It began with sugar.
Yes, the roots of racism in America can be traced to our human sweet tooth.
But before I get to that let me remind you of my purpose in writing this post.
As I mentioned in Part 1 White women can help. The horrific events of this Racial Relationship sinkhole deserve our focused attention. We need to learn about the injustices that strangle the freedoms of every Black person and person of color in America. Listening to the lived experiences of Black people and taking action to partner in dismantling these systems is our best path forward.
Later in this post, I’ll share specific ways we can come alongside Black people to help dismantle the inequality rooted deep in our society. We’ll get to that but first I’d like to share some history and key definitions in order to establish a platform for our discussion.
- From 1532 till 1832 at least 12 million Africans were taken to the Americas as slaves. “The Triangle Trade” was originally developed because of the growing demand for sugar.
- (I told you it started with sugar.)
- Ships from The United Kingdom carried textiles, gunpowder, and other goods to several West African countries. Slave merchants in these countries sold millions of their people who were taken in chains to the Caribbean and America to work on sugar plantations. These men and women were exchanged for sugar, cotton, spices, and rum which were taken back to Great Britain and sold.
- Around the year 1700, Slave Patrols were begun and helped maintain the economic order and to assist the wealthy landowners in recovering and punishing slaves who essentially were considered property. The badge of the slave patrol bore the same star as police badges today. See photos here.
- “Police were never meant to protect and serve me and you. They started as slave catchers hired by wealthy plantation owners. Businesses started the first organized police force in Boston in 1838 to protect their property and safeguard the transport of goods from the port of Boston to other places. These early business owners kept their profits by incentivizing poor white people to turn against enslaved black people and side with the rich who steal from us all. And the first American prisons started as work camps for newly freed slaves. Police and prisons, since their founding, have always been about safety for the haves while wreaking havoc for the have-nots.” – excerpt from The Defenders Freedom Papers
- In 1787 The Three-Fifths Compromise was reached and added to the US Constitution. Three out of every five slaves were counted which gave the Southern states one third more seats in Congress than if the slaves had been ignored.
- In 1863 President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation which freed all slaves- but did not outlaw slavery nor did it grant citizenship to the ex-slaves.
- In 1865 the 13th Amendment was adopted- abolishing slavery in the U.S. but with a loophole- providing “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.”
- In 1868 the 14th Amendment granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, which included former slaves recently freed.
- In 1844 Louisiana opened its first privatized prison. Using inmates to produce clothing is basically slave labor.
- In 1934 the US government implemented “vocational skills” forcing prisoners to produce manufactured goods. Military gear, law enforcement equipment, McDonald’s uniforms, Microsoft packaging are made by prisoners saving the government billions of dollars.
- From 1934-1968 the Federal Housing Administration made homeownership accessible to white people by guaranteeing their loans but explicitly refused to back loans to black people or even other people who lived near Black people. Redlining destroyed the possibility of investment wherever black people lived.
- In the 1940’s several states began using inmates as slave labor to fight wildfires. On average these inmates are paid $1.50/day. In the year 2018, the state of California saved 100 million dollars by utilizing inmates on the front lines of fires.
- In 1980 40,900 U.S. individuals were incarcerated.
- By 2017 452,900 individuals were in prison. For-profit prisons are prevalent and paid based on the number of prisoners that the prison houses.
- Since 1986 and the passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, the U.S. penal population exploded from around 300,000 to more than 2 million. Ronald Reagan is President from 1981-89.
- “Prisoners are cheaper than even offshoring jobs to eight-year-old children in distant lands. Prison expansion in the ’80s and ’90s is made by Victoria’s Secret, Whole Foods, AT&T, and Starbucks. Stock in private prisons and companies attached to prisons represents the largest growth industry in the American market.” – “When They Call You A Terrorist” by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha Bandele.
- In 2018 Black males account for 13% of the U.S. population yet make up 34% of the total male prison population, whereas white males account for 76% of the population yet only 29% of the prison population.
- In 2019 Richard Rothstein published “The Color of Law” which highlights the truths of government policies that keep Educational, Housing, and Community Redlining alive.
- In 2019 a high school Black student with dreadlocks was suspended and never given the opportunity to sign a dress code waiver for religious/cultural differences. Ibram X. Kendi, a professor and author of “How to Be an Antiracist,” wrote that demanding a student to cut his dreadlocks actually holds students to a low standard of expectations .”There’s nothing lower than teaching students to not respect cultural difference,” he wrote.
- In 2019 it became necessary to establish The CROWN Act which prohibits discrimination based on hairstyles by extending statutory protections based on race to hair texture and protective styles in state Employment, Housing, Education Codes. Only 7 states have signed up -43 to go.
Definitions (taken from Wikipedia)
- White Privilege: White privilege is the unearned, mostly unacknowledged social advantage white people have over other racial groups simply because they are white.
