The Slaves Rebel

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The only way to end slavery is to stop being a slave. Hundreds of men and women in prisons in some 17 states are refusing to carry out prison labor, conducting hunger strikes or boycotting for-profit commissaries in an effort to abolish the last redoubt of legalized slavery in America. The strikers are demanding to be paid the minimum wage, the right to vote, decent living conditions, educational and vocational training and an end to the death penalty and life imprisonment.

These men and women know that the courts will not help them. They know the politicians, bought by the corporations that make billions in profits from the prison system, will not help them. And they know that the mainstream press, unwilling to offend major advertisers, will ignore them.

But they also know that no prison can function without the forced labor of many among America’s 2.3 million prisoners. Prisoners do nearly all the jobs in the prisons, including laundry, maintenance, cleaning and food preparation. Some prisoners earn as little as a dollar for a full day of work; in states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas, the figure drops to zero.

Corporations, at the same time, exploit a million prisoners who work in prison sweatshops where they staff call centers or make office furniture, shoes or clothing or who run slaughterhouses or fish farms.

If prisoners earned the minimum wage set by federal, state or local laws, the costs of the world’s largest prison system would be unsustainable. The prison population would have to be dramatically reduced. Work stoppages are the only prison reform method that has any chance of success. Demonstrations of public support, especially near prisons where strikes are underway, along with supporting the prisoners who have formed Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, which began the nationwide protest, are vital. Prison authorities seek to mute the voices of these incarcerated protesters. They seek to hide the horrific conditions inside prisons from public view. We must amplify these voices and build a popular movement to end mass incarceration.

Rest of story from Chris Hedges/truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

 

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Jesuits, slave descendants consider how Georgetown can make amends

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The 1838 sale of 272 enslaved people wasn’t the first or the last the Maryland Jesuits made, but it was the largest. If Georgetown and the Jesuits commit to reparatory justice, observers say, they could embolden others to push their universities to follow suit. 

Jessica Tilson walks on soggy grass between the gravestones, rattling off names from her family tree, a thin black sweater the only barrier between her and the cold that came with a once-in-a-decade snowfall. She keeps the interwoven branches of her family in her head, along with a map of who’s buried in the unmarked parts of the Catholic cemetery in tiny Maringouin, La., – a rural town surrounded by sugar cane fields, bayous, and giant oaks.
Among those she honors by cleaning their graves is Cornelius “Neily” Hawkins, her great, great, great, great grandfather. Neily was about 13 when slave traders forced him onto a ship in Maryland and transported him to the West Oak plantation, where the sugar industry thrived through labor extracted by brutality.
The Jesuits who ran Georgetown University and plantations in Maryland had sold him, along with 271 others – including his brothers and sisters, his parents, and his grandfather, Isaac Hawkins, born just a few years before America gained its independence.

