From The American Revolution To The Negro American Revolution
When Senator Bernie Sanders told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on June 10 that his presidential campaign was launching a political revolution, I took notice. It was the first time since Dr. Martin Luther King’s leadership during the tumultuous 1960s that I had heard any influential voice on a national stage speak sincerely about a societal revolution. Bernie said:
“What this campaign is about is if you want real change we need a political revolution. What does that mean? It means we’re going to have to take on Wall Street and the insurance companies and the drug companies and the fossil fuel industry and the military industrial complex and the prison industrial complex.
“At the end of the day, to understand why we are where we are with the middle class shrinking, with 40 million living in poverty, we have to understand the political reality of America and the power structure of America.”
I agree with Senator Sanders’ point that we must understand the political reality of America. That’s quite a challenge given the broad ignorance of the citizenry about the history and present-day construct of the political landscape. Still, I remain optimistic about the range of ideas introduced by the Democratic presidential candidates that start to address some of the most intractable problems that have divided America into two segregated societies since the Reconstruction Era following the Civil War. And if the candidates are sincere, my hope is they will not shrink away from the ideas they proposed when their campaigns close.
Candidates should remember that the president of the United States is not the only political or influential power that can move the needle of progress toward a more equitable and inclusive America. History shows that some measurable progress has actually occurred at the local, regional and state levels (albeit fraught with legislative and economic setbacks) despite opposition from the highest office in the land. Leading scholars and activists have even called for an Economic Bill of Rights for the 21st century.
ADDRESSING SEGREGATION AND WHITE SUPREMACY
The 2020 presidential election represents a critical juncture in American history. The nation is racing toward a monumental racial demographic shift in the coming decades, and by mid-century the collective minority populations will become the majority.
Currently, a collective force of two dozen diverse Democratic voices are standing on America’s biggest stage and expressing visionary hope for progress toward building an Inclusive America. And not since the 1960 presidential election, when John F. Kennedy proclaimed he would eliminate housing discrimination “with a stroke of a pen,” and Fannie Lou Hamer’s Democratic Freedom Party in 1964 influenced a national political party to address its own segregationist policies and practices, have we witnessed so much of a focus in a presidential campaign on issues of segregation
The 2020 candidates have introduced myriad ideas for redesigning, reshaping and reconstructing a segregationist society into a 21st century landscape that would create equitable access to opportunities and pathways to prosperity for all. These ideas, and others to come, must move forward regardless of who is in the White House and congressional seats of power. My hope is for sincerity and commitment to moving these ideas forward, and welcoming more.
Ideally, these ideas would be collected by an institute or collaboration of organizations and cultivated (with participating leadership from the candidates) into real strategies and fully funded plans that are piloted in target cities willing to experiment with progressive policies.
CITY & STATE LEADERSHIP
Cities are the most promising areas of real progress, given each is independent from the pendulum swings of national politics and free to pilot new ideas and implement them. The states also have power to enact policies that can improve the lives of millions while dismantling inherited segregationist infrastructure.
Housing is a huge issue because it stands at the intersections of land use policies, community segregation, school segregation, economic empowerment, access to capital and building generational wealth. It doesn’t require being POTUS to disrupt longstanding segregationist policies and practices at the local and regional levels.
So what’s preventing every city in the United States from dismantling systemic segregationist policies and practices in land use and real estate inherited from the 20th century? The current President of the United States was learning the real estate industry from his father at the same time Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was risking his life protesting discriminatory policies and practices … for which Donald and Fred Trump were notorious in New York City.
As president, Trump has failed to address the ever-present institutionalized racism in real estate, mortgage and banking industries. These are areas of purported expertise in the Trump family. Perhaps media will highlight this issue and call for the president to prioritize dismantling segregationist policies in housing across the nation?
Meanwhile, state and local leaders aren’t waiting on an executive order or congressional act. Progressive steps are occurring in pockets of America.
One example is the state of Oregon. Governor Kate Brown is set to sign legislation that will redesign land use policy that restricted development of multifamily units in areas designated for single family home lots. Land use policies across the country have long been used to form segregated communities around socioeconomic and racial status that benefited white families by designing land development just for single family homes.
The FHA has a long sordid history of racial discrimination in home loans, thereby ensuring white middle-class families would have priority access to single family homes. Oregon is addressing that issue. City Observatory offers insight:
“First, a bit of history. Oregon adopted comprehensive state-regulated land use planning in 1973. The core elements of the system are a series of statewide land use goals and a supporting infrastructure of regulations that govern and limit the discretion of city and county planning officials.
“State laws and regulations limit local government’s ability both to allow development and to prohibit it. Most famously, Oregon has drawn urban growth boundaries (UGB) around all of its cities, spelling out which places are off limits for urban scale development.
“Credit for political leadership in getting this bill passed goes squarely to Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, who made the bill a personal priority this session. The definitive telling of the political and policy story behind HB 2001 comes from Sightline Institute’s Michael Andersen. Sightline’s Andersen and Madeline Kovacs (founder of Portland for Everyone) have been key figures in building the case for addressing missing middle housing in Oregon.
“Andersen and Kovacs have carefully argued that the objective is not to ban single family homes, but to legalize two- to four-family housing. They’ve cleverly, and accurately, embedded that point in observations that these housing types were long allowed nearly everywhere, and that neighborhoods that have this diverse inheritance of housing are among the state’s most desirable.
“For four decades, the Oregon system has precluded local governments from playing “beggar thy neighbor” in addressing regional housing demand. Every city in the Portland area has to shoulder a share of the responsibility for allowing for new housing construction. It’s one of the reasons that Portland has the highest level of economic integration of any large metropolitan area in the nation: it’s effectively impossible for local jurisdictions to use land use restrictions to preclude a range of housing types. With this system in place, re-legalizing missing middle housing types isn’t so much a revolutionary step as it is an evolutionary one.”
Oregon’s focus on the redesign of land use policies and housing could potentially be a step in the direction of building racial equity into its economically integrated neighborhoods.
These kinds of multicultural and economically diverse communities could undercut the power wielded by some white parents in cities across America who oppose integrating their community schools, many of which still defy the 1954 landmark Supreme Court ruling Brown v Board of Education to desegregate “with all deliberate speed.”
STUBBORN OPPOSITION OF WHITE SUPREMACY
Let’s be honest. When we think of white supremacists, we seldom think of land use policymakers, economic planners, mortgage brokers, real estate agents, bankers, teachers, preachers, journalists and other people around us who live their lives without thinking much about redlining, busing, school segregation, denial of loans, generational poverty, police brutality and other systemic issues born out of the robotic activities of white middle-class America that support “sinful” policies of a society established on a foundation of “evil.”
Let’s be clear. The white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville in protest over the removal of racist monuments are not the same people in positions of power who established widespread segregationist policies and practices that protect white supremacy and oppress nonwhite peoples.
The marchers are visible, angry and openly honest about their desire to preserve white power and supremacy across the United States. The people in seats of power and influence who subscribe to the same ideology are frequently dishonest, disingenuous and untrustworthy to hold office in a multicultural society.
Ironically, average middle-class white families who offer friendly smiles, “love Jesus,” and enjoy the benefits of living in racially segregated communities while sending their kids to racially segregated schools, are likely supporting the same status quo conservative policies as the avowed white supremacist violent extremist. This is why the son of a klansman POTUS who openly expresses racist views and hostile attitudes toward nonwhites is supported by a solid majority of white Christian conservative voters.
The belief that white supremacy applies solely to those sadly misled individuals and groups who express their opposition to the empowerment of nonwhites through hateful rhetoric and violence conveniently overlooks the broad spectrum of nonviolent white peoples, even many evangelical Christians, whose beliefs align with the ideology of white supremacy.
The broad spectrum of white supremacy ranges from hate-filled violentwhite extremists to hate-filled nonviolent well-educated highly influential policymakers in both public and private sectors. In between there are tens of millions of average nondescript white Americans who support white supremacist policies and ideals without fully understanding their role in sustaining an infrastructure against which Native peoples fought 278 battles over nearly 300 years and black Americans have risen up against in nonviolent protests repeatedly for generations spanning more than 150 years.
WHITE vs WHITE POLITICAL IDEOLOGY
Also standing in opposition to the large landscape of nonviolent white supremacists are other nonviolent white Americans whose beliefs in the development of a multicultural society clash with their fellow white Christians.
This embattled political landscape of white Christian progressive ideology vs white Christian conservative ideology continued in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War and long after the dead were buried and the lives of survivors expired decades later. This ideological battle continues today across America’s political, economic, social and religious landscapes.
AMERICA’S KING PEACEMAKER
One side of this ideological war seeks to advance a nation (originally established as a whites-only citizenry) into a multicultural multi-ethnic America that represents the “Beloved Community” that Dr. King dreamed of and wrote about in his book, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”
The other side seeks to “maintain the status quo” of white supremacy, which King addressed in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. It seeks to undermine progressive measures that empower nonwhites, which is perceived as a dilution of white power and supremacy.
In King’s 1967 speech in Atlanta, GA, “Where Do We Go From Here,” he addressed the small steps of progress made by the collective efforts of white progressives and black activists, while cautioning that the journey was only just beginning. Here’s an excerpt:
“Ten years ago, Negroes seemed almost invisible to the larger society, and the facts of their harsh lives were unknown to the majority of the nation. But today, civil rights is a dominating issue in every state, crowding the pages of the press and the daily conversation of white Americans.
“In this decade of change, the Negro stood up and confronted his oppressor. He faced the bullies and the guns, and the dogs and the tear gas. He put himself squarely before the vicious mobs and moved with strength and dignity toward them and decisively defeated them. (Yes) And the courage with which he confronted enraged mobs dissolved the stereotype of the grinning, submissive Uncle Tom. (Yes) He came out of his struggle integrated only slightly in the external society, but powerfully integrated within. This was a victory that had to precede all other gains.
“In short, over the last ten years the Negro decided to straighten his back up (Yes), realizing that a man cannot ride your back unless it is bent. (Yes, That’s right) We made our government write new laws to alter some of the cruelest injustices that affected us. We made an indifferent and unconcerned nation rise from lethargy and subpoenaed its conscience to appear before the judgment seat of morality on the whole question of civil rights. We gained manhood in the nation that had always called us “boy.”
“But in spite of a decade of significant progress, the problem is far from solved. The deep rumbling of discontent in our cities is indicative of the fact that the plant of freedom has grown only a bud and not yet a flower.”
STATES AND CITIES ADDRESS SEGREGATION
Progress is still being made, albeit excruciatingly slow. Today, 51 years after America lost the leadership of its iconic King, the leadership of the state of Oregon, which was initially established as a “white Utopia” is inspiring.
The decision to discontinue the antiquated policy of building only single family homes in targeted communities will hopefully motivate other states to adopt similar changes in land use policy, and begin reconstructing neighborhoods that are more suitable for a 21st century multicultural society. Oregon’s HB 2001 received bipartisan support in both state houses NPR reported on July 1.
“Experts say it would be the first state-level legalization of a housing type that has become very difficult to build in much of the U.S.
This type of housing is often called “missing middle” housing — that is, everything between single-family homes and mid- or high-rise apartment buildings. Buildings such as three-flats or courtyard apartments used to be common, but many communities made them illegal, often as part of a strategy for racial and class segregation.”
While Oregon Governor Kate Brown is demonstrating how governors can address segregationist policies, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is one example of the power inherent in mayoral leadership to begin a process of changing the status quo that all cities inherited from an obsolete era when the ideology of white supremacy dominated the nation.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is another example of how mayoral leadership can address longstanding segregationist policies and practices. Duggan’s 2017 speech is a must-watch presentation.
In South Bend, Indiana “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg has introduced what he calls the Douglass Plan, inspired by the Marshall Plan that reconstructed Europe in the aftermath of WWII.
“The Douglass Plan, a comprehensive and intentional dismantling of racist structures and systems combined with an equally intentional and affirmative investment of unprecedented scale in the freedom and self-determination of Black Americans.
“This includes reforming broken criminal justice and health systems, strengthening access to credit and injecting capital into the Black community, and taking bold steps toward fulfilling long-broken promises of true equity.”
Given Mayor Pete’s position as mayor of South Bend, I’m excited about his idea of a comprehensive strategy, which includes a broad approach to dismantling segregationist policies and practices in addition to asserting common sense core infrastructure development around education, economic development, housing, access to capital, healthcare, employment and income, incarceration and the challenges facing returning citizens and more.
AMERICAN DESCENDANTS OF SLAVES (ADOS)
To be clear, the research and investigation into strategies and policies that could address generations of disaffected black Americans after the Civil War, and the slave era dating back to 1776 and the formation of the United States as a sovereign nation, has been ongoing for decades.
Dr. William “Sandy” Darity, the Director of the Samuel DeBois Cook Center on Social Policy at Duke University, is the nation’s leading scholar on the issue of reparations for American Descendants of Slaves with more than 30 years of experience on the issue. He testified before Congress on June 19, 2019 in a written statement.
“The time has come for the United States, finally, to lay to rest the issue of what has been called, variously, the Slave Problem, the Colored Problem, the Negro Problem, the Black Problem, and the African American Problem. The country can ill afford to remain stranded in the mire of injustice, perpetually refusing to resolve the fundamental, historic national dilemma facing all Americans. For too long the nation has refused to take steps to solve an unethical predicament of its own making — the problem of the unequal status of black and white Americans.
“A policy of reparations is a set of compensatory policies for grievous injustice. The three goals of a reparations plan should be 1. acknowledgement, 2. redress, and 3. closure.
