Not only is America incapable of admitting to its race problems. It has developed a whole new language of discussing race in a kindler gentler way so as not to offend those who would prefer not to think of themselves as racist. America used to at least recognize it had horrible history regarding race. That too is changing as history books in some cases refer to “immigrant labor” as opposed to slavery. Bill O’Reilly, an alleged historian refers to how “well-fed” the slaves were that built the White House. Slavery itself is being rewritten as a mere labor arrangement where the “workers” were provided free housing, food, and health-care. America is finding it harder to admit it even had a race problem.
For those willing to concede America once “had” a race problem. They consider it a thing of the past. Solved by the Emancipation Proclamation, or Brown vs The Board of Education, or this Civil Rights Act or that Voting Rights Bill. America has never solved its race problem or rid itself of systemic racism. It has only given it different names.Slavery was replaced by “The Black Codes”, which was replaced by “Jim Crow” which was replaced by redistricting and gerrymandering and voter suppression.
History meanwhile has ignored or forgotten the most heinous acts committed against people of color. We all know about “Custer’s Last Stand”.How many know about the “Devil’s Punch Bowl” in Natchez, MS where 20,000 Black men, women, and children died. Imprisoned by Union troops in a concentration camp after the Civil War ended. History doesn’t mention “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa, Oklahoma where a thriving community was attacked on the ground and from the air. Over 35 blocks of property were burned and destroyed. Over 300 Black citizens killed and 800 hospitalized. 10,000 Black people were left homeless. Over 6,000 were arrested for up to 8 days. Despite the carnage, the official death toll was listed as “39” by the Oklahoma Bureau of Vital Statistics.
Orange County, Florida including Orlando, was claimed to have suffered the “largest mass shooting in American history” at the Pulse Nightclub shooting with 49 innocent people killed. As horrible as that was, it wasn’t even the worst mass shooting in the County as hundreds of Black people were killed and the rest of the Black population driven out of Ocoee, FL when some tried to vote in the 1920 Presidential Election. Ocoee stayed all-white for over 40 years afterward. America omits the inconvenient mass shootings in Elaine, Arkansas or E. St. Louis, Missouri or Mountain Meadows, Utah where Mormon’s dressed as Indians and killed 140 unarmed men and women. This is the history America doesn’t teach you when the victims are of color. It has redefined mass shooting to exclude more than a couple shooters or apparently, race-motivated murder. It allows them to forget it had a race problem.
The problem that continues today stems from demographics. Those that wish to, “Make America Great Again” really mean to re-establish White control which is quickly fading. The reason they forcefully claim “Barack Obama is the worst President in history” is not based on empirical data. They ignore the fact he saved an economy that was hemorrhaging jobs when he took office. He saved the auto industry. He serves in grace despite the hate leveled against him. He established health care benefits for over 20 Million additional Americans. They conspired against him on his first day in office. For those who hate him, he has one inherent flaw. He is Black.
The secret to maintaining White control, even as White’s will soon be a minority in this country, is to control the vote. The tactics now closely resemble those used after reconstruction. Impose voter restrictions, enact poll taxes (although we now give them another name). Position polling places where it will be harder for some to vote than others. Provide limited access to minority voters hoping to dissuade them with long lines. America can deny the inherent racism in policies designed to disparately affect minorities; as long as we can claim it’s for another reason. We all know the almost non-existent voter fraud isn’t the real reason for these laws. What America can’t acknowledge is, that it’s all about race.
America has long not wanted to appear racist. Now I find that it no longer cares about keeping up the facade. Putting aside for a moment the racist background of Presidential candidate Donald J Trump, and his father Fred who was once arrested at a Klan rally. His Campaign CEO Steve Bannon, former head of Breitbart News, is proof that racism has gone mainstream. That he is racist is beyond dispute. His personal comments and those he approved of in the media outlet he controlled; showed his hatred of Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, Catholics, Women and more. When Hillary Clinton discussed the specifics in a nationally televised speech, surely America would say this was too much. A man with his background cannot stand. After a couple days of being a story, the storm faded as the media preferred to chase Trump’s evolving immigration policy and Hillary’s Emails. One Trump campaign manager was lambasted for an assault on a woman, another ousted because of his close ties to Putin. These apparently were terrible offenses. A racist heading up the Trump campaign, not a problem.