That 1838 sale wasn’t the first or the last the Maryland Jesuits made, but it was the largest, and some Jesuits opposed it at the time, despite their mounting debts. The names of the men, women, and children transported to various parts of Louisiana were recorded, and they have since become known as the GU272.
Now, Jesuit leaders are coming here for the first time – and Ms. Tilson hopes they will visit such sacred spots and hear the stories she’s unburied.
For many who hail from Maringouin (“mosquito” in French) and other parts of Louisiana, this December meeting will be their first opportunity to talk with representatives of the religious order that enslaved and sold their ancestors.
It’s another step in a reckoning that’s been unfurling in slow motion. For nearly two years, the connections between the 272 and several thousand living descendants have been emerging, impelling new relationships and debates about how best to address the modern-day legacies of slavery.
Unlike other historic American universities that held slaves and have since shed their religious identities, Georgetown “had to deal with the moral component of it, the way that it actually challenged Georgetown’s identity as a Catholic institution … committed to the Jesuit sense of social justice,” says Craig Steven Wilder, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of “Ebony and Ivy,” a book on universities and slavery.
“The human dimensions of the story” are unavoidable, Professor Wilder says, because “descendants of the sale of 1838 have put an extraordinary human face on these historical facts.”
Those descendants hold a diverse array of ideas about what should happen next – everything from modest requests to memorialize forgotten sites in Louisiana to a hope for a $1 billion foundation to address racial disparities, assist descendants with education, and support racial reconciliation.
“Although slavery in the United Sates ended many years ago, there has been a continuum of racial oppression…, and we have to heal those racial tensions in order for this country to move forward,” says Karran Harper Royal, the New Orleans-based executive director of the GU272 Descendants Association, one of several organized groups.
***
It’s a Saturday afternoon and descendants are arriving at the modest rectangular parish hall next to Maringouin’s Immaculate Heart of Mary church. Many of the 272 maintained a Catholic identity despite years in which they were deprived access to priests, in violation of the terms of the 1838 sale.
Those ancestors “believed in God despite everything ungodly around them. I’m still humbled by that kind of faith,” says descendant Lee Baker, before the meeting that he helped organize gets under way. He needed resilience – which he now sees runs in the family – when he helped integrate Catholic institutions in the 1960s. Now he teaches at a Catholic high school near New Orleans.
One tall man saunters in wearing crisp denim overalls, another a three-piece-suit, until about 80 people are assembled in metal folding chairs. A table covered with a white cloth is set up in the front, where the Jesuits will sit.
For the older generations, especially, slavery isn’t something people talk about much here. But today’s conversation has been 179 years in the making.
Georgetown’s dependence on enslaved African and American families wasn’t a secret. But a few years ago, student journalists, activists, and a working group appointed by the university started questioning why people such as the Rev. Thomas Mulledy, S.J., Georgetown’s president in the early 1800s, were still honored on campus buildings despite their role organizing the 1838 sale.
Alumnus Richard Cellini became curious about what happened to the 272. When he heard that they had all died of fever in Louisiana, his incredulity led him to search in Google and quickly connect with a descendant. Later he started the nonprofit Georgetown Memory Project to assist with genealogical research.
The family trees have blossomed as people analyze DNA and dig into archives. So far, nearly 6,000 direct descendants (living and deceased) have been identified out of what could eventually rise to 15,000, Mr. Cellini estimates.

Last spring, Tilson and several other descendants attended a ceremony at Georgetown to replace Reverand Mulledy’s name with Isaac Hawkins on a now-residential building. President John DeGioia and representative Jesuits offered apologies during a “Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition, and Hope.”
These were some of the steps recommended by a working group the university had appointed before they knew any descendants.
Now, several descendants are attending Georgetown, which has offered “legacy” admissions preferences.
Many descendants say they are grateful for what’s happened so far, but that it’s time for the process to become less Georgetown-centric and more inclusive of their voices.
It’s still unclear whether these large institutions will be willing to hold themselves accountable in ways that go beyond symbolism, that actually involve shifts in power dynamics or substantial monetary investments.
The next step is “talking about reparation,” says Adam Rothman, a history professor at Georgetown who served on the working group. “What would be an adequate gesture of repair? That’s a lot of what people are debating.”
It has often seemed like the Jesuits wanted “to have their act of contrition, skip right over penance, and go straight to forgiveness,” says Sandra Green Thomas, president of the GU272 Descendants Association, who attended the Georgetown ceremonies, as well as a morning meeting with the Jesuits in New Orleans on this same December day that they’ll be visiting Maringouin.
She wants the outcome of talks to be action that benefits people beyond those who can attend Georgetown, but she also points out the irony that her two children now there will graduate with debt, despite financial aid, while Georgetown students once had tuition subsidized by the enslaved.
“My hashtag is #OurTuitionHasBeenPaid … with the blood, sweat, and tears of our ancestors,” Ms. Thomas says.
So far, institutions have been “reluctant to put dollar amounts on their acknowledgment of a debt,” Wilder, of MIT, says. If Georgetown and the Jesuits commit to reparatory justice, they could embolden others to push their universities to follow suit.