1. Acknowledgement is the admission of responsibility for the atrocity (or atrocities) by the culpable party, incorporating an apology. The admission must also be accompanied by a guarantee to make restitution in as rapid a fashion as possible.
2. Redress is the provision of restitution, typically in the form of monetary compensation — as it has been in the cases of Germany’s reparations program on behalf of victims of the Holocaust and the United States’ reparations program on behalf of Japanese Americans unjustly incarcerated during World War II.
3. Closure means the agreement by the victimized community and the culpable party that the debt has been paid. The victims would make no further group-specific claims on the culpable party, unless new atrocities take place.”
While the Congress remains divided on the issues of reparations, and will likely remain so as long as white Christian conservative Republicans remain in seats of power and influence in both houses, smaller steps that follow the framework outlined by Dr. Darity can be taken in cities across the country.
Mayor Pete appears to understand the impact of a historical battle waged against black Americans, which has impacted all other minority populations along the way. And by addressing the root cause and impact of the war waged against black Americans specifically, new policies will provide benefit to all populations through the process of targeting a major population group (black American Descendants of Slaves) that is also among the most vulnerable class of Americans.
The Douglass Plan explains its focus:
“In committing to a comprehensive plan that focuses on Black Americans, the goal of the Douglass Plan is not to ignore the specific histories and experiences that have impacted other communities of color in the United States.
“Mayor Pete understands that racism is not just a black and white issue, and that we also need to address the unique challenges facing other communities–from Native communities confronting poverty and dispossession to the Islamophobia impacting Middle Eastern, Arab, and South Asian communities, to dehumanizing immigration policies that stereotype Latinos and overlook their vital contributions to our economy.
“America’s racist structures were built to justify and perpetuate slavery, and by achieving greater equity for Black Americans we lay the groundwork for achieving greater equity for other people of color as well.”
The inclusive nature of the Douglass Plan appears to underscore the priority of addressing the challenges facing black communities in South Bend, which can be the scaffolding upon which a framework of inclusive infrastructure is developed that benefits the entire city and region.
All of America’s mayors seeking to address inherited systems of segregation would do well to establish a partnership with the Center for Social Policy at Duke University, and particularly Dr. Darity and his team. The guidance Darity can provide, along with a commission including other leaders and activists, will assist city leaders in developing progressive models that ensure a measurable exponential increase among black Americans in asset ownership, business productivity, household income, wealth and generational prosperity that bolsters the competitiveness of the region.
The tepid steps taken toward inclusion are not the bold steps necessary for acknowledgement, redress and closure, as articulated by Dr. Darity in response to the issue of reparations. But in lieu of such a strong response from the federal government, cities and states can begin laying the groundwork through efforts at the local and state levels.
By tilling the ground of a hardened foundation of segregationist policies and practices through inclusive competitiveness strategies and initial steps to disrupt ingrained policies that support systemic racism, local and state leaders can move the needle of progress and compel national leaders to do the right thing. This process of local leaders taking small immediate steps is definitely insufficient to address the enormity of the reparations issue (which MUST be effectively addressed to bring about a “successful conclusion” to the Negro American Revolution), but it is a movement which offers hope that a significant segment of white America is contrite and intent on reconciling with the sins the nation perpetrated against targeted populations from its founding to the present day.
I’m optimistic about America’s future when I see political competitors introducing plans to deconstruct segregationist policies and practices that have long undermined progress for generations of minority populations, in particular black Americans. But let me perfectly clear: I do not believe a full comprehensive vision, strategy and plan will emerge through a process of waiting for white leaders to produce it.
I am encouraged by the willingness of white influencers to learn, to advocate, to support and leverage their privilege of influence to move the needle of progress toward acceptance of a need for reparations to American Descendants of Slaves (ADOS). Nevertheless, I firmly believe that strategy and plan must originate from the disaffected class of black Americans and find support across a majority of the white American landscape. I offered my own strategy for addressing some of the necessary redress of a viable reparations plan.
Crafting A True Reparations Plan Requires Truth and Reconciliation: Reparations for African (or American) Descendants of Slaves (#ADOS) has been a longtime aspiration of the Congressional…moguldom.com
“Reparations for African (or American) Descendants of Slaves (#ADOS) has been a longtime aspiration of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). National discourse on reparations is gaining momentum following the 2018 Blue Wave election victory and Democrats taking control of the House. These discussions, in my opinion, unfortunately, miss the mark. While I am in favor of reparations and even a “Truth and Reconciliation” effort, I am well aware of the war waged against Black Americans and a multicultural society in general.
“I believe the discussion of reparations will unfortunately never translate into actionable steps without a very specific vision, strategy, plan and method of paying for the implementation of a viable plan with measurable milestones toward specified goals with equitable outcomes. This level of visioning, strategy, planning and investing will never come from within White America, including from those who are allied with Black Americans on this issue. Sustainable solutions must come from the affected class of Americans.
“Principally, and generally speaking, the vast majority of White Americans lack the knowledge of their own history of hostilities against Black Americans and the severity of the generational economic impact to fully understand the social and economic carnage created by their ancestors. Moreover, the vast majority of educated White Americans still lack knowledge of the last six decades of damage that their own grandparents, parents, and now they themselves have done and continue to do to exacerbate the egregious evils of segregationist policies and practices that protect white supremacy while oppressing nonwhites.
“We can measure the damage. White leaders and influencers simply refuse to calculate the carnage. They won’t even discuss it. Even media ignore these data.
“So, it is up to us, the affected class of Americans to design a sustainable solution of restitution and restoration. And given the rise of consistent discourse around reparations in Congress and the across America, we need to leverage the narrative now to direct discourse toward actionable and productive steps.”
ECONOMIC STRATEGY FOR WHO?
I am impressed by the continued drumbeat of national economic policy reforms I hear, primarily from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, although others have weighed in as well. But no candidate has yet to speak directly to the unique economic strategies process implemented nationwide decades ago.
Given the federal government’s dubious history in the housing industry, it should come as no surprise that another government-funded process established a nationwide standardized method of economic planning in each region of the country yet uniformly ignored minority communities, thereby contributing greatly to a widening of the chasm of economic disparities that already plagued the country.
In the late 1960s, when the US began to transition from a manufacturing economy into a knowledge-based, tech-driven globally competitive Innovation Economy, fueled by high-growth entrepreneurship and equity investments, the Economic Development Administration invested in a national infrastructure of Regional Development Organizations (RDO) that blanketed nearly every region of the country.
These RDOs, most of which belong to a National Association of Development Organizations (NADO.org) are responsible for creating, updating and stewarding a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies (CEDS) Plan for their respective regions. There are more than 500 CEDS plans across the nation. In every region of the country, black communities are not only left out of the measurable impact metrics and milestone goals established by the plans, most of black America doesn’t know these plans exist … even after 50 years.
CEDS plans have a five-year horizon and contain the necessary research, data and visioning to guide policymaking and investment decisions by all levels of government and public-private partnerships. The EDA requires the CEDS to be updated annually and a new CEDS produced every five years to qualify for continued EDA funds.
America’s RDOs and CEDS plans, most of which are about 50 years old or younger, have uniformly neglected black American communities for decades. Still, I’m encouraged to see that economic inclusion is now a rising priority across the country, even in CEDS planning.
Yet, I fear there will much time and money wasted unless economic planners are provided a platform of continuous learning to gain a thorough understanding of how the nation arrived at this point in history through the lens of the disaffected populations. I’m not insinuating these professionals are in any way responsible for the existing plight of black and other minority communities. CEDS planners inherited the processes they steward today. Most are managing those processes without consideration of the damage done in the past and the damage continuing today. The solution is to inform, educate and train.
Lacking a deep understanding of the historical context wherein the CEDS process was created, most planners in America today are not aware of the critical impact of the strategies they develop on the foundation of economic disparities that still undermine the capacity of underrepresented populations to compete in today’s high-growth industries.
We must move beyond Band-Aid approaches, or quick-fix programs, or just the incessant talk of doing something that never gets done but succeeds in quieting the clatter of impatient protests. Minority communities are valuable areas of untapped talent that can otherwise bolster regional competitiveness across both workforce and entrepreneurial pipelines. Every region should have a strategy of Inclusive Competitiveness® to improve the measurable productivity output of underrepresented populations in local and regional innovation ecosystems.
THE NEGRO AMERICAN REVOLUTION
My hope is that new leadership in cities and towns across the nation will invest in learning, informing and educating their communities about systemic institutionalized racism that remains ubiquitous across all of America, and the stubborn opposition of white supremacy in positions of power and influence today, and the unfinished business of the Negro American Revolution.
I don’t think any political leadership can be successful in taking on the entire infrastructure of white power and supremacy without embracing the most important revolution in US history. Yet, not one of the current presidential candidates has mentioned it. But, I’m still hopeful.
Some have come close, like Mayor Pete. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Julian Castro have all mentioned a need to address segregationist policies, but none have spoken directly and informatively about the revolution that rocked this nation during the 1960s, which did not die with Dr. King. It simply went dormant.
When the riots that followed King’s assassination were quelled, it seemed that all of America appeared to fall asleep, preferring not to deal with the overt racial problems that fueled hundreds of protests and violent uprisings across America. But ignoring the problem doesn’t make it magically disappear.
Perhaps the 2020 presidential election campaign will sound an alarm long and loud enough to revive the effort that re-commits our nation to the work of King’s leadership and the long-forgotten “Negro American Revolution.” This most important part of US history is described in detail in this essay.
MLK ADDRESSES AMERICAN AMNESIA
In the spring of 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited San Diego, California and sounded an alarm. While millions of white Americans were aware of the nonviolent direct action revolution led by Dr. King, and risked their reputations, livelihoods, and even their lives in support of it, the vast majority of white Americans still remained unaware, trapped in their day-to-day business of life.
Even in the midst of a tremendous uprising against the status quo of segregationist policies and practices that protect white power, domination and supremacy, the majority of white Christian Americans remained under the belief that all was well between white and black America. America was asleep during the most important turning point in US history.
When Dr. King visited the politically conservative enclave of southern California, he delivered a searing message that applies to the whole nation today:
“I am convinced that there is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution,” King said.“There can be no gainsaying of the fact that a revolution has taken place in the world and in our nation and is sweeping away an old unjust order and bringing into being a new creative order. The great challenge facing every man and every woman today is to remain awake through this great social revolution.”
During the previous year, Dr. King had written his now-famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, given two explosive national speeches excoriating the evil inherent in America’s systemic segregationist policies and practices, and written a book about “the most important domestic event in the postwar period of the United States.”
That quote above is taken from a blistering report produced by the research division of the US Department of Labor indicting the United States as a racist landscape that intentionally targeted and severely damaged black American families. Both the government’s quote above and the book King wrote in 1963 were referring to the “Negro American Revolution,” a sustained political movement in the US so massive it touched nearly 1,000 cities and had global impact.
Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize because of this revolution. Yet, much of the nation knew little or nothing about the size and scope of the revolution as it was happening. Unfortunately, that remains the status today. Ask anyone about the Negro American Revolution and you’ll receive blank stares or questions.
Sadly, Americans are still asleep.
In 1964, King was concerned that America was sleeping through the most important series of ongoing events in US history. Today, how many Americans have a working knowledge of this momentous movement? Why is the Negro American Revolution not a required course throughout high school? Not an elective but a required course by every student. There are many facets to the study of this STILL ONGOING movement in US history. It is an outrage that we have allowed this history to be swept under the rug of white fragility.
Note: The Negro American Revolution and the Civil Rights Movement overlap but are not the same. Most folks who are asked what did the Civil Rights Movement achieve will say the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act were pinnacle achievements. But that would not explain why more than 150 cities erupted in violence during the Long Hot Summer of 1967 and why Dr. King and countless others were still protesting in 1968. I will address these issues later in this essay.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of children whose parents lived through the Civil Rights Movement were never taught about the “great revolution” to which Dr. King referred. In turn, they’ve not taught their children. Today, that trend of ignorance pervades America and serves as a nice cozy blanket to keep us comfortably snoring.How Scholars Sustained White SupremacyThere it sat on a library cart with 50 other elementary, grammar, and high-school history textbooks, its bright red…www.chronicle.com
REMAINING AWAKE THROUGH A GREAT REVOLUTION
In late spring 1964, at San Diego’s California Western University (now Point Loma Nazarene University), Dr. King gave a speech titled, “Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution!” It should be required reading in all schools and churches alongside the book he wrote in 1963, “Why We Can’t Wait,” which details the reasons for the “great revolution.”
King offered this caution at the outset of his speech:
“Many of you have probably read that arresting little story by Washington Irving entitled ‘Rip Van Winkle.’ The thing that we usually remember about Rip Van Winkle is that he slept twenty years.
“But there is another point in that story that is almost always completely overlooked. It was a sign on the Inn in the little town on the Hudson in which Rip went up into the mountain for his long sleep. When he went up the sign had a picture of King George the Third of England. And when he came down the sign had a picture of George Washington, the first President of the United States. And when Rip looked up at the picture of George Washington he was amazed. He was completely lost. He knew not who he was.
“This incident reveals to us that the most striking thing about the story of Rip Van Winkle is not merely that he slept twenty years, but that he slept through a revolution.
“While he was peacefully snoring up in the mountain, a great revolution was taking place in the world; a revolution that at many points would change the course of history. And yet, Rip Van Winkle knew nothing about it. He was asleep.
