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Black History Milestones: Timeline

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Racism history

Postby Tekazahn В» 02.01.2020

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There will never be an acceptable explanation for what happened between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson in Ferguson but we will never fully grasp why the stage was set for such an encounter unless we know American history. We cannot truly fathom how a minor traffic stop in Cincinnati could result in a white campus police officer blowing out the brains of an unarmed black man unless we delve into the role race has played in law enforcement from the enactment of the federal Fugitive Slave Act in to today's mandatory minimum sentencing statutes.

Examining American history provides us with the tools to analyse how the death of Michael Brown and the demonstrations on Florrisant Avenue became a tipping point and sparked a movement. Connecting the dots between the past and the present helps us to see the origins of our current national debate - about race, police misconduct, white supremacy, white privilege, inequality, incarceration and the unfinished equal rights agenda.

The history of people of African descent in America - which is to say the history of America - is a pendulum of progress and setbacks, of resilience and retaliation, of protest and backlash. There have been allies and there have been opponents. There have been demagogues, who would divide Americans on the basis of colour and class, and visionaries who would seek to lead us to common ground.

The quest for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" has been an American aspiration since the Declaration of Independence, but black Americans, Native Americans and women were not at the table in Forty of the 56 signers owned other people.

Lest there be any doubt about where the young nation's sentiments lay, the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision made clear that people of African descent - whether enslaved or free - would not be considered American citizens and had no legal standing in the courts. It mattered not that some of their grandfathers had served in George Washington's Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.

And unfortunately right now we are paying the price for 50 years of trying to avoid and hide that subject. Indeed every time we see another video - of Sandra Bland, of Freddie Gray, of Tamir Rice - we witness the horrifying evidence of our national failure to confront this legacy. What used to be called "the Negro problem", really is a matter of the intransigence of white supremacists who are mired in the past.

Slavery was not the benign, paternalistic system described in the history textbooks of my youth. Instead, it was a brutal, often sadistic, form of domination over the bodies and minds of people who were kidnapped, whipped, beaten and raped.

Generations of human beings toiled against their will without pay or legal rights. For years - from , when 20 Africans were forced into indentured servitude in Jamestown, Virginia, until the end of the Civil War in - most people of African descent in America were enslaved.

Those who had purchased or otherwise been granted their freedom lived a precarious, circumscribed existence. Slavery and the slave trade were essential to the American economy and to the development of American capitalism, especially after Native Americans were driven off their ancestral land in the Deep South in the s to make way for vast cotton plantations.

The wealth of the nation was inextricably dependent upon uncompensated labour, which enriched not only the planters, but universities, banks, textile mills, ship owners and insurance companies, who held policies on their bodies.

To settle a debt, an owner merely needed to sell one of his slaves. Now numbering four million souls, they were, as Ta-Nehisi Coates has written, America's "greatest financial asset".

Immediately after the Civil War, during the hopeful, but brief period of Reconstruction, black people were finally recognised as citizens with rights.

But just as quickly as the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments abolished slavery, provided equal protection under the law and granted black men the right to vote, Reconstruction ended with retaliatory Redemption.

When federal troops abandoned their posts in the South after the Compromise of , the defeated Confederates regrouped as the Ku Klux Klan and the Knights of the White Camellia. They regained control of their workforce, not by owning them, but by circumscribing their lives through terror, violence and voter suppression.

In Louisiana, the number of registered black voters plummeted from , in to 5, in Fraudulent voting schemes pushed black elected officials from state legislatures and from Congress. During the late 19th century, there were 20 black members of Congress. For virtually the first half of the 20th century the 15th Amendment had no value for blacks in the former Confederate states, where they were denied the right to vote through the cynical artifice of poll taxes, literacy tests and grandfather clauses.

Jim Crow laws and Black Codes obliterated Reconstruction wins and codified racially based discrimination. The sharecropping system, which left black farmers in debt at the end of every harvest, was equivalent to slavery. Black children were allowed to attend school only during times of the year when there were no farm chores to do.

Historian Rayford Logan called the period "nadir of American race relations". Those who got too uppity were lynched, firebombed in their homes and chased from land they owned. In , DW Griffith's technically groundbreaking movie, Birth of a Nation, glorified the Klan and fed the trope of black inferiority and criminality.

Around the same time, a migration wave began that would eventually see more than six million black Americans flee the brutality and deprivation of the South for the relative freedom of the North and the West. Four years later, when black soldiers returned from World War I military duty in France , they were attacked during the "Red Summer" as resentful whites instigated riots in at least 34 cities, from Chicago and Washington, DC to Memphis and Charleston.

Their goal was to put men who had received France's Croix de Guerre back in their place as the Klan had done after Reconstruction. During the succeeding decades - through the Depression, the New Deal and World War II - the pendulum continued to swing between progress and setbacks. The attitudes that informed Jim Crow laws and discriminatory public policy existed in the North as well as the South. The results are evident today in major American cities, where banks refused loans to black home buyers in the s and s, literally drawing on maps red lines around predominantly black neighbourhoods and ensuring that those homes would not appreciate in value at the same rate as comparable white neighbourhoods.

In , when my parents were ready to finance a new home in an all-black development of newly constructed residences in a suburb of Indianapolis, they were unable to secure a loan from any of the city's large banks.

Both were college graduates and business executives. Our neighbours were doctors, teachers, coaches, plumbers, entrepreneurs, realtors, nurses, ministers, architects, insurance salesmen and carpenters. In other words, people who normally would have had no trouble qualifying for mortgages. Instead, they went to Mammoth Life Insurance, a black-owned insurance company then based in Louisville, Kentucky, for their loans.