The Maringouin meeting has just gotten under way when Tilson scurries in. A single mother of two, she fits her visits to Maringouin in between shifts at two grocery stores in Baton Rouge, where she recently finished her bachelor’s degree in microbiology at the historically black Southern University and A&M College.
After Mr. Baker, the descendant, offers an opening prayer, the Rev. Timothy Kesicki, S.J., president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, stands to introduce himself.
Of his Jesuit predecessors who both baptized and claimed ownership of slaves, he asks, “How is it that they received the same sacraments, prayed the same prayers,… and failed to see themselves as equal before God?”
The room is quiet as he continues solemnly, “I am sorry to you, the descendants, but I also say before God … that as Jesuits, we have greatly sinned in what we have done and in what we have failed to do…. I come [here] to understand what are the next steps in reconciliation, what are the next steps in healing this gaping wound.”
Tilson leans against the wall, in jeans and a Georgetown sweatshirt, recording with her pink cell phone.
The Rev. Robert Hussey, S.J., provincial of the Maryland Province Jesuits offers apologies as well, adding, “Healing … is about concrete actions…. We want to explore with you what would be the most meaningful way … to be part of things that can create new life and new opportunities for people.”
For the next hour, local residents and those who have traveled from as far as Ohio and California rise to share their thoughts.
Some focus on the joy of discovering new family ties and answers to questions that always puzzled them: Why didn’t their families speak French or cook Creole?
Others offer specific ideas for how the Jesuits can make a difference.
Tilson strides up front and places a mason jar filled with black soil on the table, a dark blue ribbon tied around its neck, explaining that it is from Georgetown.
“What I would like for the Jesuits to do is to take the soil … and go to West Oak and give our ancestors a proper burial…. The ones who died before the church was built … we don’t know where they at,” she says, her voice rising in pitch as the emotions rush out. “They could have been thrown in holes over there, they have alligators back there…. So you guys owe our ancestors a proper burial.”
Fathers Hussey and Kesicki look up at her with compassion. They’re taking notes and holding off on responding until the end.

Other speakers bring up broader needs in descendant communities – prenatal care, assistance with college expenses. Among Maringouin’s roughly 1,000 residents (the majority descendants) the per capita income is $15,000.
“I feel like this is going forward and then two steps back. We are out here. We are looking for something to happen,” says Matthew Mims, a local aspiring dentist who recently graduated from college. He’s not the only one for whom patience with ceremonies and conversations is wearing thin.
But this is an opportunity for descendants to ask something not only of the Jesuits, but also of the large extended family seated before them. It’s a chance to challenge the institutionalized racism that slavery and Jim Crow left in their wake.
This is an area where notorious slave traders are still honored in whites-only cemeteries, where families still hold memories of lynchings.
Michelle Harrington, who long ago moved away, says she’s disappointed that in the church, blacks still sit on one side and whites on the other. “Sit on the other side,” she pleads. “Make somebody uncomfortable. We cannot be enslaved any longer.”
***
One of the last speakers to step forward is Johnnie Pace, tall with silver hair, glasses, and a black jacket. He’s married to a descendant of Isaac Hawkins, and shares how warmly he was welcomed at Georgetown during a recent unannounced visit.
“Granted, we can’t change history…. But we can change the future and we can change today. I am 74 years old,” he says, pausing and pounding his fist to hold back tears. “I never thought that I would live to see the descendants of slaves, the descendants of slaveholders, come together in love.”
Kesicki and Hussey stand and respond, briefly but earnestly, to what they’ve heard. They share how they’ve hired archivists to ensure that more church records are made accessible online, how they want to spread awareness of this important story.
They assure the group that they will follow up soon about setting up a process for further dialogue.
While there will be no official ceremony today, they do pay a visit to the cemetery with Tilson and a few others after the meeting. She points out the small, broken headstone of Lucy Ann Scott, her great, great, great, great aunt who was sold in 1838 and was buried near the graves of Tilson’s own sister and son. Maybe they could supply a new headstone for Lucy, she suggests.
Standing on the grave of another relative sold in 1838, she barely takes a breath, sharing as much as she can fit in before twilight. Hussey shakes his head and smiles. “Astounding,” he says.
In the years leading up to 1838, “Y’all supposed to send us back to Liberia, but y’all didn’t,” Tilson says without a hint of bitterness.
In the distance, a train rumbles by. It’s slow, like the building up of trust.
The air grows colder by the minute and Kesicki and Hussey head out before darkness engulfs the rural roads.
“I’m happy because I got an opportunity to show them what happened,” Tilson says. “That child you sent to Maringouin, this is their spot – this is their resting spot.”

