Race has been a defining characteristic in America over the years due to historical elements of American society. In the 1600s European settlers in the New World transitioned a system of slavery and indentured servitude into an economic system that enabled them to provide resources such as sugar and cotton to the Old world. This system helped develop and build America and enriched many white settler families, riches that some still enjoy up to today. The bedrock of this economic system was the African slave since the use of the Native Americans for labor on these plantations was found to be less profitable on two main accounts. Native Americans were very susceptible to diseases like small pox and their numbers dwindled the more contacts they had with Europeans. Over the next 4 centuries immediately following European expansion over the Americans the Native American populations declined by close to 90%. Native Americans also knew the countryside very well and run away into the surrounding wilderness whenever they had the opportunity and were difficult to track.
Some historians quote the year 1619 as the beginning of slavery in what is today the United States of America, but others have challenged this. Those who challenge this believe that slavery has been going on for several years prior to this. Overall though the Massachusetts’s Bay Colony was the first state to legalize slavery in 1641 prior to that small numbers of slaves had arrived in the colony first documented case was in 1638 when African slaves from Bermuda were brought into Massachusetts in exchange for Native American slaves who had resisted bondage. Thus slavery continued in the United States through its abolition by Lincoln’s Emancipation Declaration in 1863 and during the American Civil War. This was eventually codified into the constitution by the 13th Amendment in 1865. Even after abolition and the enactment of the 13th Amendment in January 31st 1865 some states still failed to ratify this Amendment. As a matter of fact the State of Mississippi only ratified the 13th Amendment in March 6th 1995.
With all the ambivalence that American has shown over slavery and Jim Crow Racism, I am not very surprised at some of the struggles that we are going through as a nation over the issue of race. I recently listened to a sermon on youtube given by a white Tennessee pastor on interracial marriages and could only smile because his message whilst totally lacking in any biblical support for his position does remind me a lot about the gay marriage debate going on today. Those interested in listening to this message can use the link below to listen.
Needless to say that a lot of our belief systems have been carved out from decades of supposed white superiority and denigration of the black underclass. Therefore when our own president asked why we need more Haitian immigrants and immigrants from sh*thole countries in Africa, it is very clear to me where that statement originates from. It rings loud and clear that all the proclamations of a post racial America after the election of our first black president are in reality very hollow indeed and not based on any solid premise. Anyway it is really wishful thinking if we believe that Barack Obama heralded the beginning of a post racial America when even after slavery was abolished we needed a voting rights act in 1965 to legislate against voting discrimination by race.
So, all I have to say today about our presidents sh*thole comments is this; “It is 2018 and nothing ever surprises me now. In April 24th 2013 a Tennessee pastor stood before his congregations of a few hundred mostly white American’s and told them it was against God’s law for them to marry outside their race, I have read the bible cover to cover twice and never saw that law. On June 17th, 2015, Dylan Roof a 21 year old white supremacist opened fire on a congregation of The African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina who had gathered for a prayer meeting and killed 9 people all African Americans. I suppose in his mind he might as well be shooting deer for sport. On August 11th, 2017 violence broke out in Charlottesville, VA at a rally of white supremacists groups masquerading as American Nationalist (only these Nationalist were all white in a country that is only 61.3% white. This led to the death of 3 individuals with many more injured when a white ‘nationalist’ protestor drove his car into a crowd of counter protestors.
Since the summer our ‘nationalist groups’ who happen to be all white have organized another protest in Charlottesville. In all these protests by the all white ‘nationalist’ the counter protesters have always outnumbered the ‘nationalist’.
Today all I have to say is this; “Yes we are struggling as a nation with who we are and what we want to become”. I hope though that as this struggle progresses America grows closer to that great free country that I read about and adored as a child in Ghana and not what our so called nationalist want to create for themselves and their white supremacist friends. Martin Luther King; you dream still does live on in us and we would carry it in our hearts and share it with our children so your dream would be realized eventually.
The DREAM OF MARTIN LUTHER KING Jr. does LIVE ON. KEEP IT ALIVE BY CONTINUALLY SHARING WITH YOUR CHILDREN AND LOVED ONES.
Photo Credit – Martin Luther King photo courtesy of Library of Congress and Nobel Foundation
– Monument photo – sunset view courtesy of Getty Images
By Dr. Leonard Sowah, an internal medicine physician in Baltimore, Maryland