Tag: FDR

Racism Is Still Haunting America

For over two centuries America has been proud to be the “land of the free.” The world looked upon America as the beacon of light. With one glaring exception. The ever prominent and glaring failings of how it dealt with racism. This is true to this day as racism is still haunting America.

During the 1800s there was a global consciousness weaving a path that led to many countries first abolishing slave trading, then to the emancipation of slaves. It was not until 1926 that the League of Nations adopted the Slavery Convention abolishing all slavery. Eventually, in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes an article stating, “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”

Just what makes America unique among nations that propagated slavery? The most glaring event was the Civil War. No other country in the world considered warring against itself to defend slavery. Since the Civil War, the South has been adamant that the war was fought over state’s rights. This is simply not true. Without slavery the economy of the Southern states would have collapsed. And it did exactly that after the war. Had these states not received war reparations they likely would never have recovered.

But the Civil War was not alone in shaming the United States. All its Founding Fathers except for John Adams, Samuel Adams, and Thomas Paine were slave owners. It seems that creating a government based on “all men are created equal” was hypocritical to the nth degree. The cry for liberty did not include the hundreds of thousands in bondage. To be fair the British Crown was delighted to reap the benefits of slavery as well at the time and did not abolish slavery until 1807. While they officially abolished it to ease their guilt the practice still thrived. The economies of both the colonies and the crown were heavily dependent on the by-products of slavery. Slavery was alive and well in England and the newly formed American states which went on to be a benefit for both countries after the Revolutionary War.

America finally abolished slavery when the 13th amendment to the Constitution was ratified on December 6, 1865, eight months after President Lincoln’s assassination and the end of the Civil War. Though legal ownership and servitude ended, the freed slaves mostly remained as underpaid and still abused workers on the plantations. The amendment did abolish chattel slavery throughout the United States. That did not stop the use of other factors such as Black Codes, white supremacist violence, and selective enforcement of statutes that continued to subject many black Americans to involuntary labor, especially in the South.

The Black Codes were established in the South during the first two years after the Civil War. This fact alone should put to rest that the South did fight the Civil War over slavery. These codes were virtually the same as the slave codes. They were intended to limit the freedman from movement, thus making every effort to have political dominance while suppressing their newly gained freedoms. Found within these codes was the vagrancy law. This broad law allowed local authorities to arrest freed people for any minor infraction. This permitted them to be committed to involuntary labor. This in turn led to the convict lease system, which was just another name for slavery. I could go on for pages as to the efforts the South made to ensure that slavery was not dead, just renamed. Through Jim Crow and the Klu Klux Klan the South made a supreme effort to keep the status quo.

The post-Civil War years saw a flood of States passing laws inhibiting blacks. Though they were no longer “owned”, they were hardly free to pursue the American dream. Most historians point to these laws as being suppressive. They were intended to be just that. But what is not explored enough is the why.

Why were so many laws created to separate the white and black communities? This is seldom explored. It is my belief that fear was the driving factor. Fear of “others.” For all the dominance achieved by the white race in North America, they displayed a vast amount of insecurities. Economic issues certainly must enter the equation. In one fell swoop, many landowners lost their free source of labor. As important as that was, it was not as big a blow like the one that hit their egos. They simply could not fathom a world where black men could be their equals under the law. These feelings are still all too prevalent throughout the South today.

The black race in America has been persecuted systematically in one form or another since before the “first” slave ship arrived in Jamestown in 1619. The Spanish had brought African slaves into Florida as early as 1526. The plight of blacks in America has been one of suppression for centuries.

Events during the 20th century created more opportunities for blacks in America and provided more situations that forced the white community to observe blacks in a different light. The first major event was WWI when more than 350,000 blacks served admirably. Though most were segregated and performed menial tasks there were thousands that saw the battlefield. There is nothing like war conditions to create a bond of companionship. White men came home having shared a foxhole with a black man. Both relying on each other to make it through the day alive.

Then came the Great Depression when people of every race stood in breadlines. It was a humbling experience for whites to find themselves poor and destitute. The blacks spent most of their lives poor and destitute. They adapted to the situation easier than the white population. FDR’s New Deal was a boon for blacks. Ten percent of funds for the Work Progress Administration went to the black community, which was equal to ten percent of the population that was black. In June of 1941, he also issued Executive Order 8802, which created the Fair Employment Practice Committee. It was the most important federal move in support of the rights of Black Americans between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Next up was World War II. This was a real eye-opener for the black men in America. Once again, they were segregated and for the most part, left to menial tasks. Civil rights activists pushed the government for integration, but the military was largely led by Southern commanders that got their way and the blacks once again were under the influence of Jim Crow. The major lesson that the blacks serving in the war and after the war in Europe was the recognition and acceptance they received from the German people. The Germans did not see their skin color; they saw the uniform of the nation that helped free their country from the Nazis. Many of these soldiers would have preferred to stay in Germany rather than come home to the racism they would face returning to America. Upon returning these men became the next generation of civil rights leaders the likes of which Martin Luther King Jr. had the privilege of their wisdom.