“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people find themselves amid great periods of social change and yet they fail to achieve the new mental outlook, and the new attitudes that the new situation demands.
“I am convinced that there is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution.
“There can be no gainsaying of the fact that a revolution has taken place in the world and in our nation and is sweeping away an old unjust order and bringing into being a new creative order. The great challenge facing every man and every woman today is to remain awake through this great social revolution.”
Dr. King detailed three specific ways for America to remain awake and engaged during the revolution:
1. Reaffirm the essential immorality of racial segregation
2. Discard the ideological notion that there are superior and inferior races
3. Strive to achieve excellence in any chosen endeavor
A bullet-point list is no substitute for the eloquence of Dr. King. I encourage you to read his speech in its entirety. Sadly, too many Americans today subscribe to the belief that segregationist policies and practices, against which Dr. King vigorously fought, died with him or soon thereafter. Bernie Sanders would do well to tie his “political revolution” to the unfinished work of the Negro American Revolution. If he fails to do so, that leaves the door open for another candidate to fully embrace this moment in history.
ROOTING OUT AND ENDING SEGREGATION
It is unlikely anyone can be successful in taking on the status quo without first acknowledging the landscape of 20th century segregation we inherited, and making a public commitment to disrupt, dismantle and discard such policies and practices at every level of government and the private sector.
Dr. King would’ve considered Donald Trump, and the Republican Party today, segregationists who seek to maintain the status quo of white supremacy. That point should be included in the Democratic Party’s national narrative and made part of the debate questions. Why isn’t it?
Sadly, too many Americans today are unable to identify segregationist policies in their own cities as well as the impact of such policies on targeted minority populations. Far too many Americans still hold onto long debunked stereotypical notions of racial hierarchy (and race itself, which is a social construct). And far too many long-oppressed Americans have lost the fire and ambition needed to become their best selves, regardless of chosen occupation or field of endeavor. Dr. King understood this deep wound in the soul of America.
As a preacher, King understood something the presidential candidates who seek to defeat Trump and the status quo of white supremacy must also understand: we cannot pour new policy wine into old infrastructure skins. All the great ideas flowing forth from the 2020 presidential candidates must not fill the dirty cup of an American economic infrastructure established on the foundation of 20th century white supremacy.
Our first priority must be to “understand the political reality of America and the power structure,” as Bernie said … and “reaffirm the essential immorality of racial segregation and discard the ideological notion that there are superior and inferior races,” as King said.
When Senator Kamala Harris spoke directly to Vice President Joe Biden during the first 2020 presidential debate and informed him of her personal participation in efforts to desegregate the schools in Berkeley through busing, the issue for sleeping Americans sounded like busing. It wasn’t. Busing was the unenviable alternative option to equitable funding for schools serving minority communities, which were redlined.
White parents were as adamant about not funding the schools of black children as they were about directing their tax dollars in support of the schools their children attended. The issue was plainly segregation, discrimination and white supremacist ideology. In education, housing, banking, entrepreneurship and small business, employment, hiring, access to capital, access to networks and resources, transportation, land use and virtually every area of American life white bias, domination and supremacy has prevailing influence.
Any effort to narrow the focus of the larger issue of a systemic “cancer in the body politic,” as King described segregation, diminishes the enormity of a pervasive evil that has long undermined the capacity of this nation to live up to its initial creed: that all people are created equal. We witnessed this effort when the subject of busing was introduced by Kamala Harris as a segue to speak to the larger issue of segregation.
Busing was a failed effort to address the systemic evil that white parents were perpetrating upon black children. Yet, media, pundits and politicians all focused on the narrow point of busing while ignoring the larger systemic problem that busing was instituted to address. It seems as though really smart folks in charge of managing the national narrative and questioning the candidates lack serious understanding of the depth and breadth and scope of the history of segregation in America TODAY … not just in the 1960s.
In 1964, when King spoke at Cal Western, he wasn’t just speaking to an audience of 4,000 students and faculty in a packed college gymnasium. He was speaking across generations to you and I today. The question is, do we care enough to listen and heed his advice? Or can we even hear his advice at all through our slumber?
WAKING UP TO TRUTH
The challenges of remaining awake through a revolution for Americans then, and now, is being connected to truth, receptive to truth, and having the capacity to discern the truth when we are inundated with tons of propagandized garbage in a daily deluge of toxic information and distractions designed to lull us to sleep.
WORKSHOP: HOW TO TALK TO KIDS ABOUT RACE
To be clear, most of America remains asleep today; it has been for decades. My wife and I launched a workshop on How to Talk to Kids about Race in America. We’re doing it to provide parents, educators and societal influencers with storytelling tools and resources, as well as the background knowledge of US history which was built on a foundation of race.
Our workshop empowers participants to educate future generations with empathy and an understanding that they can redesign, reshape and reconstruct the segregationist society they inherited and build a 21st century Inclusive America. To do that, they need to have truthful knowledge and data that provides them with a full breadth and depth and scope of the problem they’ve inherited.
REPAIRING DAMAGE, RESTORING TRUTH
All around us a revolution is ongoing, just as it was when King was alive a little more than 50 years ago. Protests are occurring. People are being harmed and some are dying. Media are asleep. Foundations are asleep. Churches are asleep. Schools, colleges and universities are asleep. Little has changed since King was leading the uprising. He knew then that most of America was not aware of the “great revolution” no matter how much noise it made, or how long the alarm sounded or even how many lives were lost. America was asleep.
Case in point: Earlier this summer, on the eve of Juneteenth, a.k.a. “Freedom Day,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell readily dismissed the topic of reparations reminded the nation that he, along with the vast majority of white America, knows very little about US history and the foundation of white supremacy upon which it was built.
The important issue McConnell haphazardly dismissed is the seminal debate spanning fifteen decades back to the Reconstruction Era in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War.
The question the nation was forced to address then is still ignored today: How does white America reconcile and atone for centuries of institutionalized evils perpetrated systemically upon a targeted landscape of black people for many generations? McConnell believes white men have done enough and there is no more needed to be done that hasn’t already been done. Millions of white Americans agree. Sadly, they do not know their own history of hate and hostility.
A paralyzing new paradigm was introduced on June 19, 1865, when the last slaves walked away from plantations in Galveston, Texas after hearing the extraordinary news delivered by the Union Army’s General Granger. Black people would now be free, ordered by proclamation from President Lincoln.
But what did that mean to four million newly freed black people who have only known subjugation in a nation that was established for a whites-only citizenry? And what did that mean to states that had seceded from the Union, when they had the autonomous authority to recognize only whites as citizens prior to the war?
The Senate Majority Leader offered his view:
“I don’t want reparations for something that happened 150 years ago…we’ve tried to deal with the original sin of slavery by passing civil rights legislation and electing an African American president.”
WAR BY ANY OTHER NAME
The central theme of every effort by white America to “include” nonwhites and/or develop “diversity” in their existing political, business, economic and social constructs is an admission of guilt that they have built an entire society upon a foundation of white supremacy with bias toward and for the benefit of whites first.
Throughout the antebellum period prior to the Civil War, there is no question the nation functioned as a landscape for the benefit of whites only. If others found some measure of opportunity in the northern or southern states it was not due to an intentional construct of the society as fair, meritocratic and egalitarian. It was due to fewer constraints on that specific individual, such as free from bondage and slavery, which was prevalent in the south.
But there should be no misconception about the beliefs and general attitudes of the northerners. Albeit some white Americans admirably did risk reputation, livelihoods and their very lives to participate in abolitionist movements and aid in the freedom of slaves, the question is truly about whether northern states as a measure of official policy and practice ensured US citizenship for black people and equal stature afforded to white people. The answer is unequivocally no. That’s the first part of American history, which is an unequivocal condition of white superiority over all others.
Following the Civil War, the freedom of the slaves did not equate with the freedom of the British colonies in 1776 in the minds of white US citizens. It still doesn’t to this day! But why not? If freedom is so desired that white people will risk their very lives to attain it, should that same principle be recognized by whites today in celebration of the freedom of black people in America?
But the focused question in the second half of American history was what should be done with black people after the Civil War, given they were all free and numbered roughly four million? That was the central question facing a nation comprised of a whites-only citizenry.
White Christian “radicals,” held a progressive attitude toward reconstructing the nation as a multicultural Inclusive America. They were opposed by white Christian conservatives, whose attitude about losing the physical war did not dissuade their resolve to continue a political war over the future of a re-United States of America. These Christian conservative white men had no intention of sharing the lands that they stole from the Native peoples and killed their own European countrymen to call their own with their former black slaves (as Mr. Trollope explained).
And so a political war ensued in congress. The loss of President Lincoln to an assassin’s bullet meant the white progressives would battle a recalcitrant President Andrew Johnson, who opposed the vision of Reconstruction that white progressive Radicals envisioned. The president opposed the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments which revised the highest law in the land to prohibit slavery, expand citizenship to include black people and immigrants born on US soil, and empower black men with the right to vote equal to white men. Sadly, this vision of a multicultural Inclusive America was doomed from the start.
The re-unification of the states empowered white southern conservatives with sufficient capability to run their states however they determined regardless of what the federal government mandated. Although the Radicals in congress overrode the veto power of the of the presidency with a three-quarters ratification of 37 states agreeing to the constitutional amendments, they could not override his veto of the Freedmen’s Bureau. And it is this critical political victory, along with the numerous policies and practices within all the states themselves, that effectively nullified the three constitutional amendments and initiated a full-scale war against black Americans for the next 100 years.
From 1868 to 1968 (from the 14th amendment that gave American Descendants of Slaves, #ADOS, legitimate standing as US citizens, to the death of America’s iconic King, a warrior who led a nonviolent resistance against America’s segregationist supremacists who managed the war) black Americans endured every aspect of every element inherent in any war:
· State-sanctioned segregation status of black Americans
· State-managed ghettos relegated for black Americans
· Targeted economic sanctions toward black Americans
· Broad deprivation of opportunity and resources for black Americans
· Intermittent physical attacks enabled and cultivated by the public and private sectors
· Mass attacks by white Americans and mass casualties in black communities and black cities
· State-sanctioned assaults upon individual black Americans, families and communities
· Military and guerrilla style assaults with state-sponsored spying and assassinations
· White supremacist brutal policing and the unjust adjudication of black people
· Black codes, Pig laws, Sundown Towns and other widespread state-sanctioned practices and policies outlawing being black in America
· Indiscriminate unresolved kidnappings
· Rampant rapes of men, women and children
· Destruction of community infrastructure
· State-sponsored razing of entire black communities
· Widespread torture
· Widespread murders
· Widespread false imprisonment
· White police and other authorities brutalizing black Americans
· Convict leasing as another form of slavery
· Bombings of communities and churches
· Indiscriminate killings of children and the elderly by white men with impunity
· Widespread sustained white terrorism targeting black Americans and allies
· Mass refugees fleeing war torn regions (Great Migration)
· Institutionalized discrimination targeting black Americans in public and private sectors
· Government-led and government-sanctioned discrimination and destruction
· State-sanctioned sustained poverty and economic strategies with published plans designed to sustain the status quo of white supremacy
· State-sanctioned trafficking of drugs and humans and destablizing of black families and communities
· Sabotaging opportunities for children to escape
· State-sanction secret medical experiments on masses of black populations including sterilizations
· State-sanctioned eugenics experiments, including military
· Suicides due to unrelenting stress
· Public sector support of private sector racial discrimination practices (continues today)
· State-sanctioned public humiliation, ridicule and broad degradation
· Propaganda in education, media, business sectors and politics targeting black Americans, often leading to white riots
· Media-led national narratives influencing white America to accept negative stereotypes/tropes
· Religious leaders condemnation of black Americans and support of US hostility toward them
· Lack of access to judicial redress
· Political, legal, judicial processes all controlled by enemies of black Americans
· Education landscape replete with propaganda and stereotypical tropes about black Americans
· Institutionalized discrimination in all areas of finance, real estate, investing, economic development, land use, housing, education (secondary and higher ed), transportation, etc
· Supreme Court rulings justifying widespread discriminatory practices and sanctioning an environment of hostility and terror targeting black Americans
This national war, exemplified by the massacre of black Americans in Elaine, Arkansas in 1919 (see video above narrated by Ossie Davis), has been largely ignored by white America writ large. It has been softened by historians, narrowed by media into presumed unrelated episodic events, versus systemic institutionalized state-sanctioned war, and still continues today in various forms.
The fear exhibited in Congress over decades in response to repeated calls for a national inquiry into reparations is Exhibit A that evidences some level of awareness of the war. The fear of public disclosure of the existence of the war could likely compel descendants of the white supremacists who initiated the war to demand an end to it.
A national call for an end to the war waged against black American Descendants of Slaves (#ADOS) could lead to public hearings, public testimonies, public education and public admission of egregious wrongdoing for at least 100 years of evil aggression leading to the death of Dr. King in 1968 and the election of Richard Nixon, a “law and order” candidate propelled into the White House in the midst of hundreds of race riots across the nation in 1967–68.
Today, the president is a man who stood on the wrong side of history in 1968, in opposition to Dr. King and the Negro America Revolution. Not one journalist in America has addressed the issue of a Negro Revolution that rose up in nonviolent protest against a century of war waged by white America.
