This is the end of the official #OnceYouSeeRacism series. 20 blog posts + the introduction. I admit openly that I’m still a learner in this area but I am actively seeking answers to questions that I didn’t even know existed. My goal in writing these posts was to let you know that there are questions you need to be asking, both of yourself and of your government. Watch this 47-second clip of Jane Elliot:
Since I’ve mentioned Jane Elliot, do a quick Google search of her blue-eye/brown-eye experiment.
Some people who are new to the conversation have wondered what they can do. I think the very best thing they can do is go through Be the Bridge and devour the resources they suggest. But reading a book can’t be all a person does. Each person has to transition into action. What actions are appropriate?
* Find an organization that matches your values. As a Christian, I feel great about supporting Be the Bridge and the And Campaign but there are others. Get involved. Find out which aspect of social justice moves you and dig in. 2020 is a very good year to get involved in the “Voters Rights” aspect. I didn’t even cover that aspect in this series! There’s absolutely no way a 20-post series could try to cover all the aspects that need to be addressed, which is why I ask people repeatedly to read, read, read. Someone else is already talking about it – someone who has already invested time and energy to educate you about the aspect they most care about.
* Listen to the voices of people of color. Many have begun movements and organizations to move the needle… join them.
* Become an ally… don’t try to save the day… just believe their stories, empathize with their experiences, and join in with them as they have been thinking on this their entire lives. As Phil Vischer says, “Care.”
Please watch this talk. It’s an hour and ten minutes but you can set the speed a little faster on YouTube and watch/listen faster. (Expert trick… you’re welcome.)
This is my only resource today. It’s CRITICAL if you are a Christian.
I am an educator at heart. I long for my children (whom I homeschool) to have a life-long love of learning. I don’t tell them everything but I introduce them to ideas and concepts and then launch them to discover more on their own. Anyone can TELL someone something. A true educator wants to introduce the learner to new information, to spark an interest in the topic, and to watch the learner take off and become self-educated on that topic.
I have told my sons that they, as the learners, are responsible for the depth of their education. The burden is on their shoulders.
I have used my platform (my family-blog) to introduce people to many challenging topics in this series but the burden is on the learner to self-educate and to go deeper.
I am white… I am the learner. If you are white, you are the learner.
If someone said something irritating to you once in a while, you’d probably brush it off and, quite likely, forget it. But if you repeatedly hear comments that seem harmless enough on the surface, but still bug you, eventually you might find yourself irritated to the point that you snap at the next person who says it.
Imagine you have red hair and people comment on it every single day. Some comments are true compliments, ‘I love your hair,’ while others might feel like a backhanded comment… Like if you get angry at a justifiable reason but your co-worker said, “Ooohhh… they don’t realize they just ticked-off a redhead!” indicating that your anger isn’t justified but a result of a fiery temperament due to your red hair. Anyone else would have been equally as angry at the offense but your red hair “causes your anger.” Some days you’d probably like to go about your business without having the color of your hair pointed out but simply because it’s not the more common shades of brown or blonde… it draws attention and, frequently, people make comments that you have to respond to.
I’m pretty sure I’m guilty of saying these kinds of things teasingly to close friends… hmmmm…
Let me go a step further… let’s say you’ve had a really rotten day and your kids were not getting along that morning. You get to work late and as you walk in, you spill coffee on your shirt. You are frustrated and just want to get to work when a chipper co-worker makes an off-the-wall comment about you having a red-headed temper and you flip your lid, say something harsh, which seems to prove your co-worker’s point that redheads are hot-tempered. (Though in the above scenario, anyone would have come in the office just as irritable.)
That co-worker wasn’t the source of your anger, but that comment was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was the microaggression that broke the camel’s back.
Microaggressions are like that… they’re like straw. Individually they’re not all that heavy but over the course of a lifetime the weight of them adds up and the recipient has to continuously decide if they are going to bite their tongue or address it.
