SHAME ON A COUNTRY: THE UNFINISHED LEGACY OF AMERICA’S SLAVERY CONTINUES IN 2016, IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!
Dr. Joyce Watford and Norris Shelton, Educators and Descendants of American Slaves
August 29, 2016
PART III: The Unfinished Legacy of America’s Slavery
“Here, then, was the way to produce a perfect slave: accustom him to rigid discipline,demand from him unconditional submission, impress upon him his innate inferiority,develop in him a paralyzing fear of white men, train him to adopt the master‘s code ofgood behavior, and instill in him a sense of complete dependence.”Stampp, K.M. (1956). The peculiar institution: Slavery in the antebellum south.
This is the third article in a series about the unfinished legacy of America’s Slavery. The previous articles have addressed the hidden and/or misidentity of America’s Slaves and their descendants, the U.S. Constitution, and the subsequent disfranchisement of America’s Slaves and their descendants. The present article overlaps the previous articles, addressing the Constitution’s careful intent not to mention America’s Slaves and their descendants by their specific, unique names and to continue to visit upon them “ a status of servitude, race caste, poverty, and disillusionment,” made possible because the Constitution failed to give clear, specific documentation to this unique race of people who were America’s Slaves and their descendants, whose free labor solely contributed to the wealth, prosperity, and power underpinning the country’s status even in the world today, without which it could have achieved, except from its Slave Industry. Yet, ironically, the Descendants of America’s Slaves today (as with their Slave ancestors) still make up the largest impoverished, disfranchised group in the country.
The intent of this article and the previous ones is not to deny or overlook the token progress some Descendants of America’s Slaves have made over time. However, the progress cannot be said of the collective group, as a whole. We are not beyond reach of the historical facts which inform us that the business of slavery is still an unfinished business and an unfinished legacy. One has only to go back and look at the supreme governing document of the land, the Constitution of the United States, to realize that not much in the lives of the Descendants of American Slaves has changed since the time of their American Slave ancestors.
The Constitution of the United States alluded to slavery only twice: in Article 1:2.3, and in the 13th Amendment, after the Civil War! The Constitution was conceived in favor of slavery. This most important document of the country tried to hide the facts in language that covered up the truth of white supremacy. Racism and bigotry literally white-washed the reality of slavery, when we consider how the Constitution put forth false ideas about a “colorblind, race-less nation that was committed to fairness and equality of all men,”—thus it depicted, in reality, a nation that did not and has not ever existed!
Contrary to popular belief, even during the Reconstruction Era, American Slaves and Descendants of American Slaves still were not favored in the national documents that would guide the course of the country. Until the Reconstruction Amendments were adopted (the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments) from 1865 to 1870, the five years after the Civil War, the Constitution did not abolish slavery nor did it give citizenship and voting rights to former Slaves. They did not include any specific prohibitions of discrimination based on race (or sex/gender, for that matter). Furthermore, the collective group of America’s Slaves or Descendants of America’s Slaves were never mentioned specifically but remained hidden and/or lumped in, generally, with all other persons whose history and life circumstances differed strikingly from the collective group of Slaves and their descendants. And that has been the rule of thumb or pattern practiced against the collective group of America’s Slaves and their descendants to this day, in 21st Century, United States of America. The unfinished legacy of America’s Slavery is still sealed around an undocumented people, left out and left behind, intentionally misidentified, by the framers of our government (and now by their descendants today) who continue to shape the government of our country.
American Slaves were forced to endure colossal human violations and abuses, while making America the economic force that it is today— an accomplished nation, with world power and prosperity. In contrast to its greatness, though, America is also a country with deep-seated racial problems that have been simmering far too long and are now on the brink of boiling out of control. Disruptive warning signs are loud and clear that the American Slave culture is on the verge of erupting. Responsible, proactive leadership must realize that the negative after-effects of American Slavery—which are crime, violence, and social unrest and upheavals among Descendants of American Slaves—are growing at the same pace as the positive after-effects of American Slavery—which are privileged circumstances, affluence, and prosperity for whites and immigrants.