Today, white Americans have been taught that a “Civil Rights Movement” began in the mid-1950s with Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on a bus and ended with the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
This false narrative and dilution of reality has assured at least two, perhaps three generations of white Americans have absolutely no idea about the history of their parents, grandparents and great grandparents who bequeathed to them a bubble of comfortable ignorance within which they enjoy the privileges and benefits of being white in America while remaining ignorant of the ongoing suffering of segregationist policies and practices they inherited, and unwittingly support and sustain. White America selected, elected and have protected the son of a man notably arrested at a klan rally, notably accused of discriminating against black families through his real estate business and even being sued together with his son by the US government for continuing discriminatory practices against black Americans. Donald Trump was a young man when Dr. King was assassinated. Today, he and Senator McConnell have the power to open a door to a process of truth, reconciliation and healing of racial discord that continues today as the war rages on. These two men, and those many other men and women supporting them, have both wittingly and unwittingly decided the war should continue.
Truthful information and education of the white public is anathema to those who seek to maintain the status quo, as Dr. King described segregationists in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Still, Congress has a moral, ethical and legal duty to investigate these allegations of an internal state-sanctioned war against black Americans.
It is understandable that white supremacists in seats of power would fear the enormity of an indictment against them.
It is understandable that white supremacists in seats of power and influence in America would recoil from the notion that public dollars be used to conduct research, develop a strategy and implement an equitable plan to repair incomparable damages inflicted upon generations of American Descendants of Slaves (ADOS).
It is understandable that white supremacists and today’s segregationists would resist allowing the public to be informed about the facts of the war that still rages today.
It is understandable that the enemy of progress for black Americans and other minority population groups will undermine any effort to persuade a majority of white people that a segregationist America must be dismantled and reconstructed for a 21st century multicultural society.
Nevertheless, the war against the ADOS population must be officially called ended. An official apology must be proclaimed. An official Truth & Reconciliation National Council with collaborative region councils blanketing the country must be established. The nation must be informed across all generations. The education sector and media must employ reforms that incorporate teaching truth about current events and connected historical events and timelines. This process must the collective outcry from the Christian church community, given this war has been fought most aggressively in the church and by the church.
It was a Christian preacher who rose to prominence as a nonviolent warrior leading a resistance and revolution against the war and its immoral segregationist tools that elevated white people over all of God’s other peoples in the human race. The white Christian church must call for an end to this war. And they must call for Truth and Reconciliation.
And, of course, the white Christian churches must call for a committed reparations plan to repair the damage and restore people of the ADOS population to a whole status in America today, after they and their ancestors have endured both centuries of slavery and more than 150 years of state-sanctioned war as American citizens.
WITNESSING WHITE FRAGILITY
The underlying key point in Senator McConnell’s response to a call for a reparations inquiry, and the response of many Americans who agree with him, is that white Christian conservative Americans do not want to engage in a committed process to reconcile, repair and restore the extraordinarily damaged landscape they inherited and sustain today.
But here’s just one of many hypocritical aspects of that position: White Christian conservatives didn’t worry about the cost of restoring entire European cities, starting with basic infrastructure, in the aftermath of WWII.
But to consider investing in repairing generations of damage done to American citizens who are black seems to end the conversation with McConnell and the entire Republican Party. And surprisingly, I don’t hear any objections from the community of white Christian conservative evangelical leadership. Truth and Reconciliation was once at the core of the Gospel and God’s relationship with the church itself.
Apparently, the cost of doing God’s work of Truth and Reconciliation with black America and the American Descendants of Slaves (#ADOS) is too high for McConnell and his ilk. The truth that’s required to be revealed and dealt with is apparently too painful.
The 150+ year-old war waged against black people by white Christian conservatives, since freed black people left the plantations, would need to officially cease…and McConnell isn’t about to agree to such a proclamation hitting the floor of the Senate for a vote.
The strength of white power in American society would inevitably be diluted to empower others who were oppressed for generations, which is apparently untenable to those who still believe that America remains a white nation with a political, economic and social power structure of white supremacy.
GRIM REAPER DEALS DEATH TO REPARATIONS
When McConnell says “we’ve tried to deal with the original sin of slavery” the “we” that he is referring to is only white males, who still remain divided over the issue today as they were in the aftermath of the American Revolution and the Civil War leading up to the Negro American Revolution in the 1960s.
When McConnell says white males passed “civil rights legislation” he is speaking of eight separate times a civil rights bill passed through congress, from 1866 to 1991, and never succeeded in meaningful sustainable progress for black Americans. These were pushed by white Christian progressives and opposed by white Christian conservatives, like Congressman Gene Snyder, for whom McConnell interned when he was cutting his political teeth in the 60s.
But McConnell also interned for a devoted supporter of civil rights (Congressman Sherman Cooper). The New York Times gave McConnell praiseworthy coverage about his attitude toward civil rights. He was raised by parents who opposed segregation. He attended Dr. King’s iconic speech in 1963. He urged his students at Louisville to support King’s protests. Still, his record is dubious.
McConnell also served as Asst. Deputy Attorney General under Gerald Ford. He voted for Nixon, who had previously lost to JFK and then embraced the orphaned white supremacist voters from Gov. George Wallace’s failed Independent Party run for president in 1968. And McConnell claims the finest moment in his career came when he stood against everything President Obama tried to do, including nominate Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
Today, McConnell is the man who stood in the way of Obama and the Intelligence Community’s attempt to warn the nation that Russia had successfully attacked the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump. McConnell is the impediment to at least 145 bills passed by the House this year that will not be considered for a vote in the Senate.
McConnell is the senatorial director of a corrupt cabal of congressional conservatives that protect a tyrannical president whose daily deluge of despotism and dramatic discord has literally thousands of legal minds, scholars and mental health professionals making public statements of high concern. McConnell is married to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, who, like all of the Trump cabinet and other people who reach inner circle status, is embroiled in scandal of breaching ethics, laws and moral values. McConnell comically considers himself the “Grim Reaper.”
Well, the Grim Reaper failed to mention that white Americans have never needed civil rights legislation for themselves. They have the constitution. What do black Americans have? Unfortunately, the constitution has never been sufficient to protect and empower black Americans despite being the highest law in the land. We continue to appeal to Congress for rights already afforded to us by the constitution, which has little apparent effect across the landscape of white America.
When the Grim Reaper refers to the election of “an African American president” (albeit Obama was duly and legitimately elected despite the best efforts of the Republican Party) as some measure of atonement for 246 years of slavery and 143 years of white terrorism, segregation and active oppressive policies and practices that he and the GOP still support today, McConnell is publicly mocking the outcry for reparations through his dry “Grim Reaper” humor. And the through the silent solemnity blanketing the landscape of white Christian evangelicals we can hear a tiny whisper saying, “Amen.”
This attitude of racial animus among white Americans toward black Americans has been studied for decades. The University of Illinois collected the results of surveys on America’s racial attitudes dating back to the WWII era in the 1940s.
Researchers have concluded that while white America’s attitude toward black America has changed significantly over the decades, the support for actual implementation of policies and practices that would disrupt a landscape of segregation hasn’t changed much at all.
“…one of the central conclusions from the survey record on white racial attitudes is that in contemporary American society, whites are more likely to support the principle of racial equality than they are to support either the implementation of equality or policies that would take more affirmative steps to redress past or persistent discrimination.”
For Americans to understand our perilous present-day paradigm through the prism of historical truths that have led up to this moment in time, we need to awaken our minds to a foundation of truthful knowledge of past events.
This process requires a sincere curiosity that compels us to peek our heads outside of our bubbles of comfortable ignorance. When we do, we will inevitably discover surprising circumstances that Dr. King sought to elevate to our attention throughout his leadership in the revolution: domestic war zones pockmark the American landscape from coast to coast, wherein tens of millions of the most vulnerable Americans try to survive each day against systemic institutionalized segregationist policies and practices that protect white supremacy and oppress poor nonwhite populations.
The probing question we must continue to ask is, “do we care?” Researchers report that white Americans struggle with concern about their fellow humans living in the United States. Sadly, many white Americans prefer that the federal government not intervene to help people in need, despite the fact that systemic racist policies have taken a significant toll on target populations of nonwhites:
One of the most interesting trends in the implementation questions is the increase in the “no interest” response. Assupport declined for federal intervention during the 1980s and 1990s, only about one out of three whites thought the government should “see to it” that blacks and whites are treated equally in schools and jobs. Whites reported their lowest levels of support for federal intervention in jobs in 2008 (23 percent).
However, this does not reflect an increase in those saying the government should “stay out.” Rather, whites increasingly declined to state a position — instead indicating that they “have not been concerned or interested enough about it to favor one side over the other.” The trend for this question may reflect a pattern of increasing “racial apathy,” which is an indifference to racial inequality.
APATHY IN AMERICA
The three worst words in the English language are, “I don’t care.” When we become ambivalent, indifferent and apathetic to the suffering of others around us, particularly when we actively support policies, practices and leadership that cause or sustain harm, the problems in our society worsen. Americans are powerless to change these circumstances when we are asleep, immune to the anguish and suffering occurring daily within these designed areas of degradation in the world’s wealthiest country.
The advantage King had in his day was that 100 years of war waged against black Americans (1868–1968) impacted every black American, regardless of socioeconomic status. Knowledge of the “shameful condition,” as King described the environment for black Americans during his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, was unavoidable; it was ubiquitous across America, if you were black.
Today, even many black Americans have been indoctrinated into a trance-like condition of the larger landscape of sleeping white Americans, lacking the truthful knowledge required to fully understand how historic policies and strategic plans have created and sustained a consistent pattern of generational economic and social degradation they personally experience and witness on a daily basis. Apathy is still prevalent in America today among all races, and remains an impediment to the progress of disrupting, dismantling and discarding segregationist policies and practices in US cities today.
WHITE CHRISTIANS WAGE WAR AGAINST BLACK AMERICANS
From the day the 14th amendment was ratified on July 9, 1868, to King’s untimely death on April 4, 1968, every black American was impacted by the war. The same is true of white Americans. Through the Christian church, the war was fought and through the Christian church the prevailing attitudes about the war, slavery, segregation and the presumed racial hierarchy with whites at the top would shape American society through Reconstruction and beyond to the present day.
The Churches, Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction: A Review Essay on JSTORJames H. Moorhead, The Churches, Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction: A Review Essay, The Journal of…www.jstor.org
Most in white America had some level of awareness about the hostile landscape of white power targeting America’s black population (which represented 90 percent of the entire US minority population into the mid-60s). The Christian churches that filled the US landscape from coast to coast, serving every community no matter how small, were the most segregated arena of America life.
Ironically, it is through the Christian church that black Americans sought redress, refuge and reconciliation with white America. And it is through the Christian church that a prominent minister, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would rise to lead a revolution that would result in a monumental national conflict over the fate of white and nonwhite Americans that has yet to be resolved.
King and many others in leadership and supporting roles in the national uprising by black Christian Americans had their hands full in calling on a primarily complacent white Christian population to join the revolution and change the status quo of segregationist policies and practices that protected white supremacy and oppressed minorities.
Reconstructing Religion – The Journal of the Civil War EraMark A. Noll As recently as 1994, a distinguished historian in an important book on Reconstruction opined that “there…www.journalofthecivilwarera.org
To be fair, it is understandable why most of white America today, like Senator McConnell, still turns a blind eye and deaf ear to centuries of suffering. Standing against white supremacy requires courage of conviction and a willingness to risk everything, including one’s own life. There is no ambiguity among white supremacists about the viciousness of the war waged against multiculturalism and the incremental progressive steps toward an Inclusive American society. Both the violent extremists as well as the nonviolent supremacists in positions of power and influence seek restraints on racial demographic shifts, constraints on political and economic empowerment of minority populations and the preservation of white power and superiority by any means necessary.
Still, many in white America are dismissive of such notions. They do not accept the idea that white Americans are at war against black Americans. They reside comfortably within a bubble of ignorance of the suffering black Americans have endured for generations at the hands of the entire spectrum of white supremacists, from the bomb-throwing church-burning KKK and Nazi-ish supremacists to the well-coifed suit-wearing university presidents, elected politicians, CEOs and even evangelical preachers. Far too many white Americans remain in a state of denial, too afraid to let go of their grip on the belief that America is the land of the free, a benevolent meritocratic home of egalitarian ideals where all are welcome. But the reality of the war still reaches even the most distant of white America.
Of course, when the impact of oppression is far removed, it is a difficult decision for any white American to intentionally exit a comfortable life and put one’s reputation, livelihood and family at risk on behalf of people who have always known oppression in a hostile land of white power. White power controls and dominates all of the institutions of power and influence in the most powerful nation on Earth. It isn’t going to politely acquiesce to progressive forces seeking to redesign, reshape and reconstruct the nation to accommodate shifting racial demographics in a multicultural society. As Frederick Douglass reminded us, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”
Joining the Negro Revolution wasn’t merely a matter of sit-ins, kneel-ins, marches and boycotts. It was, and still is, downright dangerous. People inspired to take a stand against the status quo in the 1950s and 60s were arrested and jailed, severely beaten, severely injured, tortured and many died. People were bitten by dogs, sprayed with high-pressure fire hoses, shot and bombed, even in churches. Victims ranged from pre-school children to the elderly. Men and women, black and white, were all victims of the war.
Those who pretend the national debate over “civil rights” is theoretical discourse over policy issues aren’t on the front lines. The reality is people’s lives are at stake.