Because I know for sure I’ve done this before I feel pretty confident sharing this as something white people could stand to learn.
If theses microaggressions seem petty to you there’s a good chance you’re white… (and don’t have red hair). Please take the word of my friend, Zoe. They sting. The cut to the core and have an impact on a person’s self image.
Zoe is a 20-year-old who created this piece of art as an example of what she has personally experienced. The response she received after posting it surprised her. She has given permission for me to share it with you. What a shame that at only 20 years old she’s already weary from hearing these statements.
Some people have said similar things to me about Anna. “At least she’s half-white.” “She got the good hair.” “She’s not really black, though.” “Where’s she from? She’s so exotic.” (Totally, 100% American, by the way.) And I’ll be incredibly vulnerable… Because our journey to racial justice and awareness started when we adopted Anna, these comments didn’t sound all that insulting to us. Especially this one. She did look exotic to me as an infant. I’m white. My first four babies were white. I grew up in a mostly white community. When people commented and asked where she was from, I got why they were asking. As I’ve researched not only the experiences she’ll have as a Black person but also as an adapted person, I’ve learned that this specific question is, indeed, a Microaggressions for adoptees as well.
They are tired of hearing that question!
It is, yet another reminder that others don’t see them as belonging where they are at the moment. They stand out and look like they don’t belong: * in that family. * in that place.
“One thing is that they are in a sense ambiguous, so that the recipient is apt to feel vaguely insulted, but since the words look and sound complimentary, on the surface (they’re most often positive), she can’t rightly feel insulted and doesn’t know how to respond,” Robin Lakoff, Professor Emerita of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, told Business Insider.
My family watches every episode of This is Us as soon as it’s available. We love how complex the storylines are and how the writers tackle the most complex situations Americans face. As a transracial-adoptive family we watched how young Randall faced racism within his own family (Rebecca talking to her mom after the basketball scene) and appreciated scenes that showed how important it is for white adoptive parents to educate themselves about the specific needs of their Black children (pool scene).
While I do want you to watch the clips I’ve shared to get an idea of how a TV drama can educate the American public on microagressions (the grandmother) and ignorance (Rebecca, Randall’s mother) today’s main resource is an article written by the actor who plays young Randall in those scenes. Please read the whole article.
I can recall a time on set when I started crying listening to an actor portray a racist grandmother toward my character. The director and writers told me that they didn’t need me to cry for the scene. However, it was hard for me not to cry as I witnessed what I had just learned was my reality. I wasn’t acting, I was crying for me. Can you imagine having to explain to a room full of white people why I couldn’t hold back my real tears while experiencing the pain of racism? I can.
Lonnie Chavis recalling his experiences preparing for the scene with the basketball (“Rebecca talking to her mom” in Resources below)
(Did you read it?) Okay, now how does that tie in to Black History Month?
We are still dealing with so many visible and hidden instances of racism and the only way we will move into a more accurate view of our nation’s history is to learn. Setting aside a month to focus on the trials Black Americans overcome and to highlight past and present Black contributors is critical to that education. As evidenced by the other episodes in this series, there are a lot of topics to consider when approaching the topic of Black History and what needs to take place in the minds and attitudes of white Americans. We could easily dedicate a few more months out of each year and still it would take quite some time to catch up to where we need to be.
You’ve heard it. You may have said it. “Everybody’s gotta pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”
That’s pretty hard if you don’t have boots.
When I hear a white person say that Black people should work harder to improve their station in life “the same way everyone else does” I want to scream. Partly because it’s rude, and partly because it indicates that the person speaking has absolutely zero idea about how our country intentionally kept Black people from prospering.
It’s hard to pull yourself up from your bootstraps when you don’t have boots. Is it impossible to walk without boots? NO! But working without boots is harder than it would be otherwise and knowing that other people are being given boots and are wondering why you’re frustrated and have sore feet is infuriating.
