested interest in letting the African American community know that they’re in business and that they respect and appreciate their patronage. This highly effective advertising vehicle is penetrating a $4.86 billion market via 100,000 print copies, and engaging internet and mobile editions (for iPhone and Android).” www.black–pages.com/tag/st-loui
The Green Book sold its first edition for twenty-five cents; its final edition sold for $1. We note in the article that “At the height of its circulation, Green printed 20,000 books annually, which were sold at black churches, the Negro Urban League and Esso gas stations.”
Tags: African Americans, American Education, American History, bigotry, black, discrimination, ethnic prejudice, ethnicity, European Americans, Justice Antonin Scalia, School segregation, skin color, white
When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently made comments suggesting that African American students attend less advanced universities because they would do better academically, he was expressing a bias that was created in America as far back as the time of the founding fathers. The problem with Scalia voicing that sentiment was that it showed his lack of either knowing or understanding American history. What always happens when someone makes a statement about someone else, the focus is on the person making the statement and the motives involved. The people or person to who the statement is directed has the choice of ignoring it or responding to it. When the speaker does not want to accept responsibility for the content of the statement, he or she will usually invoke a “they” or “someone” as the source of the content. Justice Scalia used this technique when he stated that “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do not do well — as opposed to having them go to a less advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well…”What he did not say was that he agreed with “those” who made the comment.
The first indication of Scalia’s ignorance of history has to do with the subject of Affirmative Action and its reason for being in American society. African Americans have been discriminated, segregated, arrested, abused, and killed for wanting an education. During slavery, it was against the law for an African American to teach to read and write, and against the law for them to learn. After slavery, conditions were invented that served to preclude African Americans from acquiring an education either by the governments, federal and states or by groups of European American citizens. A door to education was cracked slightly when the “separate but equal” law was passed, but history shows that no part of that concept was to be established and enforced with concerns for the quality of education received by the African Americans. Finally, after years of protest and demonstrations the Supreme Court rules that “separate but equal” was not working and opened the public schools to all via Brown v. Topeka ruling. However, because of the systems of segregation and discrimination changes had to take place in order to put the ruling into effect—the story of school desegregation. All this historical information Justice Scalia should know.
Affirmative Action was not instituted for African Americans students to be able to attend school with European Americans; it was instituted to ensure that African Americans have the same opportunity to acquire the same education as European Americans. The court knew that the educational experiences encountered by African Americans were not equal, and they did not seek to make special provisions for African Americans who were accepted to schools—no schools lowered their standards to allow African Americans to attend. Affirmative Action simply provided an opportunity for African Americans to attend schools where they were in the past not permitted to attend simply because of the color. Justice Scalia should know this information. Evidently, he chose to ignore it; he preferred to offer a bigoted comment suggesting that African American students were not intellectually capable of succeeding in top-ranked universities.
Justice Scalia demonstrated an ignorance of his own ethnic history–his ancestry is Italian. He seems to have apparently abandoned his Italian heritage in favor of a Caucasian identity where he can demonstrate his ethnic bigotry without having to feel guilty for expressing feeling against others that were experienced by his Italian American ethnic group. Anglo-Saxon Americans did not want Italians, both from the South and North Italy coming to America because they were viewed as “racial undesirables, who were, according to men like Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard, as well as to their many allies in magazines, newspapers, and grassroots organizations, a biological, cultural, political and economic menace to the American nation.”(Thomas A. Guglielmo, White On Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890-1945, Oxford University Press, 2003, p 59) One wonders if Justice was so immersed in European American society that he was deprived of the history of many Italians upon arrival in America.
In different places in his comments, Justice Scalia uses the terms black and African Americans; he needs to know that these terms are not synonymous—black refers to a color, not an identity, or a culture, although some people have tried to use it as such. African American identifies both an ancestral and cultural identity. So, when he stated that “I don’t think it stands to reason for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible,” to whom was he making a reference? Many students of color from many countries attend the University of Texas. If the Justice is speaking specifically of African American students, he should make that clear.