Bloody Sunday: A flashback of the landmark Selma to Montgomery marchesOn March 7, 1965, civil rights activists organized a march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama to press for…www.nbcnews.com
The war didn’t care if you were a young naïve student leader, like John Lewis in 1965, taking a stand for justice when he marched across the Edmond Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama (beaten nearly to death). Or whether you were a naïve young white preacher from Boston, participating in a southern protest to show alliance with the movement (beaten to death). Or whether you were a naïve young white mother in the Midwest, inspired by the events depicted on television to join a crowd gathered in Birmingham to hear Dr. King’s powerful voice (shot to death). The war took its toll on them all and many, many more.
King himself was stabbed nearly to death. His mother was assassinated. His family was under constant threat. His wife, Coretta, courageously facing the onslaught as her husband traveled onto the front lines of the battle. His staff narrowly escaped a bullet-riddled cottage they had rented for road operations just as King was preparing to travel to the west coast in the late spring of 1964.
Yet, King was undeterred about his commitment and the inevitable life-risking consequences of the revolution. While he implored white Americans, which comprised 90 percent of the nation’s population, to rise up on behalf of the minority populations being oppressed, he also required of the oppressed to risk everything in joining a national movement that sought an acceleration of the pace of racial progress and elevation of the outcry for justice and equality in America.
“Now I do not want to give the impression that there is nothing for the Negro himself to do,” King told an audience at California Western University. “The Federal Government can’t solve the whole problem. I said over and over again that if justice is to be a reality for the Negro in America, the Negro must feel a basic responsibility and a basic urge to struggle and sacrifice for that freedom and justice.
“And so this is the meaning of the movement. This is the meaning of what is taking place in our nation today. It is the meaning of the demonstrations. This is behind the freedom rides that you hear about here and there, the sitins, the standins, the wadeins, the kneelins, and all of the other “ins.” They are all for the purpose of getting America out of the dilemma in which she finds herself as a result of the continued existence of segregation and discrimination.
“And I am convinced that if this problem is to be solved, we must delve deeper into strong action programs to keep the issue before the forefront of the nation. But as I have said all across the country, I am convinced that our struggle must be a nonviolent struggle. I am convinced that our basic thrust must be nonviolent.”
Excerpt from Dr. King’s speech in San Diego at Cal Western University
(Now Point Loma Nazarene University), spring 1964
It is hard to imagine how a black Christian preacher could request unconditional restraint of his own black people who were being systemically oppressed, immersed in a discriminatory drain of daily microaggressions and humiliation, indiscriminately incarcerated, with many kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered at random by white Americans who professed to be Christians. Yet, King practiced what he preached. And he also repeatedly reached out to his counterparts in white Christian America for help.
Although it is an open secret, it should be stated plainly that the so-called “Civil Rights Movement” was in reality a constant outcry by black Christian Americans for white Christian Americans to do the right thing. And the response was 150+ years of ungodly hate, viciousness and violence from within a widely diverse Christian community.
The white Christian is NOT implicated in the full societal panorama of problems. Many white Christians have risked everything from reputations to family safety to livelihoods to their very lives to stand up against other white Christians on behalf of oppressed minorities, in particular black populations. This chaos of white-on-white Christian crime is often lost in the discourse when addressing the overall problem of black integration into white society in the United States.
So it must be stated without equivocation that in this commentary there is recognition, admiration and gratitude for those white Europeans in the colonies who stood as abolitionists, those who participated and supported the Underground Railroad, those who preached and pushed against policies of slavery and subsequent segregation, and those who in the halls of victory demanded that the freed slave become a citizen of the US with powers equal to all white citizens. Those white Americans, and others who stood on our behalf during the 100 years of war from 1868 to 1968, deserve to be acknowledged and regarded as heroes. For without their sacrifice, there would be no war in white America over the fate of black people and other nonwhites.
That said, after the Civil War, the battle over Reconstruction and the fate of black Americans resulted in the establishment of two Americas: one white and powerful, the other black and powerless. The nation was still embroiled in political and social conflict while overlaid with a ubiquitous landscape of systemic racist public policies and private sector practices. And the true enemy of integrating the Negro into a former whites-only society became clear. The white Christian conservative sought a return to an era when white power was never questioned; and whites never had to even consider, much less acquiesce to, any nonwhite of any race for any reason.
Today, institutionalized racism simply cannot sustain itself without the support of the white conservative Christian. Sadly, it is the white Christian conservative that not only supports it, but perpetrates it while presenting a public persona of pretentious piety. It is time for the nation to identify its racial antagonist: the white Christian conservative.
The white Christian conservative today is indistinguishable from the white nationalist, the white supremacist and the white Nazi sympathizer. They are all at war against multiculturalism and an Inclusive America. But this is not a modern-day change in attitude. It is consistent with the philosophy that has guided their principles for centuries. They were against black slaves being freed. They were against freed slaves becoming US citizens. They were against black Americans being empowered as equal citizens to themselves. They were against black Americans voting. They have long been against the progress of black Americans from the day black people became Americans in 1868 to the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed 100 years later. It is their unrelenting hostility toward black Americans that led to a 1960s revolution that shook the foundations of this nation.
UW Press – : American Evangelicals and the 1960s Edited by Axel R. SchäferAmerican Evangelicals and the 1960s Edited by Axel R. Schäfer American Evangelicals and the 1960s refutes the thesis…uwpress.wisc.edu
HIDING THE TRUTH
Today, most of this nation’s 327 million population lack knowledge of the truth about this 100-year war that triggered the courageous response of a nonviolent “great revolution.” This history isn’t taught in most schools, whether public or private, because textbooks do not contain it.
Both state legislators and school boards ensure the public schools use textbooks of which they approve. And the publishers of textbooks find themselves facing a gauntlet of opposition to truth, which they must successfully navigate to attain major contracts and book sales. This history isn’t taught in most churches because faith leaders either don’t know it or won’t allow it. And most journalists don’t know this history because they were never taught it, either.
Media, which covered the revolution episodically, have not served as a consistent source of contextual history that connects the past to current events in an unbroken storyline.
The purpose of this commentary is to contribute to the existing knowledge bank by revealing fragments of historical dots in a timeline of truth that connects the present-day to past events in a manner that can be better understood and perhaps empower a slumbering nation to awaken and make changes before it is too late.
Truth is hiding in plain sight but generations of Americans have failed to see, hear and understand it. And that means we have failed to teach truth to our children, and they have failed to teach theirs.
Without the truth to awaken us to act in our own best interest as one human race, we’ve fallen asleep as a nation, still reliving past racial hostilities and division over and over, as past conditions impacting black Americans and other minority populations continue to deteriorate and worsen with each generation.
As the world’s wealthiest and most powerful country, our national ability to change this cycle of degradation within our borders depends upon whether we can awaken to truth … and act upon it accordingly.
Consider this your personal alarm.
THE FREEDOM LIE
America is living a lie. We claim to love truth, but what is truth when so many of our churches, schools, media, politicians and other institutions of influence and trust do not possess it?
We claim to love freedom. But what is freedom to those who arrive at our border only to be turned away or worse: parents torn from children and sent away without ever knowing their fate and powerless to protect them.
Freedom is, nevertheless, an American aphrodisiac. It is the intoxicant poured out each year through messaging campaigns, with additional copious amounts flowing through the 2020 presidential campaign season for the American electorate to imbibe, as the president and his campaign competitors continuously fill our patriotic cups with shots of freedom slogans like political bartenders capitalizing upon our freedom-loving stupor.
The love of freedom is at the core of America’s character. It is why we celebrate Independence Day every Fourth of July and honor the strength of our military, which protects and preserves America’s precious freedom.
Yet, this open embrace of freedom is a mask that hides an open secret.
In 1776, when the founding fathers declared the Independence of the United States from Great Britain, the only citizens for who freedom was being fought were white Europeans who desired to secede from the monarchy and form their own government. Indeed, Edmund Burke, a famous Parliamentarian, expressed this very point in a speech to the British Parliament in 1775 at the outset of the American Revolution:
“This fierce spirit of liberty is stronger in the English colonies probably than in any other people of the earth;
“First, the people of the colonies are descendants of Englishmen. England, Sir, is a nation, which still I hope respects, and formerly adored, her freedom. The colonists emigrated from you when this part of your character was most predominant; and they took this bias and direction the moment they parted from your hands. They are therefore not only devoted to liberty, but to liberty according to English ideas, and on English principles.
“The people are Protestants; and of that kind which is the most adverse to all implicit submission of mind and opinion. This is a persuasion not only favourable to liberty, but built upon it.
“This religion, under a variety of denominations agreeing in nothing but in the communion of the spirit of liberty, is predominant in most of the northern provinces; where the Church of England, notwithstanding its legal rights, is in reality no more than a sort of private sect, not composing most probably the tenth of the people.
“…some gentlemen object to the latitude of this description; because in the southern colonies the Church of England forms a large body, and has a regular establishment. It is certainly true.
“There is, however, a circumstance attending these colonies, which, in my opinion, fully counterbalances this difference, and makes the spirit of liberty still more high and haughty than in those to the northward. It is that in Virginia and the Carolinas they have a vast multitude of slaves. Where this is the case in any part of the world, those who are free, are by far the most proud and jealous of their freedom. Freedom is to them not only an enjoyment, but a kind of rank and privilege.”
To be clear, the freedom-loving white European settlers in America did not desire freedom equal to their own for the Native peoples whose land they illegally occupied and fought continuous battles against since 1622.
They did not desire freedom equal to their own for the African peoples, who many enslaved for their own enrichment.
They did not desire freedom equal to their own for the Mexican peoples, whose lands they illegally settled and ultimately waged war to obtain.
They did not desire freedom equal to their own for Asian peoples, whose labor they exploited and who they would eventually expel and incarcerate.
AMERICA’S OPEN SECRET
From the Declaration of Independence in 1776 to the outbreak of an internal Civil War in 1861, the United States consisted solely of a whites-only citizenry. This is the open secret never discussed on the national stage. Understandably, this secret exposes so many others.
Being a free person of any race in the US colonies leading up to and through the Civil War, never equated to the power of white citizenry. Even when citizenship was extended in 1868, the new citizens were never empowered to fairly access opportunity and compete with white citizens in a “free market” capitalist economy.
White power, domination and supremacy have tolerated others with limited levels of integration, but equality has remained elusive throughout the entire history of the nation, including today. For this reason, we must acknowledge one simple truth:
For an Inclusive America to live, white supremacy must die.
The realization of the necessary death of white supremacy is, of course, merely a thought exercise. After all, white supremacy is ingrained in the bedrock of the foundation upon which the United States was built. And every small step of progress toward empowering nonwhite populations is met with the force of white power seeking to maintain the status quo. In order to change the status quo, we must reveal the whole truth.
RECONSTRUCTING AMERICA ON A FOUNDATION OF TRUTH
Generations today cannot redesign, reshape and reconstruct an inherited 20th century segregationist landscape into a 21st century equitable inclusive society unless there is a common understanding of the depth and breadth and scope of the level of systemic biases ingrained in the bedrock of America’s foundation.
Truth and Reconciliation must become a priority across the United States. And that requires overcoming our reluctance to agitate the delicate senses of those whose paradigm is shaped by indoctrination into the ideology of white supremacy. The fate of ongoing efforts to build an Inclusive America must not be governed by tenuous tip-toeing around white fragility due to an aversion to an inconvenient truth. Truth and reconciliation starts with truth.
The truth is that the United States was founded as a racist nation dedicated to white male superiority. To be clear, not all white males are racist. Not all white males were regarded the same, even in colonial America. White males competed against one another and jockeyed for power while tolerating to a degree the presence of nonwhites.
White males established their own caste system and decided the fate and future of both white women and nonwhite peoples. White males were at the top of the power structure of the United States from its inception and remain so today.
Freedom was a luxury reserved for white males, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Until the outcome of the Civil War in 1865, even President Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, which gave black slaves their first taste of freedom, was in perilous doubt. Freedom for black people was perceived as a risky, dangerous experiment that would ultimately dilute white power and supremacy.
Ironically, freedom for the black slave exposed the biggest secret of the white man in America. It wasn’t “freedom” that the 13 British colonies fought so bitterly to achieve. It was power. After all, there were free black people throughout the era of slavery. But freedom for black people did not equate to power in antebellum America. It did for white men.
Freedom did not expand the 13 colonies into states. Power did. Freedom did not expand the territory of the US colonies to conquer lands west and south. Power did. Freedom did not come to the rescue of white families illegally settled in the lands of Texas, which belonged to Mexico. Power did. Freedom did not conquer every Native tribe on the North American continent. Power did.
In a speech to Congress in 1833, President Andrew Jackson unabashedly spoke about his belief in the superiority of white men and white power. In his successful attempt to persuade legislators to vote 29 to 17 in favor to remove Native tribes from their rightful lands, he said:
“They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement which are essential to any favorable change in their condition. Established in the midst of another and a superior race…they must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere [before] long disappear.”
Although white men ultimately agreed how they would segregate Native tribes onto distant out-of-the-way lands reserved for them by white men, they did not agree on the fate of black slaves, who had neither land nor power to resist the white man’s domination.
The white men who wielded power in the United States were split on the moral issue of slavery. And soon following John Brown’s failed insurrectionat Harper’s Ferry, a war between the states erupted.
“Had John Brown’s raid not occurred, it is very possible that the 1860 election would have been a regular two-party contest between antislavery Republicans and pro-slavery Democrats,” says City University of New York historian David Reynolds, author of John Brown: Abolitionist.
“The Democrats would probably have won, since Lincoln received just 40 percent of the popular vote, around one million votes less than his three opponents.”
While the Democrats split over slavery, Republican candidates such as William Seward were tarnished by their association with abolitionists; Lincoln, at the time, was regarded as one of his party’s more conservative options.
