"We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." Martin Luther King - Letter from a Birmingham Jail"
This morning while doing my review of the news of the day I came across one of the most simple, yet provocative articles I have read in quite a while, "Ann Coulter: Democrats 'Dropping the Blacks and Moving on to the Hispanics'". While I am no advocate for the messenger Ms Coulter, and disagree with many of her core views inside the article there were statements brought to the national stage that for far too long have went ignored.
"I think what - the way liberals have treated blacks like children and many of their policies have been harmful to blacks, at least they got the beneficiary group right," Coulter said. "There is the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow laws. We don't owe the homeless. We don't owe feminists. We don't owe women who are desirous of having abortions, but that's - or - or gays who want to get married to one another. That's what civil rights has become for much of the left."
When asked whether immigrant rights were not civil rights, Coulter responded, "No. I think civil rights are for blacks. What have we done to the immigrants? We owe black people something. We have a legacy of slavery. Immigrants haven't even been in this country." Ann Coulter on ABC Video
My background and experience has positioned me to oddly be able to see the need for this dialogue on the topic; in my eyes having it triggered by a stark conservative is only more of a statement of the need to have a full conversation on the presented issues with a honest view of history. While many have connected me with the destruction of the black community, those same detractors fail to have a historical grasp on this countries long cyclical history of slavery, convict leasing, chain gangs and now mass incarceration. My role as a kingpin was as much a stop-gap to poverty, as it was a seller of drugs. Mass poverty, unemployment and lack of legacy wealth created an environment of unmotivated black youth in the early 1980's. I see many similarities today. If left unresolved these similarities will heat from a slow simmer until they boil over as we are seeing in urban centers across the nation, such as Chicago. My gift and curse was an ability to motivate the unmotivated to put in effort and help them see a true economic result. In amassing my fortune what I came to know is people -- no matter their background -- must be made to feel that they have a purpose. For many blacks that are direct descendants of slaves, that purpose was stripped when their knowledge of family history or goals for family futures was purposefully disrupted in the interest of American expansion.
Note: My analysis below deals moreso with lack of recognition of a duty and action that the American government has to descendants of slaves, rather than dealing with the right of other groups to access Civil Rights gains. I believe Civil Rights are due to all Americans, and are cornerstones to achieving the American Dream.
Lets start with context so there is no question as to what Ms. Coulter speaks to in her shortened comments above. America is only 236 years old, the Independence of the country was gained in 1776. While in contrast America's African slavery lasted from 1619, to at least the date used by most textbooks 1862. But as can be seen in pieces such as "PBS Slavery by Another Name" American slavery really lasted until 1942. Through the use of convict leasing and vagrancy laws America kept Blacks subjugated well into the 20th century. It is only in 1942 that government officials made slavery illegal and acted to enforce the rights of African American slaves to be free. President Roosevelt signed circular No. 3591 legislation on December 12, 1941, finally, effectively making slavery illegal in the United States in 1942. So in all American slavery was some 320 years long, being that it started before the country's Independence and lasted well into its more modern existence (a full 150 years longer than the entire history of the country).
The form of slavery used in America, this country of independence and freedom, was one whereby blacks were intentionally culturally stripped, unable to create familial structure, unable to create financial wealth and unable to create any sense of identity -- stripping men down to a sense of nothingness where in some cases they did not even know their own birth dates.
During this period America became one of the wealthiest countries the world has ever known. This occurred primarily on the back of the rest of the world's inability to compete with America's free slave labor advantage in creating everything from cotton in the 1700's to steel in the 1900's with no labor cost. During this entire time black slaves amassed little to no wealth, and were in fact not even allowed to stay in structured families without threat of being ripped from their social fabric by being sold.
The period from 1942 until the early 1970's was known as Jim Crow, whereby the descendants of slavery were made to be second-class citizens. They were largely unable to vote, unable to organize and unable to truly create wealth for their descendants. Note:Blacks were a group so ostracized they were unable to even see criminal justice done. A little known fact is despite all of the rampant racially motivated killing that went on throughout the country over nearly 100 years between 1877 and 1966, during a time of heavy peonage (a form of involuntary servitude) only one white farmer was convicted of the murder of one of his black "peons". Stopping and now doing the math from 1776 until around 1970 blacks were truly unable to amass wealth for themselves, but created the wealthiest country the world has known. It is for that which our families are owed a great debt. Note: This means that blacks with ties to slavery, were slaves for 83 percent of the countries entire history, and in addition slaves some 150 years before the country officially became independent.