Ethnic bigotry is part of the fabric of American and has been since the founding fathers introduce it into psyche of European Americans—not at European Americans, however, practice bigotry, but they cannot ignore the fact of its presence in our everyday lives. For someone of Justice Scalia’s stature and standing, his comments show a lack of either knowledge or understanding of American history his while underscoring an attitude of arrogance expressed through bigotry. America deserves better representation on our highest court in the land than what we have been subjected through the comments and person of Justice Scalia.
The history of bigotry in America is no secret and especially to a Supreme Court Justice, so for him to make comments that smack of ethnic bigotry is disheartening. Certainly many Americans are bigots and do not know it because it they have been conditioned to view it as natural—anyone who does not look like them is different. But, for someone like Justice Scalia whose life’s interest is the law to express biased ethnic sentiments, it should give us great pause for concern about his sense of justice and fairness.
Paul R. Lehman, The public apology of Levi Pettit shows serious challenges relative to understanding ethnic bigotryMarch 30, 2015 at 3:25 pm | Posted in African American, American history, Bigotry in America, blacks, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, freedom of speech, justice, Oklahoma, Oklahoma education, race, Race in America, racism, segregation, whites | Leave a comment
Tags: African American, African Americans, america's race problem, American Education, American History, bigotry, black, Civil Rights, Confronting Myths, current-events, European Americans, Frat song, Levi Pettit, Prejudice, public apology, race, Race in America, racism, racist, Sen. Anastasia Pittman, The University of Oklahoma, white
The public apology by Levi Pettit in the company of some African American community representatives has created a number of questions that warrant discussion. A few of those questions include: Why did Pettit choose to apologize to this group of citizens? Why did Levi Pettit select Senator Anastasia Pittman to seek redress? Why did the group of African American citizens accept Pettit’s apology? What did the public apology accomplish? To many people, the public apology of Pettit with the African Americans was a photo opportunity that only served to created additional questions.
In answer to the question of why Pettit chose Sen. Pittman and the other African Americans that composed the group to offer his apology, he stated “I did not want to apologize to the press or to the whole country until I came here and apologized to the community most directly impacted.” This statement reflects a gross sense of ignorance and a lack of understanding of what his words and actions on the frat bus really meant. Pettit’s thinking that this group of African Americans were “most directly impacted” is misguided and underscores his lack of understanding regarding what he did.
The group that Pettit should have met with and offered a public apology was The University of Oklahoma community, the students, organization leaders and civic leaders because those are the entities he mostly represented. His comments and actions reflected the lack of education and knowledge of history relative to the African American experience in America from Plymouth Rock to Selma, and the blame must be shared by those groups as well as the rest of society. Unfortunately, Pettit must have thought that African Americans are a monolith and that by making an apology to this particular group of African Americans, he was apologizing to all African Americans. He was grossly mistaken.
The fact that Pettit selected Sen. Pittman to assist with his plans for his apology could rest with the fact that she represents a large number of African Americans in Oklahoma City by virtue of her political office. In essence, more African Americans could be reached through Pittman, than any other public African American figure. With her social influence, she was able to bring together a group of religious and community leaders to share in this public apology by Pettit. Some people believe that Pittman showed a lack of judgment by not involving and bringing into the group other non-African American representatives from the clergy and civic organizations. By not doing so suggest that she accepted the narrow understanding of Pettit’s bigotry in that it affected “mostly” African Americans.
One wonders why this group of African Americans would allow themselves to be placed in a situation of compromise by Pettit. Does he need a public showing of African Americans forgiving him for his words and action, so he could move forward with his life? The sincerity of his apology is not what is in question here, but the use of people who were not directly involved in his words and actions suggest the need for a shield against future criticism. Pettit’s statement “I never considered myself a racist, I never considered it a possibility,” should have been a warning to the African Americans that this young man was totally ignorant about being a racist as well as racism. Evidently, many of the African American group members were not aware of Pettit’s comments or were equally uninformed. In other words, what purpose did Pettit’s apology serve the group since they did not represent all African Americans? In addition, since Pettit stated that he did not consider himself a racist, for what was he apologizing? The only possible thing the African American group could accept an apology for would be Pettit’s ignorance of racism. However, the group knowing that a student attending a university must have completed high school and demonstrated a control of basic knowledge relative to the world and America, why would they believe that Pettit did not connect the “rope” in his frat song with lynching?