The list of things America won’t address because it can’t acknowledge its race problem is long. Unequal funding for schools. Disproportionate suspensions and expulsions of minority students. Voter suppression. Mass incarceration. Inequitable policing. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America, you have a race problem and it’s time you acknowledge it.
With regrets to Digital Underground and its song with the same title, the song is the same all over the world. We’re watching Britain adjust in both horror and glee as they realize what they’ve done, and make no mistake. They did it because of racism.
Oh they called it other things. They called it “Nativism”, “British Exceptionalism”, “Britain First”, “Nationalism” and the overreach of government. They were particularly upset by the EU’s unwillingness to let Britain arbitrarily write different immigration rules to exclude primarily African and West Indian emigre’s. The only thing remaining to be said (which some did say) was Make Britain White Again to make one feel right at home.
It would be easy as Americans who generally show little concern for or knowledge of the rest of the world, to think of racism as local. Some have declared racism actually over, and are steadily rewriting history to suggest it had never really been. The reality is much harsher. Racism is now, as prevalent as ever before, just sneakier. Slavery begat the Slave Codes which begat Jim Crow which begat Voter Suppression which begat Citizens United. Every attempt along the way to improve things with a Civil Rights Act or Voting Rights Act or Affirmative Action Program was later weakened or undone by the Congress, lower courts and often the Supreme Court which lets primarily older white men interpret the law of the land.
In Britain, the Brexit vote to leave the EU was almost all about immigration without regard to what else they say. Britain went from 7% minority to 14% in what seemed to it’s citizens to be less than a heartbeat. White nationalist’s voices grew louder and louder. Especially as minorities were no longer content to stay in their designated locations in major cities. These voices are not limited to Britain and the United States but are growing everywhere that once considered themselves white countries like France, Germany, Canada, Russia,Australia and more. Racism was the basis for Colonization which countries like France effectively continue, deriving great revenue by collecting alleged debt from their former colonies. Make no mistake that the “Nationalism” growing in the white world really means something else.
America you’re not alone, just perhaps a bit more sophisticated about it.” When your conservative leaders cry out, “American Exceptionalism”it’s racist. When they chant, “Build a Wall”… racist. “Make America Great Again”, you know what they’re saying. So now America, you can watch what happens when a country bites off a nose to spite its face. In November will you do the same?
Coming up on two months now and I have new observations:
- Still haven’t figured out a way to stop obsessing about the stats. I can instantly see how many people are viewing each post, whether they are exploring and reading other posts while visiting my blog, which ones connect and those that don’t. I suppose it could lead to my tailoring my posts to give the public what they want to read but instead it clarifies what I always suspected in that I pretty much write about what I feel like writing about which leads to the second point.
“Life, my ass, motherfucker! This is a business, and you ain’t too far gone to see that yet! I told you before, you’re not packin’ them in like you used to. No one digs your music but yourself.” Billy Sparks – Purple Rain
- I’m writing a particular thing that to this point almost nobody digs but me. It’s an online book, “The History of American (White) Exceptionalism” and I’m posting approximately one chapter a week, according to the stats, almost nobody is reading it. It’s long, it requires a lot of research, so far its about history which some people find boring. I’ve seen data about blog length and at what point readers lose interest, but I write on. I’ve learned so much about American history and the continuing narrative about how it was built literally on the backs of slave labor and indentured servants. While slavery officially ended after the Civil War, there has been something in its place ever since then to guarantee a perpetual lower class of minorities and poor whites to provide an economic advantage for the country and to enrich the already wealthy. Whether it was the Black Codes, Jim Crow or the current system of redistricting, gerrymandering and voter suppression. The system is rigged and people need to know. I will continue to write this until it’s conclusion in about 14 more chapters because I am learning so much. I’ve found that for every Civil Rights Act (of which there were many) or “Brown vs. The Board of Education” or Voting Rights Act, there has been a Supreme Court or Congress that whittled away all these rights until their impact was minimal. When I’m finished I’ll edit it and put it out in book form, even if self-published because I’m stubborn like that.
- People that think they’re smart, myself included, tend to think people will be swayed by their brilliance when what they’re looking for is a personal connection. I typically write about stuff and don’t always write about me hence the “Enigma” in the blog name. I’m working on that I promise. The things that have resonated the most were ones that were less facts and more feelings. I hear you.
- Send in the clowns. In some of my blog posts, I’m saying some fairly provocative things yet no one has disagreed… not once. On my Facebook page, I have trolls I can count on to liven up the discussion but they haven’t found their way to my blog. I encourage opposing views; it may sharpen my argument or I might even change my view. Test me in this!
