Everyone, probably the entire world, knows about what happened to George Perry Floyd. He died at the knee of a police officer for an alleged counterfeit $20 bill. We can argue whether that bill, used to pay for cigarettes, was actually fake. I won’t. That issue demonstrated a SYMPTOM. That action, undeniably causal, and unjust, right here is unimportant in many ways. We are examining the root-the disease that many whites are infected by. This article will take many turns, but in my opinion, that is the surest way to find solutions.
The real issue is not even whether or not Mr. Floyd was ‘resisting’ arrest. Neither did it have to do with an arrest record or history of substance misuse. None of these things, though important, are critical in reference to how he died that afternoon in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Statistically, in any community of black men, the vast majority will have an arrest record. A criminal record and incarceration seems to persist as a form of slavery, since the system was designed to capture and confine black men. For generations, black men have been blocked from any avenue that promotes civic engagement, esp. through employment, politics and yes, family bonds.
From the age of five, we see black boys and girls who’ve been traumatized in a school setting-kindergarten. Beginning in the early, most formative years of development, black boys are being criminalized. They are separated from mothers and fathers through a system designed to preserve and protect the health and safety of children and their families. Most common denominator in cases of child abuse and neglect is poverty. Understanding what it means to be poor, from the outside looking in, the unenlightened will often mistake poverty for neglect.
Consequentially, for a large portion of black and brown families, parents and their children are awarded for their living in poverty, with investigations and systems involvement and removing children from the home. Disrupting the black family, another strategy frequently utilized by whites during slavery, was common, beginning at least 400 hundred years ago. Systems, policies and therefore practices were aligned and purposed to ensure the poverty of black families. How else would an illogical percentage of one population live in poverty? That is based on the empirical science of mathematics.
The same tactic made its way into the present under a new name. Another factor that supports family disruption is the focus of law enforcement on poor black communities. When the welfare system began, it impacted deleterious effects on poor black individuals and families-women, children and men. A household was mandated to have an absent father, spouse or significant other. This was in order that women could qualify for governmental assistance with basic needed services. Health care was among the the list of public services that eligibility was dependent upon an absent man in a household.
In order to sustain the family, mothers had to have an incomplete nuclear family, which mimics the practices of white people during enslavement. If a man and a woman started a family, while enslaved, it was discouraged. The men could be sold off to a distant location. Sometimes, they were sold to the plantation owner ‘next door’, so to speak. It didn’t matter, the proximity, because they were still enslaved, confined and nonetheless separated.
When a man was employed, he could live at home with his family. However, no matter what his salary was, the family would be cut off from receiving services. What we do know is that, like women today, their salaries have always been but a fraction of that of whites, performing the very same jobs. Once again, the system steps in and in the area of employment, black men have traditionally been the least employed, while not the least employable. Because they are criminalized at a young age, employment opportunities are limited. And, there was/is outright discrimination. We can thank the various systems for working to achieve the same results as during the time of enslavement and particularly, during reconstruction.
This Reconstruction era was the time after black people were declared free. Genius, ingenuity, determination, creativity characterized the people who were set free with only the clothes on their backs. Some were freed with no shoes on their feet; not because they didn’t buy any, but because the previous ‘owners’ didn’t provide shoes. Blacks created the wealth, but did not benefit from it.
Within the first six years of freedom, black people had owned businesses, acquired relative wealth, had community influence, were dressing as aristocrats, and engaging in the civic process. There were Mayors, Judges, and more frightening to white people was that black men were voting at large numbers. Black men were voting at a rate of 80%. In a short time after slavery ended, there was rapid mobility. They were serving in public offices and were being elected to Congress, with the first in 1870. Slavery ended in 1863.
Before the Civil War, only a handful of states in the North allowed blacks to vote, and I have only been able to find two black Americans who held any public office then, in the whole country: Macon Allen, the first black lawyer in American history, held a justice of the peace position in Massachusetts in the 1850s, and John Langston, later a congressman from Virginia, held a minor position in Ohio. By 1877, when Reconstruction ended, my estimate is that about 2,000 black men held some official position.