To many people, Pettit’s public apology was simply a media photo opportunity that allowed him to save face by pleading ignorance before a group of forgiving African Americans. Being sorry for an action or denigrating ethnic references does not mean a full comprehension of the problem. Stories, pictures, words relative to the African American experience in history might serve to inform Pettit’s understanding of the challenges faced in the past and present, but until he realizes that his real audience is his family and all European Americans, and that American bigotry is a fabric of his and our daily existence, his apology is just words, as Shakespeare said “full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”
Pettit is the only person who gains from the photo opportunity because he is able to show how he has been affected by his experience. Unfortunately, for Pittman, and the African American group, the suggestion as a result of the public apology is that anytime someone who is not an ethnic American says or acts in a disparaging way towards African Americans, all that needs to be done is to contact an important African American community leader and request a group meeting, open to the public for the media’s sake, and ask for forgiveness. Then, right there in front of the world, all will be forgiven, and life can go on.
The problem in forgiving someone for being a racist is that nothing is forgiven; the fact that the term racist is used underscores the ignorance of the problem. Racism is not an action or activity; it is a mindset that society engendered and perpetuates as normalcy in American society. The reason Pettit could never consider himself to be a racist is because he was always taught to look outside of himself for what he considered racist behavior, something quite different from the song he was singing on the frat bus. The problem with Pettit and the public apology is the suggestion that problems of American racism can be intelligently addressed; they cannot. They can only serve to perpetuate the myth of race.
Tags: Affirmative Action, African American, African American Community, African American History, African Americans, black, Charles Dickens, Civil Rights, ethnicity, European American, European Americans, President Obama, Race in America, unemployment, Voting Right Act
Shortly after President Obama was elected a cry of America being a post-racial society was heard. The thinking was that since America had elected an African American president that all the concerns about race and its negative derivatives had been addressed and was now in the past. The truth of the matter is that America has yet to deal internally with the concept of race other than to continue its illusion. What might be passing for social progress is mostly illusion since not much has changed for the betterment of African Americans relative to employment, education, and incarceration. Certainly, we can point to a number of areas where African American involvement and participation in society have made them more visible, but that visibility usually underscores their ethnicity rather than their being viewed as simply Americans. The stigma of race (ethnicity) always accompanies the African American and the attention, positive or negative, received. In a democratic society the resolution of one problem usually represents the creation of two or more problems. A case in point was school desegregation beginning in 1954. Using a phrase from Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times; it was the worse of times,” when we examine some of the repercussion visited on African Americans as a result of desegregation.
Education in America prior to the Brown decision in 1954 was separate, but certainly, not equal. Education in America can never become equal, because that term pertains to mathematics, not sociology—nothing involving human beings can ever be equal. That term was used to create an illusion of fairness. The idea that African Americans wanted to attend school alongside European American students for social reasons was false; they just wanted an education comparable to that of the European American students. Fortunately, and unfortunately, the only way to ensure that all students receive a fair and comparable education was to discontinue segregated schools. For the African American community, that created numerous problems, two of which involved education and economics.
When the schools were segregated, the African American students were the recipients of information relative to African American history, past and present–information that helped to created a positive self-image as well as one of self-value. The history underscored the many individuals who time and time again triumphed over challenges to achieve some measure of accomplishment. These examples helped the students to develop the courage and desire to accept the many challenges they must face in an ethnically biased society. American history from an African American perspective was not simply an objective look at past events, but a continuing story of the struggles of African Americans to gain fist-classed citizenship in America.
Once the schools were desegregated, many of the former African American teachers were dismissed in favor of European American teachers. Of course, we would be remiss if we did not note that once desegregation became the law, many European Americans who could afford it, moved to suburbs in an action that came to be known as “white flight” because they did not believe in ethnic mixing in any context, but especially at school. As a result of “white flight” the court required bussing of students to achieve desegregation. Since most of the African American schools were physically inferior to those of the European American schools, African American students were bussed to European American schools. These changes, white flight” and “bussing” had a dramatic affect on the African American students.