That’s all for now. I’m thankful for those who’ve given tremendous amounts of support and encouragement.
World War 1
White Exceptionalism was not unique to America. During World War One, it was on full display throughout the world. It is impossible to understand the impact of the war on minorities in America without knowing the thought process of America and European countries in the rest of the world. First the world:
World War One pitted the Allies (Great Britain, France, Russia, Japan and the United States) against the Central Powers (Germany, the Ottoman Empire, and Austria-Hungary). This doesn’t include troops from Canada, South Africa, India, New Zealand, Australia and others. It also doesn’t show how European “colonies” were stripped of their resources and people to fight on both sides of the war. France for example, had a small population in comparison to Germany. It recruited over 200,000 people from its colonies to work in war industries and over 500,000 fought on its behalf along the Western Front wearing French Uniforms. France “recruited” soldiers from Madagascar, Indochina, and other West African colonies. More often recruitment meant “conscription” meaning France was able to take able-bodied men and force them to enlist in a war not their own. Between 1915 and 1916 out of 53,000 recruits from West Africa, only 7,000 were volunteers. When Britain recruited Indian troops, they only accepted the upper-level castes, propagating prejudice even as they selected those that would fight and die on their behalf.
On the other side, Germans tried to convince captured Muslim soldiers to resist their colonial masters. They were allied with the Ottoman Empire and the Sultan had asked all Muslims to fight Ottomans enemies. The “Half moon” concentration camp was designed to use propaganda efforts to sway Muslims. Their efforts mostly failed but they made a serious effort. It may have influenced in part the failure of the Ottomans to agree to the post-war accords and they continued fighting until they gained their own independence in 1923 as the state of Turkey. The service of Africans, Indians, Arabs and Polynesians in the war could be described as serving the needs of Europeans and Americans when needed. And then neglected after the war was won. In France and England, the foreign workers recruited to those countries to aid in fighting the war were now seen as competition for scarce jobs. Where once welcomed they were discriminated against and forced into substandard housing areas. Ghettos were common in Europe long before America created theirs.
America changed greatly as a result of World War One. In civilian life, a shortage of white males created opportunities for women in factories and when they weren’t enough, the industrial north recruited Southern blacks to work in factories as well. This triggered the great migration which changed the landscape of the nation. Southern blacks were suffering the oppression of Jim Crow and having little or no ability to vote to make legal change. Comparing the job opportunities in the North and West to their problems in the South compounded with a boll weevil infestation destroying Southern crops made leaving the obvious choice for many. Black and Hispanic women were still relegated to primarily domestic work. Men however, were given access to higher paying jobs that transformed families and lives. Progress was dictated by need and not enlightenment.
On the battlefield, in April 1917, President Wilson stated, “The world must be made safe for democracy,” framing the war effort as a crusade to secure the rights of democracy and self-determination on a global scale.
This pronouncement was met different ways in the black community. Many saw an opportunity to bring about true democracy in the US. The black press challenged America to achieve true equality at home as they fought for freedom from oppression abroad. Many black Americans saw their chance to demonstrate patriotism in the hopes it would be rewarded after the war. Others were either apathetic and had no fervor for a war they perceived to be not their own. Some like A. Phillip Randolph vocally opposed the war and encouraged blacks to resist which got them monitored by the Federal government.
Throughout the war, most blacks were relegated to segregated units. Most served in behind the lines support efforts but several units did serve at the front lines including the 369th Infantry Regiment known as “Harlem’s Hellfighters” which had 171 members receive the Legion of Merit. Corporal Freddie Stowers of the 371st Infantry Regiment was nominated for the Medal of Honor for bravery while being killed in action but his recommendation was “lost” only to be finally approved 73 years after he was killed.
When the war ended and the troops returned home the promises made to the black soldiers went mostly unfulfilled. In Russia, their equivalent of organized labor staged a revolution which American leaders greatly feared would spread. Competition for jobs not that the white men were home contributed to race riots across the country along with the growing resistance to Jim Crow by those who had fought a war to achieve freedoms abroad they didn’t find when returning home. Military service had exposed hundreds of thousands of black soldiers, even while serving in segregated units, to more accepting cultures than the place they called home.
Much change was initiated as a result of America’s participation in World War One. For all the differences in the country. The constant was that was minorities in America would be used and given opportunity when needed, and when the need was diminished so were their rights.
