Tag Archives: 40 acres and a mule

Racism as Viewed from the Extreme Right of America Needs to be Understood If We are to Move Forward

TrayvonMartinHoodedYesterday, I spent the day deep within a rightwing chat group that was in the midst of discussing the Trayvon Martin case. Trayvon’s death has created vitriol on both sides of the political divide and once again displays America’s ongoing racial tensions for the entire world. To get a pulse on the extreme right’s 2013 views regarding America’s racism, I engaged the group.

Not wanting sugar coated, political correctness, I stirred the hornet’s nest a bit knowing that angry bees usually sting with conviction. The raw opinions expressed were startling but real. No more startling than those on the left, the right extreme of America sees racism, however, in a vastly different light. Before America can come together to solve our nation’s enduring problems of race, we must first understand that a huge gap does exist, and more importantly, why it exists. Only then can we resolve our differences.

As you will see by the comments, some on the right deny that racism even exists. And when agreeing that it does exist, some say it doesn’t rise to the level of many other problems facing America. I contend, however, that racism is a major cause of many of our other critical issues and that none of these can be solved without reducing the impacts of racism.

Not only does racism tear down the dignity of its victims, but racism also harms its perpetrators. It retards everyone’s prosperity, slows our economy, forfeits jobs, destroys communities, and steals hope and happiness from millions of Americans. Reducing racism’s impact should be is a top priority that demands the attention of our generation.

If racism actually does so much harm, why then do so many think as this group I visited? And if their beliefs are so deeply ingrained, can progress really be made without trying to understand their views? With that question in mind, I share the thoughts expressed yesterday from this right-wing group. The comments have been altered to protect the privacy of the commenters. I caution that you may be dismayed by these comments, yet they are deeply held beliefs of a sizable segment of America.

DOES RACISM EXIST IN AMERICA?

“Racism does not exist today. Racists are long gone and dead.”

“Slavery has been gone for 150 years. How long does it take to heal the wounds?”

“Racism would be nonexistent if the political class and media didn’t get power and money from it.”

“We have no racism in America. Everyone has the same freedoms. Personal responsibility means we each must take advantage of our freedoms.”

“Racism is from older generations, not my generation and younger. We do not know racism.”

“Racism is a blame game that is fostered by the people who profit from the enslaved remaining enslaved.”

“Racism is more with blacks against whites than with whites against blacks.”

“We live in a post racist society”

“Most often it is those that call whites racist that are the racists themselves.”

“Racists are bigots of low expectations for blacks. “

WHAT PROBLEMS DOES RACISM CAUSE?

“Rather than racism, inner city families major issue is poor education caused by drugs gangs, welfare, and broken families.”

“The root causes of racism are bad education, dependency on welfare and denial of God”

“When we pay mothers to have illegitimate babies, they have more. Paying for illegitimate babies destroyed families, and destroyed a worthwhile black culture.”

“High black unemployment is not due to racism. It is due to jail, police records, single parent families, gangs, drugs, and high school dropouts. These problems have nothing to do with racism.”

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE TO SOLVE RACISM?

“Racism is not my problem.”

“Blacks need to take responsibility for their lives.”

“It is time for Black America to clean up their own communities. It is their responsibility to fix their schools, their drugs, and their gangs.”

“There is nothing more that white America can do to fix black problems of unwed mothers, or black’s disdain for education and jobs.”

“The black community is the only one that can fix their own culture.”

“Stop trying to convince us that there is huge racism in this country. People who do that promote racism.”

“Constantly talking about racism and using it to blame others fosters more racism.”

“Blacks need to grow up, get off entitlements and work like all other minorities have done in America.”

“Blacks need to stop following race baiting leaders like Sharpton and Jackson that flame the race issue.”

“Blacks need to stop harboring hatred and racism towards whites for what happened over 100 years ago. This attitude corrupts America.”

“Racism was not caused by my relatives. We immigrated after the Civil War.”

“Quit manufacturing the issue of institutional racism.”

“All that can be done through Congress has been done. In fact, Congress has over legislated to the point of causing reverse racism.”

“Labeling everything as racist is irritating. Let’s stop labeling ourselves racists and instead just label ourselves American.”

“Stop giving people what they should earn. Giving destroys pride and self worth and that destroys drive and hope.”

“Shoving trillions of dollars into the black community did not fix overwhelming poverty and is not the answer.”

“Whites do not make blacks behave badly. Blacks must reduce their crime, illegitimate births, dependence on welfare, offensive behaviors and speech, and their antipathy to education. They must get serious about assimilating into mainstream American culture.

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM WITH LIBERALS REGARDING RACISM

“Liberals believe that blacks cannot succeed without their superior kindness and care. They don’t believe that blacks are their equal. Calling them victims feeds their self-serving benevolence.”

“Liberals would rather provoke race wars that cause deaths of f thousands than admit that blacks bear responsibility for their failures.”

“It is easier for liberals to tell blacks that their problem is caused by hateful whites than that to tell them it is because of their own sloth, dishonesty and lack of moral standards.”