“John Brown was, in effect, a hammer that shattered Lincoln’s opponents into fragments,” says Reynolds. “Because Brown helped to disrupt the party system, Lincoln was carried to victory, which in turn led 11 states to secede from the Union. This in turn led to the Civil War.”
“John Brown Day of Reckoning: The Abolitionist’s Bloody Raid on a Federal Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry 150 Years Ago that Set the Stage for the Civil War”
Smithsonian Magazine, October 2009
WHITE CHRISTIAN AMERICAN POWERS COLLIDE
The Civil War, 1861–1865, pitted white Christian power against white Christian power. To be clear, they were not arguing over the future of Native peoples. They fully agreed the future of Native American tribes would include a limited freedom regulated by white men, upon lands relegated by white men, and governed by white men. Indeed, white men continued to wage war against Native tribes following the Civil War up to a final battle in 1918.
Even during the Civil War, white men continued to wage war on Native tribes. This included peaceful tribes who sought to stay away from white men. That effort failed:
On November 29, 1864, a former Methodist minister, John Chivington, led a surprise attack on peaceful Cheyennes and Arapahos on their reservation at Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado. His force consisted of 700 men, mainly volunteers in the First and Third Colorado Regiments.
Once a missionary to Wyandot Indians in Kansas, Chivington declared, “Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians! I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God’s heavens to kill Indians.”
That fateful cold morning, Chivington led his men against 200 Cheyennes and Arapahos. Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle had tied an American flag to his lodge pole as he was instructed, to indicate his village was at peace. When Chivington ordered the attack, Black Kettle tied a white flag beneath the American flag, calling to his people that the soldiers would not kill them. As many as 160 were massacred, mostly women and children.
WHAT IS FREEDOM WITHOUT POWER?
At the core of the Civil War dispute between white men was the fate of black people in the United States. At the end of the argument, the freedom black people received at the hands of the white men who won the war ironically revealed a major secret neither side had hoped to divulge:
Freedom did not equal power.
It was power that white men craved. Freedom was the ability to exercise it. But freedom alone was insufficient for the white man, yet was the only option offered to the black man. And with the emancipation of black people who had generations of lives lived on North American soil since the first African slaves arrived in 1619, the question white men had to address was how much power would black people be allowed to exercise in a white nation?
DILUTING WHITE POWER
The first step toward power for the newly freed black slave was the limitation of white power. And this came in the form of the 13th amendment, coerced by white progressive “radicals” in the congress.
As a condition of reinstating white men who lost the war back into seats of legislative power, the men who controlled their fate demanded support for an amendment to the constitution that would forever prohibit the institution of slavery. That was the first step, limiting the power of white men to perpetrate such evil again.
The second step toward power for the newly freed black slave was for white men to extend US citizenship. Through citizenship, which was specifically denied to black people (free or slave) from the outset in 1776 and sustained by the Supreme Court in 1857, the “African American” would be born in 1868. It was believed that with birthright as a US citizen certain inalienable rights would empower black people in America.
The active empowerment of black people in the US would come through coercive power by white progressive “radicals,” who demanded their white male counterparts in southern states acquiesce in support of a 14th amendment as a condition of regaining their legislative power and ultimately attaining control again over their own states that were under martial law. Reluctantly, white southern leaders acquiesced.
A 14th amendment was ratified on July 9, 1868 by a three-fourths majority of the 37 states, and the new “African American” (a.k.a. Negro American) became a citizen of the US … but with a caveat … the amended constitution’s grafted-in black American citizen in 1868 would not be considered equal in stature or power to America’s white citizen, who points to the 1776 Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights as his qualification to proclaim himself of higher stature as an original US citizen.
As if to illustrate the deep frustration felt across southern states during ratification of the 14th amendment, Anthony Trollope, a famofinal battleus English novelist traveling through the US at the time, expressed the discontent of white southerners in a letter to the editor of The Pall Mall Gazette published July 11, 1868 and republished in the Alexandria Gazette on July 25, 1868:
“It may be well at first to point out that in none of the great western States can a negro vote at all,” Trollope writes. In Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri none but a white man can vote. In Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan white men and Indians can vote but never a negro. In the great eastern States, negroes are kept away from the polls either practically or by actual rule. In Pennsylvania no black man can vote. In New York a negro can vote but not without real property qualification and three years’ residence. In the states of New England, except in Connecticut, negros can vote but their numbers are so small as to make their votes of no possible value.
Yet, it has been ordained by these victorious States that in the conquered Southern States all political power given the whites shall be put in the hands of men who yesterday were their slaves. For myself, I am prepared to argue, if be needed, that a negro is not fitted by his gifts and nature to exercise political power amidst a community of white men.
The intention is that, through the negroes, all political power, both State power and Federal power, shall be in the hands of members of Congress from the North — that the North shall have its heel on the South, and that the conquered shall be subject to the conquerors. Never has there been a more terrible condition imposed upon a fallen people. [Note the irony of such statement as the writer dismisses the fate of Native peoples and even the former slaves whose empowerment he bemoans, all of who are subject to the terrorism of their conquerers].
…but it has been left for the political animosity of a Republican from the North — a man who himself rejects all contact with the negro — to subject the late Southern slave owner to dominion from the African who was yesterday his slave. But it will not be so.
There will in these Southern States be a war of races; hatred from the white man to the poor, timid, incapable, unconscious negro; suffering for both, infinite suffering for poor Sambo, who will gradually begin his appointed task of disappearing; there will be rapid death of negro children, negro want, and all the following of negro vice; but the white man who lives near him will gradually resume his power.
There will an influx of Northern men into these States, and they will gradually become as the white men of the South. The scheme after a while will fail: but in the meantime all the hatred of a conquering and conquered people will be maintained. Such, sir, are my ideas about “reconstruction.”
Indeed, Mr. Tollope’s astute observation proved correct. A war of the racesdid ensue, and not only in the southern states. A Great Migration occurred in which millions of black Americans fled the south into northern and western states, only to find more of the same sort of hostility and hatred from which they had fled.
Segregationist policies and practices were systemic and ubiquitous. Black families could not escape the low caste into which they were cast. White men in the north did not need to travel to southern states to adopt the NIMBY attitudes of the southerner. While the northern whites did not condone slavery, neither did they condone equality and equitable empowerment of the Negro.
AMERICA’S MYTH OF ASSIMILATION
Since 1868, unequal citizenship status has remained the condition of the black American. For 100 years, a segment of white America has waged war against black America in every sense of the word. In 1896, the Supreme Court upheld the degenerative societal condition of two segregated American landscapes divided by race. Ironically, in an 8 to 1 ruling, the lone dissenter was the only southerner on the Court and a former slave owner. Justice John Marshall Harlan in his dissenting opinion wrote:
“The arbitrary separation of citizens, on the basis of race while they are on a public highway, is a badge of servitude wholly inconsistent with the civil freedom and the equality before the law established by the Constitution.”
Laws in southern states (Black Codes, Convict Leasing, Pig Laws, etc) that criminalized being black in America were confirmed in policy and practice across a number of southern states. Variations of city ordinances and discriminatory state laws targeted black Americans wherever they lived or traveled in the United States. Such “Sundown Towns” were places where black Americans were subjected to heightened risks of harm after sunset.
Native tribes were witness to the extreme mistreatment of Negro Americans by a white society that hated them. This observation was layered atop a Native cultural backlash known as “Ghost Dance,” which dissuaded the assimilation of Native children into white American culture. Such resistance among Native American tribes, while justified, was nevertheless met by hostility from a superior white power: the US government.
Anti-Indian anger rose in the late 1880s as the Ghost Dance spiritual movement emerged, spreading to two dozen tribes across 16 states, and threatening efforts to culturally assimilate tribal peoples. Ghost Dance, which taught that Indians had been defeated and confined to reservations because they had angered the gods by abandoning their traditional customs, called for a rejection of the white man’s ways.
In December 1890, several weeks after the famed Sioux Chief Sitting Bull was killed while being arrested, the U.S. Army’s Seventh Cavalry massacred 150 to 200 ghost dancers at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.
For their mass murder of disarmed Lakota, President Benjamin Harrison awarded about 20 soldiers the Medal of Honor.
“When Native Americans were slaughtered in the name of ‘Civilization.’” History.com; March 2, 2018
Assimilation into white America wasn’t an easy task, even for those who desired it. Although Negros sought to transition from the captive environment of institutional slavery into a lowest caste status in a white male dominated American society, every step was fraught with life-threatening danger, particularly if a white man feared a black man for any reason.
In 1870, the right to vote was extended to the Negro male by a 15th amendment, but to exercise that right risked many lives. White terrorism was the standard condition across a presumed free landscape that resulted in rampant kidnappings, torture and lynching of Negro Americans in all but four US states. Economic sanctions were imposed against black citizens. Segregationist policies and practices that protected white power and supremacy while oppressing black citizens and other nonwhites governed the entire landscape from sea to shining sea.
Contrary to popular belief, black Americans wasted no time in their efforts to leverage their freedom and newfound citizenship into economic empowerment. While white Americans prohibited the Negro from living within close proximity to whites, patronizing white businesses, sending Negro children to schools with white children and other constraints, black people nevertheless built their own sustainable communities. Negroes built homes, businesses, schools, libraries and even colleges. More than 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) exist to this day, most all of which were built in the aftermath of the Civil War leading up to the Negro American Revolution in the early 60s.
Through a century of painstakingly slow social and economic progress, black Americans were routinely victimized by police, and often years of investments in building businesses and wealth were quickly destroyed by white riots.
This cycle of violent oppression within institutionalized racist environments ensured that no matter how much social and economic progress black people made, it was tenuous and temporary, always subject to the hostile backlash of white power. The Smithsonian offers a peek into the history of policing black Americans, which gives us context around current policing protocols and the litany of complaints about police brutality.
In 1929, the Illinois Association for Criminal Justice published the Illinois Crime Survey. Conducted between 1927 and 1928, the survey sought to analyze causes of high crime rates in Chicago and Cook County, especially among criminals associated with Al Capone. But also the survey provided data on police activity — although African-Americans made up just five percent of the area’s population, they constituted 30 percent of the victims of police killings, the survey revealed.
“The Long Painful History of Police Brutality in the US”
Smithsonian Magazine, July 27, 2017
WHITE OPPOSITION TO BLACK PROGRESS
Segregationist policies and practices ensured black communities would form only in designated areas determined by city land use policies and political leadership. Police enforced strict separation of communities. And in too many cases to include in this report, they participated in decimating entire business and residential districts where black Americans had lived peacefully and thrived. Tulsa, Oklahoma had one such community.
In like manner to the famed Black Wall Street in Durham, NC, Tulsa’s Greenwood community was also considered a Black Wall Street, a completely self-sufficient, wealthy economic ecosystem. Yet, in 1921, a media-fueled incident triggered a white riot in which police deputized a white mob and authorized the complete destruction of Tulsa’s black community. Tulsa’s Historical Society describes the event:
On the morning of May 30, 1921, a young black man named Dick Rowland was riding in the elevator in the Drexel Building at Third and Main with a woman named Sarah Page. The details of what followed vary from person to person. Accounts of an incident circulated among the city’s white community during the day and became more exaggerated with each telling.
Tulsa police arrested Rowland the following day and began an investigation. An inflammatory report in the May 31 edition of the Tulsa Tribune spurred a confrontation between black and white armed mobs around the courthouse where the sheriff and his men had barricaded the top floor to protect Rowland. Shots were fired and the outnumbered African Americans began retreating to the Greenwood District.
In the early morning hours of June 1, 1921, Greenwood was looted and burned by white rioters. Governor Robertson declared martial law, and National Guard troops arrived in Tulsa. Guardsmen assisted firemen in putting out fires, took African Americans out of the hands of vigilantes and imprisoned all black Tulsans not already interned. Over 6,000 people were held at the Convention Hall and the Fairgrounds, some for as long as eight days.
Twenty-four hours after the violence erupted, it ceased. In the wake of the violence, 35 city blocks lay in charred ruins, over 800 people were treated for injuries and contemporary reports of deaths began at 36. Historians now believe as many as 300 people may have died.
NPR interviewed the last surviving witness to the Tulsa riot, which left 9,000 people homeless and destroyed the wealth of a prosperous black community in a single 24-hour period. A number of historical videos have been produced with interviews of eye witnesses, including this mini doc.
These frequent events of white hostility, alongside economic deprivation, overcrowding in squalid ghettos, rampant indiscriminate lynchings and an ever-present police brutality nurtured a national culture of war targeting a population of black Americans. This war would inevitably lead to an uprising and a great revolution: A Negro Revolution.
THE NEGRO AMERICAN REVOLUTION
Most Americans have never heard of the Negro American Revolution. Dr. King wrote about it in detail in his 1964 book, “Why We Can’t Wait,” which should be required reading in every middle school, high school and college in the country. The first chapter is titled, “The Negro Revolution: Why 1963?” It explains the three triggers that ignited the Negro American Revolution in 1963.
Summer came, and the weather was beautiful. But the climate, the social climate of American life, erupted into lighting flashes, trembled with thunder and vibrated to the relentless, growing rain of protest come to life through the land. Explosively, America’s third revolution — the Negro Revolution — had begun.
For the first time in the long and turbulent history of the nation, almost one thousand cities were engulfed in civil turmoil, with violence trembling just below the surface. …a submerged social group, propelled by a burning need for justice, lifting itself with sudden swiftness, moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger, creating an uprising so powerful that it shook a huge society from its comfortable base.
