Not Everything Is Black Or White

We live in a society where we want everything to be black or white and when I say this, I am not referring to the color of our skin. We like to have everything all nice and neat and if it's not we like to tuck it away in a closet or on a shelf where it is out of sight. Life is never nice and neat and not everything is black or white. There is great discussion and debate going on in our country about African-American Reparations.

Many American citizens feel that they should not be held accountable for crimes or actions committed by their ancestors hundreds of years ago. Some agree 100% that slavery was a travesty yes, but they don't feel it is their responsibility to do anything about it at this date in time. There are others who simply feel that it happened so many years ago, that African-American people should just get over itBlack and white

But what about the racism and prejudice that continues to be the fallout from our country’s shameful past where slavery was a part of everyday life? No other ethnicity has been singled out and looked down upon more so than the African-American.  

This country was founded on the concept of freedom, yet African-American citizens are the only American citizens who are free by way of the 13th Amendment[3] to the United States Constitution. Think about that.

The Beginning Of Slavery In America

In 1581, African slaves were brought in to Florida to  St. Augustine. In 1641, Massachusetts was the first to legalize slavery. South Carolina passed the “Negro Act” in 1740, making it illegal for slaves to learn to read, assemble in groups, raise food, or earn their own money. Slave owners were legally allowed to kill a slave if they should rebel against them. 

Dred Scott photograph (circa 1857)

In 1857, with the Dred Scott Decision The United States Supreme Court decided, seven to two, that black people can never be American citizens and that Congress does not have authority to outlaw slavery in any territory.

The Emancipation Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln makes all slaves in Rebel territory free men and women, on January 1, 1863. In 1865, slavery is abolished with the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution outlawing slavery.

We all know, however, that it didn’t stop there. Other ways were created to get around the abolishment of slavery.

Slavery and the Making of America DVD Set
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Black Codes And Jim Crow Laws

Black Codes were soon instituted into law books in many states, requiring freed black persons to follow a separate set of rules or be legally punished. After all, the 13th Amendment states that the only time slavery can exist, is if it is meted out as punishment.

If you were a black person, and you were on the street and asked by authorities for written paperwork of your employment and you didn’t have any, you were arrested for vagrancy. If you did not have employment and written verification of it, your punishment after being arrested was, you guessed it, a fine. If you couldn’t pay the fine, you were hired out to the lowest bidder (of course, white people) until your fine was worked off.

Black people were also banned from having or possessing most firearms, from making or selling any kind of liquor, banned from selling farm products without written permission from a white employer and they could only have the occupations of farmer or servant under contract unless they got an annual license from a judge. 

 

Of course from the 1880’s up into the 1960’s, we had the Jim Crow laws.[2] It seems to me that no matter which way an African-American person turned, they were being pushed back and held back.

Jim Crow Jubilee LithographCredit: By Original lithographer: Augustus ClappOriginal publisher: Geo. P. ReedPhoto: BPL (Flickr: Jim Crow Jubilee) [<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0">CC-BY-2.0</a>], <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AJim_Crow_Jubilee_(Boston_

So let’s put this all in perspective. Generation, after generation of African-Americans were brought into this country against their will as slaves. Many were mistreated, abused and oppressed in so many ways. When they were finally freed, they were given 40 acres of land and mule only to have it taken away again within a few short months. Then they were held accountable to more laws made especially for them making it nearly impossible to make a living or accumulate anything for their families without going right back to the ones who enslaved them to begin with. If they were homeless or jobless they were fined. If they couldn’t pay the fine within a short time, they were AGAIN turned over to the highest bidder for their labor to work off the fine. They were controlled once again by laws created just for them to keep them tightly in line according to what white people thought was right.

Things haven’t changed much. African-Americans are still being fined, sentenced and incarcerated at a rate higher than white citizens of this country. [1] We still live in a country dotted with sundown towns and racial bias in corporate America as well as our educational system and even the housing market.

What would their lives be like here in America, if they had come here of their own accord, as free men and women, just as white people did? What would their lives have been like then and even today, if they had been given the same set of rules and laws to follow, as white people? How would their lives be different now, if more of their families had be able to stay together, if they had more ancestors who were able to hand down land and homes and businesses?

So what do you think about Reparations? Do we owe our African-American citizens from all the crimes committed against them in the past? What about the present? What would you do to fix this?

The Case for Black Reparations
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Originally published in 1972, Boris Bittker's riveting study of America's debt to African-Americans was well ahead of its time. Published by Toni Morrison when she was an editor, the book came from an unlikely source:
Bittker was a white professor of law at Yale University who had long been ambivalent about the idea of reparations. Through his research into the history and theory of reparations-namely the development and enforcement of laws designed to compensate groups for injustices imposed on them-he found that it wasn't a'crazy, far-fetched idea.' In fact, beginning with post-Civil War demands for forty acres and a mule, African-American thinkers have long made the case that compensatory measures are justified not only for the injury of slavery but for the further setbacks of almost a century of Jim Crow laws and forced school and job segregation, measures that effectively blocked African-Americans from enjoying the privileges of citizenship.