“American Imperialism internationally is the same thing as White Privilege domestically. Many lawmakers know their ability to remain in office is based upon their support of white policies. This is how we get the Tea Party. This is how we get Trump. “
“And now that the U.S. has embarked in imperial enterprises, … the Republican Party … is learning every day by valuable experiences that there are vast differences in political capacity between the races, and that it is the white man’s mission, his duty and his right, to hold the reins of political power in his own hands for the civilization of the world and the welfare of mankind.” John Burgess
“No greater calamity could now befall the United States than to have the Pacific slope fill up with a Mongolian population.” President Theodore Roosevelt
“Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed. The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil. … We must therefore bear the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely that the weaker and inferior members of society do not marry so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage, though this is more to be hoped for than expected.” Charles Darwin
The origins of American Imperialism can be found in multiple places. Interestingly, the word Imperialism was rarely raised when “Americans” marched west across the North American continent as part of Manifest Destiny. Imperialism didn’t apply until we went further west into Hawaii and the Philippines. The term generally had a negative connotation when applied to non-white nations. When Japan attacked Russia it was considered a good thing and American troops extended into the Philippines purportedly to support Japan but also to make sure they didn’t venture into China. One might think America would have supported Russia but because they had mixed with the Mongolians they were no longer pure enough to command white support. Also of concern was the victory of Lenin and the Bolsheviks in Russia which set a horrible example that there was another alternative to Capitalism and foreshadowed the possibilities that workers might gain greater control at the economic expense of the business class that would see their profits reduce. It could very well be that the fear of Communism has less to do with ideology than profitability.
In addition to the support of Capitalism, there was another philosophy that gave support to the idea that America could use its power and influence wherever it liked which was, “Social Darwinism”. This belief was not unique to America, it was unique to white nations including Britain and Western Europe that believed that evolution and natural selection had bestowed upon white people the superior capacity to lead and reason. Those with the greater capacity should see their power increase while the rest should see theirs decrease. In simpler terms. White peoples could and should do whatever they like because… white.
It is this reasoning that would allow for the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan because it would be for the greater good of white people and send a message to Russia at the same time. It is that logic that would see the West built up by the Mexicans and Chinese while paying them wages they could barely exist on under slave-like conditions. It is that type of thought that justifies voter restrictions designed to limit the voting strength of those who didn’t have the capacity to use it correctly anyway. It is why race-based redistricting and gerrymandering and even the Electoral College as opposed to the popular vote is the law of our land.
American Imperialism internationally is the same thing as White Privilege domestically. Many lawmakers know their ability to remain in office is based upon their support of white policies. This is how we get the Tea Party. This is how we get Trump. The alleged impartial arbiter is the court which overall is just as white and judge’s appointments on the Federal and Supreme Court levels depend on confirmation in the almost all-white Senate that has done a fine job of ensuring candidates hold the proper views. The whole system is designed and maintained to support that which I now call White Exceptionalism, but has existed under other names since the nation’s founding.
” A movie was made about the destruction of Rosewood, FL. No movie has yet been made about the bombing, machine gun fire, and air attacks that destroyed “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa, OK. 10,000 black people left homeless. 35 blocks destroyed by fire, 1,256 residences destroyed. Hundreds murdered and dumped into mass graves and as usual… no justice.”
The Great Migration
“Our Negro problem, therefore, is not of the Negro’s making. No group in our population is less responsible for its existence. But every group is responsible for its continuance…. Both races need to understand that their rights and duties are mutual and equal and their interests in the common good are idential…. There is no help or healing in apparaising past responsibilities or in present apportioning of praise or blame. The past is of value only as it aids in understanding the present; and an understanding of the facts of the problem–a magnanimous understanding by both races–is the first step toward its solution.”
― Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration
After the Civil War ended, slaves were freed in several states with literally nowhere to go. While there were institutions like the Freedmen’s Bureau and various Christian groups that attempted to help the newly freed, unemployed, poor former slaves with little inkling of how to make a fresh start. The newly implement “Black Codes” required that blacks be contractually employed at substandard wages, not congregate except for religious purposes without white people present, not vote, not own land in most cases and in most cases still denied a good education. Many followed the call to head North, or West in search of better opportunities. It was only later that they discovered that free blacks were as unwelcome elsewhere in America as they were at home. As always it was an economic need that caused change, in this case, World War One.
