I’ve been reading The 1619 Project. It’s an enlightening book. The author describes plantations as work camps. I’ve never thought of Monticello, Mount Vernon and the like in the same light as Ravensbruck and Birkenau but they were. Enslaved African Americans were forced to work, brutally treated and in many cases killed to keep them towing the line. They were bred like livestock and treated the same or worse.
I learned in school that Lincoln freed the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation but it took the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendment to codify that into United States law. A new era emerged after the Civil War until the the end of the Reconstruction era when federal troops were withdrawn from the southern states. Then all hell broke loose as vigilante rule took over and Blacks and other people of color were systematically subjugated. Voter suppression and intimidation was the norm. Four thousand blacks were lynched between 1880 and 1940. Teenage Emmet Till was brutally murdered in 1955 for smiling at a white woman. People of color really weren’t free until the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1965.
Native Americans were forced off their lands and put on reservations. Schools were created to forcibly destroy their culture and they the original owners of the Americas were not granted the right to vote in the United States until 1925. Following World War 2 white American servicemen and women qualified for the GI Bill which helped many including my father to attend college and pursue professional lives. The GI Bill was denied to soldiers of color. There is so much that is not understood by whites about people of color and how our society is not color blind at all. Our lives as white people is skewed to benefit us while disenfranchising our brothers and sisters who are darker.
I don’t like the term racist as there is no such thing as race. It is a social construct that was created to justify the repression of people of color. We are all the same race, the human race. Paradoxically we are all prejudiced. It is normal and natural to feel more at home with those that look like us.
I know I’m prejudiced. I don’t want to be prejudiced but I am. I work to overcome that on a daily basis. What’s most distressing in this country is that we have systemic prejudice that many fail to recognize and accept. Many of our presidents owned slaves. When our founding documents were written in the 18th century Black people were enslaved, Native Americans had their land stolen and were routinely murdered.
We have a lot of work ahead of us to truly become the United States of America.