Once the African American students were bussed to their new schools, they had to adjust to totally new and different environments where they were generally in the minority. Without a doubt, European American students had to make adjustments as well, but they had the benefit of attending their home schools and being taught by familiar teachers. No special considerations were made for the African American students relative to their social adjustment; they were expected to simply “fall in line” along with the majority students. One major difference existed relative to the African American students involved in this desegregation experience; they no longer received or learned African American history. The fact that the majority teachers had no background and little or no knowledge of the African American historical experience, they could not bridge the ignorance gap that could have provided some insight into the problems that created the need for desegregation in the first place. In this case, all students were disadvantaged.
A second negative affect of desegregation to the African American community was the loss of an entrepreneurial class of business men and women. Once the schools became desegregated, many chain-store businesses came into the community and ended much of the “Mom and Pop” businesses that existed in the community because the chain-store business could easily offer goods, services, and products at a lower price. The smaller, African American owned businesses could not compete with the larger ones; so many African Americans who formerly worked at these businesses were displaced. So, the immediate affect of desegregation for the African American community was mixed in that while the African American students would share classrooms with European American students, and thereby receive a comparable education, the African American community would lose many of its entrepreneurial members and businesses and be changed forever.
So, the people who would like to think that America is in a post-racial present might want to reconsider that thought when they examine areas of: education, where we learn that schools today are rapidly becoming more segregated rather than integrated; or consider the wealth gap among ethnic Americans of color compared to European Americans, and the unemployment rate that contributes directly to the standard of living; or to the recent and current news items from Florida, to New York, from Illinois, to California, and places in between where young African American men have been killed by law enforcement agencies; or the fact that many of the previous accomplishments relative to social progress have been eroded, like voting rights, affirmative action, and economic upward mobility in general.
Rather than talking about a post-racial society, America should be looking at the debunking of the illusion of race. One of the primary problems in America today is that too many people do not want to face facts and the reality of those facts—race is and always has been an illusion. The idea of America as a post-racial society is an oxymoron.
Tags: African Americans, American protest and prejudice, black, Civil Rights, Civil Rights Act, Civil Rights Act of 1964, current-events, European Americans, Pledge of Allegiance, politics, Prejudice, President John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson, white
The recent celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (CRA) gives us an opportunity to evaluate a number of concerns relative to that Act, and society in general. Although the process of acquiring the Civil Rights Act was started by President Kennedy, President Lyndon Baines Johnson was the man who championed it through Congress. He paid a large political price for doing so. Nonetheless, we are thankful for his efforts and success. Today, when we look at the Civil Rights Act, we can identify a number of things that are directly related to society then in 1964 and now.
The first thing we realize by the signing of the CRA is that a need was present for such action. After the Civil War, African Americans were literally kept in slavery via a lack of education, jobs, housing, and political representation. Although segregation, discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry were present and visible in everyday life of America, little was being done to recognize the problems. Americans, both African Americans and European Americans tried fighting the injustices on a variety of fronts, but the sentiment of the majority population was against social change. With continued pressure on the Federal Government and the presidents, the civil rights activists over the years since the Civil War were able to acquire an audience with people in power. So, for the first time in American history, Congress and the American people were able to see and accept the fact of injustices visited on African American and other ethnic Americans.
As a result to recognizing the un-American treatment of African Americans and other ethnic Americans, discussions took place relative to how to go about identifying these injustices. With regards to the individual’s rights, safeguards must not be placed in the hands of the states, because a lack of uniformity would exist. So, if efforts were to be made, they must come from the Federal Government. Under the status quo in society up to 1964, segregation was the law and it existed in every aspect of the African American’s life. The sit-ins and marches helped to call attention to the social injustices regarding public accommodations for African Americans. Some success had been achieved in a few areas of education, but the concept of separate but equal was still in effect. So, through the efforts of a number of Civil Rights leaders working directly with President Kennedy and some of his associates, the plan to create a Civil Rights Act that would address some of the injustices experienced by African Americans and other Americans was crafted.