Many people serve in the military and, like my husband, make a career out of it. There are many benefits the United States bestows on those who serve honorably. One of those benefits is the G.I. Bill, and it’s given to those who serve for a certain number of years. Even for those who don’t make a career out of the military, it’s a fantastic way to have college paid for and the promise of a job after graduation. But imagine how you’d feel if you or your child signed up, completed the commitment, and was then denied the benefit.
The GI Bill is one example of several postwar policies in which the federal government invested heavily in the greatest growth of a white asset-based American middle class, to the exclusion of blacks…. But most American colleges and universities were closed to blacks, or open to only but a few in token numbers. Meanwhile, GI benefits in education, employment, entrepreneurship and housing assistance were all distributed overwhelmingly toward whites.
In the blog post I wrote titled Erasing HistoryI mentioned that “Affirmative Action” was originally to better the lives of white people. This inequitable distribution of the GI Bill is another example of that. Combined with the redlining practices I mentioned in the previous blog post, has had long-term impacts, increasing the difficulty for Black people to achieve wealth. While these two practices are now illegal, the ramifications are still felt by Black families today.
And because I am still seeing people up in arms about “not erasing our history” let me mention two other historical events that were never in any of my textbooks. These were white people destroying property and taking lives:
Tulsa Race Massacre – During the Tulsa Race Massacre (also known as the Tulsa Race Riot), which occurred over 18 hours on May 31-June 1, 1921, a white mob attacked residents, homes and businesses in the predominantly black Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The event remains one of the worst incidents of racial violence in U.S. history, and one of the least-known: News reports were largely squelched, despite the fact that hundreds of people were killed and thousands left homeless.
Memphis Race Riot of 1866 – [S]eventy-five persons injured, one hundred persons robbed, five women raped, ninety-one homes burned, four churches and eight schools burned and destroyed, and seventeen thousand dollars in federal property destroyed. Hundreds of blacks were jailed, and almost all other freedmen fled town until the disturbance ended. For two days, white mobs, which included policemen, firemen, and some businessmen, attacked the freedmen’s camps and neighborhoods.
Next time you use the phrase “They should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” ask yourself if the group you’re referring to had access to boots in the first place. Consider how infuriating it would be to be given the boots by the US Government, to serve honorably, promised an education, only to be denied that entitlement once you return from service.
Final note: Please do not take my writing this as a way to say that Black people can’t get ahead or want any form of pity. The #OnceYouSeeRacism series is not designed to make white people feel bad for Black people and start “giving them things.” It’s to educate white people on the reasons for the deep, long-term anger that many Black Americans have and how certain mindsets (bootstraps, for example) feel like salt in an open wound. It’s also to get wheels started on finding ways our nation can set things right for those affected by these racist practices.
The Black Community has a tenacity and a strength of character built into their culture that I am impressed by and Matt and I are teaching our daughter to be proud of that part of her culture. We watched Selma (2014) in honor of Juneteenth and there is a conversation between Corretta Scott King and Amelia Boynton before Mrs. King’s meeting with Malcolm X. Mrs. King says she wishes she had more time to prepare. Ms. Boynton says, “We are descendants of a mighty people… who survived the holds of slave ships across the vast oceans. People who innovate, create, and love despite pressures and tortures unimaginable. They are in our bloodstream; pumping in our hearts every second. They’ve prepared you. You are already prepared.”
I don’t know if that is an actual quote from Ms. Boynton or lines from a screen writer, but they convey the sentiment I’m trying to express.
Redlining – “a discriminatory practice by which banks, insurance companies, etc., refuse or limit loans, mortgages, insurance, etc., within specific geographic areas, especially inner-city neighborhoods.”
For decades, many banks in the U.S. denied mortgages to people, mostly people of color in urban areas, preventing them from buying a home in certain neighborhoods or getting a loan to renovate their house.
All I ask is that you watch these videos. That’s all.
It takes seven generations to level the playing field… 200 years.
If you need more evidence, Google “Redlining” and then click on “Videos” and you’ll find plenty of documentaries about this racist practice that has made it exponentially more difficult for Black and Brown Americans to accrue wealth.