The economic disparities between cultures is glaring, but whites (as well as blacks!) in positions to bridge the gaps seem unconcerned or unaware of how the unfinished legacy of America’s Slavery affects us all. Social and racial disparities and instabilities loom large on the Economic Battlefield, where all conflicts originate and end. White apathy (and blackapathy also!), regarding American Slavery, will not go unchallenged in this century, because the result would be a huge, national mistake, in hindsight, which could have been avoided with foresight and proactive jurisprudence today. One does not have to be comatose to know (and understand) that the business of American Slavery has not ended and has been kept in limbo—hanging in the balance—far too long! American Slaves and their descendants suffered through terroristic, genocidal, sub-human treatments and conditions to build up the New World and develop a profitable Slave Industry, sustained solely by free slave labor, for centuries, from which great wealth emerged to enable the founding fathers of this great country to rise up and claim their Independence from their Mother Country, in the shortest time ever in the history of the world. Then, about a hundred years later, America’s Slaves and their descendants kept the new nation from splitting into two nations, during the Civil War, after which no American conflict, at home or abroad, has been fought or won without the assistance/enlistment of American Slaves and their descendants. Furthermore, no other group in the history of our country shares the unique history of America’s Slaves and their descendants, bred and born for America’s wealth and prosperity, provided by the nation’s first industry—known world-wide as America’s/American Slave Industry. What, then, has persisted in our country to keep this unique race of Americans oppressed, terrorized, unappreciated, undocumented, disfranchised, and economically deprived, when so much of what our country has (and is recognized for) is owed to the exploitation of free labor which laid the foundation for the country’s wealth and power that American Slaves and their descendants provided?
When the American people and their leaders bury their heads in the sand and refuse to acknowledge that racial discrimination compromises the lives of a unique race of people who really do still exist in our country today and who are deprived of rights and opportunities whites take for granted and/or believe that they alone are entitled to, the American people and their leaders behave with imprudence in the face of escalating racial and social unrest, growing from institutional racism and white supremacy. Today, racial and structural discrimination still run amok in black neighborhoods, which also includes inner-cities that sprang up, concomitant with the migration of the slaves and their descendants from Southern plantations to industrial regions of the country, in search of freedom and economic opportunities. High poverty and crime, stemming from American Slavery, continue to define places where the Descendants of America’s Slaves reside. Economic disparities between where whites and blacks reside are stark and revealing. Yet, our leaders and the American people ignore these differences in black and white communities.
Lack of concern from our leaders and the American people, in general, create a lack (or scarcity) of economic opportunities in black neighborhoods, unlike what we find in neighborhoods of the dominant white group. This contrast in economic opportunities between the two groups causes economic desires in black neighborhoods to burn out of control. Economic neglect is a form of violence that begets violence in a land of economic and material abundance and prosperity, juxtaposed against a place where only plenty of poverty and neglect abounds. If our leaders do not know anything else, they must know this truth; and they must also know that the Economic Battlefield is a real place for all American citizens, but especially for Descendants of American Slaves, whose experiences in their birthplace have fallen short of a commitment to truth, fairness, reality, equality, and justice—the vital ingredients necessary to rectify, not justify, the inequalities on the Economic Battlefield that have been levied against a race of people—not because of their inborn character—but because of their imposed culture (slavery) and skin color.
Although the metal chains that held America’s Slaves and their descendants captive, during legal slavery, were removed, the mental chains of American Slave culture (institutional racism and white supremacy) still hangs heavily around the necks of the American people and our government. Slave culture and/or slave mentality of both the oppressed and the oppressor continues to stifle the economic progress of Descendants of America’s Slaves. However, the good news is that we can reverse the historic, systemic effects of slave culture (institutional racism and white supremacy) as they play out in the lives of all of us. Reversing the devastating effects of historic, systemic racism and white supremacy which stifles economic progress for Descendants of America’s Slaves is not only an important, prudent step in creating a culture of equality for all, but it also represents a humane and proactive step in the right direction for taking responsible leadership to do something we know that we can do, without “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” We all can have an equal share of the economic pie, without fueling the dangerous consequences that often grow and erupt, all too frequently, in the lives and communities of Descendants of American Slaves, but which also spill over into the lives of all of us, affecting us all, not only here at home but also worldwide. Because the world has changed drastically, we are more connected today than ever before, in the history of the world. What happens here at home also influences what happens abroad, and vice versa.
Because time is on the wings and tumultuous change is in the air—for the sake of us all—we must act magnanimously and expeditiously to avoid more serious interruptions and disruptions to all of our lives. If we choose to continue to go down the road of denying and delaying justice for America’s first and truly original off-spring—America’s Slaves and Descendants of American Slaves—we do so at the behest of grave consequences for all of us. The power, wealth, and greatness of our country exist today because of the free labor America’s Slaves and descendants provided for over four hundred years—even longer than we have been a nation! Addressing the unfinished business and/or legacy of America’s Slavery is not only prominent but also paramount. To delay and/or ignore it, as in the past, is no longer an option; for the unfinished legacy of America’s Slavery is inevitable. Its completion will be—must be—set and finalized only when the Slaves and their descendants can have their full, long overdue, American birthright bestowed upon them, with rightful ownership to all the fruits that it may bear, forever (“Fruits” is a metaphor for all the rights, perks, privileges, entitlements, and opportunities that white Americans have. We, Descendants of America’s Slaves, only want, for ourselves, what the rest of you, with white skin, want and have!).