Black Americans transcending sordid past, making strides

Has anyone experienced a “skin burn on the knee?” In athletics, they refer to this common abrasion as a “strawberry.”

A strawberry is usually quick to heal if it is able to avoid a bump or a bruise. The wound will scab and heal without complications. However minor athletic injuries such as skin abrasions often fail to escape bumps and bruises! One little ding beaks the scab and the healing process must start over.

This little analogy is surprisingly applicable to race relations in America. We will make progress. Then, there will be some incident or even a slip of the lip and we’ll experience a relapse.

I was born and grew up in El Dorado, Arkansas. For those not familiar with Arkansas geography, El Dorado is located in the extreme south-central part of the state. It is 120 miles south of Little Rock, 13 miles north of the Louisiana state line.

El Dorado is “deep south.” In other words, it is more akin to Mississippi than Tennessee. Yet natives will tell you that El Dorado is more in sync with East Texas, with Louisiana flavor. Maybe it has something to do with El Dorado’s being the “oil capital” of Arkansas.

Baby boomers who attended elementary school in El Dorado will quietly admit that the public schools were segregated. In fact, the entire town of 26,000 was distinctly segregated. In 1970, El Dorado was 38% African American. The white population accounted for the rest. I doubt that there were 50 non-Castilian Hispanics in the city, or in Union County, population 50,000, for that matter!

In 1970, full integration came to Union County. El Dorado’s long-standing black institution, Washington High, was closed. White and black students were suddenly thrown together. The result was different than expected.

There weren’t fights and riots. If anything, there was relief. Peer pressure had prevented either side from becoming “too chummy” with the other. To an extent, this went away. White kids and black kids continued to segregate themselves. But there was no real hostility and plenty of open communication.

What didn’t go away was the fact that the black kids had not been privy to the same education intensity prevalent in the white schools. To be sure, there were some superlative black students. But the dominent demeanor was more in line with apathy.

In 1970, dozens of El Dorado’s “fifty and sixty something” teachers abruptly retired. They were replaced by recent college graduates. The new “norm” was to “float” students. In essence, the “Brown versus the Board of Education” mandate was about “bringing about a social change” in America. It had little to do with improving and advancing education standards.

Well-meaning elites blamed the substandard black education institutions. The truth inside the question amounted to economic inequality. It wasn’t that Washington High School received less money than marginally integrated El Dorado High School. It wasn’t that teachers there were less qualified, worked less or failed to maximize every child’s ability. It came down to “after-hours help on the home fronts.”

Many black kids did not have mothers at home, because their mothers were often employed by white families. The black mothers helped raise the white children, in addition to cooking their meals and cleaning their parents’ homes.

People today continue to blame the white south for slavery, even though the 13th Amendment’s passage took place 157 years ago. Maybe it’s because 100 years later in 1965, there still remained remnants of the old order.

Don’t think for a second that the north is completely without stain! Prior to emancipation, the black man was, at best, a second-class citizen in the north. In fact, he wasn’t even that! Citizenship did not come until 1868 with the passage of the 14th Amendment. In 1965, black people in the north reported a “coolness,” as if they were uninvited guests. As a black friend from Atlanta phrased, “It was like we were there, but we weren’t there.”

1970 was a wake-up call, for both black and white Americans.

Was the continuation of an old system, in effect a “caste system” wrong? Sure, it was! Yet, black Americans were pretty much assured that they would be okay if “they remembered their place.” They had their school system. They had their movie houses, churches and restaurants.

Unequal? Demeaning? Sure! But historically they had seen worse! Much worse.

Interestingly enough, a friend from Cleveland, Ohio told me of his recent conversation with a black friend who announced that he was returning to Alabama. Somewhat surprised, my friend queried. “Why? Aren’t things much better for a black person here than there?”

To his astonishment, the answer was a definitive “no!” Because “in the south, a black man always knows where he stands.”

This sounds somewhat self-deprecating, if not contradictory. What it amounts to is “familiarity.” In the South, the races have always lived in close proximity. As individuals, white and black Southerners generally like each other. A large number of white Southerners will admit to being “more comfortable” in the company of a black Southerner than a white New Englander.

There are so-called “experts” from Boston and San Francisco who ridicule and chastise “flyover Americans,” calling them racists, fascists and bigots. They even had a 2016 presidential candidate refer to them as a “basket of deplorables.” Yet, when you check the credentials of these “experts,” you’ll note that most attended all white, elitist private schools.

To these “experts,” the black man is an exotic creature, the ideal poster child showcasing their call to end racial injustice and inequality. In short, the ideal tool to advance their “divisionist” agenda! Their quandary rests with the fact that African Americans ARE making huge strides toward making Dr. King’s dream a reality.

Traditional, Al Sharpton-style race hustling has become stale, despite fervent attempts by BLM and Antifa to rekindle resentment through Marxist orientations such as CRT and the “1619 Project.” The telltale factor was simply record employment numbers for African Americans, especially between 2017 and 2020.

It’s not that black Americans aren’t aware of their sordid past! Don’t think for a minute that they fail to comprehend how unkind history has been to them, how unfairly their ancestors were treated. The question becomes, “where do we go from here?”

Can contemporary black Americans forgive white Americans for crimes committed by their ancestors decades previously? I think some most definitely can and are doing so this day!

Without question, the majority of white Americans are ready to bring black Americans fully into the American family. They are doing so with unimaginable expediency. Abraham Lincoln would be shocked if he were alive today!

True, we’ve had continuous hiccups. That scab does get broken from time to time. But we are doggedly making strides.

We cannot sanitize history. We must not run from it. We must embrace it. If, for no other reason, than the fact that history often repeats. We must know what we are capable of.

Sadly, there are those who are simply too hurt and too angry to proceed. For these tormented souls, we should consider some form of compensation and subsequent immigration assistance. Hate destroys. It would be better to make a life in a place that you don’t hate, with people you don’t resent.

For some, the legacy of ancestors trapped in involuntary servitude may be too much to stomach. Never mind the fact that most English colonists entered America as indentured servants. It’s a haunting thought that will remain generations hence.

Yet, with it comes the gritty acknowledgment that a place in America has been won. For this reason, more than any other, black Americans should be supportive of strong, secure borders! Those pushing for open borders are no friend to black Americans!

Shame on these “opportunists” who resort to racial disparities when on the losing end of an argument. These are the “true American deplorables!” To resort to such tactics is the essence of cowardness!

Unfortunately, this is an adversary that knows no shame. They are comfortable pitting Americans against each other. For them, it’s about power and nothing more. Their overconfident smugness will ultimately be their undoing.

Expect black Americans to tip the scales, finding these “experts” wanting.


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