By Stacy Teicher Khadaroo/ChristianScienceMonitor

Posted by The NON-Conformist

What Trump’s Generation Learned About the Civil War

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A scene from the Gettysburg Cyclorama, an 1883 cyclorama painting depicting the climactic clash between Union and Confederate forces during the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

History textbooks used in New York City during the president’s childhood called the Klan “patriotic,” and downplayed the role of slavery in “the War Between the States.”

In March, President Trump visited the Hermitage, a former slave plantation in Tennessee once owned by Andrew Jackson, to pay homage to his 19th century predecessor. For Trump and his then-chief strategist Steve Bannon, the parallels were irresistible: An agrarian populist from the Tennessee frontier, Jackson was the first to cast himself as the common man’s warrior against corrupt Washington elites and moneyed political interests.

But even more revealing than their similarities was how Trump viewed his predecessor’s place in American history. In an interview a month after the trip, he alleged that Jackson, who died in 1845, could have prevented the Civil War:

I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said, “There’s no reason for this.” People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there a Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?

Historians today broadly agree that a slaveholding aristocracy was irreconcilable with the nation’s founding pledges of liberty and equality, and that decades of compromises between top American statesmen only delayed an inevitable confrontation. But the president’s view that the conflict could’ve been “worked out” would’ve fit at home in another place: the history classes of his youth.

Until the late 1960s, history curricula in Trump’s home state of New York largely adhered to a narrow vision of American history, especially when discussing slavery, the Civil War, and its aftermath. This was true in the predominately white public schools throughout the country. The African American experience and its broader significance received little to no attention. When textbooks did cover black Americans, their portrayals were often based on racist tropes or otherwise negative stereotypes. Trump’s understanding of the Civil War may be out of step with current scholarship, but it’s one that was taught to millions of Americans for decades.

“The dominant story was that secession was a mistake, but so was Reconstruction,” Jonathan Zimmerman, a New York University professor who studies the history of American education, told me. “And Reconstruction was a mistake because [the North] put ‘childlike’ and ‘bestial’ blacks in charge of the South, and the only thing that saved white womanhood was the Ku Klux Klan. When African Americans read this in their textbooks, they obviously bristled.”

Thanks to his family’s wealth, Trump did not attend public school in Queens, where he grew up. In 1951, his father Fred enrolled him in the Kew-Forest School for kindergarten, and he stayed there until seventh grade. When he was 13 years old, his father sent him away to the New York Military Academy, a rigorous military-themed boarding school in the Hudson Valley—to “get him in line” because he was too “rambunctious,” Trump told The Washington Post last year. He completed his high-school education there and graduated in 1964.

Attending private institutions would not have inoculated the president from the retrograde learning of this era, because private schools often used the same history textbooks and curricula as their public counterparts.

Trump’s high-school education coincided with the resurgence of the civil-rights movement and its push to improve American history classes. The fight has its roots in World War II. Defeating Nazi Germany and its racist ideology inspired a new generation of black activists, Zimmerman said. Spurred by the wartime realignment of the American economy, thousands of black families left the South for new opportunities in the North and the West during the Second Great Migration in the 1940s. They quickly encountered stark differences in what their children learned about America’s past. Segregated black schools in the South had often used works by black scholars like Carter Woodson, who became known as the father of black history, and W.E.B. Du Bois to teach history. Northern and Western schools followed a different path. Their textbooks about slavery and the Civil War prompted protests from black families and community leaders.

