It has been said that those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it. That is exactly what is happening in America today. We are repeating our racist history. Racism can come out of pride, fear, envy, hatred and or anger. People can be racially divided because they consider themselves better than others. They can be racially divided because they fear what they don’t know. They can be racially divided because they envy what others have. They can be racially divided because they hate anyone different than themselves. They can be racially divided because they are angry about their own situation.
Back when this country was founded, racism was a way of life for nearly everyone. The majority of the people were racist but few recognized it or knew racism for what it was. The majority of the populous knew that others were different and anything different was something to fear or dislike. The British were racist against the French, the Spanish and just about everyone else who didn’t come from Britain. The rest of the world was no different because everyone feared and disliked everyone else. That was the mentality when this country was founded, and that was the mentality that our founding fathers inherited. None of them saw it as racism, but instead they saw it as the means of survival.
Racism can be in any and all of us without any of us really knowing it. We can all have strong unjustified feelings toward people different than us and that is basically the definition of racism. Throughout history racism has played a significant role in shaping our world and it always will because man is basically a racially motivated being. Man by nature is comfortable with people and things he is familiar with, and he tends to fear, avoid or fight against things he is unfamiliar with.
When a nation is threatened by another nation the two nations nearly always develop a hatred for the people of the opposing nation. When two religious groups disagree strongly about their beliefs, the members of each religion typically develop strong feelings against each other. When two different cultures collide, it is possible for both cultures to develop a dislike for each other. When races intermingle, the individual races can grow to hate each other because of any or all of these racially dividing factors.
We as Americans have seen this more than most nations because we are a melting pot for every race and religion on the planet. We have seen what happens when races and religions intermingle and it hasn’t always been pretty. You could have done better and should have done better. After all, America was founded on the principle that all men are created equal but America has failed miserably in the application of that concept. Some of the very people who wrote the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the USA were practicing racists. Many of them owned slaves and treated their slaves as sub-human beings.
The founding fathers were hypocrites for the double standard they had for themselves and African-Americans. They had grand ideas which were monumental in their day, but they were blinded by their own racism. Some couldn’t see the hypocrisy of their own words compared to their actions. Some would say the culture in Africa was inferior to their own, thus they deduced that the people of Africa were less “evolved” than them, therefore, Africans must be inferior as well. There have been some who didn’t even consider Africans from the same lineage as whites. It didn’t take much imagination for them to observe the physical features of Africans and see some similarities with primates from Africa. That made it easier for them to come to the false conclusion that Africans were not from Adam and Eve, but from apes. In their blind racism they couldn’t see that you could take the physical features of every human race on the planet and find similarities to some primate group. I have to ask, does that mean we all evolved from different primates? Once they stepped over that line and accepted that blacks were not from Adam and Eve, it was easy to justify the enslavement and it did ease one’s conscience of any thoughts of hypocrisy because that made Africans animals, not humans.
It took over half a century for some Americans to act on the hypocrisy and to free the slaves. Even then it took one of the bloodiest wars in this country’s history to accomplish the task. The slave owners were so embedded into their hypocrisy that they couldn’t see the evil that was right in front of them. It took the force of the Union Army to open their eyes to reality or at least to force them to free the slaves because they didn’t really open their eyes to the reality. They still looked down on the ex-slaves and still practiced racism against them like it was a religion.
You would think that would have ended the racial double standard in America but it didn’t even come close. The ex-slaves were set free but they weren’t really free. They were still treated as sub-humans. They were set free to be impoverished subordinate unchained slaves. They were still enslaved but now they were economically enslaved. They just changed the nature of their bonds, that was all.
The north did a noble thing in freeing the slaves but all their motives were not so noble. The north was afraid of the south and the potential that they possessed. The north was the industrial power base for the nation and the south was the agricultural power base for the nation. However, the north could see a real threat to their power base, in the south of the future. Once the south realized that they could make their own industrial complex on the backs of their slaves, then the north would be in trouble. Can you imagine the profit margin someone can achieve by running a factory full of slaves? The north would never be able to compete with that kind of competition so they had to free the slaves for their own survival.