- Jim Crow: These laws were state and local statutes legalizing racial segregation. Named after a Black minstrel show character, these laws existed from the post-civil war until 1968. The laws were meant to marginalize Black people by denying them the right to vote, hold jobs, get an education, or other opportunities.
- 13th amendment: Passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, the 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States and provides that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”.
- Juneteenth: The oldest known celebration honoring the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger led thousands of federal troops to Galveston, Texas to announce that the Civil War had ended, and slaves had been freed.
- Redlining: In the 1930s, a U.S. government agency classified different neighborhoods based on how safe it was to give out mortgage loans. These classifications were color-coded onto maps: green meant “best”, blue meant “still desirable”, yellow meant “definitely declining”, and red meant “hazardous”. Neighborhoods with large Black or minority populations were typically colored red, meaning authorities deemed it risky to give those residents a loan. Banks were discouraged from lending to people in these areas.
- Educational Redlining: The racial and economic segregation that sets the stage for redlining is now firmly in place. One in four American children lives in poverty, nearly 60 percent more than in 1974, and the number of people living in severe poverty has reached a record high. A national study released in 2009 found that one in fifty children in America is homeless and living in a shelter, motel, car, shared housing, abandoned building, park, or orphanage.
“Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination—employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service—are suddenly legal. As a criminal, you are afforded scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow. We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”-Excerpt from the Introduction to “The New Jim Crow“
Can you answer yes to these?
Thanks for sticking with me up till this point. As I promised at the beginning of this diatribe, I’m wrapping it up with some checklists that I found from this awesome Blogger whose name is Michelle. If you answer “yes” to most of these you have White privilege.
- I have usually had access to healthcare.
- I can afford to visit a healthcare professional multiple times per year.
- I have access to transportation that will get me where I need to go.
- I have knowledge of and access to community resources.
- I can swear or commit a crime without people attributing it to the low morals of my class.
- People do not assume that I am unintelligent or lazy based on the dialect I grew up speaking.
- Regardless of the season, I can count on my home remaining a comfortable temperature.
I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri. My father was a quiet leader and an executive with the Lutheran Church Special Ministries during most of his career. One of my cherished memories of “Papa” occurred while I was seven years old. It was 1965 and my father traveled to Selma, Alabama to join black leaders, students, Martin Luther King, Jr., and hundreds of sympathizers in support of black citizens’ right to vote.
rubbing off on me
I’m grateful for my Papa. He’s been dead a long time, however, I still gain inspiration and strength recalling his gentle yet passionate spirit to serve others.
I don’t share this in order to brag- but rather to demonstrate what a person can do to make a difference. For instance, I’ve served dinners at homeless shelters, spent five summers (2 weeks each) mucking out homes in New Orleans for victims of Katrina Hurricane, and sponsor two children in Kenya and Rwanda through World Vision. Additionally, I’ve staffed an emergency care line for my community, gathered and delivered gifts for underprivileged children, and joined a team through Food for the Hungry to build a playground in a remote village in Peru. In 2005 I served the people of India and Sri Lanka with medical clinics after the huge Tsunami. Since the death of George Floyd, I’ve donated monies to several African American causes and am supporting two Black friends through Patreon.
listen and learn
Additionally, on the 22nd of July, nineteen of my family gathered on Zoom to learn more about racism as we discuss Patrisse Khan-Cullor’s book “When they call you a terrorist“. I love my family!
making a difference?
Now it’s your turn. Ask yourself these questions:
- “What am I passionate about?”
- “What books should I be reading to learn more about how to be a support to all people of color?”
- “How can I build relationships with other Black women?”
- “Can I volunteer on the phone to answer hotline calls?”
- “What possessions can I donate to a Black organization?”
- “What irks me about my community- how can I be a part of a solution?”
- “Who is that person that needs my help?”
- “Who is in need of my prayers?”
- “Do I know my senator and state representative?”
Michelle from King of States writes:
“We are firmly in the “DO SOMETHING, WHITE PEOPLE” phase of antiracism and systemic reform, so if you’re looking for a list of ways to donate, participate, advocate, or educate yourself, that’s over here.
“Since you’re gonna spend money you might as well spend it at a Black-owned business because there’s no equity or justice without a massive redistribution of wealth; no one person is going to solve this, but everyone has a role.”
lists and suggestions
https://www.forbes.com/sites/elisabethbrier/2020/06/05/75-black-owned-businesses-to-support/#561f1b113814 100 Black-owned businesses to support
https://blkandbold.com/ coffee and teas
https://boleroadtextiles.com/ cool textiles
https://cherryblossomintimates.com/bras for women who have had mastectomies
https://www.fini.shoes/mens and women’s footwear
https://www.blacknation.app/ search engine for black businesses to support
How are you doing?
Girlfriends, I know I’ve thrown a lot of stuff at you today. Please promise that you will check out the links I’ve referenced. Together we can support, advocate for, and walk alongside our fellow Black citizens -avoiding the travesty of life’s ugliest relationship pothole – racism.
“We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface hidden tension that is already alive”
― Martin Luther King