Middle-class African American households with incomes between $50,000 and $60,000 live in neighborhoods that are more polluted than those of very poor white households with incomes below $10,000.
When swallowed, a lead-paint chip no larger than a fingernail can send a toddler into a coma — one-tenth of that amount will lower his IQ.
Nearly two of every five African American homes in Baltimore are plagued by lead-based paint. Almost all of the 37,500 Baltimore children who suffered lead poisoning between 2003 and 2015 were African American.
A friend of mine, a mother of Black daughters, recently posted on Facebook that in her county, the infant mortality rates were very different for white and Black babies. She added that the maternal morality rate was almost three times higher for Black mothers than for white mothers.
Her final statement was a gut-punch: “My daughters are three times more likely to die in childbirth than their white peers.”
Wait… what? That sentence hit me because I now have a daughter and, because she’s four, I hadn’t really thought of her as a pregnant woman entering a hospital to give birth. But reading my friend’s statement made me think of Anna’s future.
I did some digging on my home state… the places I lived during my growing-up and young-adult years… where I’d be if not for our Army Adventure:
Within a 1-year time frame, infant deaths per 1000 births:
Mecklenburg County 4/1000 are White 10/1000 are Black
Rutherford County 7/1000 are White 11/1000 are Black
Gaston County (my first three sons were born here) 6/1000 are White 13/1000 are Black
Durham County 3/1000 are White 12/1000 are Black
Cabarrus County 6/1000 are White 10/1000 are Black
Forsyth County 7/1000 are White 12/1000 are Black
As I scrolled, I noticed that the Hispanic infant morality rate is about equal to that of white infant mortality rate. So why are Black babies dying at such a higher rate? About double?
Someone suggested it could be drug-related but a quick research on the topic shows that drug use and sales are equally distributed across races, so there should be no disparities in infant mortality rates due to drug use. Not saying drug use isn’t a problem, just saying that pregnant women come in to hospitals with drugs in their system at equal rates, but but their babies don’t have equal chances at survival.
Thanks to my friend’s post, I decided to look up the Maternal Mortality rate for the state of NC. The news is even worse for mothers than it is for their babies:
Maternal deaths per 100,000 births in North Carolina (2013-2017)
White: 19.8 Black: 56.8
If you are just digging into the problem America has with racism and the topic of police brutality is too sensitive of a topic for you, I get that. I have a police officer in my family and many that I love, admire, and respect. None of whom fall into the category of law enforcement officers who would behave in any way other than with justice and equality. But the vast majority of those who are good don’t outweigh those who are bad, when we are all depending on them for our safety. We have to have 100% good. We have to be as strict with our demands of law enforcement as we are with our airline pilots and our teachers. We can’t let bad apples remain.
The current situations this year with Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd happen to be what brought racial injustice to the news. But if the topic of police brutality hits too close to home because you are an officer, or are married to one, consider another angle of viewing racial injustice. Consider the lives of the babies born in American hospitals. Consider the lives of the mothers who enter our hospitals, expecting to leave with a brand new bundle of joy.Consider how devastating it is to know that because of your skin color, your baby is twice as likely to die before he or she even has a chance. Consider entering the hospital knowing you’re three times more likely to die than your white friends.
The above statistics are for North Carolina as a state (maternal) and by county (infant). Here are the statistics for our nation… it’s not just a Southern problem:
One of the reasons “All Lives Matter” is so offensive to Black individuals is because statistics like these exist. When attempting to advocate for “Pro-Life” policies, we must consider the lives of infants at birth as well as their mothers, otherwise we (Christians) sound incredibly hypocritical.
Systemic – of or relating to a system Racism – discrimination or prejudice based on race
Systemic racism is usually not visible to the naked eye and so there are many who believe it doesn’t even exist. Systemic racism, also known as institutional racism is the result of an institution that is set up in a way that benefits some people and harms others… and often those working in or for the system can’t see it.