Now that a plan of action was in place, the question was how to get it approved by a Congress that felt no need or urgency to enact a bill that would, in effect, take away some of their power. President Kennedy knew that he would be in for a long and hard fight with certain sections of the Congress in winning approval of this Act, but he was convinced it had to be done. Unfortunately, President Kennedy was killed before he had an opportunity to engage Congress relative to the Civil Rights Act. The task of bringing the CRA successfully through Congress fell to President Johnson. The undertaking for President Johnson would not be an easy one since he was viewed as a Southern politician from Texas and Southern politicians were not very keen on giving equal rights to the sons and daughters of former slaves. For many politicians, the rights and privileges enjoyed by the European Americans and Caucasians were not to be shared equally with African Americans and other ethnic groups. The concern for so-called white supremacy being negatively affected by passage of the CRA troubled many of the political group known as the Dixiecrats. President Johnson was well aware of this group and their concerns because he was consider part of them prior to becoming Vice President. However, Johnson also was aware of the importance of the CRA since its creation acknowledged the existence of injustices as reflected in the status quo, and the label of hypocrisy of America and its claim of democracy.
Nonetheless, Johnson showed political acumen and courage in getting the CRA through Congress. The passage of the CRA represented the success of the efforts of many civil rights activists who labored many years in this regard. With the passage of the CRA, the Federal Government assumed control of the protection of the individual American’s rights. Rather than representing the end of a struggle, the CRA actually was the beginning of a new sense of democracy where all Americans regardless of skin color, religion, gender, and ethnicity could challenge the previously biased conditions. The challenge came from the mindset of many European Americans who felt deceived by the Federal Government who gave the minorities the same rights as they enjoyed. Somehow, they saw this as wrong and an injustice to them as European Americans.
Today, as we look back on fifty years of American life with the CRA, we can recognize how that Act has benefited the society in progressing towards that democracy that gives each citizen the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We can also recognize the struggles that come from making changes in a society based on bigotry. The struggle is still in progress and will be until we educate ourselves and each other of the commitment we made and make as Americans. In essence, what is the responsibility of each and every American? We find the answer in our pledge of allegiance to our country:”I pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.”
In this pledge we recognize, accept, and embrace the United States of America as one. We underscore that understanding when we add to the pledge “and to the Republic for which it stands.” The remainder of the pledge states what we stand for as a nation. No where in the pledge is there a reference to a state as an independent entity? As a society, we need to confront those who would like to make American into a nation that caters to their wants based on skin color or ethnicity. The CRA was passed as a measure to confront the injustices of the past and present. As American citizens, we have the responsibility of protecting those rights and privileges. To witness injustice and not call attention to it is the same as accepting it. Ayaan Hirsi Ali stated that “Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.” To that we add that acceptance of intolerance by Americans is hypocrisy
Tags: 12 Years A Slave, African American History, African Americans, black, black and white, ethnicity, European Americans, movie, Oscar, Prejudice, race, skin color, slave masters, slavery, Solomon Northup, white
The movie, 12 Years a Slave, won an Oscar award as this year’s the Best Picture, and well it should have because of the picture of slavery it presents. Many viewers based their evaluations of the movie on how the system of slavery dehumanized and denigrated the slave, showing the harshness of the punishment and pain endured by the slaves. In those cases, once the movie is over, the memories of the viewers rest with the experiences of the slaves. However, the movie’s most valuable and significant element rest in its intrinsic objective—to provided a gift to America of a valuable teaching tool.
The movie, followed by mature and informed discussions, should be a requirement for all Jr. High and High school students because of the way the movie presents the concept of slavery, and how it reflects American life. By doing so, we all can gain unique lessons from it. Let us take a look at twelve of the most obvious lessons we learn from slavery. These lessons are not arranged in an order of priority and most of them overlap, but relate to slavery as viewed from the movie.
First, the movie shows how the enslavers become dehumanized when they treated the slaves as animals. Watching a human being degraded through inhumane punishment and pain reflects on the ones inflicting the actions and the reasons for doing so. The power to whip a human being to death does not make one a human being for using that power, but more a brut for dropping to that level of behavior.
Second, the movie shows how the actions of the enslavers to dehumanize the slaves represent a form of insanity. Although the slaves were human beings, they were viewed and made to view themselves as animals; most people treat their animals with a degree of respect for the service they render. So, when the action of an enslaver goes against common sense, and what is considered normal thoughts, the result is a form of insanity.
