History of economic exploitation still hinders black Americans



Once again, Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist and commentator David Horsey nails it.


Now that the confrontation between outraged black protesters and heavily armed white police in Ferguson, Mo., has subsided, most of America has moved on to other news. The police shooting of Michael Brown that sparked those protests did prompt a brief debate about the use of force by police in African American communities, and the U.S. Justice Department has stepped in to investigate bias, bad policies and poor community relations in the local police departments. But, as concerning as deadly encounters between cops and black kids may be, they are just one symptom of a far deeper problem of race that Americans continue to evade.

Yes, it is true that the most overt forms of racial discrimination have been banished. A black family lives in the White House. Black celebrities and sports stars are widely admired, even beloved, by white Americans. Where, 40 years ago, African Americans were nearly absent from TV screens, now black actors take the lead in numerous popular television programs and black spokesmen are the public faces of insurance companies and other corporate advertisers who would not be doing such a thing if they thought it would lose them money.

Plenty of examples can be found to show that the country has changed, enabling thousands of individual black Americans to achieve great success. As a result, many — maybe most — whites believe racism is a problem that has been solved. When it is pointed out that a high percentage of blacks still lag far behind in household income and net worth, as well as in educational achievement, the not-always-unspoken assumption among many white people is that blacks just need to work harder, get off welfare and stop committing crimes.

That assumption betrays a woeful ignorance of history and economics.

All but the most unrepentant racist knows that slavery was evil and that the years of Jim Crow and segregation in the South were little better. But, not everyone recognizes how, though those wicked days are past, their negative effects linger and fester. The economic toll on black people during the long decades of oppression was staggering. Many immigrants — Irish, Italians, Chinese and others — came to this country and suffered discrimination, too. Eventually, though, doors opened for all of them and bias withered away. They, or their descendants, were able to take part in the economic life of this society and build wealth over time. For black Americans, that opportunity came very late, if it came at all. (Only Native Americans were as cut off from America’s ever-expanding riches.)

From the arrival of the first slaves in the 17th century until emancipation in the 1860s, most blacks not only had no economic opportunities, the fruits of their very hard labor were stolen from them by their slave masters. After the Civil War, most continued to be locked in servitude as sharecroppers and servants. They were cheated, they were robbed, they were marginalized, brutalized and lynched. Economic advancement was nearly impossible.

A great many Southern blacks moved north seeking a better deal. Some found it, but many also found they were blocked from getting better-paying jobs, from putting their children in the best schools and from buying homes, even in poor neighborhoods. The economic rules and the legal system were rigged against them.

The cost of this exploitation is almost incalculable in monetary terms. The extreme damage done to community life, however, is all too obvious. It is the same damage evidenced in any poor community, but compounded by generations of neglect: poor health, undermined family structures, inadequate education, underemployment, crime, addiction, incarceration and social alienation.

Year after year, America spends millions of dollars on cops and prisons to contain the worst manifestations of this legacy of discrimination, but never do we take on the burdens of the black community as a burden we all share. Of course, black Americans must do their part — and a great many are trying with all their might to break out of the cycle of violence, despair and economic insecurity in which they find themselves. But white Americans need to break out of the lazy smugness that allows them to ignore their own responsibility to their fellow citizens.

We are all in this together. It is long past time to face up to America’s greatest shame and spend the money, time and effort it will take to erase it once and for all.



About drugsandotherthings

I am a criminal. Because I have used cannabis and psychedelics extensively. I have tried many other drugs, but never cared for the uppers, downers, or dissociatives. I love craft beer, and absinthe, but don't care much for alcohols effects- which quite frankly, are boring and dangerous. Science is my religion. I am in my 40's, and have travelled extensively. And often forced myself outside of my confort zone. I am employed, a respected member of my communtiy, an animal lover, an environmentalist, a political junkie, and the realities I have experienced continue to push me further to the left of the political spectrum.
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6 Responses to History of economic exploitation still hinders black Americans

  1. J. R. Papers says:

    First and foremost, this is a well-written blog post! I applaud you for that. Now, I’d have to disagree with you. I do not think that the “Jim Crow” era is still producing a lingering discrimination. I do not think the system is rigged against ‘blacks’ or ‘whites’ (or any other color in the rainbow for that matter). As I mention in my post, ‘America’s Ghost: Racism’, I believe the issues are far more serious and real. If you believe racism and racial discrimination exist now-a-days on a scale that is troublesome, then you have bought into mass media and social media’s ability to spread false information quickly! Take a look at my blog and let’s talk-in my experience you will adamantly disagree, but explain why. I’m interested in having this discussion. ~J.R.

    • First- to be clear- those words are the words of David Horsey- his commentary to his cartoon.

