Looking into our nation’s history, the honest, people’s history, we become very aware that the country was built upon the racist perspectives cultivated and necessary for America to grow and flourish. This growth, depended largely upon the perpetuation of an ideology that dictated a belief in the inherent superiority of the original settlers and those immigrant Europeans who sought prosperity in this newly ‘discovered’ land.
The first task was to build an infrastructure, and labor was needed to construct our first cities, towns, municipalities, and we needed an economy to feed our survival.
The native Americans were not chosen as laborers mainly because we drove them off the land, through ‘questionable’ negotiations, and then created some myth about a ‘peacepipe’. It was not feasible to ask, demand, or even consider their return to help construct and build upon the very land taken from them; they owned ALL of the country, anyway, at that time.
The settlers were not strong enough, physically or mentally to withstand the climate here, and the land that they fled enabled them to justify the same, similar or worse system of indentured servitude, under which they had been ruled.
Now, as we fast forward a little, there is a new breed of worker…the enslaved African. They were strong enough to withstand the heat, and once captured, they couldn’t leave this land to return to their own. First of all, on the voyages here, they were mainly kept below ship deck, and didn’t know where they were going, or where they started out before being taken. There was no landmark from which to negotiate a safe or prompt return.
Now that these people were brought here to literally build this country from the ground up, they also were needed to maintain our economic survival. It is very difficult to hold someone in bondage for very long before they begin to rebel, and devise strategies for an escape to freedom. Psychological control had to be a major component that enabled them to continue working for no wages, living in sub-standard housing, eating the leftover meals to sustain themselves, and withstand the traumatic separation from their friends, family, children, and spouses.
Laws had to be put in place to protect the interest of those who kept these Africans in bondage, and the most significant piece of this country’s survival was that in order to perpetuate this type of cruelty being inflicted upon other human beings, it had to be believed and internalized that these people were sub-human.
Everyone had to believe this, both whites and blacks.
Take away a man’s dignity and what has he got, when he has nothing else-savage, animal-like behaviors, and great anger.
The anger felt by enslaved peoples had to be internalized, kept to themselves, or consequences were grave, to say the least.[Hence, ‘Black on Black’ crime, although every group- racial, cultural, ethnic- has similar incidents of pain inflicted upon one another. It is only that we highlight and emphasize violence in the black community to divert attentions and excuse ourselves from addressing the bigger societal issues.]
Anyway, imagine an extreme amount of pent up anger for a lifetime. With essentially continued societal ‘conditions’ that produced that initial anger, this meant that your descendants would also feel anger, that would become even more intense. Wealth and power were systematically kept out of general reach, and education was unsupported, discouraged and dis-allowed. Once our educational system became a ‘public’ right, though already highly valued and accessed by whites, there were other masked conditions that ‘spoke’ equality and ‘separate but equal’, but were simply reflections of a former mindset re-visited. Second-class citizenship, Jim Crow, and segregation were all key legally sanctioned forms of perpetuating negative stereotypes, and the continued de-humanization of blacks in America.
Blacks, after release from bondage, were still viewed through the same lens, treated the same, and still not ‘free’ people. The “American Dream” was, as written by the poet, Langston Hughes, was “A Dream Deferred”. Social realities, for the African American citizen, had carefully masked unchanged, slightly altered and re-phrased laws in place that served as subtle obstacles to prevent their grasp of that dream. Hence, more anger. Yet, sometimes, borne out of anger is great determination and strength.
There was and still remains incredible amounts of inner-strength and resilience, that didn’t factor into the plans and laws and policies and practices created by the ‘original sinners’ of this great nation. In fact, even today, these real protective factors and quality traits of the ‘collective’ group of Black people, descendants of the original enslaved Africans, are not highlighted or held within the conscious minds of the ‘dominant’ culture in America. So, a nation of non-blacks are in sheer disbelief and also in such fear and denial that chants such as, “Black lives matter” and “no justice, no peace” have disrupted the usual conversations in America.
But, isn’t that what the process of positive change does….disrupt? Progress can only be made with a disruption of an established norm. Look at the internet, how disruptive! Back to this question of anger…. trust me, if it were you or I, by today’s standards, we would not have what it takes to last or withstand that type of external, social, and psychological control. We didn’t start the fire, but we can acknowledge that there are flames that we can extinguish. That, we can certainly do!
The good news is that you nor I hold that ‘FIRE’ within our personal past, as a guilt filled memory. We didn’t do it-any of it. This is the history of our nation, and maybe some of our own ancestors and very distant relatives were instrumental or even key players of this history……..but it is history nonetheless.
The best thing that we can do, individually and collectively, is to start living today more empathically, compassionately, and respectfully as a nation with an incredibly rich history that boasts more tolerance and appreciation of its diversity. We can acknowledge the strengths of us all, and especially critical, is that we encourage all children to become their best selves and promote their discovery and realization of their innate potential to become culture creators, not consumers alone; mindful leaders, not mindless followers; information producers, not only information consumers; influencers of culture and not simply influenced by culture and society. They will lead us someday!
This story reflects a brief history as told by a non-historian to expand awareness and promote empathy-not sympathy. Begin to view ours and a people’s history differently, more mindfully, empathically, and consciously aware of the past and present challenges that are negotiated every day.
THINK RESILIENCE, GROWTH MINDSET, AND HELP SOMEONE GROW!
The past-we cannot change, and the future we cannot control. What we have is today!
Now, please share your thoughts and comments. The conversation has started!