Blacks have served in some capacity in all America’s wars including on both sides in the Revolutionary War, the Indian Wars, and the Civil War. In all cases, their service was related to shortages and need as they were hardly welcome members of any force. Although there were over 300,000 black volunteers that served in World War One. Most blacks did not serve and as a result of shortages of white males in Northern industrial cities. Blacks were for the first time actively recruited to move North and receive wages often three times or more than their wages in the South. Often transportation costs were paid and the choice didn’t seem hard whether to stay under purposely slave-like conditions or go to what not long ago had been referred to as “the promised land”.
Between 1915 and 1960 between five and six million blacks moved out of the South to the North and West. The North represented a more predictable opportunity, the West the promise of more freedom and land in some cases. There were black sections within large Northern cities where there were some of the indicators of self-government although that claim would be too strong. Black churches and black schools provided the next generation of black leaders. Black cities sprung up in Kansas, New York, Oklahoma, and elsewhere. Some flourished for a time until they were no longer permitted to do so.
Not only did the great migration change forever the landscape of Northern cities. The South lost millions of low paid workers not easily replaced. The South experienced higher wages and therefore lower profit margins and the South which once was the engine of the U.S. economy, was solidly entrenched in the North’s rear. In the West, white and black migrants left Arkansas and Oklahoma for the fields of California. Some Mexicans came north to work the fields to work some of what had once been Mexico but were met with the same fear and resistance then that they are today. It was World War Two that created a shortage of white males and an additional need for laborers. Over four million Mexican migrants were invited to the U.S. under the Bracero Program with the hopes they would go home after the crops were harvested. As you might imagine, many of the Mexican migrant workers had children while in America who were automatically American citizens with no obligation to go with their families to Mexico. Of course, they like other migrant workers and minorities in general, had unequal access to education, health care, were paid poor wages and couldn’t vote.
Migration did not mean acceptance. I don’t know what period Donald Trump has in mind when he says, “Make America Great Again” but there was almost no time in our whole history without race riots. That term is somewhat misleading as one might think it meant racial minorities rising up against their local communities. It more likely meant their communities turning on them. Go to any major city and the dividing line between the black and white sections of town were railroad tracks. This is not a coincidence, but by design so that the army or National Guard could have easy access to the community to quickly blockade the black sections and secondarily protect white property.
If you look at the locations of race riots since the Civil War, it shouldn’t be surprising that they migrated North as well. The first riots even before the war were in Detroit and New York as white people took out their resentment on free black men in retaliation for the implementation of the draft of white men in preparation for the Civil War. After war’s end violence was seen first in Southern cities like Memphis, New Orleans and Pulaski, TN where the KKK was founded. Called riots by those who wrote the history, they were attacks on black citizens for sometimes desiring the right to vote and sometimes protesting the murder of unarmed black citizens. Black lives didn’t matter then either.
Besides the “riots” in larger cities. There were events like the Opelousas Massacre where a dozen blacks in Opelousas, LA tried to leave the Republican Party and become Democrats. It was the Democrats and the Knights of the White Camellia met black protesters with gunfire (blacks were not allowed to own guns). Republicans estimated the number of blacks killed at between 200-300 while Democrats insist it was “only” 25-35. There was general agreement that between 30-50 white people were killed. An investigation by the Freedmen’s Bureau placed the numbed of black people killed at 5.
In 1876, almost the entire state of South Carolina was involved in unrest related to efforts of the Democratic Party to keep blacks from voting. What they couldn’t accomplish through lynching and fear tactics they accomplished by outright fraud. To be fair, race-based attacks were not limited to attacks on black people but also included the Chinese, Irish, and Greek. By naming some of the “race riots” I do a disservice by not mentioning the literally hundreds of race-based mass murders not mentioned, not even considering individual lynching.
After the great migration, riots moved to Philadelphia and Houston and E. St Louis. A movie was made about the destruction of Rosewood, FL. No movie has yet been made about the bombing, machine gun fire, and air attacks that destroyed “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa, OK. 10,000 black people left homeless. 35 blocks destroyed by fire, 1,256 residences destroyed. Hundreds murdered and dumped into mass graves and as usual… no justice.
Harlem, Detroit, Harlem again. All these before the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voter Rights Act of 1965, much of which has been undone by the Roberts Court. Going North and West was not the path to the promised land but the realization that for black people in America. Life would be no crystal stair.
Note: A “Black Wall Street” movie is now in production, written and directed by Dennis Delemar. Expected to be released in 2018