Barack Obama has opened a dialogue about race that must be continued and concluded. This matter has been before us many times but has always receded to the background mainly because of the discomfort that accompanied it. Now the issue of race and race relations in America has been joined on a stage that has the attention of the world. We can no longer run or hide from it. America is being tested. Not for its military might but rather for her moral might.
In a calculated attempt to derail the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama a band of viperous conspirators unleashed a scheme to savage his reputation and call into question his judgment and patriotism. In a moment of desperation born of the realization that this Black American might actually become the Democratic nominee for president of the United States of America, they reached low into a deep chasm of filth and played their race card. Unable to saddle Obama with words and deeds of his own that met the ominous race test, they sought to ascribe to him the words and deeds of others.
After a period of respectful resistance, Obama took the bait. He rose to face his accusers, responded forthrightly to every attack and elevate the discussion of race to a level of dignity that offers America an opportunity to put the stain of human bestiality behind her once and for all. An in depth discussion of race will inevitably lead to an in depth discussion of slavery. America has avoided this discussion for far too long. And many Black Americans have been more reluctant to open this wound than Whites. As Obama so plainly put it, “Not This Time.”
Young Americans are dutifully ignorant about the internecine debilitations of slavery. Indeed they know little or nothing of the dreaded institution. That long shameful chapter in history has been mollified at best and ignored at worst. Children are told virtually nothing of slavery in school and, in large part, Black educators are uncomfortable with the idea of teaching about slavery. “Black History” which offers relatively shallow treatment of slavery has become the acceptable modality inoculating Americans against the most evil manifestation of humankind. It is no wonder that White youth feel no responsibility for anything that they did not accomplish with their own hands. They have not been told the brutal truth about how they achieved such enormous advantage.
Of course there are books and articles that set forth all these facts in detail. But they are easily avoided. And avoidance is often the action of choice when faced with a bitterly unpleasant truth. The only way to really get at this thing is to make teaching and learning about the details and history of slavery mandatory in our public school system in all of America. Nothing could be more disdainful than the virtual blotting out of hundreds of years of a people’s history in an effort to cover-up and escape the truth; particularly in a nation where self-righteous zealots routinely condemn one another for minor acts that offend Christian orthodoxy. But perhaps this can best be explained in the words of
Melvin R. Sylvester, Professor Emeritus, C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University as he wrote in SLAVERY AND RACE:
Many Europeans came to America to exercise their God fearing beliefs and to practice religious freedom. Slavery, on the other hand, was a form of persecution which, in the eyes of colonial America, had to be justified. Therefore, the black slave became an easily identifiable group targeted as being inferior, subhuman, and destined for servitude. The early Christian churches did not take up the cause of eliminating slavery until much later in the century. The famous Boston theologian, Cotton Mather, in 1693 included in his Rules for the Society of the Negroes the explanation that “Negroes were enslaved because they had sinned against God.” He later included a heavenly plan that “God would prepare a mansion in Heaven,” but little or no way for the end of forced slavery on earth was undertaken by most religious groups.
From the beginning, Africans were never intended to be Americans. As such, it is no wonder at all that such an uneasy relationship exists. We believe that all Americans and children in particular must be taught everything there is to know about American chattel slavery. Every intimate vile detail must be unearthed for review and study. We are owed the full truth about the origins of American racism so that we can agree on the necessary steps to end it. At the urging of mischievous protagonists the dialogue on race has been joined and it just might wind up to be the most important occurrence in this entire election cycle. In our humble opinion, entering onto a path that leads to the neutralization of the horrible stain of slavery in the fabric of America’s history is far more important than who is President of the United States. We believe that the universe has embraced Mr. Obama and propelled him on a course that he could not have imagined despite his bold agenda.
We believe that it is all but impossible for a fair mind to understand the full-throated realities of American slavery and its dependent injustices and still embrace racism. A thorough baptism in the entrails of our slave culture is just the cleansing that Americans need to divest our false sense of superiority as it relates to Black America and the entire non-white world.
March 19, 2008
Carl’s blog can be read at www.carlsharif.com.