Third, the movie shows that all African Americans were not slaves; many were free, educated, business and property owners. For example, Paul Cuffee owned several sailing ship, made and sold sails. In Louisiana, Cyprian Ricard owned almost a hundred slaves (Yes, even some African Americans owned slaves, but not all African slaves); a cabinetmaker from North Carolina, Thomas Day, employed a number of European Americans; and in New York City in 1924, seven African Free Schools were supported by the public. The schools were called African Free Schools, not Negro or black or colored because those terms lacked specificity. So, Solomon being a free man was not an isolated case; not all African Americans were slaves.
Fourth, the movie shows how all European Americans were not supporters of slavery. Had it not been for the characters played by Brad Pitt, and Mr. Parker, both European Americans, Solomon would not have regained his freedom. We also note the behavior of Solomon’s first young master how Solomon was treated with a small degree of respect for his knowledge and skills. All enslavers did not treat their slaves the same.
Fifth, the movie shows how slavery created guilt-feelings in some of the European Americans who knew that slavery was a false concept and that the Africans and African Americans were human being, just like themselves. The guilt came from the fact that they knew slavery was wrong, and in contradiction to the Declaration of Independence and the Bible. Yet, the suspension of truth and reality was substituted for the make-believe concept of viewing human beings as animals and property. The fact that any form of formal education was denied the slaves to promote the idea that they could not learn. This action was a deliberate effort to hide the truth and protect their guilt.
Sixth, the movie shows how laws regarding the ownership of property were generally respected. The laws of property rights reflect the world of finance and business. These laws seemingly took precedent over laws regarding human concerns. A man’s worth was indicated not only in his money, but also in his property including land and slaves. The laws were created and enforced by the wealthy property owners.
Seventh, the movie shows how the insanity of slavery helps us to understand many of the attitudes and actions of some people today, especially the concepts of ethnic bigotry based on skin complexion. European Americans firmly believed that the color of their skin was a biological fact of superiority. The reference to their color as a sign of power was used constantly, especially the European Americans who were hired hands.
Eighth, the movie shows how the belief in slavery promoted a false sense of power, privilege, arrogance, and prestige. For all intent and purpose, the movie shows how some slave masters viewed themselves as gods, controlling the total lives of their slaves. In addition, other European Americans believed that they were created to be masters over other ethnic Americans, so they behaved as though it was a fact.
Ninth, the movie shows how slavery used Christianity in a hypocritical way, for generating fear, intimidation, and discipline. In essence, if the slaves did not practice being good slaves, then God would punish them through the slave masters. Church service for the slaves was a mockery of Christianity since the preachers always quoted scripture that encouraged the slaves to obey the masters and be good slaves.
Tenth, the movie shows how some European Americans believed that the Declaration of Independence was for all people, and some European Americans believed it applied only to them. The European American property owners believed they were entitled to more power, privilege, and prestige than the average European Americans. The country, in essence, belonged to them.
Eleventh, the movie shows how the secular and Christian standards and values did not apply to the enslavers. If a master wanted to procreate with his female slaves, he did so without impunity. His neighbors and fellow citizens gave little thought to what he did to his slaves regarding morals and values.
Twelfth, the movie shows that wedding vows were simply a matter of convenience, not law, with regards to who the master slept or with whom he fathered children. The wives of slave masters knew their place generally, but none-the-less, witnessed daily the handiwork of their husbands in and around the plantation.
The movie, as an invaluable gift, should be used because it tells us who we were, how we got to where we are, and what we need to do to move forward.
Tags: Affirmative Action, African Americans, American women, black, Civil Rights, Civil Rights Act, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Constitutional rights, equality of opportunity, ethnicity, European Americans, Prejudice, Public Accomadations, The U.S. Constitution, Title IX, white
Today, some fifty years after the Civil Rights Act was signed many Americans still do not know what it was about and some of the results of the signing. From a political and historical perspective, the 1964 signing of the Act by President Lyndon B. Johnson spelled the beginning of the end of the Democratic Party in the South. For African Americans, women, and other American minorities, it represented the beginning of new opportunities for life, liberties and the pursuit of happiness. Many European Americans viewed the Civil Rights Act as the government’s efforts to give special privileges to African Americans. The reason for the Act was due to many ethnic and minority Americans not being able to enjoy the rights and privileges of a first class citizen.