African American parents and students emerged as the strongest voices in protesting history curricula. Major black newspapers like the Chicago Defenderand the New York Amsterdam News regularly covered new developments in the fight. Civil-rights organizations like the NAACP and the Urban League appointed committees to review textbooks and push back on flawed material. They pressured public officials and textbook publishers to present a more accurate and comprehensive view of black Americans in history.

“For more than 100 years, the American educational system has revolved around four basic R’s—reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic, and racism,” historian Lerone Bennett Jr. wrote in Ebony magazine in 1967. “By sins of commission and omission, by words said but also by words not said, facts conveniently overlooked and images suppressed, the American school system has made the fourth R—racism—the ground of the traditional three-R fare.”

New York’s schools were no different. A 1957 report found a textbook on the city’s recommended list which, while roundly condemning its violence, said of the postwar Ku Klux Klan, “Its purposes were patriotic, but its methods cannot be defended.”

In 1960, four years before Trump graduated high school, Albert Alexander, a textbook analyst for the New York City Board of Education, complained that publishers had warped their coverage of the Civil War so their products could be sold in both the North and the South. He noted that four of the textbooks used in city schools only referred to the conflict as the “War Between the States,” the segregationist South’s preferred term.

In 1966, Irving Sloan, a New York social-studies teacher, published a study for the American Federation of Teachers reviewing how contemporary American history textbooks covered black history. He opened by observing that many publishers had improved their coverage in recent years. But he also qualified his praise of their progress, noting that “none of the texts have completely succeeded, and several are so far from the target that they invite suspicion.”

Sloan noted, for example, that even some newer textbooks “still cling to the romanticized versions of the happy slave life.” Abolitionism was mostly depicted as a solely white movement. “No text gives enough attention to the participation of Negroes in this struggle for their freedom,” he observed. Things got worse when students moved past the Civil War. “In analysis after analysis of the texts, the reader will find the statement that after Reconstruction ‘200-300 pages pass before we get a reference to the Negro,’” Sloan wrote. “This is why whites do not always ‘see’ Negroes. As Ralph Ellison puts it, they are ‘invisible.’ And the reason they are unseen is that they are left out from such a large part of American history.”

The quality of the textbooks reviewed by Sloan varied. He praised the junior-high text Land of the Free for its quality, which he partly credits to eminent black historian John Hope Franklin’s co-authorship. Others received more scathing treatments. Sloan’s critiques of a senior-level high-school history textbook titled Our Nation From Its Creation typify the most common errors he encountered.

In a section dealing with different opinions about the causes of the “War Between the States,” the authors include the opinion of ‘more and more Northerners and some Southerners … that slavery was a moral evil and had to go.” The text’s presentation of the Southern response to the moral question is worth quoting in full: “Aren’t our slaves much better off than your so-called free workers in the filthy factories of the North? One Southern writer suggested that the so-called free laborers of the North would be better off if the North turned them into slaves.”

[…]

Coming to the period after the war, the Reconstruction era, the authors discuss the condition of the Freedmen. A statement such as, “Some thought that now that they were free, life was going to be one long spree, without work,” is at best gratuitous and at worst unsupportable. But it remains consistent with much of the tone of this text’s treatment of the Negro.

“Since the authors of the text are New York City teachers, it probably has wide use in the city,” Sloan concluded. “What is more, it probably has wide use in the South. Among high school texts, this gives one of the poorest treatments of the Negro encountered in our study.”

Racist material permeated other sections of the American curriculum, well beyond the field of history. Geography textbooks depicted Africa as “the dark continent” and either ignored it or portrayed it as a place of cannibalism and barbarity. “[Black] critics condemned biology textbooks, which often reflected eugenic theories of racial hierarchy,” Zimmerman wrote in a 2004 article on U.S. textbook changes after the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. “Still other blacks attacked music textbooks for including songs by [prolific 19th-century songwriter] Stephen Foster, complete with Foster’s original lexicon—‘darkey,’ ‘nigger,’ and so on.”

