400 years later race still marks the spot

Four hundred years is a long time to wrestle with a single issue, as Africans living in the U.S. and the Americas have struggled with racism and its accompanying philosophy White supremacy. The endurance of this plague tempts many of us to throw up our hands. It would make sense to conclude that if we haven’t overcome by now, we never will. But that would be a mistake, as indicated by the gradual improvement of the condition of Black folks since the end of slavery; everything changes. However, change cannot occur without us.

Speaking of change, I suspect that many Black folks and probably other everyday working folks failed to pay a lot of attention to President Trump’s impeachment hearing, likely because they realize that as long as this social/political/economic system is in place, there will always be a struggle to be acknowledged as a full member of U.S. society, no matter who is in the White House.

We have no better proof of that than the tenure of former president and African American Barack Obama, whose promises of “hope and change” not only fell short but produced nothing close to real change. 

The year 2019 was like most years for those who are considered Black living in the United States; life was a series of avoiding pitfalls, while watching one’s budget, being cautious around cops and being careful not to say the wrong thing while at work.

Some are jobless heading into the New Year because of the color bar. Some find themselves out of work because they fell for the trap the bosses laid when they said, “Please share your complaints about the racial climate here we welcome them because we are open to change.”

Race is behind the inhumane U.S. Mexico border policy that caused the U.S. to lock up people seeking asylum while separating them from their children while locking them up in what can only be rightly called concentration camps.

Racism is what caused the U.S. to hold children in filthy conditions refusing them showers, soap, clean clothes and leaving babies to sit in soiled diapers for hours on end, and then actually arguing in court to keep the children in that condition. Most nations calling themselves civilized would be embarrassed but for the U.S. it is business as usual.

Like most years, Black folks found themselves mired in a nation that still has not found a way to totally accept, incorporate and include its former slaves. Of course, the effort that has taken place though feeble, has been hampered by the fact that the slaveholders did such an outstanding job of convincing the world that Africans were not human and that they had been created to be the slave of the European as ordained by their god. The residue remains.

Incidentally, the New York Times, yes, the New York Times, tried to put Black folks history and existence in this country into proper place and perspective with its 1619 Project. It turns out as many scholars have acknowledged beforehand, that African slavery provided the financial engine that drove this nation and put it on the course to become the superpower that it is now.

Incredibly, the 1619 Project received quite a bit of push-back primarily because the well-researched, academically rigorous effort laid waste to the previous historical whitewash and revisionism.

James Baldwin wrote, “To accept one’s past—one’s history—is not the same thing as drowning in it; it is learning how to use it.”

W.E.B. DuBois said the problem of the last century was the problem of the “color line.” It appears that the problem of the color line has seeped into this century if the first two decades are any indication.

However, we should not despair. The point is not to talk about White supremacy and racism to the point of fetishizing it. Nor is the point to paint such a bleak picture of its power and potency that we become overwhelmed and intimidated and refuse to continue to fight.

The point is that we are still here, 400 years later, in a godforsaken place where we have been beaten, bloodied and scorned but yet collectively unbowed.

And we are still here and will continue to strive in this hostile place because we have fought for our place. If we keep up the fight we just might win. But rest assured, we will not win if we do not fight.

Justice, then peace.