When explaining it to a friend over coffee I might summarize it like this: Two men enter a bank to apply for similar mortgages in the same neighborhood. They have similar jobs, same length of time on those jobs, the same amount in savings, and the same credit score. Both men are approved for the loans but the interest rate for the Black man is higher than that of his white counterpart.
The loan manager may never even know that this is happening but when the information submitted by each man is entered, the system that generates the offers takes into account race… and considers the Black man a higher risk. The banking “system” has made it harder for the Black man to succeed than the white man. Both men may walk out of the bank happy with what they received, neither knowing of the discrepancy.
One institution that is deeply affected by this is our school systems. Two posts in this series (numbers 11 & 12) talk about our history and how much of it has been whitewashed. (What are some possible reasons the textbooks have been whitewashed? So that it’s less offensive to the majority of students? Are the concepts too painful to learn? Is it because we are ashamed of the actions of our ancestors?) I would argue that it boils down to money.
If the vast majority of people who are responsible for buying textbooks are white, it makes business sense for textbook writers to cater their content to that audience. Many think the histories of the Holocaust and Slavery are too graphic for students, so they are glossed over or eliminated altogether. (Google “whitewash textbooks” to read about several states.) If the textbook writers eliminate this content, the students grow up skeptical of information they weren’t taught in school. The “institution” inaccurately reflected history and that is directly impacting our society.
Because of hidden biases that many white people have, Black students face stronger punishment than their white peers. This phenomenon has led to what is known as the school-to-prison pipeline. “The school-to-prison pipeline is a process through which students are pushed out of schools and into prisons.” Individual teachers may not be able to see the pipeline, but when you zoom out and look at things from a distance, it’s evident. Individual teachers may not be racist, but hidden biases severely contribute to the number of students pushed through this pipeline, and the results are felt in the economic stability of Black families for generations.
The system is set up in a way that harms Black and Brown children.
Because this area is of particular interest to me as an educator, here’s another article that makes some really good points. I won’t share them all because I want you to go read them for yourself and the descriptions of how each one plays out.
I have two videos for you to watch. The first is a four-minute animated video explaining systemic racism. Please note… it’s four minutes. It cannot expect to be fully accurate or to encompass every possible situation one may have experienced or heard of. My intent in sharing is to show you just how systemic racism can play out for a large population of Americans. The creator concludes the video with these words: Luckily, we’re all part of the system which means that we all have a role to play in making it better. Alex Cequea
The second video is from someone many of you will recognize once the video starts: Bob the Tomato! Please set aside the 17 minutes it takes to watch the video.
Racism is not a virus of the body; it is a virus of the mind, and unfortunately, it can be lethal. But you cannot fix a problem that you do not know you have. And if “ignorance is bliss”, in this case, bliss has caused bondage and pain for others. But there is a fix. We can all access the life-saving medicine that will cure the world’s most ailing, long-lasting pandemic. But in order to access it, we’re going to have to have some uncomfortable conversations.
This blog post is scheduled to hit on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 and as of the date I’m writing this (June 20th) there are three published episodes.
Our family is about to head out on a one-week trip from Stuttgart, Germany to Amsterdam, to Poland, and back. The day after we get back we must detail our 12-passenger van to prepare it for shipping. Two days after we get back we ship the rest of our earthly belongings from Germany to New York City. Three days after we get back we move into the hotel and just a couple of days after that we move our family of seven to Brooklyn, NY. All of that in the midst of an ongoing, world-wide pandemic. To say we have a lot going on is an understatement. I will not update this page with further episodes of “Conversations” but I do hope that you will take the time listen to every single one that Emmanuel Acho releases. Please.
Continuing our discussion on history and how we have been taught inaccuracies:
Yesterday’s post was very heavy and long. Today I’m going to go easy on you because the four resources I’m recommending are pretty heavy.
