For my third and final blog post for my Black Studies class I will be reviewing The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates to discuss how the United States has come to have the frame of mind it has about the African-American race. The Case for Reparations is about how African-Americans can not seem to ever be equal because, “Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole (Coates 1).
First, we’ll start with some history. In 1619 according to The Case for Reparations, “…enslaved Africans…were brought to the colony of Virginia.” “In 1650, Virginia mandated that “all persons except Negroes” were to carry arms.” So you’re telling me that everyone and anyone except someone of African-American descent is allowed to protect themselves? Why? Is it because they have no need to protect themselves? It’s actually the exact opposite. At this time, more than ever, African-Americans needed the protection but to give a negro a gun is to give them power. Whites were afraid of uprisings. “In 1664, Maryland mandated that any Englishwoman who married a slave must live as a slave of her husband’s master.” Even if an Englishwoman was attracted to a slave, which was socially forbidden, she definitely wouldn’t want to marry one now. Being a woman, at that time, was already like being property but being married to a slave meant you were legally property now. Legally as in it’s in writing! I don’t know about most women but being a piece of property doesn’t sound like a fun time to me. “In 1705, the Virginia assembly passed a law allowing for the dismemberment of unruly slaves – but forbidding Masters from whipping “a Christian white servant naked, without an order from the justice of the peace.” Just let that sink in. “Unruly slaves” can be torn limb from limb but if someone be “a Christian white servant” they can’t even get whipped naked without an order from the court. Wow. I’m not saying it’s okay to whip people naked. No not all. However, I am astonished that people were allowed to tear slaves limb from limb, as if ripping your ribs off the bone to eat them. “Between 1882 and 1968, more black people were lynched in Mississippi than in any other state.” That’s less than fifty years ago. That to me is terrifying, it makes me never want to go to Mississippi. A Klansman and a senator of Mississippi was quoted saying, “You and I know what’s the best way to keep the nigger from voting. You do it the night before the election.” Not only were lynches not seen as a big deal but the only reason it was done was so the African-American people had no say in the government and the laws being made. Not only is that unfair but it was hard enough to be able to vote after Blacks received the right to. They had to take literacy tests down South to prove they had a fifth grade education level. The test consisted of thirty questions that someone was supposed to answer in ten minutes and one must get 100% to be able to vote. It was invented for everyone to fail. Sometimes Blacks were told to recite the entire Constitution. I’ve lived in the United States my whole life, have higher than a fifth grade education level and I can’t even do that. Anything to make sure Blacks didn’t have a voice.
We’re now in the 1900s. “…the Red Summer of 1919: a succession of racist pogroms against dozens of cities ranging from Longview, Texas to Chicago to Washington D.C. Organized white violence against blacks continued into the 1920s – in 1921 a white mob leveled Tulsa’s “Black Wall Street,” and in 1923 another one razed the black town of Rosewood, Florida – and virtually no one was punished.” These sound familiar, except today it’s black mobs who are rioting and it’s for a cause. The rioting is a cry for help; wanting to see a change in government but all people are focusing on is the broken windows at CVS. I’m not even going to get into all of that. “The American real-estate industry believed segregation to be a moral principle. As late as 1950, the National Association of Real Estate Boards’ code of ethics warned that “a realtor should never be instrumental in introducing into a neighborhood…any race or nationality, or any individuals whose presence will clearly be detrimental to property values.” A 1943 brochure specified that such potential undesirables might include madams, bootleggers, gangsters – and “a colored man of means who was giving his children a college education and thought they were entitled to live among whites.” I’m sorry…what? Even though someone has the money to live among whites, a good job and is only living in that area because they want to better their children’s education they cannot because they are black. When did it become a bad thing to want a better life for your family? It’s only a bad thing because the person trying to better themselves is black. “On July 1 and 2 in 1946, a mob of thousands assembled in Chicago’s Park Manor neighborhood, hoping to eject a black doctor who’d recently moved in. The mob pelted the house with rocks and set the garage on fire. In 1947, after a few black veterans moved into the Fernwood section of Chicago, three nights of rioting broke out; gangs of whites yanked blacks off streetcars and beat them. In 1951, thousands of whites in Cicero, 20 minutes or so west of downtown Chicago, attacked an apartment building that housed a single black family, throwing bricks and firebombs through the windows and setting the apartment on fire. A Cook County grand jury declined to charge the rioters – and instead indicted the family’s NAACP attorney, the apartment’s white owner, and the owner’s attorney and rental agent, charging them with conspiring to lower property values. Two years after that, whites picketed and planted explosives in South Deering, about 30 minutes from downtown Chicago, to force blacks out.” Therefore, if I am a black man and I make the same amount of money or more money than my white neighbors make and choose to live in “a white neighborhood” people can set my place on fire and attack my family but not even get a slap on the wrist from police? It’s somehow my fault for wanting to get out of the ghetto and give my kids a better life than what I had. That makes a lot of sense.
There is much, much more and I wish to talk about all of it but sadly I am a college student who has many exams to study for. As you can see in the little bit of information I have provided above, the un-justness against Blacks has been around for almost four centuries and sadly, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. People would like to think that racism is no longer a thing in America. Hell, I would like to believe that racism is no longer a thing in America but it’s just not true as we can see by the cases of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and most recently Freddie Gray, along with many others. There may be a change in the tide, as six police officers were charged with the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. The problem here is that recognizing that reparations are necessary is admitting that whites have done something wrong and not anybody likes to be wrong.