Never in American history had a group seized the streets, the squares, the sacrosanct business thoroughfares and the marbles halls of government to protest and proclaim the unendurability of their oppression.
Undeniably, the Negro had been an object of sympathy and wore the scars of deep grievances, but the nation had come to count on him as a creature who could quietly endure, silently suffer and patiently wait. He was well-trained in service and, whatever the provocation, he neither pushed back nor spoke back.
Just as lighting makes no sound until it strikes, the Negro Revolution generated quietly. But when it struck, the revealing flash of its power and the impact of its sincerity and fervor displayed a force of a frightening intensity. Three hundred years of humiliation, abuse and deprivation cannot be expected to find voice in a whisper. The storm clouds did not release a “gentle rain from heaven” bit a whirlwind, which has not yet spent its force or attained its full momentum.
Because there is more to come; because American society is bewildered by the spectacle of the Negro in revolt; because the dimensions are vast and the implications deep in a nation with twenty million Negroes, it is important to understand the history that is being made today.
Excerpt from “Why We Can’t Wait,” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, (published 1964)
Dr. King explained there were three main causes that led to nonviolent direct action coordinated uprising by Negroes in 1963 known as the “Negro American Revolution,” which continued through King’s steadfast leadership, and led to his death in 1968.
Those three causes began with this first one: elation among black American families following the Supreme Court’s 1954 landmark decision, Brown v Board of Education. The Court struck down generations of segregationist policies and practices in education that had relegated black children to substandard underfunded schools which sabotaged their chances to succeed in a white-dominated capitalist society. The Court stated that desegregation efforts would commence “with all deliberate speed.” But King revealed the farce when he wrote:
The Negro had been deeply disappointed over the slow pace of school desegregation. He knew that in 1954 the highest court in the land had handed down a decree calling for desegregation of schools “with all deliberate speed.” He knew that this edict from the Supreme Court had been heeded with all deliberate delay. At the beginning of 1963, nine years after this historic decision, approximately 9 percent of southern Negro students were attending integrated schools. If this pace were maintained, it would be the year 2054 before integration in southern schools would be a reality.
Yet the statistics make it abundantly clear that the segregationists of the South remained undefeated by the decision. From every section of Dixie, the announcement of the high court had been met with declarations of defiance. Once recovered from their initial outrage, these defenders of the status quo had seized the offensive to impose their own schedule of change. The progress that was supposed to have been achieved with deliberate speed had created change for less than 2 percent of Negro children in most areas of the South and not even one-tenth of 1 percent in some parts of the deepest South.
It is an unadvertised fact that soon after the 1954 decision, the Supreme Court retreated from its own position by giving approval to the Pupil Placement Law. This law permitted the states themselves to determine where children might be placed by virtue of family background, special ability and other subjective criteria. The Pupil Placement Law was almost as far-reaching in modifying and limiting the integration of schools as the original decision had been in attempting to eliminate segregation.
Excerpt from “Why We Can’t Wait,” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, (published 1964)
Dr. King revealed the enormity of the Negro discontent with both political parties when he described the promises made by both JFK and Richard Nixon during the 1960 presidential election campaign. Nixon had served as President Eisenhower’s Vice President; as the presumptive nominee and frontrunner in the election, he only offered lip service to the demands of the Negro to end segregation.
Kennedy needed the black vote to win. And he offered what seemed to be sincere promises to prioritize improving the plight of the Negro during his administration. His victory over Nixon (by a narrow margin) offered new hope for black Americans who were still steaming about their children’s future being stymied by the Supreme Court. Kennedy claimed during the campaign that he would eliminate housing discrimination “with a stroke of a pen,” King wrote.
Instead, JFK failed to eliminate housing discrimination at all. He didn’t sign legislation to even begin to address it until 1962, and then he failed to address widespread discriminatory practices in the banking industry, King lamented in his book.
These three triggers — segregationist policies and practices in education, housing and banking — led to the uprising of the Negro American Revolution in 1963. And these three triggers are the same fundamental challenges black Americans still face today, albeit conditions have worsened nationwide.
SEGREGATION TODAY, TOMORROW, FOREVER
In early summer 1963, Dr. King traveled to Detroit’s Cobo Hall where he gave a thundering condemnation of the system of segregation, which was established by white men (on both sides of the question regarding the fate of black people) as a conditional compromise to the coerced citizenship amendment to the constitution in 1868.
This corrupt system of segregation, established through collaboration between both white male progressives (who initially sought to free black people and empower them as US citizens) and white conservatives (who consistently sought to sustain the status quo of the power inherent in a whites-only citizenry and the continued enslavement of black people), persists to this very day in every state in the nation. Both parties remain quiet about it. Both parties lack determination to disrupt and dismantle segregationist policies and practices in every city.
Who, in white America’s pulpits, politics and philanthropic sectors today, is calling for an end to segregation as forcefully as King did in Detroit?
Almost one hundred and one years ago, on September the 22nd, 1862, to be exact, a great and noble American, Abraham Lincoln, signed an executive order, which was to take effect on January the first, 1863. This executive order was called the Emancipation Proclamation and it served to free the Negro from the bondage of physical slavery.
But one hundred years later, the Negro in the United States of America still isn’t free. [Applause]
The events of Birmingham, Alabama, and the more than sixty communities that have started protest movements since Birmingham, are indicative of the fact that the Negro is now determined to be free. (Yeah) [Applause]
For Birmingham tells us something in glaring terms. It says first that the Negro is no longer willing to acceptracial segregationin any of its dimensions. [Applause]
For we have come to see that segregation is not only sociologically untenable, it is not only politically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful.
Segregationis a cancer in the body politic, which must be removed before our democratic health can be realized. [Applause]
Segregationis wrong because it is nothing but a new form of slavery covered up with certain niceties of complexity. [Applause]
Segregation is wrong because it is a system of adultery perpetuated by an illicit intercourse between injustice and immorality. [Applause]
And in Birmingham, Alabama, and all over the South and all over the nation, we are simply saying that we will no longer sell our birthright of freedom for a mess of segregated pottage. [Applause]
In a real sense, we arethrough with segregation now, henceforth, and forevermore. [Sustained applause]
Freedom Rally speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr
Cobo Hall, Detroit, Michigan, June 23, 1963
Dr. King excoriated the system of segregation and indicted white men on both sides of the political aisle who established and sustained it. He called into question executive, legislative and judicial powers that upheld such injustice at every level of governance (local, regional, state and federal).
King exposed the lie white Americans told themselves and other nations about a freedom-loving, benevolent, meritocratic, egalitarian society that was the envy of the world. King’s reality was a white America waging war against black America, multiculturalism and an Inclusive America. This war was evident in all walks of life. (Notably, this was the same sentiment expressed by President Trump’s former National Security Advisor, Steve Bannon, whose opposition to multiculturalism remains clear).
The power inherent in King’s words caused reverberations around the globe. Just two months after his opening act in Detroit, King gave the closing speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. King began his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech by identifying the actual reality faced by the Negro family living in a hostile white society:
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. (My Lord, Yeah)
One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. (Hmm)
One hundred years later (All right), the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
One hundred years later (My Lord) [applause], the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. (Yes, yes)
And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr speech, “I have a Dream”
March on Washington, August 28, 1963
In 1964, LBJ and the US Congress responded to the growing refrain for freedom, justice and equality from black America. The 1964 Civil Rights Act promised to deliver on the 14th amendment.
For the record, it wasn’t the first or last civil rights legislation, just another in a long succession of civil rights acts: 1866, 1871, 1875, 1957, 1960, 1964, 1968 and 1991. It should also be noted there are no civil rights acts needed to protect the rights granted to white Americans by the constitution or enable the enforcement thereof.
In 1965, following the deadly protests in Selma and Birmingham, AL, congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which promised to enforce the 15th amendment. Both congressional acts in ’64 and ’65, signed into law by President Johnson, are perceived by today’s generations as pinnacle highlights of the so-called “Civil Rights Movement.” But neither of these efforts by LBJ and congress addressed the three specific triggers of the Negro American Revolution.
And despite revisionist storytelling by historians, educators and media, which have diluted or erased reasons for the revolution (and knowledge of the revolution itself) from America’s national memory, the realities of what happened in the wake of inept political olive branches by both parties is well documented. Schools, churches and media today would benefit their audiences by including it.
AMERICA’S MOST IMPORTANT REVOLUTION
In 1965, the US Department of Labor issued a blistering report on the condition of the Negro family, fully indicting the structure of white American society as racist and hostile to the Negro American. It acknowledged the Negro Revolution as “the most important domestic event in the postwar period of the United States.” It lauded the important leadership of Dr. King and the positive global impact of the revolution he led. Even the first chapter of the report is titled, “The Negro American Revolution.”
Here are a few excerpts from the 1965 US Department of Labor report “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action”:
The United States is approaching a new crisis in race relations. In this new period the expectations of the Negro Americans will go beyond civil rights. Being Americans, they will now expect that in the near future equal opportunities for them as a group will produce roughly equal results, as compared with other groups. This is not going to happen. Nor will it happen for generations to come unless a new and special effort is made.
There are two reasons.
First, the racist virus in the American blood stream still afflicts us: Negroes will encounter serious personal prejudice for at least another generation.
Second, three centuries of sometimes unimaginable mistreatment have taken their toll on the Negro people.
The harsh fact is that as a group, at the present time, in terms of ability to win out in the competitions of American life, they are not equal to most of those groups with which they will be competing. Individually, Negro Americans reach the highest peaks of achievement. But collectively, in the spectrum of American ethnic and religious and regional groups, where some get plenty and some get none, where some send eighty percent of their children to college and others pull them out of school at the 8th grade, Negroes are among the weakest.
The most difficult fact for white Americans to understand is that in these terms the circumstances of the Negro American community in recent years has probably been getting worse, not better.
Indices of dollars of income, standards of living, and years of education deceive. The gap between the Negro and most other groups in American society is widening.
Chapter 1: The Negro American Revolution
The Negro American revolution is rightly regarded as the most important domestic event of the postwar period in the United States.
Nothing like it has occurred since the upheavals of the 1930’s which led to the organization of the great industrial trade unions, and which in turn profoundly altered both the economy and the political scene. There have been few other events in our history — the American Revolution itself, the surge of Jacksonian Democracy in the 1830’s, the Abolitionist movement, and the Populist movement of the late 19th Century — comparable to the current Negro movement.
There has been none more important. The Negro American revolution holds forth the prospect that the American Republic, which at birth was flawed by the institution of Negro slavery, and which throughout its history has been marred by the unequal treatment of Negro citizens, will at last redeem the full promise of the Declaration of Independence.
Although the Negro leadership has conducted itself with the strictest propriety, acting always and only as American citizens asserting their rights within the framework of the American political system, it is no less clear that the movement has profound international implications.
It is clear that what happens in America is being taken as a sign of what can, or must, happen in the world at large. The course of world eventswill be profoundly affected by thesuccess or failure of the Negro American Revolutionin seeking the peaceful assimilation of the races in the United States. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Dr. Martin Luther King was as much an expression of the hope for the future, as it was recognition for past achievement.
It is no less clear that carrying this revolution forward to a successful conclusion is a first priorityconfronting the Great Society.
By the end of 1965, there had been no national action prescribed by either the president or congress. But the suburb of Watts in Los Angeles exploded into multiple days of violence in August 1965. The Watts Riots (a.k.a. Watts Rebellion) lasted for six days, resulting in 34 deaths, 1,032 injuries and 4,000 arrests. It involved 34,000 people and the destruction of about 1,000 buildings totaling approximately $40 million in damages.
The reason for the violent explosion is rooted in the three triggers that ignited the Negro American Revolution. Black Americans were tiring of the slow pace of progress in education, housing, employment, access to capital for businesses and other arenas of economic opportunity.
Dr. King referred to a riot as “the language of the unheard.”
By the end of 1967, more than 150 cities had erupted in race riots in a single year across 34 states including what came to be known as “The Long Hot Summer.” The worst was in Detroit, where Dr. King had called emphatically for an end to segregation nationwide just four years prior.
By Christmas 1967, more than 67,000 whites had fled Detroit in a single year. The following year, another 80,000 abandoned the city, taking with them the wealth of the city and leaving economic ruins in the hands of the city’s black leaders and concluding a dramatic demographic transition from a city that was 90 percent white during WWII to one that is 90 percent minority today.
SEGREGATIONIST DREAM: MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN
By the end of 1968,Dr. King was gone, his life taken by an assassin’s bullet. Bobby Kennedy was also assassinated. Riots had once again erupted across the landscape of America’s cities. And to add insult to injury, Alabama Governor George Wallace traveled to Detroit’s Cobo Hall, where in 1963 King had denounced segregation as “sinful” and “evil” and declared, “We are through with segregation now, henceforth and forevermore!”
Wallace stood in the same arena where Dr. King had once denounced segregation, and Wallace renewed its strength, calling for the nation to rededicate itself to segregation. He declared to a raucous and riotous crowd of 11,000, “Segregation today, tomorrow and forever!” Wallace’s supporters roared approval; anti-Wallace protesters responded, as did the police.
