With the continual unrest across the country and the prospects that in some places it will not end soon, many may be asking themselves, “How did things get to be like this? When did our country become so racist, so divided?” I have an unfortunate answer for those who would be asking. It has always been this way.
The division of authority and power between black and white Americans goes back to the beginnings of the colonies. In 1565 the Spanish explorer who founded St. Augustine Florida brought African slaves with him. African slaves were brought to the British colonies by 1619. Massachusetts legalized slavery in 1641. Companies were set up to deal with the slave trade as if the people brought here were just commodities.
Landing of Negroes at Jamestown from a Dutch Man-of-war, 1619. In this image, the Dutch sailors, who have captured slaves from a Spanish ship, are negotiating a trade with the Jamestown settlers for food. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
In 1705 the Virginia Slave codes stated that anyone brought in to the land who was non-Christian could be a slave. Apparently, they thought this included Native Americans. Well, there is a whole host of regrettable “milestones” along the bumpy road to becoming a nation.
It’s no secret that the authors of the Constitution struggled with the idea of slavery. The Southern colonies were much more dependent on the free labor to work under the hot sun. Their booming agricultural economy relied on the slaves they had bought. Rather than have no country, the compromise was to allow this system of racism and slavery, mostly in the South. When slavery was put to an end by a horrific civil war, the racism did not end. In fact, in many places, it has not ended yet.
With a war ripping America apart in the 19th Century, you would think things would change by the 20th Century. Unfortunately, the story of the first 65 years of the 20th Century is one filled with white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Klu Klux Klan. They terrorized black citizens and any white person who would dare to stand up for them. Whipping and lynching were a way of life in some communities. By the way, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky seems to be blocking an anti-lynching bill in 2020. You read that correctly. 2020!
All the racism and discrimination in schools and housing and employment were put to an end, on paper anyway, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed by President Lyndon Johnson. It did not, however, put an end to the racism taught in the home and in certain school districts across the land. With no national standard and decisions on curriculum made in every community, school boards were free to incorporate whatever version of history and sometimes religion that they approved. Even some local pastors perpetuated the myth that some people are superior to others. You still hear it today.
When children hear hate and lies as they grow up, in the home, in school, and in church, these lessons become the beliefs that they cling to in adulthood. Racism is taught. It is the only way people will grow up to be such haters. It is passed down through the generations.
Many police departments, big and small, have officers who believe they must keep “those people” in line. At one time that meant black, but with racism spewed by many of our national politicians, it could also mean immigrants, non-Christian religions, gay, or any other “non-conforming” groups.
Those who do not see it, do not care to see it. It is an ugly part of our history some would like to hide away, but like the Nazi atrocities of World War II, we can not hide what has been going on, nor should we ever forget.
When there have been protests and riots in the past, they usually die down after a few days, but this time they continue, as a nation weary from a pandemic and unemployment looks on. One thing that keeps the people fired up is the childish and hateful tweets of the orange one in Washington. His tear gassing of protestors to have a picture taken of himself in front of a church holding a Bible, could not have been more ridiculous. Does anyone think he has ever read it? Any of it?
In a scary development reminiscent of a sad time in the 20th Century, Attorney General Barr deployed a special detail of police in black shirts, without any identification, to patrol the area around the White House. If you can not identify them in their helmets and dark glasses and no uniforms, are they free to commit crimes on behalf of the WH?
Some people ask, how can anyone follow Trump? Don’t they see what kind of person he is? I even wondered that here in “What We Don’t Understand.” Some people even think of his followers as some sort of cult, and perhaps some of them are. But here’s the thing. They are him. They are just like him. They grew up with racism in their hearts and they finally have a leader that will allow them to express it. It’s not that they don’t see it. They do see and they are pleased. The more he tweets and lies to them, the greater he is in their racist eyes.
Those who were taught racism will be hard to win over, but perhaps we can at least silence them again. If the orange one is to return for another term, however, …
Sources: “Bill Barr Deploys His Own Army Of Federal Correctional Officers,” by Emily Goodwin, Daily Mail, dailymail.co.uk June 4, 2020.
“Civil Rights Act (1964),” ourdocuments.gov
“Slavery in the United States,” en.wikipedia.org
See Also: “What We Don’t Understand,” SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com May 12, 2019.
“Black Like Me,” SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com June 5, 2020.