What this has left behind is a society that is ripe for what has been entitled the New Jim Crow whereby mass incarceration has been used as tool to incarcerate in mass the descendants of those same slaves. Shackles are shackles, and chains are chains as much as we refuse to view them as such. This mass incarceration has been a great job creator as America poured billions into the War on Drugs, essentially creating crime that needed to be processed by officers, judges, attorneys and court staff. All of this being done at the cost of so many black males lives. In 1982 at my height, there was no Google, and we had no real knowledge of global affairs. What we did know is that Reganomics had led to a trickle down that was not occurring. It cut off social programs, job training and led to massive downturns in the ghetto economically. But had our great grand-parents been given their just due, we would not be in the position to have to wait for economics to trickle. We would have been our own pipe, trickling to others just as any other group in the country 12-plus generations was doing by 1980.
Today, priming the pump are record labels Warner Brothers Records and Universal Music, and artist such as the one using my name William Roberts pka Rick Ross knowledgeably validating selling crack cocaine (despite its harsh sentencing, even though neither the artist or label executives has or would sell crack cocaine themselves) to a group of young black men ready to follow messages pushed forth by this mass media. Shooting videos that make blacks appear like animals from Louisiana: Rick Ross "Hold me Back" (God Forgives I Don't) to Nigeria Rick Ross "Hold Me Back," feeding an image of the poor-criminal-black man as described by Toure in theWashington Post. So entrenched is the mentality left behind by a culture born from lack of ownership, that as I fight for my own name people can not draw the connection that the root of why it was taken from me without license or compensation is tied in the same culture of black slavery and lack of right of possession described above. Whereby we as African Americans are not to even own our own identity. I am Rick Ross, and I refuse to allow it.
While this is in no way an exhaustive list, it is a start for true dialogue toward progress.
- It is my belief we need real data sets on what the long term effects of American slavery have been on the descendants to start any real dialogue. Administrators for public services, education and incarceration should be forced to collect specific data on descendants of slavery so we can really see how this group is performing after being horrifically treated for so long, we can then delve into real solutions.
- Descendants of slavery should be allowed to use new Internet based tools such as Ancestry.com to track their family's history at no cost paid for by the federal government. This would start to enhance a sense of identity and knowledge of history.
- No Cost Financial planning. Family planning and Counseling services should be offered to those that are descendants of slavery in areas where data shows there is need.
- Financial tax breaks targeted at descendants of slavery should be enacted, whereby those that are most disenfranchised are able to make up ground on the investment advantage of legacy money held by so many. To hear Republicans at their convention speak on redistribution this year -- from Ann Romney, Senator Marco Rubio and Mitt Romeny, they speak of an America that historically has not existed and we still must work toward by being honest about how wealth advantages were gained the last 100 years. There are roughly 3 Million Americans in the top 1% of earners, that's one percent of 300 Million people. Blacks are only a mere 1.4% of that top earning group (in numbers only 40,000 BLACKS are in the top 1%). That means (.1%) of all blacks in the country are in the top earning bracket. This is while 27.4% or 10.7 million blacks live below the poverty line earning less than 11,000 dollars a year. Note: The median asset for the few 40,000 blacks in the top 1% median assets are 1.2 Million and 1.3 million in debt load, making them negative 100K. Whites in contrast are 96% of the top 1% of earners, and for the 2.9 Million whites in the top 1% the median assets are 8.3 Million in Assets, 300,000 in Debt.
- Crack and Cocaine should be sentenced same, and the sentencing should be applied retroactively. Currently the sentences given to Black men for the nonviolent offense of the sale of Crack cocaine are the same as that given for murder in some cases. This has destroyed countless families, by ripping the Black father from the home for a nonviolent crime. When released these young men should be allowed to vote in all elections. Voting is one of the great powers of men in a democracy. It should not be allowed to be stripped from descendants of slavery for nonviolent offenses that are incorrectly labeled as high level felonies. By stripping voting powers they undermine our ability to organize and effect change in our communities by demands of politicians. 10,000 per 100,000 black males ages 25-30 are incarcerated, largely for nonviolent drug offenses. To put this statistic in context the prison rate for Africans in South Africa during the the Apartheid was 836 per 100,000. About 10.4% of the entire African-American male population in the United States aged 25 to 29 was incarcerated, by far the largest racial or ethnic group-by comparison, 2.4% of Hispanic men and 1.2% of white men in that same age group were incarcerated.
- Lastly, a demand of our politicians from US President to local Alderman, that to get our vote they must enact targeted policy for descendants of slavery. We must start the healing process of rectifying a community destroyed as America built its culture of freedom so many enjoy at the cost of many black families very existence. So as President Obama speaks live to the UN on Slavery, I also request we also become more honest about America's past so we may move to a brighter future.
As stated by the president, "Human trafficking is not a business model, it is a crime" President Obama. In America we must be honest that it has been a business, we must then look at ourselves and be honest about what we see in the mirrors reflection as we look at this business of American slavery's lasting effects.
I hope this Op Ed is read with an open mind for the messenger, and the message as that it is time to start the dialogue so we may start on the path toward a true healing.
Yours for the cause of Honesty and Truth,