Why Do You Always Have To Bring Up Slavery?

What happened to #neverforget?

Photo by Tamara Gore on Unsplash

When it comes to the Holocaust, our Jewish brothers and sisters make sure to let the world know how important it is that we know and understand what happened during that time so that history does not repeat itself (just ask Nick Cannon).

When it comes to 9/11, we are told to #neverforget.

However, when it comes to slavery and it’s affect on the Black community, we are told to simply get over it because it happened so long ago.

“How, Sway?”

It is true that throughout history slavery has existed in almost every part of the world. It certainly did not begin with the African slave trade.

It is also true that the trans-Atlantic slave trade was unique, and should never be compared to any other form of slavery that existed.

Historically, slavery was usually brought upon a person or group of people because of unpaid debt or victims of war. The African slave trade was the first time in history that people were enslaved because of the color of their skin. Even the Pope himself at the time agreed that it was best to enslave Africans because their skin made them standout just in case they tried to runaway, and African slaves were less likely than Native Americans to rebel because they did not know the land as well even if they did escape.

The African slave trade in the Americas was also the first time in history that slaves were not even people, they were property. In most cases, indentured servants had the opportunity to work off their debt, and eventually work their way out of servitude. As opposed to African slavery, where people were born into slavery, and even a small percentage of African blood could make one a slave for a lifetime.

Indentured servants had some rights, unlike slaves. Since slaves were not recognized as people, they had no recourse in the court of law, and no right to reap any of the benefits produced by their own labor. Again, this is the first time in history that a mass of people were enslaved, bought and sold, bred, beaten, and killed, enabled by the laws of the land.

What’s even more unique about the African slave trade is the fact that unlike most other groups that have been enslaved, African slaves did not fight and win their independence. They were simply “set free” by the dominant white society, which left most Black Americans with nothing. So much so that many freed slaves had to go back work on the fields in which they were enslaved. With no land, resources, or education, Black people had no way of controlling their own fate, which even after they were “freed” was still in the hands of the dominant white society.

The enslavement of Africans in the Americas was unique in every way. So to say that slavery existed in the world before the trans-Atlantic slave trade, so Black people should get over it, is a weak argument.

What other group of people were enslaved for nearly 400 years without ever receiving any reciprocity? I’ll wait…

It is important to recognize the differences of Black Americans as opposed to other ethnic and minority groups because of their differences in experience in America historically. To place Black Americans in the group as ‘minorities’, and then to pass legislation to help “all minority groups” undermines the almost 400 year struggle that Black Americans have endured.

“A rising tide does not lift all boats when your boat has a hole in it.”

Being set free with no resources is the hole in the boat. Jim Crow laws are the hole in the boat. Legislation passed during the Civil Rights Era originally intended for Black people, that ended up benefiting women and every other minority group is the hole in the boat. Housing discrimination is the hole in the boat. Mass incarceration is the hole in the boat. Not taking care of our own communities and the crimes we commit against each other is the hole in the boat.

So when it comes dealing with Black Americans and welcoming legislation that helps to empower the Black community, it is not just the original sin of slavery that must be taken into account, but all of the laws that have been put in place to keep Black people as an underclass in this country must be atoned for.

According to a Pew Research Study, 63% of all Americans believe that the legacy of slavery still affects Black people at least a “fair amount”.

In that same study, it found that nearly half (45%) of all Americans believe that the country has not gone far enough giving Black Americans equal rights as White Americans.

Based off this particular study, most Americans as a whole understand that there is still work to be done when it comes to mitigating the effects of slavery. All Americans should have an interest in making sure that all groups, including Blacks, are competitive economically and politically, because that makes our entire country better when we have more educated people contributing to society in ways in which we can all benefit.

This is not about asking for a handout.

This is about correcting injustices that have plagued the Black community for years. It is true that slavery ended in America roughly 150 years ago, but how does a group recover on it’s own from 400 years of bondage? How does a group recover psychologically from trauma that is passed from generations to the next? How does a group that was enslaved by the dominant White society simply just ‘fit in’ with that same group that enslaved them just 2 of my grandparents ago?

These are questions that have yet to be answered because of the uniqueness of African-American slavery. If drastic changes are to be made in the Black community so that Blacks are a competitive group and not just an underclass, it’s going to take Black people taking control of our own communities, as well as legislation specifically designed to empower Black Americans, in the same way that other groups utilize their political power for the same thing!

As Americans, in the same way we are told to never forget tragedies which were the Holocaust, 9/11, and countless other injustices that have occurred throughout history, we should also never forget one of the most horrific tragedies of our history, which is the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

It is important that Black Americans know their history and never let the world forget that history so that that history will never repeat itself in any shape, form, or fashion. It is because of the uniqueness of the ‘Black American Experience’ that nearly 75% of Black Americans view their ethnicity as being central to their identity, as opposed to 15% of White Americans.

If slavery was about the dominant White society having a monopoly on all of the land, wealth, and resources in this country obtained from free Black labor, then we have to discuss slavery when we highlight that the wealth gap has not changed in almost 100 years.

And if politics is about controlling how America divides up the wealth and resources in this country, then we have to have a discussion regarding how the use of political power can help correct the lasting effects that slavery has had on the Black community.

We must never forget the legacy of slavery in America. Knowing our past provides a roadmap to our future, which makes us better in the present. As Americans we must understand that we cannot deal with the Black community the same way we do other ethnic groups, because no other ethnic group has endured nearly 400 years of what our Black ancestors endured.

So if we are truly about empowering the Black community, it’s going to take more than just Black Lives Matter signs. It’s going to take unique solutions because of Black America’s unique experience.

But unlike many others, I actually have faith in our government.

Because if they can figure out the math to make Black people only 3/5 human beings for tax purposes, then they can surely figure out how much is owed to Black Americans for all the free labor that was provided to make America what it is today. #neverforget

Sincerely,

Justin Patton

Sources:

  1. Pew Research Center
  2. Black Labor White Wealth, Dr. Claud Anderson
  3. Powernomics, Dr. Claud Anderson
  4. From The Browder File, Anthony Browder

Spoken word artist and writer. Living my life and writing about it along the way, it just might inspire somebody. IG: @iamjustinpatton

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