      Now let’s look at YOUR words for a second: “The real problem is that the officer lacks training and discipline; and the young black kid is often a criminal. A good example of this is what happened in Ferguson, Missouri recently. The officer should have had enough training and discipline to take other measures. However, the kid shouldn’t have been committing a crime either! As the saying goes: play with fire and you’ll get burned. If you had heard the story as it should have been told, (for example; “officer shoots criminal after struggle, suspect dies on the scene”)”

      Where to start? How about “the black kid is often a criminal”. Really? And then you go on to tie in Browns alleged theft a couple dolar pack of cigars. Based on the segment of a security tape the Ferguson police and “news” sources such as Faux News ran with endlessly. Which of course ignored the rest of the tape- which showed Brown apparently paying for the cigars. (indeed, apparently trying to buy more then he had money for, and returning the rest of them to the counter). Or the statements from the store itself- there was NO robbery. That a customer called it in based on what they THOUGHT they saw.
      And then the alleged struggle. Which according to multiple sources was quite different from what the cop (someone potentially facing murder and civil rights charges) has claimed. That the cop pulled to the corner and ordered the two kids to the curb. Then slammed his car in reverse to the curb. (this apparently before the “robbery” even came over the radio). Then he dove across the front seat and grabbed Brown by the neck through the passenger window. Tried to open the door, which bounced off Brown and hit the cop- causing him to release Brown- who then ran. The rest, sadly, is history.
      Sorry- but if the facts exonnerated the cop they would have been released long ago. The fact they haven’t, and that the initial federal investigation is now looking at the police department as a whole, surely seems to indicate this is as bad or worse then it first looked.

      So you are REALLY going to try and sit there and tell me that because a large number of american “news” sources are willing to lie and tell half-truths. Because a large number of americans are willing to believe them because it exonerates them from their underlying racism, that we don’t have a racism problem in america? Hmm. And I bet you think we don’t have a problem with sexism either. Nor homophobia. or…

      Please at least tell me you are not a registered voter.

      • J. R. Papers says:

        Thanks for replying!

        I appreciate your effort to explain to me your view, however, I felt an undertone of sarcasm and disrespect. If I offended, please enlighten me as to why. If I am wrong, then my apologies for misunderstanding you tone; tone is a hard thing for a writer to portray sometimes.

        I understand that the blog was about the cartoon, that’s what I replied to though, your blog.
        Now, I am going to address your reply in the format of taking each of your pointed (as I understand them) and responding one at a time. So this might get quite long.

        1.) The black kid is often a criminal. I made that statement as a generalization of most situations involving a white officer shooting a black kid. Of course, that are many other instances to explore, but the topic is racial issues and thus, that generalization applies with few exceptions. So yea, I REALLY meant that.

        2.) Yes, the kid was a criminal. He had a criminal record. Theft, no matter the amount, is theft. To degrade the seriousness of committing a crime solely on monetary value is a reflection that one morally accepts crime as long as it doesn’t come at too high of a price; which is totally ridiculous. It’s also important to note that he assaulted the store owner, as the video shows. It’s also important to note that the kid wasn’t stopped because of the robbery call to police. The officer who stopped him did so because the kid was walking in the street, which is illegal because it obstructs traffic. After the officer stops, facts tend to get blurry and I’d hate to speculate based on witnesses (whom all tend to have similar but varying accounts of what happened). Nevertheless, my point was to draw a contrasting image of reality, which is that it is reasonable to suspect that the kid became belligerent and disrespectful to the officer, also not acceptable, under no circumstance – unless you want trouble. (There are appropriate ways to deal with misconduct by police). It is reasonable to suspect the kid acted out because he has a criminal history, which would lead one to believe that person is troublesome, (although not always the case).

        3.) The struggle. No matter what you believe personally, the reality is that the ‘facts’ haven’t been released yet. And even when they are, we must all remember to record them with skepticism. The truth shall never truly be known as to the details of exactly what happened from the moment that the kid was stopped to the moment the officer shot him. Yes, there is a boat-load of suspicious problems and concerns regarding the policing force as a whole in that community. There is also reason to believe that there is some racial inequalities present. This is why there is a Federal investigation. You make the point that the cop would have been exonerated already if the facts supported him; however, this is purely false. As someone who has personal experience in legal investigations, I can tell you that no matter if someone if guilty or innocent, an investigation must be through and complete. A criminal (and/or civil rights investigation) doesn’t not investigate to prove one is guilty or to prove one is innocent. The investigation is to build a case based on all the facts, in which the D.A. or a Jury will determine if someone is guilty of something based on the facts gleaned from the investigation. So in that regard, the officer is innocent in my eyes until proven guilty in a court of law. Granted, I couldn’t be a jury member because of my knowledge of everything that’s happened so I have a biased opinion that he is guilty, but I can’t state that as a fact or belief until its proven. And, let me be clear, I think he is guilty of firing his weapon wrongfully, not of a race-drive murder.

