Slavery ….. Connecting the dots …….
After reading this piece in Alternet by Frank Joyce A Visit to the Slavery Museum: How the Legacy of Slavery Is Linked to White Racism Today, I felt I just had to write about it and what has been going through my mind. I know most would like me to get off of this subject but I cannot help but get the feeling that a lot of white folk – especially those who are on the political left – still do not get it. Joyce – who also writes for Salon and has done interviews with Thom Hartman – really does connect some dots that leads right to where we are right now.
He begins with his visit to Old Slave Market Museum in Charleston SC. That this was at one time the location of The Old Slave Market and then how the Slave Market did it’s best business after legal importing of slaves was outlawed in 1808. That most of the men, women and children bought and sold there had been born in the United States. That contrary to popular belief, they did not come from Africa. That slavery became a highly profitable domestic industry and more than 2,000,000 men, women and children were sold in the internal slave trade.
The slave traders marketed their product like any other product, making each look more grand, healthy and able bodied that they actually were. Capitalism at is best. And how fearful whites were of uprisings and resistance of all kinds. Then making a very good point.
This fear is the basis for the vast system of repression and brutal punishment that characterized every aspect of the slave trade and of daily life under the slave system. The Haitian revolution in 1791, US uprisings and plots and the unremitting efforts of slaves to run away kept whites in a constant state of high anxiety.
To state the obvious, by any rational measure blacks then and now have far more to fear from whites than the other way around. But in the upside down world of white racism, whites to this day manage to keep themselves in a state of apprehension and victimhood.
One thing these white DO NOT see is how this victimhood makes them vulnerable.
Among other consequences, this fear makes whites vulnerable to being manipulated by politicians, real estate agents and others to focus on ersatz racial threats. I have long maintained that the huge numbers of non-slave owning whites who died defending slavery in the civil war is the mother of all whites “voting against their own interest.”
That is that anyone promising to alley their fears gets their support even as they pick their pockets. Then going into white privilege.
That said, it is also true that white skin provided real advantages during slavery and it provides real benefits now. Simply put, structural racism gives whites more freedom, more opportunity and more money.
History suggests that humans with advantages over other humans, real or imagined, often do what they can to keep them.
For 500 years whites have worked to first create and then keep white skin advantage. With that territory comes the fear of losing the advantage and hence the shameful history of violence, repression and discrimination necessary for people of one skin color to dominate another. So deep are the cumulative effects of this fear that its impact extends well beyond race to distort the thinking of whites about life itself.
I often wonder who lives in a more permanent state of fear, our ancient ancestors who had to worry about dangerous weather, primitive health care and food shortages or “modern man” faced with never ending threats of precarious employment, constant financial debt, human-on-human violence on a mass scale and the loss of status caused by the “gains” of women, blacks, immigrants or some other other.
A very real fear.
More specifically, the white fear of blacks is part of the slavery DNA that automatically reproduces racism to this day. It is evident in the deaths of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and the reaction to those killings. It is inextricably linked to the nation’s obsession with guns, the Second Amendment and the practice of militarizing police departments that goes all the way back to pre-civil war slave patrols. It is the key factor in the post WWII suburbanization that has left the nation as racially segregated now in many ways as it has ever been. It is the hidden force behind the weakness of the US social contract.
Then making a very good point of comparing ISIS, the Khmer Rouge and The KKK. That all had a fanatical devotion to their beliefs, especially religion. That they all came out of a brutal war that upended the previous power dynamics.
Next Joyce go into the only successful coup d’état this country has know. In Wilmington NC. Where the whites over threw the duly elected government of the city because the people that wanted to win, did not.
“Led by Alfred Waddell, who was defeated in 1878 as the congressional incumbent by Daniel L. Russell (elected governor in 1896), more than 2000 white men participated in an attack on the black newspaper, Daily Record, burning down the building. They ran officials and community leaders out of the city, and killed many blacks in widespread attacks, especially destroying the Brooklyn neighborhood. They took photographs of each other during the events. The Wilmington Light Infantry (WLI) and federal Naval Reserves, ordered to quell the riot, became involved, using rapid-fire weapons and killing several black men in the Brooklyn neighborhood. Both black and white residents later appealed for help after the coup to President William McKinley, but his administration did not respond, as Governor Russell had not requested aid. After the riot, [many] blacks left the city permanently, having to abandon their businesses and properties, turning it from a black-majority to a white-majority city.”
Then ties this all into to the bankruptcy of Detroit among other cities.
What does this — any of this — have to do with today? Much more than you might think. For example, what transpired in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1898 fundamentally foreshadows what has been happening in recent years in Michigan. Over the last several years under the guise of “emergency management” and bankruptcy, the political power of black dominated governments in Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, Benton Harbor and other Michigan cities has been taken away by the white power structure.
Joyce then goes into why it’s so vitally important to understand the how tis slavery mindset has ingrained itself.
One reason that understanding slavery is important is that the philosophy of white supremacy required to justify slavery hundreds of years ago remains central to white identity. It’s true that the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement disrupted theformof racial oppression. Life for blacks and whites surely improved as a result.
But control of, by and for whites remains in place. Today’s struggles over voting rights, gerrymandering, mass incarceration, school segregation, destruction of unions and the killing of young black men symbolize the dynamic of relentlessly pushing back against each and every gain for African-Americans.
Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Ted Cruz, George Zimmerman, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, those who are wearing and promoting “I am Desmond Wilson” wrist bands and T-shirts, L Brooks Patterson, the NRA and many others who comprise the white power machine are the linear descendants of those who defended slavery, then destroyed reconstruction and then instituted Jim Crow. They all act like they are saying something original. And millions of whites agree with them — sincerely believing in some cases that it’s all being said for the first time.
I would add to that the continued subjugation of women, workers, Native Americans and their continued plight. It’s the same damn mindset. No difference.
That many racial deniers especially liberals only vaguely acknowledge ongoing negative effects of the legacy of slavery. And when they do, it’s often in a very racist way and see nothing whites pay for it.
They have no awareness of how one grand-racist-bargain after another has left white workers pitifully powerless in the workplace, the economy and halls of political power. They cannot and do not connect the dots of racism to the mass mental illness on display in today’s conversations about everything from gun violence to repeatedly counterproductive foreign military adventures to the growing wealth and power of the 1%.
Giving an example of a conversation he had with a racial illiterate that sees the problem of “whites having more “power and education.”. Forgetting that blacks have little they can do about it, it’s the way the system has been set up for over 500 years. That in many districts and areas it was illegal for slaves to learn to read and write and even after the civil war, educating blacks was systematically suppressed.
This is a typically confused yet conveniently self-serving white perspective because it suggests that blacks have only themselves to blame for not getting enough “education.” In other words, both sides are at fault. This “both sides are at fault” evasive mindset is also revealed in the common use of terms such “racial divide” and “racial tensions” to obfuscate the white advantages now built into the system.
Rather like the right wing blaming women for being to sexy so as to validate rape. Or for a small child blaming the cookie jar when his is caught with his hand in it or the politician blaming politics when caught with his hand in the till.
Then Joyce says that by treating each racial injustice as a discrete injustice we miss the the whole effect of how a racist system nurtures itself and will never get past it.
I would like to add that there are those who insist it all has to do with class but completely miss how class is simply social and financial privilege not different that white privilege and the only way we will get past it to completely own this white privilege that enable slavery. No unlike the Germans have had to own the effects of Nazism. To get past our racism now we have to own our racist past and how it effects not just blacks and other minorities but whites as well.
UPDATE: Now a short video that proves beyond the shadow of any doubt that racism is alive and well and as strong as ever in even the most progressive mind.