The federal government wasn’t necessarily so noble in its motives to free the slaves. Yes there were many who were noble in their motives and by no means am I questioning Lincoln’s motives, but he wasn’t the only person in the federal government pushing the freed slave agenda. There were some in the government who were power hungry and in those days the states had a lot of power and the federal government had no say on many matters where the states were concerned. The war was used as a means to steal powers from the states, powers that were originally assigned by the Constitution to the states. When the war ended the federal government’s power increased enormously and the states became virtual servants to the federal government. The war was about a lot more than just slavery and anyone who thinks it wasn’t is just fooling themselves. It was the one of the biggest events in the history of racism in America, even though it wasn’t all about racism.
During the last days of the Civil War General Sherman issued Special Field Orders that gave “40 acres and a mule” to the slaves that were freed by the Union’s advances into the south. He managed to settle about 10,000 slaves onto 400,000 acres of land in Georgia and South Carolina. Then Lincoln was assassinated and the Vice President Andrew Johnson, a Democrat became president. He revoked Sherman’s orders and returned the land to the previous white land owners. This is a prime example of the old saying “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will never be hungry.” The Republicans wanted to give the freed slaves the means to feed themselves but the Democrats wouldn’t have it and took away the slaves “fishing poles”. They wanted to keep the sub-humans in their place and not equal to whites.
If the slaves had been able to keep that land it would have been a major bridge to crossing the racial divide in America. Think about it, the very people who had to give up the land were the ones who were exploiting the slaves, the plantation owners. I think that was totally justifiable and should have been supported wholeheartedly by the government. It was basically a payment for services rendered, although a very small payment for so much abuse. You could also look at it as what today is commonly called punitive damages. They were seriously “damaged” or harmed by the practice of slavery and as such were entitled to payment in return. If they had been allowed to keep the land then the odds that African-Americans today would feel that someone owes them something could have been greatly reduced.
Those who used to own the slaves furthered their racism by passing laws to segregate and degrade those same slaves. They created what was called Jim Crow Laws which put the so called “ex-slaves” in “their” place. They were not allowed to eat, sleep, pray, walk or drink at the same places as the racists. At first they didn’t allow the “ex-slaves” to be educated, but eventually they were forced to educate them. However, they sent them to segregated schools, under the premise that they were separate but equal, but we all know that wasn’t true, the white schools always had the better facilities and education.
It must be said that it wasn’t just the slave owners who fueled the “slavery racism” in America. The owners could never have been able to buy the slaves if the northern shipping companies hadn’t gone to Africa to get the slaves, so don’t direct your anger toward just the south. Most people don’t realize that the north had a very large role in American slavery with its profiteering of buying, delivering and selling the slaves to the south. Racism was just as pronounced in the north as it was in the south.
Slavery in this country was just a small part of the racism that we Americans have practiced over the centuries. The African-Americans were treated poorly and definitely not given equal rights for a very long time, but there were other groups who have been treated poorly as well. Look back in our history at the way we treated the Japanese during WWII and it will be apparent how far racism has affected our society. Even today people harbor racism and don’t even know it, if you don’t think so then ask yourself in what nation are you most likely to find organized crime. Ask yourself what nation has the dumbest people on earth? What nation has the prettiest people on earth? What race likes watermelons? What race is the better dancers? What race is best at making money? You may or may not have answered those questions but I’m sure you had some idea of an answer for each because we all have some misconceptions about others deep down within us. It is hard not to have false ideas when we are bombarded every day with racial slurs against someone or some race. Most of the time we just laughed it off even though it is racism.
The really true Americans have been handed the worst treatment by the “New Americans”. Native Americans were robbed, killed, relocated, beaten down, almost wiped off the face of the earth and are still to this day being treated as virtual slaves on a different kind of plantation called a reservation. They are the forgotten race in America, but this article isn’t so much about their plight because they are in the background now and aren’t part of the great racial divide in America. Besides they are starting to have their own revenge, legally and morally through financial freedom with their casinos.
This has been the story of racism in America in the early years, the infant years of that great experiment called the United States of America. This is just the first part of the story. I am publishing the rest of the story of racism in American in separate blogs and the links to the next two blogs can be found below, so if you want to have the whole story and can handle reading more please feel free to jump to the next link. You just might be surprised at what you find or you just might be bored but either way at least give it a try. Thank you!
To be continued…..
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