Many European Americans believe that the Civil Rights Acts was written specifically for African Americans because Martin Luther King, Jr.’s name has been associated with it. The truth is that the Act says absolutely nothing about African Americans or any other Ethnic Americans. So, the critics that try to discredit the Act by claiming it is for African Americans are just plain wrong. If one is serious about wanting to find fault with the ’64 Civil Rights Act, they need to take a time out and look at what has happened since the Act was signed.
Women and other minorities were prevented from attending some of the most renowned colleges and universities simply because the colleges had the right to pick and choose who they wanted at their institutions. For proof, all one needs to do is look at the graduation class pictures of any of these schools and count how many women and minorities are included. Then find a picture of a recent graduating class and compare the number of minorities and women. Chances are the results will show a drastic increase of women and minorities in the recent pictures. Why, because the Civil Rights Act made it unlawful for institutions to discriminate against individuals because of their color and/or gender. As a result many women European American as well as African American women have benefited from the new opportunities provided by the Act.
The first paragraph of the Act states that:
To enforce the constitutional right to vote, to confer jurisdiction upon the district courts of the United States to provide injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations, to authorize the Attorney General to institute suits to protect constitutional rights in public facilities and public education, to extend the Commission on Civil Rights, to prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs, to establish a Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity, and for other purposes.
If we look at the results that the Civil Rights Acts have had on African Americans, we discover a mixed- bag of experiences. The purpose of the Act was to ensure justice and fairness for all Americans because before the Act, only European American males enjoyed the liberties and privileges afforded the first class citizens. Discrimination against African Americans, women, and other American minorities existed in education, employment, public accommodations as well as some federal programs. Since the passage of the Act many Americans have experienced opportunities to improve their lives, none more than the European American female. So, for someone to say that civil rights is for African Americans is false; all Americans have civil rights, it is just that African Americans, women, and other Americans minorities were never provided with the opportunity to enjoy theirs.
The passage of the ’64 Civil Rights Act did not bring immediate relief to those Americans who had been discriminated against since the beginning of American society. A brief reminder of the past tells us that the American women did not get the vote until 1920; African Americans attended segregated public schools until 1954; and it was not until the 1964 Civil Rights Acts that women began making headway in the medical and legal professions. Again, we are not speaking of African American women, but all American women.
Much of the recent progress of African Americans, women, and other minorities comes as a result of programs like Affirmative Action and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. Many people today take for granted the participation of women in the legal, medical, athletic professions, not to mentions the areas of service like law enforcement, postal workers, fire fighters, construction workers, and a host of others that were closed to women and minorities for many years.
African American and other minority males have benefited from the Civil Rights Act, but not to the extent that women have and still are benefiting. For example, more women attend and graduate from college than men. That is not the say that all Americans are treated fairly because of the Act. That would be false. The fact concerning the Civil Rights Act is that many Americans who never understood it are still against it. Some individuals continue to challenge programs like Affirmative Action because they believe it discriminates against the European Americans in areas like college and university admissions where they believe African Americans are given a preference.
After more than three-hundred-years of segregation, discrimination, and bigotry American society making a smooth transition to a fair and just society would be a miracle. Change takes time because some people who were born into a society where they received privileges and power, come to believe those things came with their birth and skin complexion. These people need to become acquainted with the Constitution under which they live so they will realize that the rights and privileges they presume to have are no longer given to people because of their skin color.
So, the next time someone makes the claim that civil rights are only for African Americans, like some individuals of national repute have done, they should be required to back-up those claims with documented proof. After all, the preamble to the Constitution states that “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United State of America.” Nowhere is there a reference to color, gender, or ethnicity in that statement. All Americans should enjoy their civil rights.
