Racism and Slavery

Recent events in the U.S. have awakened me to the degree that racism is alive and well in our country. And they have caused me to reflect on the evil of slavery.

Until the death of George Floyd, I hadn’t realized that deaths at the hands of police are several times more likely for blacks than for whites. Research by the press in the days that followed gave ample evidence that racial prejudice is rampant in the U.S. I even discovered racial bias in myself.

The roots of my problem were in how I was raised. My mother was a southern belle born to enjoy mint juleps on the veranda while the darkies worked in the cotton fields. My father was an Irish lawyer who hated blacks, Jews, Asians, and Hispanics. They worked hard to teach me to hate, but I rebelled early. By the time I was six, I was regularly left on my own while my parents were out carousing. My father went to prison for embezzlement before I was twelve, and my mother continued to drink to excess. While my father was in jail, my mother and I lived in the slums of Oakland, California. My playmates on the streets were of every race and color. I couldn’t see that they were different from me.

In short, before I was six years old, I knew I was on my own. That meant, among other things, choosing values for living that were at odds with those of my parents.

When college time came, I enrolled in the University of California in Berkeley, a bus trip away from Oakland. I worked part-time to support myself. In my classes and to a greater degree in my work life, I was surrounded by people of every racial background and nationality. I spotted cultural differences between me and others. Those differences made us diverse but not unequal.

More tomorrow.

3 thoughts on “Racism and Slavery”

  1. Tom, I like you thoughts on race and racism. Two years ago I posted an article on “Race and Racism” on my blog. It appeared on jordans-journey.com on July 20, 2018. I would appreciate it very much if you would read that article and provide me comments. I wish to sharpen my own thoughts on the subject, and I believe you can help me.

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  2. Sandy, thanks for your recommendation that I read your post on racism. My apologies that I didn’t get back to you sooner.

    Several observations:

    The post is one of the most complete surveys on the subject that I have seen. I agree with the vast majority of it.

    I believe that scrutiny of statistics will show that crime rates vary in alignment with poverty rates. In short: the poorer people are, the more they steal and kill. And racism amplifies poverty.

    I’d like to see the statistical basis for MacDonald’s assertion that “Officers are at a much greater risk from blacks than unarmed blacks are from police.” All the data I know of support the opposite conclusion.

    One issue you didn’t raise was the possibility of reparation for those damaged by racism. I haven’t settled on a firm view on that subject, but it’s certainly worth considering.

    Thanks again.

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    1. Tom, Thanks for reading my article. According to national statistics, police kill between 9 and 20 unarmed blacks in a typical year. Some are mistakenly thought to be armed. Some are the accidental victims of police gunfire. Very few such killings can be labeled as deliberate. At the same time, officers are being murdered at an alarming rate. I do not have precise numbers. As for the subject of reparations, I put down my thoughts in a soon to be published blog post.

      Some American’s leaders, Black and White, are calling for reparations to help atone for the evils of slavery and eliminate the wealth gap between rich and poor Americans. William Dority, Duke University Professor of Public Policy, has suggested a 10 to 20 trillion-dollar Federal program that would pay $800,000 to each eligible Black family.

      I am uncertain about the details of Dority’s proposal, but I have serious questions about how the government would determine eligibility. One way might be to adjust one’s compensation based on an individual’s percentage of sub-saharan African ancestry. That could be determined by genetic testing.

      Would a Black be denied reparations if, as in the case of Barack Obama, his African ancestors never served as American slaves. (Nevertheless, his wife and children would qualify.)

      It is estimated that the average American Black has at least 20% White ancestry. Many, like Obama, have 50%. A Black’s White ancestors are likely to have been slaveholders or overseers. Should that have any bearing on his or her compensation?

      Many Whites are descendants of persons who came to the United States after 1865. Others had ancestors who fought to free the slaves. Some citizens are descendants of those three quarters of Whites living in slave-holding states who owned no slaves. Should the taxes needed to pay reparations be levied equally on all these people?

      Should the descendants of slaveholders be subjected to a special taxation? What about descendants of Confederate veterans?

      Should reparations payments only be given to less affluent Black families?

      Can you see how ludicrous a reparations program might be? It would rip the nation apart.

      You cannot unscramble eggs. Neither can you give America back to the Indians nor England to the Britons. We must learn to accept our past and work for the future. We must continue our efforts to level the playing field and give every citizen an equal opportunity for success.

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