To the critics of Reconstruction, the fact that black men were in office was one of the great horrors of that period. The Democratic press called these legislatures and constitutional conventions “menageries” and “monkey houses.” They ridiculed former slaves who thought themselves competent to frame a code of laws. They said that these officials were ignorant, illiterate, propertyless, and that they lacked education and the economic wherewithal to take part intelligently in government. James S. Pike, a northern journalist who went to South Carolina and wrote the famous book about African American legislators called The Prostrate State in the 1870s, said after visiting the state legislature,
“It is impossible not to recognize the immense proportion of ignorance and vice that permeates this body.”
Some opponents of Reconstruction tried to erase black officials from the historical record altogether. In Georgia, after the Democrats regained control of Georgia’s government, Alexander Abrams, who compiled the legislative manual each year, announced that he was going to omit black lawmakers from the biographical sketches. He wrote,
“I am not going to include these Black legislators because it would be absurd to record the lives of men who were but yesterday our slaves and whose past careers embrace such occupations as boot blacking, shaving, table waiting, and the like.”
A quote like this reveals the combination of racism and class prejudice that went into the opposition to Reconstruction. It wasn’t just that these men were black, but that they were poor, that seemed to mark them as being somehow ineligible to be part of the public world.
Fear and resentment of the rise in power, white people began a long-standing campaign to discourage and stop blacks from voting, ‘by any mean necessary’. A reign of terror ensued with other tactics to prevent black people from freedom of movement, mobility, and exercise their vote. Houses were burned down[many times with families and children inside], churches were torched, and people were hanged[lynched]. That is not an exhaustive list of terrorist acts used against black people.
The history of America’s relationship with race is wrought with intentional terrorism against black and brown people. Although there have been advances in the way this country relates to the naturally protective and majestic beauty of the melanin content associated with ‘black-ness’, policies, laws and practices which reflect a time either forgotten or never taught still remain intact. The Salem witch trials ended as well as policies and practices that aligned with the unenlightened perspectives, the Holocaust and persecution of Jewish people ended along with policies and practices which supported that antisemitic philosophy.
Creating Our Systems
In the U.S., however, systems in all areas of government were built within a racist framework. This design operationalized a supremacist ideology and remnants of that perspective continues to perpetuate inequity. Throughout each system and life component, the statistics regarding poverty, inequity and injustice as it pertains to people of color, confound the law of averages, thus indicating a structural factor that influences the outcomes.
In other words, race in America is deeply embedded into our policies on a foundational level. After so many years and the newly enacted laws that were drafted to eliminate instances of disparities and injustice, not much has changed, as evidenced by practices, such as that which led to the murder of George Floyd and countless others. The statistics still demonstrate disproportionate numbers relative to punitive measures, employment, housing, education, health care, child welfare and the justice systems. These areas pretty much complete all essential components of an individual’s life. In this case, it is the lives and families of people of color, the majority of those who also happen to natural citizens. These mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, are ‘natural’, not ‘naturalized’ American citizens, whose ancestral histories trace back farther than most others in the United States.
The proper, most logical solutions to all that which characterize the perpetuation of inequity, is to re-design polices, ‘re-inventing the wheel’ of our democracy and essentially re-imagining education. Change is extremely challenging among the adult population, without designing professional re-training, career field-specific. Additionally, personally, re-wiring of brain mindsets, re-programming of mindsets is needed to counter the years of brainwashing perpetuated through propaganda and whitewashing of documented histories. There are tremendous amounts of money needed to do this, because mindset change is not a ‘one and done’ process. It has to be ongoing in order to comprehensively utilize practice strategies that align with equity and social justice, without immaculate perceptions[a deeper level of implicit bias].