In , the Supreme Court's Brown v Board of Education decision struck down so-called separate but equal education and mandated that American schools be racially integrated.

As a post-Brown v Board child, I always attended integrated schools, encountering the occasional racist, but, like my parents, rolling with the punches, keeping perspective and finding progressive kindred spirits in the process. In , nine students at Little Rock High School were harassed and spit upon. Across the South, federal troops were called in to facilitate the process. For a time, it seemed that American schools might be integrated, but that pendulum soon began to move in the other direction as all-white academies opened.

Today, most Americans are enlightened enough not to oppose interracial marriage and are much more tolerant than their grandparents and great-grandparents, but American public schools in most areas are more segregated than ever, as Nikole Hannah-Jones' April ProPublica investigation of Tuscaloosa, Alabama schools so well illustrated.

Pressure from Martin Luther King, Jr. The Civil Rights Act of forbade discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race in hiring, promoting and firing. Today, our workplaces are undoubtedly more diverse than they were in the s, with more people of colour employed as physicians, firefighters, attorneys, journalists, investment bankers and professors.

But it is still true that when a white person and a black person with comparable credentials apply for a job, the white person is more likely to be hired.

The Voting Rights Act of outlawed poll taxes and made it possible for thousands of formerly disenfranchised black Americans to vote. Now, throughout America, there are thousands of people of colour who are city council members, mayors, members of Congress, on school boards and of course, now in the White House. During the last two presidential elections, black voters turned out in record numbers because they were motivated and because many of the old obstacles to voting had been removed.

But a backlash has developed in that arena, too. President Barack Obama 's election in and re-election in provided evidence of how much the nation has changed in the last half a century.

While arrival of the "post-racial" era was much overstated and a result of magical thinking, Americans rightly celebrated the progress on Inauguration Day The high of the moment, though, was accompanied by the rise of the Tea Party and the reminder of the strain of white supremacy that is baked into the American DNA.

Rattled by the presence of a black family in the White House, "birthers" emerged and fabricated a myth that America's first black president - by some amazing feat of molecular transference - had been born not in Hawaii, where his mother was located at the time, but in Kenya.

In this age of social media , Youtube and cable television, their illogical stories took flight, promulgated not just by the poorly educated prone to conspiracy theories, but by people who clearly knew better. William Faulkner famously said, "The past is not dead. It is not even past". This is certainly true when it comes to the Civil War.

Most credible scholars and historians agree that slavery was the root cause of the war, whether they focus on the Missouri Compromise of , the Kansas Nebraska Act of , President Lincoln's election in or a myriad of other events and factors. But for an adamant segment of the American population the reason for "The Late Unpleasantness" remains in dispute, years after Confederate General Robert E Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse. Five years ago, the Pew Research Center found that nearly half - 48 percent - of those polled believed "states' rights" was the main cause of the war, compared to 38 percent who thought that it was slavery.

Particularly disturbing is that 60 percent of respondents under the age of 30 selected the states' rights option. Later this month, when five million Texas students return to school, they will be learning American history from a syllabus that equivocates about the reasons for the Civil War. It was over states' rights.

This intentionally and unapologetically ideological approach to curriculum development is akin to educational malpractice. By misinforming children, they are failing to prepare them for the very diverse world, not only that they will inherit, but in which they already live.

They might as well tell them that the stork brings babies or that tooth fairies put dollars under their pillows. When those states seceded from the union, their reasons were quite precise. Mississippi's declaration of secession could not have been clearer, in fact: "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery - the greatest material interest of the world … a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilisation.

Texas was equally as direct : " We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race. Among the popular slogans on t-shirts at Civil War battle re-enactments and Confederate flag rallies are "Know your history" and "If this shirt offends you, you need a history lesson".

Many of the people who agree with those sentiments will say that their ancestors were in the states' rights camp and that they didn't own enslaved people.

As young army recruits, only a few of the enlisted men personally owned anyone, but more than a third of them were members of slave-owning families. And as young white men in America, they all benefitted from membership in a society which prospered from the system of slavery. Because Dylan Roof displayed the Confederate Battle Flag and drew inspiration from fellow white supremacists as he planned his attack on Emanuel Church, many people have begun to re-examine their attachment to the flag.

When they are honest, they must admit that the history of the Confederacy does not equal the history of the South. A flag that was resurrected in and unfurled at the University of Mississippi to oppose James Meredith's enrollment and that was beloved by members of the Klan and the White Citizens Council is fraught with dastardly symbolism.

So when someone says it is about "heritage, not hate," it seems they have been duped or that they do not really know the actual heritage they profess to admire. Far be it from me to question another person's affection for his ancestors. But I can't help but note that all that "culture, grace and elegance" that occurred, no doubt, under fragrant magnolia blossoms, would not have been possible without the labour of those millions of unpaid people who worked not just from sun up to sun down, but through the night, to preserve that Disney-fied version of reality.

It would be easier to believe this symbol was unrelated to a desire for white supremacy if it weren't so frequently sported by people who also have swastika tattoos and wear Nazi paraphernalia.

It would be easier to believe that this fealty for the Confederate flag was all about family pride if the provenance of its popularity were different. Soon after General Lee surrendered, he took an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and advised his compatriots to do the same.

Former Confederate soldiers marching did not don their old military uniforms, and neither did the body they buried.

But you must know the truth. That you are free. Fortunately, there also are young Americans who wish not to be associated with this ignorance.

Racism in America: A History in Three Acts, time: 1:02:29
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Postby Kajinos В» 02.01.2020

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