Tags: African American and American, African Americans, black, Black Culture, Civil Rights, current-events, Dr. Martin Luther King, ethnicity, European Americans, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Parade Magazine, President Obama, white
Today as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and Martin Luther King, Jr’s Day, we need to pause and try to put into perspective what Dr. King saw as a priority for America and the African Americans. We can find King’s objective in his words, especially when he deliberately avoids separating African Americans from the rest of America. For example, in his 1963 “I have A Dream” speech when he includes all people as “God’s children, “who must learn how to live together. Too often some people think that because King was an African American that his focus was strictly on and for African Americans. That thought would be false. The most challenging problem King fought against was the separation of the African American people from the rest of society. Unfortunately, the problem of uniting all Americans as one people is still with us, and continues to defy common sense.
One of the ways African Americans are being kept separate from the rest of American society is through the language used by society that seems harmless. For example, the phrase “Black Culture” is frequently used by people of note in the media. But, what does that phrase mean? People use it as though it is a clearly defined aspect of American life restricted to black people. Most people when asked to define “Black Culture” will try to come up with something that reflects the experiences of African Americans in American society. Before too long they discover that the phrase is too vague to define precisely because the term black is too broad a term to restrict to African Americans. If the people who use the term want to focus on African American experiences, then they should not use “Black” as part of an identity because trying to pin-point its specific reference becomes very challenging.
The first thing the phrase “Black Culture” does is separate the black from other colors, thereby creating a situation to make use of contrasts. We all know that culture does not exit in a vacuum, so identifying culture by a color is simply inviting a challenge. For example, if someone were to suggest that music created and recorded by African American artist is black music, then what happens with artist from other ethnic groups record the same music? Does the music change color or as some suggest, race? According to Stevie Wonder, “Music is a world within itself, With a language we all understand, With an equal opportunity, For all to sing, dance and clap their hands.” Society never looked at Elvis Prestly as African American when he recorded the song “Hound Dog” that had been previously recorded by an African American woman, “Big Maybelle.”Nor did society view Pat Boone as an African American when he recorded Little Richard’s song “Trutti Frutti.”The point here is what does one consider culture and can it be created without other cultural influences?
Since Dr. King was concerned with justice and fairness for all, the last thing he would want is a society that would separate the accomplishments of Americans into isolated groups where discrimination could take place. Those accomplishments can and should be part of the society’s story and not restricted to or relegated to a place of less importance. While the phrase “Black Culture” might seem to be specific to African American experiences, those experiences occurred in America and usually were influenced by some aspect of American society. Unfortunately, society does not acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of non-European Americans as readily as it does European Americans. So, the efforts and contributions of African Americans as well as other groups of color might go unnoticed for some time. For example, how many people could answer the question of who is the most famous astrophysicist in America today? The chances are that not too many would name an African American, Neil deGrasse Tyson, as that person.
To the people who know Tyson, he “is a science rock star whose passion for the laws of nature is matched by his engaging explanations of topics ranging from the mystery of dark matter to the absurdity of zombies” (Parade 1/12/14). The fact that Tyson is an African American is important to American society, not just to African Americans in society. So, we are told that in March, Tyson “will become an even bigger cultural phenomenon as he hosts Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey, a 13-part, prime-time series airing on both Fox and the National Geographic Channel.”What does this information have to do with “Black Culture”? Society has a way of pointing out differences in people and things when those differences constitute only a fraction of what the similarities represent. The information that Tyson will present to his audiences transcends the concepts of race by color. What Tyson plans to do on his show is to “help you ‘understand your relationship to other humans, to the rest of the tree of life on Earth, to the rest of the planets in the universe, and to the rest of the universe itself.” He adds, “I want it to get inside your skin. I want you to be so affected that the world looks completely different.”
To some people, Tyson is just as challenging to accept as President Barack Obama because of the negative stereotypes that have been historically associated with African Americans. King would more than likely be pleased with some of the progress that has been achieved, but sorely disappointed with lack of progress society has made in address the needs of so many other Americans. He would not be in favor or separating the history and accomplishment of African Americans from the American story. As a matter of fact, King underscored the problem of separation in his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize speech when he said that “This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a big house, a great “world house” in which we have to live together – black and white, Easterners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Moslem and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other.”
In order for us to understand Kings legacy, we must first understand his sense of mankind’s problem and how we must address it.