Response to Robert Woodson

To his talk to the Cape Charles Rotary Club

I wasn’t as articulate and organized in my rebuttal of your position on  slavery and how its legacy continues to inform the issues of social justice and violence we are witnessing today.

Your advantage is overwhelming considering your work on the idea for many years and you spoke seemingly with confidence on the truth by citing facts which I could not check right there and there. I have no preparation at all being not forewarned about what your subject would be so I did not have the advantage that you have and therefore you had the last word  on the subject.

The gist of your position seems to be that slavery and its legacy is a construct of liberals and socialists and has nothing to do with what’s going on with Blacks in society right now, that if Blacks find themselves not progressing its because its their own fault for not taking responsibility for themselves. That there are many Blacks who have distinguished themselves by becoming millionaires in the days of Jim Crow, so your sweeping conclusion is that slavery is not the issue but poverty and expectations of handouts are the causes of why Blacks continue to feel oppressed, and from poverty springs all the ills that plague Black lives, and why is it that Black violence on each other is far more numerous that white violence on Blacks?

You must have experienced the indignity of being considered inferior and being treated as second class citizen and only a partial human being, being counted as ⅗ of a person and how systematic is this treatment as it is codified in laws, and anyone who violates it is committing a crime. So being Black itself is the crime if you did anything that a White person can do without legal consequence, such as going up to talk to a White woman if you are a Black man or looking another man in the eye and having a laugh together or just talking about the weather. That went on until the 60’s before the Civil Rights Act was signed. Many Blacks are only the 3rd generation since slavery, and could name grandparents who were slaves. And we’re seeing the problems in the children of the 4th generation who were still raised by the generation that had experienced the era of Jim Crow. How did Black parents raise their children then? They taught them survival skills how to be Black, and what that means is to teach them to be passive, not to protest, to please the white man who may take kindly to them and treat them less harshly, and reward them with hand-me-down clothes or other perks. IT was illegal to educate Blacks and when they won the right to be educated they went to woefully funded schools with hand-me-down books from White schools. And true they had to be entrepreneurial because they could not use the White establishment so they were forced to develop a parallel universe, but since they were prevented by the system to develop their own enterprises and have it evolve they copied the White man’s institutions as the model, in order to survive. That was the paradox of segregation, but Blacks have only started doing this legally in the last 60 years or so, and not everyone is born a genius and how many Whites are there who can claim rising from impossible situations such as conditions of slavery . Many Whites make it with a silver spoon in their mouths at birth, their grandparents generation were not slaves and therefore had 3 generations head start in accumulating wealth and teaching their children how to preserve that wealth. None of the Blacks could look up to their grandparents and see this picture of their forebears. Instead they were inundated with images of violence against them, and of caricatures making fun of them or being obsequious and passive. The system was ran by Whites who have vested economic interest in keeping Blacks controlled so they could maintain what they have . And that goes back to the most basic; control of resources, and it is easy to see how slavery became institutionalized in the US, and how even the founding fathers could succumb to this ideology since they have vested interest themselves in preserving their wealth.

But there is yin and yang to every thing. And slavery attitudes are passed on to Blacks and Whites, so Blacks continue to behave like they are still slaves and Whites like they are superior and has ownership of the Black man, so both groups need to identify in themselves the expressions of this beliefs the are untrue but continue in informing their actions and each must examine themselves bravely how these beliefs continue to perpetuate the legacy and with courage stop it right in themselves so that slavery-derived actions will be contained. Blacks have been doing their part in being aware of the oppressive effects of slavery but whites have not done their equal share of self-awareness and by not being aware of their racist beliefs they are unaware of how it informs their actions when they pass laws, when they fund schools, when they plan housing developments, hire for jobs, provide for their families, etc.

I’m of the opinion that the face of the USA would be very different today if Lincoln lived and could continue the healing principles of Reconstruction and supported Sherman’s promise of a mule and 40 acres for every slave, that’s when America would indeed be more likely the image of fulfillment of its lofty aspirations of freedom to all men. Reparations for crimes committed  or damage from war has its precedent and could be structured much like reparations to countries destroyed by wars with USA and identify successful approaches and principles so that the direct aid can sustain long term and permanent change towards independence. If you are a golfer you can understand why golf is such a game that encourages one to continue improving oneself to perfection, because you are given hope to be competitive with the best of them by its handicap system, for without a handicap one would not have any shot at winning and would feel futile to play the game.

The legacy of slavery is very much with us today Mr. Woodson, and it has to be acknowledged and the victim and perpetrator continue to perpetuate its oppressive effects on progress toward true equality and freedom. We must educate to develop analytic sensitivity to our behaviors that is influenced by racial false beliefs and act to contain it in ourselves. We must call it by its name and not deny it and call it poverty. We must continue our dialog about race that is in the movement in Black Lives matter. Violence, poverty, incarceration, teen pregnancy, family breakdown, and anger in the youth can all be traced to slavery’s legacy of 400 years in America. Government must address this systematically since it created it in the system of laws that encoded it in the constitution itself.

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Metty Pellicer

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