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There you have it. At one extreme, American whites are frustrated by the existence of racism and deny responsibility for it. They believe that America has done more than any other country to make up for our sins of the past and that blacks must now do for themselves to eradicate irresponsible behavior and join the rest of society.

At the end of the Civil War, Black leaders asked that Lincoln provide freedmen forty acres of farmable land and a mule. They didn’t ask to be fed and clothed and kept in housing without contributing to society. They were asking to be given a hand up to economic freedom with the ability to work their land and to provide for their families through their own labors. Forty acres and a mule represented a living wage at the end of the Civil War. It was a path to America’s recovery.

America has done much to recover from the sins of our past. The impacts of racism are not nearly as great for many as they were at the end of the Civil War. Yet, in all that has been accomplished in past 145 years, the one thing that was asked of Lincoln in 1864 has never been accomplished. Achieving the equivalent of 40 acres and a mule, a living wage by today’s standard, has yet to be accomplished for millions of blacks in America’s inner cities.

What is needed is a level start and a living wage. Until we pair economic freedom with political freedom, America will not have reached closure with our past. The comments above suggest that one segment of our society believes we have more than surpassed that point. Their visceral responses suggest that much more understanding must be sought between America’s extremes.

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Forty acres and a mule……

40 acresForty acres and a mule……

Lincoln announced it.

General Sherman proclaimed it in Special Field Orders 15.

Section 4 of the Freedmen’s Bureau Act established by Congress in March 1865 to help former slaves transition from slavery to freedom authorized the bureau to rent 40 acres of confiscated or abandoned land to freedpeople and loyal white refugees and to give the option to purchase it.

The June 1866 Southern Homestead Act was enacted to give freedpeople first choice of the remaining public lands from five southern states until January 1, 1867.

House Speaker Thaddeus Stevens introduced H.R. 29 that called for 40 acres and a mule to be distributed to former slaves.

40 acres and a mule was a prominent issue in the 1868 election cycle.

But Lincoln was assassinated and President Andrew Johnson’s Amnesty Proclamation of May 29, 1865 provided presidential pardons and restoration of land to former owners. Following his proclamation, thousands of freedpeople were evicted from land that had been distributed to them through Special Field Orders No. 15. Circular No. 15 or issued by the Freedmen’s Bureau.

Why was this policy of 40 acres and a mule so vital to the shift in direction that was necessary for freedpeople? Historical documents state that the idea for 40 acres and a mule came from a meeting between Secretary of War Stanton and twenty prominent and thoughtful black leaders and ministers.

Stanton asked them what they wanted and they stated “40 acres and a mule.” Stanton later stated that “for the first time in the history of this nation, the representatives of the government had gone to these poor debased people to ask them what they wanted for themselves…[I asked] what do you want for your own people following the war?”

The group’s spokesman, minister Garrison Frazier, a slave until 1857 until he purchased his and his wife’s freedom, said, “Land! “The way we can best take care of ourselves… to have land, and turn it and till it by our own labor … and we can soon maintain ourselves and have something to spare … We want to be placed on land until we are able to buy it and make it our own.”

After polling the other leaders in attendance who agreed with Reverend Frazier, Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15, after President Lincoln approved it.

Now, the details of how land and a mule could have been distributed to the four million ex-slaves are certainly up for debate. It was wartime, however, and as military issues sometimes are, it was expeditiously decided upon. Perhaps a more lasting approach would have been to accomplish the same feat by a means similar to the SBA loan, in which the government could have financially backed by loan a means for all freedpeople to establish themselves after 200 years of economic oppression. Nonetheless, some means had to be given to plant the seeds of economic stability.

If not, then the very ominous prediction made by Senator Stevens would (and did) come true. He stated, “”Withhold from them all their rights and leave them destitute of the means of earning a livelihood, [and they will become] the victims of the hatred or cupidity of the rebels whom they helped to conquer.”

Instead, under the watchful eye of President Andrew Johnson, the former slaves were left without an economic means to escape slavery. They were given the hope for but not the means of living in our Republic as free men.

“The poverty which afflicted them for a generation after Emancipation held them down to the lowest order of society, nominally free but economically enslaved,” wrote Carter G. Woodson in The Mis-Education of the Negro in the 1930s.

In 1865, 90 percent of Southern Americans lived as farmers. The key to African Americans being able to lift themselves out of oppression was oppressively kept from them. Without such a start at the epoch of America’s democratic enlightenment, what would newly freedpeople do to seek a way out of the morass? How would this political decision of abandonment affect the future of our inner cities?

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Reconstruction, Redemption, Jim Crow, all Judge America’s Readiness to Heal Itself

reconstruction_congressThe outcome of many political events can be predicted by examining the economics surrounding them. For instance, the demonstrators of the Arab Spring that would go on to turn over their governments were extremely well correlated to purchasing power parity and GDP growth of their respective nations.

https://jobvoucherplan.com/2011/01/30/what-is-the-effect-of-economics-on-the-egyptian-demonstration/

Likewise, the outcome of America’s Reconstruction era for African Americans was written by the political economics.

