I have realised that anytime BLM and protesters react to police brutality, detractors always point to various “whataboutisms”. Many would ask “what about black on black crime.?” “What about aborted black babies?” “Does BLM not care about broken black families with absent fathers?”
These irritating questions as noted by an astute journalist are as annoying as me asking Americans “what about Americans killing other Americans” during the 911 attacks?”
American history has been so “whitewashed” that many of us who should know better can be just as ignorant as folks who never stepped into a classroom! But don’t worry that is why some of us are here to set the historical records straight!
Today I had like to address the systemic racism that has decimated families leaving many without the traditional father head!
Of the 12 million slaves that were exported from Africa, only 300,000 came to the shores of America! By the end of slavery through the process of slave breeding, the population of slaves had ballooned to over 4 million. Slave masters sold children of slaves and even sometimes their parents to other slaveholders. It is interesting nobody was worrying about absent fathers in those days. Blacks in America never had the choice of a traditional family unit since the days of yore!
Contrary to popular beliefs that slavery ended with the Emancipation Act, slavery continued in other forms! After reconstruction ended White Southerners enacted various laws that kept blacks in slavery by imprisonment! In 1850 before slavery ended the prison population was 90% White. In 1890 barely 15 years after The Emancipation Act, the prison population was 90% black.
Coincidence? You tell me! How did they achieve this?!
To begin with Southern State Legislatures enacted “Pig laws”!. These laws made hitherto small offences from misdemeanour to felony charges punishable by long prison sentences! Theft of a pig which cost a dollar could lead you to jail sentence of 5 years!
But by far the most devastating laws were the vagrancy laws! This Statute stated that a labourer or servant who could not prove he has a job or “loiters away his time may be sent to the common jail of the county.” Though not really specified it was an unwritten rule that such laws were only to be applied to blacks.
Many blacks were arrested and imprisoned only to be leased to companies. The state got paid for the services of these prisoners in what was called convict leasing! These practices over many decades deprived African American families of the “traditional nuclear family”. The detractors of BLM should make the effort to look into these issues before pointing fingers!
These oppressive laws led to one of the largest human migration in the history of the world. From 1916 – 1970; six million blacks moved from the South to the North and the Midwest. In these new places blacks were again mistreated and regarded as “refugees” in their own land!
Then came the asymmetric war on drugs! Research suggests that drug usage between Whites and Blacks is about the same. Most of us have but never heard of a SWAT raid on a college campus or on Wall Street. Many black men were imprisoned for decades just for possession, yes possession of marijuana. Many of these cases were related to quantities that would not suggest dealing in drugs!
RATES OF DRUG USE AND INCARCERATION BY RACE
The mass incarceration resulting from this war on drugs which was really a war on blacks and other minorities rendered many unemployable. The resulting increased rates of recidivism tore many families apart!
Robbed of opportunities to rebuild their lives many end in a vicious cycle from which they are unable to extricate themselves! For them, the proverbial second chance of the American system did not apply! Today white owned companies are profiteering from the marijuana business. Many blacks were imprisoned for using marijuana in the war on drugs. Today white American entrepreneurs are being rewarded for dealing!
By far the most damaging effect of racism and segregation was the psychological toll it took on African American lives. The daily violence meted out to individuals in their efforts to pursue the American Dream of freedom happiness and prosperity!
Take the case of the Korean War Veteran called Clyde Kennard. Clyde was imprisoned for life just for attempting to attend college at Mississippi Southern College! Kennard was only released when he was diagnosed with colon cancer and died six months later! Many African Americans were lynched and killed just for trying to integrate into American society! The psychological implications of these situations were huge. Such acts made the rest others think twice about aggressively pursuing their American dreams! Exactly what the perpetrators of such acts wanted to achieve.
So next time before you criticise BLM for not caring about “black families without fathers” please think about the systemic racism that still exists today that caused the situation in the first place!
If you care so much about black causes and equality be a part of the solution. Please do not sit on your bum and criticise, act to bring about change!
Equal rights and justice!
By Dr. Yaw Berko who practices internal medicine in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Feature photo: Stephon Clark and family before he was gunned down by Sacramento police whilst holding a cell phone in his grandmother’s backyard.