These textbooks shouldn’t be interpreted as reflecting their readers’ views, Zimmerman cautioned me. Instead, they offer a window into what students would have learned in a previous era. “This tells us more about the culture of race as expressed in the curriculum than it does about what any given individual imbibed or not,” he explained.

With the horrors of slavery diminished and its presence occasionally justified, it’s easy to see how someone from Trump’s generation could view the Civil War as a conflict whose core tensions could be “worked out” without violence. Trump himself has recently embraced other extraordinary views of that era. After a deadly attack on demonstrators protesting a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month, he became an avowed defender of Confederate statues.

“So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down,” he said at a Trump Tower press conference on August 15, referring to two Confederate generals’ statues. “I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?” His embrace of the statues and the white-nationalist movement defending them served clearly political purposes, but it also betrayed a flimsy understanding of the country’s history: Washington and Jefferson devoted their lives to setting the American experiment in motion; Lee and Jackson killed thousands of their countrymen in an attempt to end it.

Of course, Trump is far from the only American politician with an outdated understanding of the Civil War era. In a January 2016 town hall in Iowa, Hillary Clinton—who is one year younger than Trump—said that had he not been killed, Abraham Lincoln’s more tolerant policies may have hastened national reconciliation, and that what actually happened left white Southerners “feeling totally discouraged and defiant.” My colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates noted similarities between Clinton’s statement and the Lost Cause view “that Reconstruction was a mistake brought about by vengeful Northern radicals.”

For Trump and Clinton’s generation, the curriculum’s impact may be measurable. In August 2015, a McClatchy-Marist poll asked American adults whether schools should teach that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War. Sixty percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said they should, as did 59 percent of 30- to 44-year-olds and 57 percent of 45- to 59-year-olds. Support then dropped off markedly among those who would’ve been offered more retrograde views of the Civil War in school: Only 49 percent of Americans over the age of 65 thought slavery should be taught as its main cause, the poll found.

By the 1970s, activist pressure brought about significant changes in how history classes would be taught. But how American children learn the history of non-white groups is still controversial, and led to a recent federal court battle in Arizona. During a wider clash over laws targeting undocumented immigrants in 2010, the state legislature banned classes that “promote resentment toward a race or class of people,” that are “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” or that “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” Judge A. Wallace Tashima ruled Wednesday that the law violated the First Amendment because “both [its] enactment and enforcement were motivated by racial animus,” citing disparaging blog posts about Mexican immigrants by the statute’s author.

The fight over fair treatment in textbooks and curricula also continues. In 2015, an African American student in Houston noticed his geography textbook described the slave trade as bringing “millions of workers” to plantations across the South, eliding the difference between mass immigration and indentured servitude from Europe and the enslavement of Africans. He sent a picture of it to his mother, whose criticism of the phrasing went viral on social media. McGraw-Hill Education, the book’s publisher, apologized and said it would revise future editions.

That incident, Zimmerman noted, evoked a previous generation of textbook battles that had before reshaped American history education. “And again the reason that it changed was that people of color objected, thank God,” he said.

By Matt Ford/TheAtlantic

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Black Dallas Group, Condoleezza Rice Thinks Confederate Monuments Should Be Preserved

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With the recent unrest in Charlottesville, Va., spurring efforts to bring down Confederate monuments across the nation, a group of mostly Black Dallas locals have teamed up to ensure that the city’s Confederate statues remain standing.

For Former Dallas city council member Sandra Crenshaw, removing the controversial statues isn’t the solution to combating racism.

“I’m not intimidated by Robert E. Lee’s statue. I’m not intimidated by it,” Crenshaw told CBS Dallas. “It doesn’t scare me.”

“We don’t want America to think that all African-Americans are supportive of this,” she added.

Crenshaw, along with Buffalo Soldier historians and members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, have banded together to prevent the city’s Confederate markers from toppling over, CBS Dallas reported. The group believes that such monuments, like the Freedman’s cemetery, tell an important part of history and help heal racial wounds.

“Some people think that by taking a statue down, that’s going to erase racism,” Crenshaw said. “Misguided.”

