On this Juneteenth Day, all of America ought to be celebrating like it's 1999. Yesterday, after 144 years of emancipation commemorations by African Americans in Texas, and progressively over time, many other states, the United States Senate finally got around to--Tweet this--apologizing for slavery and racial segregation. The formal sorry say was voted on by the Senate yesterday.
Talk about too little, too late.
The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on September 22, 1862. And although it went into effect on January 1, 1883, more than 618,000 Americans had to die in the Civil War before the slaves were freed.
Back then, good news traveled slow, so it wasn't until June 19, 1865 that word got around to the state of Texas that slavery had been abolished. And even after everyone knew that slavery was the great American evil, there were those in the South who chose not to know. Slavery By Another Name, a book published last year, revealed that the enslavement of African Americans continued in the deep South until the dawn of World War II. This nation's free black labor habit finally ended eight decades after Emancipation when President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered that it stop immediately. FDR was fearful that the Japanese propaganda machine would put the fact that neoslavery was still going on in the U.S. to great use against America's war effort.
Up until then, it was the practice below the Mason-Dixon line for sheriffs to arrest black men on trumped up charges, jail them, then sell them to plantations, mines, railroads, mills, lumber camps and factories in the deep South. In other cases, southern blacks were kidnapped by southern landowners and forced into involuntary labor. This happened to thousands of African Americans from one generation to the next to the one after that.
And I won't even mention the thousands who were murdered by lynchings.
But to quote Shakespeare, "All's well that ends well." The senate has apologized for slavery and segregation. The U.S. House is expected to follow suit. There's a black family living in White House.
African American no longer have to worry about forced labor. Unfortunately, black unemployment rates, at 11.5, are higher than those of any of group in the nation. About a third of the descendants of America's enslaved still live below the poverty line.
It doesn't matter. The Senate is sorry. I wonder if any of them are sorry that we never got our 40 acres and a mule. It's not too late to make it up. Congress could declare reparations a stimulus program and pass it just in time for next year's Juneteeth Day.
In rare moments of weakness, I try to give black Republicans the benefit of the doubt. I tell myself they are hanging out with those who don’t want us in their country clubs, board rooms or places of worship because some of us need to be in the party for some semblance of balance—a don’t put all your political eggs in one basket strategy. I tell myself that the tainted tenth that belong to the GOP are there because they are naturally conservative and have a right to join up with some of their kind, regardless of race, creed or national origin. I tell myself that anyone who is a black Republican must be a true believer—not exactly the type that’s interested in thinking things through. Before I get anywhere close to convincing myself, the benefit of doubt gets beat down by reality: These bee-oh-cons are terribly twisted. Logically challenged, too. As conservatives, what do these African Americans want to conserve? The enduring legacy of the white masters? Jim Crow? Lynching? The modern-day justice system that disproportionately warehouses young black men in prisons? An educational system that fails black youth long before it flunks them out? It seems to me that the greatest challenge for black Republicans is to rationalize why they're part of a party--the party of Rush Limbaugh and Jesse Helms--that can barely disguise its disdain for most black folks. Why bother with reality when you can do this: Substitute the Nights with Uncle Remus for One Thousand and One Nights. With bold-faced brashness and a willy-nilly wistfulness that would put President Bush and Karl Rove to shame, the National Black Republican Association has posted their billboard proclaiming that Dr. Martin Luther King was a Republican. But wait, there’s more. I don’t want to spoil it for you. I’ll let you see for yourself. So I’m sharing their lame YouTube anti-Obama video with you. But, before you watch it, you’ll need the appropriate mood music. Try “Bring in the Clowns.” In case you don’t know the lyrics, here’s one stanza from the Judy Collins classic:
Don’t you love farce? My fault, I fear I thought that you’d want what I want Sorry, my dear But where are the clowns Send in the clowns Don’t bother, they’re here
Contrary to what many black Americans believe, not every white American is a racist. After half a century of desegregation, Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey and soul music, there has been a seismic shift in racial perceptions. But there’s still a ways to go. That’s why I find Tim Wise so refreshing. Not only is he an enlightened white man; he’s making it his mission to enlighten others. The aptly named Mr. Wise correctly bills himself as among the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the U.S. He explains white privilege in a way that only the most calcitrant can’t or won’t understand it. Here’s his condensed explanation of how white racism evolved and stubbornly endures in America. It’s a touch of true American history. Check it out.
This is my last post from South Carolina. Since the Afro American News is a weekly, the next publication is next Wednesday. The polls are giving Obama a 7-10 point lead, so it looks like he may win tomorrow--but we won't know for sure until the polls close.
Here's a transcript of an answer the Illinois senator gave to a black woman during a stop Wednesday in Rock Hill. She wanted to know what she could say to her 77-year-old father would doubted that an African American president would be able to govern because racism will hamper his effectiveness.
Obama’s response to a question which
speaks from defeated Southern Black hopes of the past
By Monroe Anderson
AFRO Staff Writer
ROCK HILL, S.C. -- Rita
Moore-Johnson asked the question that caught everybody’s attention. It
was a question rooted in the darkest days of America’s history and years of
Moore-Johnson, 45, a medical lab
technician, had come to Rock Hill to hear presidential candidate Barack Obama
speak at one of the many rallies here before Saturday’s Democratic
Her father, she explained, is 77
years old. He is the grandson of a former slave.
He, like his father, and his father,
has spent all his life in South Carolina, where the Confederate flag still
flies outside the state capital.
Segregation, lynchings and the Ku
Klux Klan are real memories for him, not just something out of a history
book. He repeatedly has seen Black aspirations beaten down; he repeatedly
has seen Black efforts met by irrational White resistance.
I don't want to perpetuate this notion in our kids that there's a limit to what
their dream is..."
And for those reasons, he is afraid
to vote for Barack Obama.
So, during a question and answer
session following Obama’s speech at Winthrop University, Moore-Johnson,
an Obama supporter, explained to the candidate that her father "feels that
a Black president will not be able to do what he needs to do in Washington
to get change done.”
And then she asked, “What do I tell
him and people like him, in a small sense that will change his mind?"
“Tell him this. First of all, people
said I couldn't win the United States senate race. Illinois is only 12 percent
African American. And everybody said, 'wow, this black guy with the funny name.
People will not vote for him. We won by 20 percent in the primary and 30,
40 percent in the general election.
“Number one, we have shown that we
can win. I am absolutely convinced that the American people, right now, they
don't care if you are black, white, brown…green.
“What they care about is, are you
going to help them. If I came here and I had polka dots and you were convinced
that I was going to put more money in your pockets and help you pay for college
and help keep America safe, you'd say
"Okay, I wish he didn't have
polka dots, but I'll still vote for him."
“The thing I want you to tell him is
this. This goes to what I said about hope earlier. What if Dr. King looked over
400,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial and said, ‘Y’all go home, this is too
hard, we're not going to change people's attitudes’ What if John Kennedy looked
up at the moon and said, ‘That's too hard. We can't go.’
“Part of the test of leadership is
breaking through barriers. And most of the barriers are not barriers outside
us, but barriers inside us, in our heads. We tell ourselves we can't do
something. And part of what I want to do is to say "yes, we can" and
I want to send that message to our children. I don't want to perpetuate this
notion in our kids that there's a limit to what their dream is.
“Tell your father that he's got to
be thinking of making sure he doesn’t pass that mindset on to his grandchildren
and even their grandchildren. If they try, they may succeed. It's always
possible that they won't succeed, but you definitely won't succeed if you don't