It is understandable that people in power will never concede or promote compassion for those who suffer from their gains. It is more believable that the systematically oppressed choose to understand the oppressor for who they are, and build their own empire accordingly.
By Charles Griggs
“For a long time after the Civil War, the nation really did not want to be reminded of either the war or the institution that lay at its root—slavery. A country that saw itself as uniquely invested in human freedom had a hard time coming to terms with the centuries’ long history of enslaving so many of its people.” – Sven Beckert, Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development
Through both personal and professional affiliations, I have been privileged to experience the culture of various communities throughout America. I’ve even had the opportunity to sample a few international settings that provided an even broader perspective on cultures and societal norms. These experiences have often left me excited about the future and the possibilities for embracing of community diversity and social harmony. But then the reality of the critical challenges facing our community sinks in.
This view is not an attempt to paint doom and gloom over the communities I love. My desire is to draw others closer to understanding the why and the how of the behaviors of our neighbors and associates. After all, many of us are out here fighting, praying and hoping things will change one day and certain people will realize that the systematic and historical marginalization of African Americans is real. This is an deeper issue than many realize because those who have benefited from this system continue execute it with the intent of insulating themselves from the intrusions of diversity.
Let’s start from the beginning. According to AmericasLibrary.gov (a web site of the Library of Congress), Europeans arrived in America in 1492 with the sole purpose to “increase their wealth and broaden their influence over world affairs.” In other words, arrival in the New World was not a humanitarian excursion. Europeans came here to this land to conquer. In fact, conquering has been the motivation of all oppressors throughout history. The goal was to build a society that benefited a privileged few on the backs of betrayed souls (e.g., Native Americans).
Centuries later, nowhere in U.S. history is there evidence of people in power surrendering their supremacy because it was fair or even the right thing to do. America’s history of racism lives under the umbrella of supremacy. Policy lines have been drawn to protect social and economic status while guarding against any attempt at humanitarian course correcting. As long white people feel superior due to their socioeconomic advantages, there will always be racism.
Now this is not intended to be derogatory to all at white people because not all Caucasians are racists. That would be a ludicrous notion. In fact, if you ask a white person if they are a racist, they will probably tell you, no…not me. And consciously they are probably correct. But if you highlight a situation that illustrates an act of racism, most will agree that racism is alive and well today.
Admittedly, racism is more about power than the color of one’s skin. However, because Black people have been categorized and stereotyped into a certain socioeconomic corner, there is plenty of room for racism to fester and even grow.
The slow moving news is that America’s systematic racism has had real consequences on its Black citizens (slaves and generations that followed) who have given more to this country than all of its military combined. Yet, America will never be held accountable or ever atone for the atrocities rooted in racism and greed.
And just how much has racism cost America’s Black citizens?
A paper published in 2015 titled Estimating Slavery Reparations: Present Value Comparisons of Historical Multigenerational Reparations Policies by Thomas Craemer put the, “estimated value of U.S. slave labor in 2009 dollars to range from $5.9 to $14.2 trillion.” This estimate was calculated using only years involving slave labor provided by African Americans. One could assume the accountability number would be higher if it included another 90 years Jim Crow suffrage.
So let’s see, $14 trillion is a little more than two-thirds of the current U.S. economy.
Eliminating racism would mean those benefitting from the legacy of oppression would have to give a damn…in real dollars. Therefore, racism isn’t going anywhere because the cost (in equity and dollars) of correcting America’s atrocities is too high.
America conceding to racism would require atonement and accountability, and history has shown that is not the foundation that this country was built upon.
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