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This Black Conservative’s Absurd Interpretation of Michelle Obama’s Final Commencement Speech is Head Scratching

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On Friday’s edition of Fox & Friends, conservative commentators Tucker Carlson, Anna Kooiman and guest Deneen Borelli attacked first lady Michelle Obama for comments aimed at presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and about the White House being built by enslaved Black people at last Friday’s City College of New York Commencement.

The conservative commentators and journalists were outraged because of Obama’s speech denouncing exclusionary immigration policies proposed by Trump. They accused the FLOTUS of race-baiting and politicizing her commencement speech instead of praising America’s exceptionalism.

 This is the line from Obama’s speech that riled them up:
 “It’s the story that I witness every single day when I wake up in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters — two beautiful, Black young women — head off to school, waving goodbye to their father, the president of the United States.”

Borelli, Fox News’ resident Black conservative, states:

“But for her to go back in time to bring up slavery – again, it’s a way to play on people’s emotions. Why not go back to the 50s and 60s when the Democrats were the ones who …wanted to keep Blacks segregated and were involved in the KKK and other issues that they did not want Black Americans to have liberty and freedom in America.”

[…]

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Five myths about why the South seceded

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One hundred fifty years after the Civil War began, we’re still fighting it — or at least fighting over its history. I’ve polled thousands of high school history teachers and spoken about the war to audiences across the country, and there is little agreement even about why the South seceded. Was it over slavery? States’ rights? Tariffs and taxes?

As the nation begins to commemorate the anniversaries of the war’s various battles — from Fort Sumter to Appomattox — let’s first dispense with some of the more prevalent myths about why it all began.

1. The South seceded over states’ rights.

Confederate states did claim the right to secede, but no state claimed to be seceding for that right. In fact, Confederates opposed states’ rights — that is, the right of Northern states not to support slavery.

On Dec. 24, 1860, delegates at South Carolina’s secession convention adopted a “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union.” It noted “an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery” and protested that Northern states had failed to “fulfill their constitutional obligations” by interfering with the return of fugitive slaves to bondage. Slavery, not states’ rights, birthed the Civil War.

South Carolina was further upset that New York no longer allowed “slavery transit.” In the past, if Charleston gentry wanted to spend August in the Hamptons, they could bring their cook along. No longer — and South Carolina’s delegates were outraged. In addition, they objected that New England states let black men vote and tolerated abolitionist societies. According to South Carolina, states should not have the right to let their citizens assemble and speak freely when what they said threatened slavery.

A Confederate flag is still flying on the grounds of South Carolina’s state capitol, even after a white gunman was accused of killing nine black churchgoers at an AME church in Charleston, S.C. Here’s a closer look at why the flag isn’t at half-staff or even off the grounds completely. (Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)

Other seceding states echoed South Carolina. “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world,” proclaimed Mississippi in its own secession declaration, passed Jan. 9, 1861. “Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of the commerce of the earth. . . . A blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”

The South’s opposition to states’ rights is not surprising. Until the Civil War, Southern presidents and lawmakers had dominated the federal government. The people in power in Washington always oppose states’ rights. Doing so preserves their own.

2. Secession was about tariffs and taxes.

During the nadir of post-civil-war race relations — the terrible years after 1890 when town after town across the North became all-white “sundown towns” and state after state across the South prevented African Americans from voting — “anything but slavery” explanations of the Civil War gained traction. To this day Confederate sympathizers successfully float this false claim, along with their preferred name for the conflict: the War Between the States. At the infamous Secession Ball in South Carolina, hosted in December by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, “the main reasons for secession were portrayed as high tariffs and Northern states using Southern tax money to build their own infrastructure,” The Washington Post reported.

These explanations are flatly wrong. High tariffs had prompted the Nullification Controversy in 1831-33, when, after South Carolina demanded the right to nullify federal laws or secede in protest, President Andrew Jackson threatened force. No state joined the movement, and South Carolina backed down. Tariffs were not an issue in 1860, and Southern states said nothing about them. Why would they? Southerners had written the tariff of 1857, under which the nation was functioning. Its rates were lower than at any point since 1816.