Most people, including those Arab Spring demonstrators and ex slaves of 1865, want to exercise their lives in the quiet pursuit of happiness. In the aftermath of the Civil War, after hundreds of years of oppression, in a land surrounded by groups of men who had nightly patrolled outside slave homes prior to the war’s end, and in which the President seemed bent on directing a lenient path back into the union, the last thing, ex slaves wanted was a major political disruption that would thwart the pursuit of happiness that was within their grasp. But they did need a way to survive if they were not just going to exist as before on their masters’ plantations.

To survive, these ex slaves would need a means to sustain themselves. To eat, to have a roof over their heads, and to clothe their families, at a minimum they would need to enter this new paradigm of an agricultural economy with either their own farm or a way to earn a living on another’s.

Without having to subject themselves to a continued plantation life, they would need to borrow the funds to live until a harvest produced. They would also need the means to purchase a farm, the tools to work it, and the seeds to plant on it. This would require a loan and some equity, if they were going to qualify to obtain a loan in America’s capitalist economy.

To obtain a loan typically requires some collateral, or at least some history of being able to repay the loan. A loan requires that the borrower have a job commensurate with the amount of the loan, own a business with some history, or at least have some form of education that would support the amount of the loan.

President Lincoln had promised the slaves 40 acres and a mule. This seemed a generous start to a new life in a world turned upside down politically and socially. In addition, the Freedman’s Bureau offered some financial and food assistance until they could gain an economic foothold. So the foundation for a new life seemed to be put in motion at war’s end.

However, the plantation owners did not want the ex slaves to gain this foothold for that would mean financial ruin to them and an end to the political economy of the south as it had existed for several hundred years. The single largest investment and equity of the South was the slaves. Emancipation destroyed that investment, leaving the plantations without an engine and the wealth of the Confederacy evaporated. They had no intention of letting this happen without a fight, even if they had just lost the war.

Fortuitously for the South, Lincoln was assassinated. In his stead, Andrew Johnson was made President. His sympathies were with the South, not the slaves. As such, he reversed the program of free land for slaves and gave it back to the plantation owners. Without land and without equity, ex-slaves would require generous loans to escape their old life. Neither were offered or even guaranteed by Johnson’s Presidency. Without even a guarantee to back loans, ex-slaves were relegated to some form of land lease, which reverted to odious share cropping across the South.

Granted, even though land grants were occurring along the railroads heading west, nonetheless, taking land from pre-civil war land magnates and giving it to ex slaves was a bit radical in our capitalist country. It also threatened northern lawmakers, who were also large landowners. The idea would not politically stand for precedence set would mean that sometime in the future when southerners regained political power, they could turn the tide on northern land owners.

While ex slaves were not given a quick fix to their poverty dilemma, over the long run, ex slaves held the power of change in that they now could vote in economic supports due to the passage of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments. They could enact laws to support land loans. They could fund schools to gain the education to build skills to afford loans and to eventually help ex slaves enter into the American economy.

Yet, southern plantation owners understood the politics of freedom as well and fought to thwart ex slave access to loans, to schools, and to political participation. Through legal, political, and subversive means such as the KKK, ex-slaves were denied the means to obtain loans and to decent education. And with the support of Johnson, their means of voting for change was subversively and violently denied.

Nonetheless, they hoped to sustain the slow and arduous path toward economic freedom, if the federal government could simply and, at least, moderately support their efforts. Sadly, economic events would erode the northern citizenry support of the federal government’s reconstruction. The erosion had standard elements of a greed caused boom/bust economic crisis that would divert national attention away from the tediousness of supporting a social goal that required a gradual lessening of prejudice from the North.

Similarly to the Great Depression that would follow, and the 2008 economic implosion that we all experienced recently, the discovery of gold in 1848 set up the economic failing of post civil war reconstruction when it started the mass migration West in search of riches. The migration to California was an impetus for the massive railroad-building boom after the war, including the transcontinental railroad.

Across Europe, a housing boom similar to America’s in the 2000’s was used to feed America’s railroad ventures, the size of the investment boom, which had not been seen before. Yet the rate of investment could not be sustained by the growth in America’s post war economy just yet. Unfortunately, as all booms do, it ended in a bust that caused a 20-year depression in Europe and the Long Depression in America, starting in 1873.

The depression caused a shift in public sentiment that resulted in political losses that signaled the end of support for Reconstruction. Pre Civil War southern political powers would regain their power in the South, and swift retribution plus starving of any economic progress for ex slaves would be the result.

America would then shift its attention to an economic revival that would simply bypass the sleepy South and focus on exploiting the rail system that had been laid. Millions of immigrants and an expansive growth of industry in the new industrial era would divert America’s attention on social justice for another 80 years.

The South would regain its plantation economy. Ex slaves would eke out a poverty-stricken existence, waiting for the next political upheaval that would not occur until the First World War. The chance at human progress had been thwarted. Decades of harsh treatment and social ingraining of prejudice both on the sides of the oppressor and the oppressed would ensue. How would this injustice affect race relations in America and how would it ultimately impact our inner cities?

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Filed under American Governance, American Politics, Economic Crisis, European Crisis, Middle East prosperity, social trajectory, War