Read this article on the Jim Crow Laws. I know you’ve heard of them before but there is a lot to learn about them. Also, discussed in this article are several Black Americans we rarely learn about in our history textbooks. (Ida B. Wells; Charlotte Hawkins Brown; Isaiah Montgomery)
Learn about the film “Birth of a Nation.” It’s credited with being “the foundation of modern cinema” but it also glorified the KKK and they used it as a recruiting tool for decades. This podcast episode from NPR is a good place to start. The video installed a deep fear of Black men in the white viewers which hasn’t diminished with time.
And so what’s most compelling about this is how easy it is to lose pieces of our history and how important recovering this particular piece of it if we’re to understand what’s going on today. Not only should we not lose any of our history, but this is particularly important to understand the ways in which this past continues to resonate and recycle and reiterate itself through black experiences with the criminal justice system today.
January 3, 2015 – Heard on Weekend Edition Saturday
Code Switch is one of my top resources for people wanting to learn about racism. Check out all of their episodes. Here’s their byline: What’s CODE SWITCH? It’s the fearless conversations about race that you’ve been waiting for! Hosted by journalists of color, our podcast tackles the subject of race head-on. We explore how it impacts every part of society — from politics and pop culture to history, sports and everything in between. This podcast makes ALL OF US part of the conversation — because we’re all part of the story.
If you don’t click on the links and dig in, then this blog post is not very helpful. Please do some reading/listening/watching!
Want to know what’s irritating? Scrolling through Facebook seeing people from two opposing “groups” sharing the exact same meme “at” the other group.
You’re wondering which meme, aren’t you? I’m not saying. Let me put it this way: both groups want to preserve our country’s history…
The problem I see is that there are elements of our country’s history that are being glossed over and parts that are being erased all together.
I will not debate monuments or the vandalization of them. Not the point of this post. But I will say that there is a vast amount of our history that we are not being taught.
Friday I shared about Juneteenth, a very important date on our American calendar that I first learned about a couple of years ago. Why is it that the story of our Independence doesn’t really talk about that?
Because so many people are eager to “keep our history” I thought I’d write a post on the things most history books never taught me, or that have been altered so they don’t even reflect what actually happened. I hope you will take time to click on links and dig deeper into each of these parts of American History that many haven’t been taught.
Did you know that “Affirmative Action” originally only benefited white Americans? A quote from When Affirmative Action was White: “As New Deal politicians began constructing government programs to deal with welfare, work, and war in the 1930s and 1940s, they deliberately excluded or treated differently the vast majority of African Americans.” I can only think that economic and educational gaps we see today would be less significant if those “Affirmative Actions” had been applied fairly to Black Americans at that time.
That is history you need to know.
Another interesting fact: Lincoln’s initial reason for freeing southern slaves was to weaken the south militarily and economically. Black people were being used to to reinforce troops, transport goods, and to support the Confederate Army and Lincoln wanted to weaken that Army:
Lincoln… believed that it was primarily up to the states to oversee the progressive abolition of slavery in their own individual power…. The Emancipation Proclamation served more as a military maneuver than a political maneuver. At the same time, this action cemented Lincoln as being a staunchly aggressive abolitionist and would ensure that slavery would eventually be removed from the entire United States.
Want another interesting fact? Once slaves were freed they had no where to go. Learning to read was illegal and they had only the skills needed to work the labors of farms. Looking for a way to feed their families left many freedmen in trouble because “loitering” had become illegal. A 2015 issue of Time Magazine recalls a New York Timesstory from July 1865, headlined “The Negro Question in Texas” states:
[F]reedmen were being interrogated as to whom they belonged to; if they did not name someone, they would be accused of idleness and put to work for the city. “[So], if this was an outbreak of the old spirit, a drawing distinctions based upon color alone, giving white men the right to be as idle as they please, but not tolerating idleness among the blacks; allowing whites to work where they please, but sending blacks ‘home to their masters’ or to the public works; it is a system which will have to be changed at Galveston, or wherever it is entered upon,” the Times concluded.