3. Most white Southerners didn’t own slaves, so they wouldn’t secede for slavery.

Indeed, most white Southern families had no slaves. Less than half of white Mississippi households owned one or more slaves, for example, and that proportion was smaller still in whiter states such as Virginia and Tennessee. It is also true that, in areas with few slaves, most white Southerners did not support secession. West Virginia seceded from Virginia to stay with the Union, and Confederate troops had to occupy parts of eastern Tennessee and northern Alabama to hold them in line.

However, two ideological factors caused most Southern whites, including those who were not slave-owners, to defend slavery. First, Americans are wondrous optimists, looking to the upper class and expecting to join it someday. In 1860, many subsistence farmers aspired to become large slave-owners. So poor white Southerners supported slavery then, just as many low-income people support the extension of George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy now.

Second and more important, belief in white supremacy provided a rationale for slavery. As the French political theorist Montesquieu observed wryly in 1748: “It is impossible for us to suppose these creatures [enslaved Africans] to be men; because allowing them to be men, a suspicion would follow that we ourselves are not Christians.” Given this belief, most white Southerners — and many Northerners, too — could not envision life in black-majority states such as South Carolina and Mississippi unless blacks were in chains. Georgia Supreme Court Justice Henry Benning, trying to persuade the Virginia Legislature to leave the Union, predicted race war if slavery was not protected. “The consequence will be that our men will be all exterminated or expelled to wander as vagabonds over a hostile earth, and as for our women, their fate will be too horrible to contemplate even in fancy.” Thus, secession would maintain not only slavery but the prevailing ideology of white supremacy as well.

4. Abraham Lincoln went to war to end slavery.

Since the Civil War did end slavery, many Americans think abolition was the Union’s goal. But the North initially went to war to hold the nation together. Abolition came later.

On Aug. 22, 1862, President Lincoln wrote a letter to the New York Tribune that included the following passage: “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”

However, Lincoln’s own anti-slavery sentiment was widely known at the time. In the same letter, he went on: “I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.” A month later, Lincoln combined official duty and private wish in his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

White Northerners’ fear of freed slaves moving north then caused Republicans to lose the Midwest in the congressional elections of November 1862.

Gradually, as Union soldiers found help from black civilians in the South and black recruits impressed white units with their bravery, many soldiers — and those they wrote home to — became abolitionists. By 1864, when Maryland voted to end slavery, soldiers’ and sailors’ votes made the difference.

5. The South couldn’t have made it long as a slave society.

Slavery was hardly on its last legs in 1860. That year, the South produced almost 75 percent of all U.S. exports. Slaves were worth more than all the manufacturing companies and railroads in the nation. No elite class in history has ever given up such an immense interest voluntarily. Moreover, Confederates eyed territorial expansion into Mexico and Cuba. Short of war, who would have stopped them — or forced them to abandon slavery?

To claim that slavery would have ended of its own accord by the mid-20th century is impossible to disprove but difficult to accept. In 1860, slavery was growing more entrenched in the South. Unpaid labor makes for big profits, and the Southern elite was growing ever richer. Freeing slaves was becoming more and more difficult for their owners, as was the position of free blacks in the United States, North as well as South. For the foreseeable future, slavery looked secure. Perhaps a civil war was required to end it.

As we commemorate the sesquicentennial of that war, let us take pride this time — as we did not during the centennial — that secession on slavery’s behalf failed.

James W. Loewen/Opinion/washingtonpost

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Nevada Rancher Cliven Bundy Makes Ridiculously Racist Comments, Says Blacks Might Have Been ‘Better Off’ As Slaves

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Image: John Locher/ Las Vegas Review-Journal, via AP

Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher around whom some Republicans and conservative activists have rallied in a high-profile fight against the federal government, made disparaging comments about African-Americans in an interview with The New York Times published Thursday. 

Bundy wondered if African-Americans might have been “better off” as slaves, referring to them as “the Negro.”

 

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Posted by Libergirl who says I bet he won’t go in the hood and say that.

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