It is worth the effort. The most proactive solutions are found within our education system. If children were educated more inclusively, from with a reframed curriculum, ot has to begin with newly selected textbooks, and that means that we will have to say, ” To Hell with you!”, to the publishers who are still distributing harmful texts. They are perpetuating the problems we still tackle today. Worldviews and mindsets would be more broadened. Their all-important SEL development will reflect empathy, equity, and exceptional excellence as competent, productive citizens of the world. We must be courageously honest with them, We must have the strength of character to recognize, expose and accept all of our past misdoings in order to teach and learn from them, and explain to children the impact of repeating the same mistakes in their lives.
The Birth of Immaculate Perceptions
The onus is upon American whites to courageously seek out truths to set the records straight, and for people of color to purposefully research the past. There must be a real determination to clear the air, separate themselves from the past, and the openness to recognize that today’s relationship to ‘black’ people in America and around the globe originated from greed and the deep-seated fear from the personal and unspoken guilt felt by whites centuries ago. In fact, in 1607, whites who inhabited Jamestown, Virginia, came here with the consent of England, to create and increase the wealth of the King.
I’ll bet that you didn’t know that. We are taught that in 1620, the Pilgrims were the first to colonize at Plymouth Rock, and immediately made friends with the native peoples. That’s just another example of what we are taught to celebrate. Yet another historical tale to be queried.] To ease their guilt and fear, campaigns had to be waged in order that the general public thought it properly justified to believe the worst about black people. Word of mouth, media, historical recordings had to align with their narrative, in order that it continued and internalized through public education, and standardized textbooks.The target audience were children, who grew to believe it all. This was the birth of immaculate perceptions.
Deeper than implicit bias, it is our immaculate perceptions that must be fought like our lives depend upon it–because they do[George Floyd and too many others.]. Everyone must endeavor to be conscious and consistent critical thinkers about the historical facts that were internalized, still believe and also teach. There need be a willingness to accept that which characterizes past practices. We must be taught and teach to always ask essential questions: WHY? WHO? WHAT? WHEN? HOW? and WHERE WERE THE OTHERS?
Teach children to ask ‘right questions’. Like math and science, historical references, theories and stated truths must be fact- checked, evidence-based and rest in pure-logic. No longer must children be taught to sit down, shut up and take notes like robots. They are to be actively engaged in their learning-in every subject. People skills develop through the written words from which we teach. Life concepts, constructs and values are inherently found in the literature we introduce and the conversations we have with students in the classroom.
That is true quality education. When teaching of the past atrocities against black people, they don’t need to be re-enacted. It can be verbal descriptions and morally-based, like “What would you do? How would you feel? Was that right or wrong? Why do you think they did that? DO NOT subject children to that form of role play. It will be trauma-inducing, AND depending upon age and developmental level, concepts may not be processed without causing harm. Be more creative and relevant, but be truthful.
A SOLUTION-FOCUSED APPROACH
White fragility must be confronted with strength of character and self-confidence AND a never-ending search for knowledge. As information is acquired and new insights emerge, understand that regarding the actions in the past, you were not there. We cannot control or change the truth of the past; we can only control what we do with that knowledge today. Your wealth and influence will not change, nor will you be hated. The past is there to learn from and about.
P.S.: The history referenced in this article represent truths that most of us were never taught in school or at home. It represents the side of life that has never been explored. Consider this: If given the opportunity to write history, would you not frame it in ways that make you look like the hero, rarely mention the other side, take credit for the accomplishments of others and frame them in a negative light when you do mention them in documenting your life? If not, then how are you so different from the past figures whose versions were printed?
To be authentic with your spoken declarations of anti-racist and non-biased mindset, be completely honest and think critically. I realize that this is challenging, but remember this as you fact-check the past: ” It wasn’t me, it wasn’t you. It was them.”
The past was then, and tomorrow depends on us and what we do today. Stop to reflect on the true definition of ‘democracy’. Reconciling ourselves with race means to reconcile ourselves with the past. Then we can ask ourselves how far we have come, and understand how far we must go. When we do, tragedies such as the death of George Perry Floyd, will have then been prevented. Above all else, there aren’t any acceptable excuses, because we are all HUMAN BEINGS.