Listed below are a few common examples of poorly thought out insults, demands and accusations hurled at non-white citizens of this country every day.
- go back to Africa! But why? Black Africans and their descendants built this country into the 2nd richest economy on earth (behind only Great Britain) by 1900. If it wasn't for us (along with Chinese railway workers), that might not have happened. I question whether the U. S. would ever have become the world's richest economy without that "contribution". We know that whites - Irish and Poles - fell prey to illnesses (malaria, etc.) endemic to the tropical climates of the southern United States. To this day, many of the workers picking crops in southern states are from Mexico or the Caribbean. If we can assign ownership of the country to one group or race, why not blacks and the Chinese? And we might include the Hispanics who settled vast regions of the southwest before the descendants of the British and French arrived.
- black Africans weren't doing anything anyway - just sitting around in their mud huts doing stupid shit. . . Stolen wages are stolen wages. Besides, how many of us know any details about the numerous varied cultures that existed in sub-Saharan Africa prior to the mid-19th century?
- black Africans were not Christian so slavery doesn't matter. This is true. But Islam, Santaria and various strains of Voodoo are valid religions in their own right. Many descendants of white Europeans worship according to those religions
- black Africans and their descendants do not have souls. (This is more of a corollary to the preceding statement.) Here we can shift the implied definitions and state that if it weren't for the descendants of black Africans, the culture of the U. S. would not have any "soul". Just ask any citizen of a western European country.
- the purpose of any discussion on this topic is to evoke shame and guilt among white Americans. Wrong. Why would anyone try to make people feel guilty when they've been conditioned to blame the descendants of slaves for most - if not all - of the modern consequences of this country's dark history?
- I didn't own any slaves so why should I feel badly about it? Case closed. No one's asking you to feel badly about it. The purpose of this discussion is to allow people to 1) stop blaming blacks for the dire consequences of a history they did not choose voluntarily and 2) make people aware of the magnitude of the wealth generated through the labor and unpaid wages of African slaves. You may not have owned slaves but you are currently benefiting from an economy (the world's richest!) that is built upon slave labor. It's a simple fact - just accept it.
- this topic serves only as a prelude to a discussion that will attempt to justify reparations. No, it doesn't. The United States will never be able to afford fair compensation. Some feel that this country - alone of all the industrialized nations on earth - can not afford to provide health care for it's citizens. How would they justify fair compensation for unpaid wages for the descendants of millions of African slaves?
- why didn't blacks assimilate like other ethnic groups and nationalities? The question itself evokes some flaw that renders us incompatible with a culture that was predominantly European and Protestant. Common assumptions support the continued speculation about a non-existent or diminished work ethic and/or lack of intelligence. When some white Americans are confronted with examples of black Americans who have an extraordinary work ethic or intelligence, they display an amazing capacity to ignore or dispute the evidence. We can see this when someone compares George W. Bush's administration to Barack Obama's - or when we note that the president-elect came to national prominence by questioning country of origin and credentials of the current chief executive. One presumes that 45% of the 55% of American voters who supported Donald Trump actually believe he is smarter and better qualified than his predecessor. This is remarkable. We might question why anyone would bother to work hard and go to a good school when we look at the current administration. . .
- black Africans actually enjoyed slavery. It was a step up for them. . . Tell that to the whites slaughtered during Nat Turner's rebellion! And there were numerous slave revolts in the south for very obvious reasons.
I believe that there are numerous reasons for the insults, presumptions and ignorance underlying any thought process that would produce any of the comments listed above. We know that black Africans and their descendants suffered systematic discrimination that was applied selectively. Most Americans are not familiar with the extent and depth of this discrimination - or are aware of the extent to which it exists today. (I certainly wasn't!) And many white Americans are just not interested. I'm guessing that we will all be able to observe several examples of this in the commentary that follows. . . And we do realize that black Americans were not the only people to suffer injustice, mistreatment or poverty during this country's history.
Please let me know which of these you have heard recently. And do you have any favorites?