In 1968 America elected Richard Nixon as president. He ran on the campaign trail as a “law and order” candidate, appealing to white America’s thirst for a quenching of civil rights activism, rioting and the progress of “liberalism.”. Where Nixon failed in 1960 against JFK, he succeeded against Hubert Humphrey, which the Democrats nominated due to his support of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The Democratic Party’s internal tumult over support for minority empowerment lost a lot of its constituency when white segregationists chose to support Wallace in his independent bid for the presidency. They ultimately channeled their support for Nixon in the general election. He was reelected by a landslide despite the ongoing Watergate investigations. The support of white segregationists for Republican Party candidates has remained steady ever since. American Public Media reports:
Historian Lewis Gould says all the tumult and tragedy of the Democratic nomination process made it seem at the time like the national election was “a contest primarily for the soul of the Democratic Party.” As Gould writes, “The issue seemed to be how liberal the United States would be in the future,” not how much power Democrats could retain in Washington.
On November 5, Democrats would learn just how much they had lost touch with voters.
Meanwhile, Richard Nixon was anything but out of touch. The weeks and months he spent stumping for Goldwater and other GOP contenders gave him an up-close view of something lost on the liberals: White Americans were getting tired of them. Rick Perlstein says Nixon could see that voters “were angry at liberalism, angry at race riots in the city, and angry at violence on campuses.”
In a world that seemed to be falling apart at the seams, Perlstein says, “Richard Nixon reestablished himself as a figure of destiny by speaking to people’s craving for order.”
Accepting the Republican nomination for president at the convention in Miami, Nixon spoke to what he called “the great majority of Americans, the forgotten Americans, the non-shouters, the non-demonstrators.” The first civil right in America, Nixon said, was the right to be free from the violence of civil unrest.
During his campaign, Nixon repeatedly called for “law and order.” He pledged that under his administration, “We shall reestablish freedom from fear in America so that America can take the lead of reestablishing freedom from fear in the world.”
1968 was a tumultuous turning point in US history. America had watched a movement among black Americans begin in the mid-1950s with the ’54 Supreme Court ruling, followed by the brutal murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till by white supremacists in the summer of 1955, and Rosa Parks’ nonviolent direct action protest in December ’55.
A continuous parade of protests carried into the next decade, leading to the uprising of the Negro American Revolution of 1963 that continued through the death of Dr. King in 1968.
LBJ established the Kerner Commission in 1968 to study the reasons for the Negro uprising. After 50 years, the Smithsonian looked back on the report and compared it to present-day circumstances. They found an unsurprising result: virtually all of the factors contributing to the “shameful condition” (as Dr. King described the plight of black Americans) had worsened.
From the Kerner report, 1968:
· Segregation and poverty have created in the racial ghetto a destructive environment totally unknown to most white Americans.
· What white Americans have never fully understood but what the Negro can never forget — is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.
· It is time now to turn with all the purpose at our command to the major unfinished business of this nation. It is time to adopt strategies for action that will produce quick and visible progress. It is time to make good the promises of American democracy to all citizens-urban and rural, white and black, Spanish-surname, American Indian, and every minority group.
From the Smithsonian Magazine report, 2018:
“We made progress on virtually every aspect of race and poverty for nearly a decade after the Kerner Report and then that progress slowed, then stopped and in many ways was reversed, so that today racial and ethnic discrimination is again worsening. We are resegregating our cities and our schools, condemning millions of kids to inferior education and taking away their real possibility of getting out of poverty,” Fred Harris, the last surviving member of the Kerner Commission, said during a talk at George Washington University on Tuesday.
Statistics tell the story. In 1988 about 44 percent of black children went to majority-white schools. But that was also the same year that courts began reversing desegregation policies. Now that number has dropped to 20 percent. There are other sobering statistics. As the AP points out, the study shows that following the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, home ownership by black Americans jumped around 6 percent. Those gains, however, reversed between 2000 and 2015 when black ownership dropped by 6 percent.
[Note: today black home ownership is 43.6% compared to white home ownership at 73.6%]
The study also found that in 2016, the number of people living in deep poverty — defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as a household with “total cash income below 50 percent of its poverty threshold” — was 16 percentage points higher than it was in 1975. Meanwhile, the number of U.S. children living in poverty has climbed from 15.6 percent in 1968 to 21 percent in 2017.
The Economic Policy Institute, which released its own study on the 50th anniversary of Kerner Commission’s findings, reports that in 2017 black unemployment was higher than it was in 1968, and it remained around twice the rate of white unemployment. The rate of incarcerated individuals who are black also tripled since the 1968 report came out. And the wealth gap has also increased. Today, the median white family has 10 times the wealth of the median black family.
“Study Shows Little Change Since Kerner Commission Reported on Racism 50 Years Ago: An update to the landmark study finds there is now more poverty and segregation in America”
Smithsonian Magazine, March 2, 2018
AMERICA’S ALARM CLOCK
America is running out of time. It must awaken to a harsh reality that requires us to act before the circumstances spiral out of control. These conditions were 50+ years in the making:
Over the past 50 years, the US economy has skyrocketed. Today, the US is the world’s leader in global competitiveness with a $21T GDP. America has the world’s most powerful military with an annual budget of $700B, more than the combined budgets of the world’s next seven largest militaries.
America has successfully transitioned through three economic eras: Agrarian Economy, Manufacturing Economy and a Tech-Based Innovation Economy. We have now entered a Fourth Industrial Revolution wherein the pace of innovation, creative destruction and obsolescence is accelerating.
In previous economic eras, white males owned, controlled and managed the bulk of America’s industries and wealth. They still own nearly all of America’s land.
Today, white Americans produce 92% of the nation’s GDP and own 80% of US employer firms. But as the speed of economic innovation continues to increase, the nation will need to cultivate more internal talent to sustain its lofty perch atop the global competitiveness chart.
America can no longer rely primarily upon its white population alone for the bulk of its innovative entrepreneurial and professional workforce talent.
White Americans have a population growth problem and are experiencing a 40-year decline in entrepreneurship. More businesses are dying than starting each year. And while 2.2% of the white population own employer firms, the population is stagnant and incapable of sustaining the growth of new businesses to keep pace with market disruptions and business closures.
That said, 2.2% is a MUCH higher level of employers among the white population than the Hispanic and black populations, of which just 0.5% and 0.2% of their populations respectively are employers. There is no national strategy to scale up this measurable economic impact. We must envision a path to improve productivity among these two populations and increase the employer base to at least 1% of each population in the next 20 years. In so doing, the entire US economy will benefit at the local, regional and state levels. America’s global competitiveness will be bolstered by improving the productivity of its underrepresented populations in the Innovation Economy. This is not merely a nice suggestion. It is a demographically driven economic imperative.
The shifting racial demographics of the United States project that by mid-century Hispanic and black populations will comprise 42% of the total population. This is a ticking time bomb that will explode into enormous economic opportunity for America or result in nearly half of the country unable to produce more than 5% of the GDP and virtually no job growth. The latter spells catastrophe.
An alarm is sounding. America must wake up to the reality of a needed change.
The current situation points to dire outcomes in the coming decades unless there is a national effort based on a solid vision, strategy and plan to exponentially improve the productivity of underrepresented populations, namely black and Hispanic, in the global tech-based Innovation Economy. The movement of that needle of economic progress cannot occur with historic segregationist policies and practices continuing to dominate the US economy at the local, regional and state levels. There must be disruption. Fortunately, mayors of cities across the nation are waking up to the fact that it is in their power to initiate progress, solicit ideas, develop new strategies and pilot experimental projects.
The good news is both black and Hispanic minority populations, which current represent a collective 30% of the total population, have demonstrated strong sustained growth rates in entrepreneurship. Potential talent exists in both populations to greatly improve business productivity outcomes and job growth, albeit largely untapped, uncultivated and underutilized.
For example, there are 2.6 million black-owned businesses and 3.3 million Hispanic-owned businesses. Unfortunately, black businesses produce less than 1% GDP and Hispanic businesses produce roughly 3%. Asian businesses produce roughly 5% GDP. Collectively, all minority businesses combined produce less than 9% GDP. That leaves plenty of room for growth.
Targeting black and Hispanic businesses with a process similar to the comprehensive economic development strategies (CEDS) plan can be used to develop an infrastructure that can transition a minimum of 10% of the entrepreneurial sole proprietors among a combined 6 million businesses into employer firms. That translates into 600,000 new employers. That’s a job growth strategy no leader has yet proposed.
The good news is the US knows how to develop start-ups into stay-ups and grow them into scale-ups. The challenge has always been a directional focus that fails to include black and brown Americans.
And now with a hostile political spotlight under the Trump administration aimed at Hispanic Americans, it appears the proverbial economic clock is simply ticking with no focus on investing in the necessary infrastructure required to support inclusive economic ecosystems in cities and states where a majority of the economic opportunity among these two groups exists.
I’m encouraged, however, that mayors and foundations are taking the lead in supporting the building of inclusive local entrepreneurial ecosystems. But these localized efforts need broader help from state and federal governments.
WARNING: We are running out of time. The impediments we inherited from a history of white power, domination and supremacy still haunt every city and the policies governing local economies. These segregationist systems must be disrupted, dismantled and discarded to make way for the building of a new foundation upon which we reconstruct the nation into an Inclusive American landscape.
21st CENTURY RECONSTRUCTION
It is past time for America to wake up and smell the coming catastrophe. This land is no longer a whites-only citizenry. It can no longer be a whites-first landscape.
America is a multicultural society. Its economic infrastructure must to be redesigned, reshaped and reconstructed to build equitable access to opportunities and pathways to prosperity for all Americans. When we focus on national projects that invest in shoring up areas of most vulnerability and scaling up areas of greatest growth potential, we will find our highest attention is turned toward the Americans who have long been neglected.
In our slumber, we have missed the value immigrants have contributed. We’ve missed the strength of centuries of untiring black labor, professional skills and inventions that have contributed greatly to America’s wealth despite being under great duress.
We’ve missed the widespread skilled labor and entrepreneurship provided by Latinx Americans in industries that would otherwise collapse without their productivity. As we slept, we imagined a nation owned by the wealthiest white Americans and managed for the benefit of white Americans. This dream has produced a nightmare for tens millions of Americans.
We can ill-afford to keep sleeping and dreaming. Our reality is an America that’s still deeply racially divided. A nation still at war with itself over the same question it has yet to resolve from the Reconstruction Era: What will we do with black people?
That question answers all the other questions involving all other minority populations. When white America becomes determined to lift the boats of her most vulnerable and most oppressed, all other boats are lifted. When America begins to look into her minority communities and seek to cultivate the value inherent in those communities, she will benefit from a wealth of talent that has been previously overlooked, ignored and left to languish without proper resources to thrive.
In 1965, the Department of Labor report on the Negro Family stated clearly that the top priority of this nation should be to ensure a successful conclusion to the Negro American Revolution.
It is clear that what happens in America is being taken as a sign of what can, or must, happen in the world at large. The course of world eventswill be profoundly affected by thesuccess or failure of the Negro American Revolutionin seeking the peaceful assimilation of the races in the United States. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Dr. Martin Luther King was as much an expression of the hope for the future, as it was recognition for past achievement.
It is no less clear that carrying this revolution forward to a successful conclusionis a first priorityconfronting the Great Society.
The 1968 Kerner Report reiterated the same recommendation and called for a national sustained effort.
It is time now to turn with all the purpose at our command to the major unfinished business of this nation. It is time to adopt strategies for action that will produce quick and visible progress. It is time to make good the promises of American democracy to all citizens-urban and rural, white and black, Spanish-surname, American Indian, and every minority group.
Our recommendations embrace three basic principles:
* To mount programs on a scale equal to the dimension of the problems:
* To aim these programs for high impact in the immediate future in order to close the gap between promise and performance;
* To undertake new initiatives and experiments that can change the system of failure and frustration that now dominates the ghetto and weakens our society.
These programs will require unprecedented levels of funding and performance, but they neither probe deeper nor demand more than the problems which called them forth. There can be no higher priority for national action and no higher claim on the nation’s conscience.
The premier challenge America faces today is a lack of vision. We lack vision principally because we lack knowledge of the past, which has resulted in recycling of the same policies, practices and processes that exacerbate, rather than resolve, old problems we inherited.
BUILDING AN INCLUSIVE AMERICA
The nation today needs a solid vision of what an Inclusive America looks like, then a strategy with measurable milestones. And finally a plan that includes programmatic steps based on the strategy directed toward the visionary goal. The plan will require long-term investment, with a minimum 10-year horizon.
I believe we can do this as a country. I believe we can end the war waged against black Americans and our multicultural society.
I believe we can lessen the economic productivity burden on white America by empowering black and brown America to succeed, and scaling up the progress made by Asian Americans.
I believe we can redesign, reshape and reconstruct a nation, which was built on obsolete 20th century principles, and grow into a 21st century equitable society and Inclusive America.
It’s time to wake up the nation and end the segregationist policies and practices that continue to serve as a wall dividing us all. As long as this wall remains, we will continue to pay an enormous price, as will our children and grandchildren.
I implore the president, congress, governors and mayors to tear down the walls of segregation. Governors and mayors across America, you can start the demolition in your own backyard now.
The next step is to inform the nation about the revolution and then let’s get to work on building an inclusive America that benefits us all.
Let’s share the truth about our nation and commit to changing the status quo we inherited from the past.
Let’s commit to creating a future we can be proud of wherein all Americans can access opportunities for success. Let’s build a truly great Inclusive America.
Mike Green is a cultural economist and co-founder of ScaleUp Partners, a national consultancy specializing in Inclusive Competitiveness strategies to improve the productivity of underrepresented populations in the global tech-based Innovation Economy. Reach Mike via Twitter: @amikegreen2 or Email: email@example.com