BY LILY ROTHMAN UPDATED: JUNE 19, 2018 | ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: JUNE 19, 2015
After slavery, state governments across the South instituted laws known as Black Codes. These laws granted certain legal rights to blacks, including the right to marry, own property, and sue in court, but the Codes also made it illegal for blacks to serve on juries, testify against whites, or serve in state militias. The Black Codes also required black sharecroppers and tenant farmers to sign annual labor contracts with white landowners. If they refused they could be arrested and hired out for work. Most southern black Americans, though free, lived in desperate rural poverty. Having been denied education and wages under slavery, ex-slaves were often forced by the necessity of their economic circumstances to rent land from former white slave owners. These sharecroppers paid rent on the land by giving a portion of their crop to the landowner.
Article written by John Louis Recchiuti. This article is licensed under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.
Read and research the results of the 13th Amendment. According to “The Classroom”:
To make the spirit of the Emancipation proclamation national and permanent, President Abraham Lincoln persuaded Congress to pass the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1865. This legislation made slavery and other forms of involuntary servitude illegal in the United States, except as a punishment for convicted criminals. Henceforth, African Americans, and all others living within the boundaries of the nation, would be free. (I, Jennifer, bolded the sentence that you MUST understand.)
So what happened after the slaves were freed and had job, loitering became “illegal” and came with a prison time. According to “The Root”:
Across the South, laws were instituted that stripped African Americans of their rights, making celebrations like Juneteenth a distant memory. A prison-labor paradigm developed. Jail owners profited from the hard labor of their black inmates who were incarcerated for petty crimes like vagrancy, which carried long sentences. Prisons sold their workforce to nearby industrial companies to work as coal miners, for example, for as much as 9 dollars a month, and inmates were often worked to death. Elsewhere, whites fabricated debt owed by blacks, forcing them into peonage and trading years of free work for their freedom, a practice that spread across the Bible Belt. (I, Jennifer, bolded words that you must understand.)
To force the former slaves to work, elite Southerners instituted a series of Black Codes. These laws applied only to African Americans. The Codes took advantage of the recently freed slaves’ lack of financial resources. When arrested for such crimes as vagrancy, African Americans would receive prison sentences that required bail. Most freed slaves were unable to pay the amount and had to work off their fines on plantations. The Black Codes were initially constitutional because the Thirteenth Amendment’s wording allowed servitude for those convicted of criminal charges. Nothing in the Amendment spoke to the requirement for the convictions to be fair.
Please consider reading the extra resources I’m including today. The effects of what you see in these articles touches us today. You will not be able to understand the anger of Black Americans until you really understand and have learned this history. That history directly impacts our nation’s current state. It wasn’t that long ago.
So when I see white Americans up in arms, saying we shouldn’t forget our history, I want to say, EXACTLY!
I think all of us need to read MORE history.
For fun I’m reading a book totally unrelated to racism and I heard a quote that hit me right between the eyes:
You know the greatest lesson of history? It’s that history is whatever the victors say it is. That’s the lesson. Whoever wins… that’s who decides the history. We act in our own self interest… of course we do. Name me a person or a nation who does not. The trick is figuring out what your interests are.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
“History is whatever the victors say it is.”
History textbooks that got it so very wrong:
A Connecticut fourth grade social studies textbook falsely claimed that slaves were treated just like “family.” A Texas geography textbook referred to enslaved Africans as “workers.” In Alabama, up until the 1970s, fourth graders learned in a textbook called “Know Alabama” that slave life on a plantation was “one of the happiest ways of life.”
I’ll close with one that speaks to the ongoing Civil Rights Movement as I’ve seen MLK’s quotes thrown at Black people from white people… It’s almost like white people think that he was loved and revered while he lived. Nope. “Seventy-five percent of Americans disapproved of the civil rights leader as he spoke out against the Vietnam War and economic disparity.” (James C. Cobb, Zócalo Public Square SMITHSONIANMAG.COM APRIL 4, 2018)