On those occasions when African Americans described the horrific conditions of slavery in America, noises of refusal drowned and shouted, ‘Get Over It!’
How slavery began and became a part of America’s history should not be ignored; it’s part of the fabric of our Nation–including intolerance that often rears its ugly head against Black Americans.
In 1619 Europeans invaded Africa then shipped less than two dozen captive Africans to America — they were considered Indentured Slaves. After that shipment, history records that throughout the next two centuries, four million Africans were snatched from the Motherland and shipped to America. Squeezed like sardines in the belly of ships, my ancestors struggled to stay alive as they floundered amongst human waste and often the dead. After a journey that usually took three-to-four months, when these ships reached America, the stench drifting from their vessels was so overwhelming that people on the shore could smell the odorous cargo a mile or more before the ship reached the landing dock.
“Black people are dirty and smelly and lazy”
Indentured no more, Africans were slaves–property–branded like livestock with a hot iron that identified the owner that became their ‘work horse’.
When President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 it was Freedom for slaves. No longer tied to their masters’ power many Free Blacks remained in their plantation cabins to begin a life to uplift their families. Yet there also were Free Black Men with no means to make money. They wandered throughout their towns and villages, ultimately jailed for vagrancy. These Freed Black Men became chain gang prisoners laboring in the fields of their former masters.
Being Black in America is a challenge
Media reports of Blacks stopped by law enforcement only make the news whenever a killing is attached to that incident. No stats are kept, nor stats kept on the number of gun deaths in America. Hearing the stories of Black men getting stopped by police are incidents that’ve been happening for a long time. They’re no stranger to my family.
In the 40s and 50s my father was often pulled over by police. It was during this period when as the leader of his four-piece band he often played gigs in Philadelphia. That meant traveling north from the city taking Route 611 to Doylestown. It became a ‘given’ for him to be stopped a few miles just outside of town by the same policeman who always asked him for the same information:
Name? Driver’s license & registration? Where are you coming from? Where are you going?
One day Daddy sat us down–me, my two sisters and three brothers and we listened as he shared his Driving While Black Conversation:
“Behave yourselves . . . Always. Don’t act or say anything that’ll cause trouble for you.”
The technology of camera phones is now capturing people behaving badly. It also has brought to light just how often police over-react with African Americans. Two recent incidents have now initiated a different Conversation:
On July 5, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana Alton Sterling–age 37–died from a police officer’s revolver;
… and a day later on July 6, 2016 a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota caused the death of Philando Castile–age 32–also from a police officer’s revolver.
Then … On July 7, 2016 we witnessed the shooting deaths of five Dallas, Texas police officers by a racist Black man during a gathering of citizens seeking Peace.
These pieces of our history opens a beginning for a new Conversation about race relations in our Nation. I’m sensing empathy and understanding coming from our elected officials, the media and the public. I’m sensing that people of different colors will begin speaking TO each other instead of AT each other.
For hundreds of years Ignorance and Racism have been the promoters parterning Intolerance.
It’s Time for a New Conversation
We must peel away those layers of prejudice and scattered them in the wind, never to return again.
Black Lives DO Matter.