        4.) Lastly, yes, I am telling you that racism isn’t a problem of the epic grand scale that media makes it out to be. If one believes everything they see in the news, than I have little hope of reasoning with them. The media is a business and as such, they need to profit. Granted, they profit by telling stories based in whole or in part on fact, but that doesn’t mean you can change the wording and tone of a story to make it more than what it is. I live in the south, (where supposedly racism is at its worse), and I can tell you that I have never, once in my life (and I am middle-aged) experienced or witnessed a racist situation. Just because a ‘white officer’ shoots an unarmed ‘black teenager’ doesn’t mean that the officer was racist. I’d ask people to explain to me what details or facts has risen from this situation that prove racism was a key role in the officer’s choice to shoot? Nothing, because there is no facts or details that prove that. We speculate that is the case because the whole policing force and the community at large have some serious issues and then this situation happens and spreads like wildfire across mass media.

        Sexism, Homophobia and Voting Registration are all topics for another time. But, to answer your point, I believe there are many issues in the world today, but racism isn’t as large as it’s made out to be. In fact, homophobia is way more prevalent than racism.

        I look forward to reading your next reply.

  2. btg5885 says:

    Agreed 100%. I am looking forward to watching The Roosevelts documentary series, as it will show leaders who care about the disenfranchised. I am disappointed that our President and Congress have not made this more of an issue. I would love your feedback on my post this morning called “We do well, when we all do well” which is a quote from the series. Thanks, BTG

    • btg5885 says:

      I saw the back and forth between you and JR. As I white person, I can say that people who look like me cannot lay judgment that racism does not exist in America. We have no idea what it is like to be discriminated against just on how we look. Of course it exists. Are we better off than in the Jim Crow era? – absolutely, but we still have to guard against racism and shine a light on it when we see it.

      Also, per Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent book “Blink,” people are predisposed to act a certain way, unless they are trained otherwise. This is one reason police officers need to go through training to not be predisposed to think someone of color is up to no good. This is also why Trayvon Martin was killed. George Zimmerman was predisposed that Martin was up to no good and was told not to follow him by the dispatcher. He did and Martin was killed.

      There is an excellent book called “The New Jim Crow” which is about the higher preponderence of African-Americans in prison for drug crimes when whites have a higher rate of drug use. One point is the predisposition to incarcerate African-Americans is higher and the other is the percentage of felons represented by paid counsel is greater for whites. If we can begin better sentencing of smaller drug crimes, we will have fewer African-Americans incarcerated and they can contribute to society rather than stay in prison.

      Finally, the cookie cutter Voter ID rules that have been passed in several GOP led states using the ALEC playbook, have now been overturned as unconstitutional in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arkansas with NC’s law pending. I have seen the NC one up close and it has numerous elements to suppress votes from African-Americans and is very Jim Crow-like. The GOP leader in Asheville who unfortunately went on The Daily Show and resigned after saying what the law was meant to do is not that much of anomaly. He resigned because he said it on camera. The NC law should be overturned as unconstitutional next year as it is worse than three other states mentioned. These laws were created under the guise of rampant voter fraud, but there is no rampant voter fraud.

      I wish we could claim racial discrimination is no longer around in our country, but to this 55 year old, white, independent voter, that would not be a true statement. Of course, that is what I think and others have the right to disagree with me. There is no need to write any more than you have. Again, good post.

      • Nice thoughts.

        I am also white. But I did a decade of Grateful Dead tour- essentially self selecting myself into a minority. And it was eye opening as to what minorites- whether by race, gender, sexual preference, etc have to deal with on a daily basis. And I also had the reality of spending much of my time on the west coast- and then touring the rest of the nation and having the wake up of ok, it’s not ok to be like this everywhere. I need to be careful.
        I’ve experienced everything from police from racial ephitets to threats against my life, to outright violence…for no legitamate reason whatsover.

        And as I’ve said before- I feel lkie we have moved into a new era, and in many ways a more insidious one, of “isms”. Where people have been able to recognize there are people of different races. Nationalities. religions. sexes. sexual preferences. That they can respect. So they think “problem solved”. Without acknowledging that these people tend to need to be like them, and/or go far and above what a white person would need to do to get this respect. Hence, “I can’t be racist- I love allen west. But most of these black thugs…”
        Hell, I blogged a while back on my own struggles to deal with these ingrained tendencies: http://goo.gl/5RK3hp

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