Photo illustration by Justin Grimes (Photo via Flickr | CC-BY-SA 2.0).
By Michael Coard
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that things are as bad for Blacks today as they were during slavery. It would be insane to make such a foolish statement. But what I am saying is that racial bigotry in terms of attitudes of superiority are the same. Although most whites today don’t want to own us (well, let’s assume that for the sake of this article), they do think and always have thought they are better than us.
A prime example is one of America’s greatest presidents (relatively speaking). Although he gets major kudos for going to war against the Southern “slave-holding” seceding seditionists, he was a racist.
As disclosed in the PBS documentary “The Abolitionists,” Abraham Lincoln actually considered allowing the Confederacy to keep Blacks enslaved until 1900 if it immediately surrendered. In addition, he actually said during his historic Sept. 18, 1858, debate with Stephen A. Douglas, “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and Black races ….”
The “Great Emancipator” felt like that about us — and he was one of the “good” white folks! God help us regarding the rest of the white folks — then and now.
White America’s implemented racism began on Aug. 25, 1619, with the birth of slavery in British Colonial America. And 403 years later on Jan. 18, 2022, one of America’s states moved closer to passing a law making it illegal for schools to teach courses about slavery and racism and for employers to effectuate policies to alleviate slavery’s modern-day residue of discriminatory employment and promotions because such courses and such policies might cause racist whites to feel bad about being racist whites in racist America.
On that Jan. 18 date and with the enthusiastic support of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Senate Committee on Education voted to move forward toward ultimate passage of an anti-Critical Race Theory (CRT) legislative proposal officially called S.B. 148, which declares, in pertinent part, that:
“An individual should not be made to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race …. [Moreover,] An individual, by virtue of his or her race … does not bear responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race ….”
In other words, slavery doesn’t matter to Florida.
Neither does the hypocritically racist 1776 Declaration of Independence, the slavery-advocating 1788 U.S. Constitution, the “Indian” genocide, Mexican land robbery, the anti-Reconstruction Redemption Era, Black Codes, convict leasing, sharecropping, disenfranchisement, Jim Crow, gerrymandering, redlining, inadequate school funding, school-to-prison pipeline, police brutality, mass incarceration, the 74.2 million Americans who voted for the KKK-endorsed, Nazi-condoning presidential candidate, the approximately 2,500 nearly all-white terroristic seditionists who attempted a violent coup at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, white privilege, or any other manifestation of systemic racism.
None of that matters to them.
As an aside, a 2019 Pew Research Center poll disclosed that 77% of Americans who identified as Republican or as leaning toward Republicanism (i.e., almost exclusively white people) confirmed that “When it comes to racial discrimination, the bigger problem for the country today is people seeing discrimination where it does not exist.”
That means nearly 8 of 10 white folks think Black people are paranoid and delusional about racial discrimination. How come I’m not surprised?
The only thing that matters to racist white Florida is racist white folks’ hurt feelings about their personal white racism and about their country’s past and present white racism.
White America’s racism and racist hurt feelings ain’t just a Florida thing, though. As documented by Education Week, “Since January 2021, 35 states have introduced bills or taken other steps that would restrict teaching CRT or limit how teachers can discuss racism …. Fourteen states have imposed these bans and restrictions either through legislation or other avenues.”
By the way, CRT is not what racist white America claims it is. It is not Black Lives Matter. It is not reparations. It is not defunding/defanging the police. And it is not taught to any children and was never designed to be taught to any children.
It is a law school concept that grew out of Critical Legal Studies, which evolved from the premise that the law is not racially objective or racially apolitical as clearly evidenced by “Slave” Codes, Black Codes, convict leasing, debtors’ prison, Jim Crow legislation and jurisprudence, drug sentencing disparities, stop and frisk, mass incarceration, capital punishment, etc.
The then-unnamed law school concept was first publicized 46 years ago in a 1976 Yale Law Journal article by Derrick Bell, who was a Harvard Law School professor, a New York University Law School professor and a prominent civil rights attorney. After CRT had been taught for over a decade all across the country by many professors at many law schools, Columbia Law School professor Kimberle Crenshaw, along with a few other law school professors in 1989, coined the phrase “Critical Race Theory.”
White America’s racism ain’t just an anti-CRT thing. It’s also an anti-Black voting rights thing.
For example, on Jan. 19, the U.S. Senate rejected passage of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act that would have reinstated the essential pre-clearance section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that the U.S. Supreme Court vacated in 2013 and also would have increased voting locations and times, allowed for earlier voting, broadened voting by mail, loosened unnecessarily stringent voter ID requirements, expanded multi-lingual voting materials, and banned partisan gerrymandering.
But the racist white Republican members of the U.S. Senate decided that Black voting rights don’t matter.
White America’s racism ain’t just those racist white Republican U.S. senators (along with Senator “I. M. A. Race Traitor”). It’s also, as revealed by the Brennan Center, the 43 state legislatures since February 2021 in which Republican lawmakers have carried over, pre-filed, or introduced 253 bills with provisions that restrict Black and Brown voting access.
White America’s racism ain’t just a Black voter disenfranchisement thing. It’s also a lynching thing in that Congress continues to refuse to pass the 2019 Emmett Till Anti-Lynching bill, which is designed to simply and finally specify lynching as a hate crime in light of the fact that, as documented by the U.S. Census Bureau, “At least 4,742 people … were reported lynched in the United States between 1882 and 1968.”
That’s not a typo. That’s 1968. That’s quite recent.
And it’s actually worse than that. Congress wasn’t as precise as it should have been. The last lynching wasn’t 54 years ago in 1968. The last three lynchings- that we know of- were on June 7, 1998, when 49-year-old James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas, was dragged to death behind a car until decapitated, Feb. 23, 2020, when 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in Satilla Shores, Ga. was hunted down and shot to death, and May 25, 2020, when 46-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn. was strangled to death for nearly 10 minutes.
White America’s racism ain’t just a pro-lynching thing. It’s also a pro-police brutality thing in that Congress continues to refuse to pass the 2021 George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
A first step toward ending white America’s racism is for racist white Americans to admit that they’re racist. But that will never happen.
Therefore, since we can’t persuade them with reason, then let’s beat them with votes- despite their nationwide disenfranchisement efforts. We beat slavery yesterday despite chains and whips, so we can beat disenfranchisement today despite laws and ordinances.
As Brother Malcolm proclaimed, “It’s the ballot or the bullet.” And I choose the ballot because racist white Americans ain’t scared of the bullet since they have many more bullets than we have.
But they are scared of the ballot because America is becoming Blacker and browner each day, which means we’ll soon have many more voters than they have.
We can’t stop racist white Americans from being racist. They are what they are and what they always have been. But we can stop them from being politically powerful racist white Americans.
Malcolm X is still a political genius. And America is still racist.
Opinion contributor Michael Coard is an attorney and radio host. He wrote this column for the Philadelphia Tribune, where it first appeared.
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