Black Platoon In World War II

Few people in the history of the planet made as much of an impact as Martin Luther King Jr. His unwavering dedication to God, justice for all, and peaceful demonstration changed America forever. His place in history is forever cemented as one of the great leaders and orators of all time. His power of persuasion was nearly as great as his power to compel those in opposition to see his point of view. Like so many great leaders, men of all persuasions flocked to his side and fought for equal justice for the black community. I was fifteen years old in 1968 when MLK and Bobbie Kennedy were assassinated. The death of these two men and the fiasco that was Viet Nam made for what was truly a horrible time in America and made an indelible mark in my life and in the nation.

On the backs of giants, the black community is making strides. Sadly, they are all fought for by tooth and nail. They are slowly gaining more seats in Congress, and saw Barack Obama, the first black president elected. The Black Lives Matter movement is now gaining support throughout the country from the white community as more horrific events of racial injustices are being exposed. It has been a long and arduous journey for black people in America. The fight continues but racism is still haunting America.

Democracy Is On The Verge Of Extinction

Most citizens of earth have never heard of Freedom House. They are a wonderful and necessary watchdog for all freedom lovers. Their organization has been around since 1941. Over the last 14 years, they found that political freedoms and civil liberties across the world are in decline more often than they are improving. Its opening statement in the 2020 report by Sarah Repucci stated, “Democracy and pluralism are under assault. Dictators are toiling to stamp out the last vestiges of domestic dissent and spread their harmful influence to new corners of the world.”

As the world stutters in disbelief by how Americans are allowing Trump to obliterate democracy in the United States, many other countries are also seeing the same attack on their democratic governments. This is the history of democracies. They all fail. When those in office learn that they can enrich themselves at the expense of the citizens their greed and lust for power becomes the driving factors over concerns for their constituents.

This was on full display not long ago historically speaking. Democracy nearly died on a global level in the 1920s and 1930s. The world experienced a short burst of democratic governments after WWI when the several new nations were birthed from the peace agreement. At the time there was a subdued euphoria that as more democracies formed throughout the globe the world would become less tyrannical. But this was noticeably short lived indeed. Albania, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, and Yugoslavia all had short lived democracies.

This also affected more established democracies in Europe that were suffering mightily from the effects of the WWI. It took just a matter of months for Mussolini to take over Italy in 1922. By 1930 there was a global discussion that society as whole may break down and cease to function. In 1932 Mussolini was quoted as saying “The liberal state is destined to perish”. And it was. By 1933 Hitler rose to power. Authoritarian regimes took over Portugal, Spain, and Uruguay. Democracies cratered in Greece, Estonia, Latvia, and Romania.  

Mussolini Captures Rome

It was not all peaches and cream in America. American democracy was brought to its knees from corruption, inequality, racial injustice, indifference, corporate monopolies, massive unemployment, and a starving population.  Fascism and Communism were growing in America. Blacks were questioning democracy. Rightfully so since they had no role in it since the founding of the country. Make no mistake, American democracy was on the brink of extinction.

The same year Hitler took power FDR gave his first inaugural address when he stated, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”. America needed to hear that as fears were rampant throughout the country. Most newspapers and radio broadcasts were questioning if “it could happen here”. Business leaders were skeptical of the New Deal as they saw it as a means to check their cozy deals they built through past administrations, attacking it as unconstitutional. The black and brown communities felt again left out, at best.

Does this look familiar? America is in the throes of this right now. Massive employment, an economy just a hairs breath away from collapse, a Republican party so inept it cannot even settle anything within its own factions, and company owners of Facebook and Amazon profiting billions during all of it. Just as I write this article news came out that the United States just had the worse quarter ever in its economy, seeing a 32.9% drop in GDP. After all the years that passed, America still has racial injustice. And Trump is following Hitler’s playbook as if he wrote it himself by stoking fear and unrest throughout the country by targeting “others”, using federal agents (just like Hitler’s SS) to stoke aggression in American cities, and caging children. In modern history only two countries have caged children, Hitler’s Germany, and Trump’s America.

From his first day in office Trump has made nice with the autocrats of the world while dismissing and denigrating our democratic allies. In an international television broadcast, he sold out his own intelligence community to make Vladimir Putin look good. He nearly took down NATO. And throughout all this the Republican party has been complicit. Their only interest in the last 30 years has been to profit from their positions in office by delivering drastic tax cuts that largely benefitted their rich donors. History will not look favorably upon them.

And now the world is faced with the worse pandemic in 100 years. It has put a strain on every country no matter politics. Just this week the United States death toll passed the death toll of the 19-year Vietnam War. And it only took six months! Trump has led America to the #1 standing in the world. How many Americans do you think are proud of that?

Trump is doing everything in his power to abolish democracy. I believe his poor response to the pandemic is intentional, hoping it affects the election. His utter contempt for the people of his country is on full display. His policy regarding the Post Office is slowing mail delivery, thus hoping to hamper the voter count in November. Americans need to see what’s right in front of their eyes. And they need to wake up before Kris Kristofferson’s lyrics “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” that Janis Joplin made so famous becomes our reality.