This post originally appeared as the author’s Facebook Status on March 9, 2017, and she provided permission to publish it on the SIL Blog.
By Fritha – Contributor
I’ve been reading a biography of Alexander Hamilton while also starting a book I found at the library titled White Rage, which is the brutal history of white people’s efforts to undermine every right black people earned since the Emancipation Proclamation, and more and more I am seeing that you can’t understand US history nor what is happening in our country right now without understanding the history of racism in this country.
Southerns cling to the idea of state right’s, yet, from the beginning it was all about the right of owning and exploiting people. Thomas Jefferson lived a plush life of luxury using money he didn’t have generated from the hard work of the hundreds of people he felt he owned. He was massively in debt, yet rather than try to curb his ornate lifestyle, he went on more shopping sprees and further burdened his slaves, who were not the recipients of his wealth. In fact, many were auctioned off to pay for his debts after he died.
Yet white people call black people lazy. Displacement much?
Further, few people in the south were wealthy plantation owners. About 1% were (ring a bell?). This hurt whites who weren’t, because if wealthy people could get people to do the job for free, why would they need to employ a white person for anything? Yet rather than see themselves as exploited, white people felt smug in at least being higher on the social ladder than black people and let a corrupt system continue.
Imagine a history where poor white united with black people against the plantation owners rather than seeing black people as the enemy.
After slavery ended white people just let black people live free and empowered lives. They went and murdered a lot of them in a cold blood bath then they recreated a legal version of slavery and did everything they could to see that black schools were barely funded. But in school history books we learned that carpetbaggers were the real bad guys for some reason. Perhaps because we have to keep alive this myth that the white wealthy plantation owners were the real victims in all this?
While black people wanted good schools for their children, white people did everything they could to keep this from happening. Not only is this the mark of a totalitarian society, but it’s a good way to keep people under your thumb. Especially when you devised complex literacy requirements to allow people the right to vote? They also did everything they could to ensure that black people could not flee north.
When court Plessy v Ferguson was finally struck down by the courts, the south decided, STATE’S RIGHTS and fought against efforts to desegregate as hard as they could. Because somehow the rights of a state were more important than the right’s of a people.
The south has always eclipsed the north in terms of poverty and of poor literacy. Everyone pays a price for racism weather we want to admit it or not, and unfortunately, black people and American Indians have paid the highest price. And this is not just poverty or lack of education. It is blood. Look up the brutal murder of Mary Turner, who was 8 months pregnant, and know that every decade after the Emancipation Proclamation until 19whatever this happened to thousands of black people and white people got away with it.
Just like white police officers can still get away with killing unarmed black people.
Beware right white men telling you that people of color are the enemy. Their obscene wealth depends on you scapegoating another to avoid looking at the real person swindling you. Beware the people screaming state’s rights. It’s code for state’s rights to keep innocent people in bondage. Beware people screaming about school choice. Even in the 1800s, school choice was about making sure that certain people could not access a good education. Beware people trying to restrict voter’s rights in the name of targeting voter fraud. Attempts to restrict voting rights have always been about race and making sure that black people don’t have the right to vote. Ask yourself why are we doing everything we can to make it hard for people to vote in a democracy? Why is a certain party not even bothering to reach out to an increasingly diverse America, and only talking to the white people, while pushing legislation that makes it harder for people to vote?
Wake up. Read. Read what challenges your beliefs. Read what causes you cognitive dissonance. Read White Rage. No, it’s not a pleasant read. It’s a long history of the ways white people have done everything they can to prevent black people from having equal rights (and no, northerners are not innocent in this and spared. Not even Abraham Lincoln is spared, and for good reason). If you’re a white person and don’t like this, rather than continuing to scapegoat black people, then start asking what you can do to reverse that. Stop voting for people screaming state’s rights. Stop voting for people who scapegoat people of other races. Stop voting for people who want to restrict voting rights. And stop defending them as well. Otherwise, you are part of the problem. You may not think you are racist, but you’re voting for people who are and who are harming other people. And you are perpetuating this shameful legacy of racism.
Because if this is ever going to change, white people are going to have to stop screwing everyone else over and start voting for people who will advance all people.
We all rise up together, or fall together.
Fritha is a Licensed Professional Counselor, specializing in couple’s therapy, parenting issues, women’s issues, depression, substance use, and anger management. She has contributed to the SIL Blog in the past, and we thank her for her thoughtful perspective and powerful words.