Black people are going back to slavery-Willingly this time

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Photo:Courtesy

The giants of the American civil rights movement were a rare breed of men and women.

The Civil Rights Movement in the United States was a long, primarily nonviolent struggle to bring full civil rights and equality under the law to all Americans. The movement suffered many setbacks but won successive small victories over time. The movement resulted in the increased social and legal acceptance of civil rights. The civil rights movement also exposed the evils of slavery and fought against racism.

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In 1880, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303 (1880) that African Americans could not be excluded from juries. But, beginning in 1890 with new state constitutions and electoral laws, the South effectively disfranchised blacks in the South, which routinely disqualified them for jury duty which was limited to voters. This left them at the mercy of a white justice system arrayed against them. In some states, particularly Alabama, the state used the criminal justice system to reestablish a form of peonage, through the convict-lease system. The state sentenced black males to years of imprisonment, which they spent working without pay. The state leased prisoners to private employers, such as Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company, a subsidiary of United States Steel Corporation, which paid the state for their labor. Because the state made money, the system created incentives for the jailing of more men, who were disproportionately black. It also created a system in which treatment of prisoners received little oversight. (See Wikipedia, the civil rights movement)

 

Extrajudicial punishment was more brutal. During the last decade of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century, white vigilante mobs lynched thousands of black males, sometimes with the overt assistance of state officials, mostly within the South. No whites were charged with crimes in any of those murders. Whites were so confident of their immunity from prosecution for lynching that they not only photographed the victims, but made postcards out of the pictures. (See Wikipedia, African-American Civil Rights Movement (1896–1954).

The United States Supreme Court was always in the middle of it. In 1896, the supreme court in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, put forward the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine which justified and permitted racial segregation, as not being in breach of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which guaranteed equal protection under the law to all citizens, and other federal civil rights laws. Under the doctrine, government was allowed to require that services, facilities, public accommodations, housing, medical care, education, employment, and transportation be separated along racial lines, provided that the quality of each group’s public facilities was equal. This was a significant step because at least the Supreme Court, though permitting segregation, ruled that the separate facilities must be equal. The Supreme Court however, could not enforce this standard and states did not adhere to the equality part.

After another long period of civil rights struggle, the Supreme Court reversed its position. The ‘separate but equal’ doctrine was overturned by a series of Supreme Court decisions starting with Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. However, the overturning of legal separation laws in the United States was a long process that lasted through much of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s involving many court cases and federal legislation. (See Wikipedia, African-American Civil Rights Movement (1954–68)).

People like martin Luther king Jr., and others took on an almost insurmountable opposition to demand the basic dignity and respect of every human being in America. Doing this, they endured unimaginable suffering. They faced a determined opposition.

White people had built colossal systems which established and perpetrated the subordination of the black man. Over many generations, they painstakingly built political systems which ensured a master-slave relationship between whites and blacks respectively. They raised armies and police systems which choked off any attempts by the black man to improve his station in life. They passed laws which criminalized most pathways the black man could use to better himself.  The laws they passed were strictly enforced by a partisan judicial system, using jurisprudence developed, tested and perfected over a long time and whose basic philosophy was to justify and maintain the superiority of the white man over the black man. The goal was always to keep the black man subservient to the white man. This is the establishment that civil rights leaders decided to take on.

The benefits of citizenship were mostly unavailable to the black man. He could not vote, for instance. He could not own property, he could not seek leadership, he could not claim any social benefits, but he had to pay taxes.

The leaders of the civil rights movement, together with their followers and sympathizers in the 50s and 60s showed extraordinary bravery and commitment. They managed to define a cause and inspired black people to subscribe to both the cause and the methods by which the cause was to be pursued.  They demanded equality, they demanded dignity, they demanded representation and they demanded full citizenship.

The response by the establishment was brutal.

Racial terrorism especially in the south increased.

The racial terrorism ranged from cross-burnings and church-bombings to beatings and murder. In the summer of 1964 alone, Mississippi journalist Jerry Mitchell reports, “Klansmen had killed six [people], shot 35 others and beaten another 80. The homes, businesses and churches of 68 Mississippians associated with the civil rights movement were firebombed.”

The civil rights leaders endured beatings, imprisonment, mistreatment, reprisal and isolation. Many of the leaders and their followers even gave their own lives for the cause. But they were fearless. They were undeterred. They fought on. They sustained the struggle and faced every obstacle with determination and tenacity. They did not slacken their step. The cause became their being. They lived it every day. Each morning they woke up and continued the struggle. Each night they went to bed bruised and tortured. But they never gave up. They would not stop until every black man was free. Black people everywhere committed themselves to the fight for their freedom so that they and their children would live in a free country.

Draconian laws were passed almost on a daily basis to stop the civil rights movement. These had to be overcome by widespread disobedience, by overwhelming the system with the force of determined numbers and by the sheer strength of determination. Every black man, woman and child took the struggle for civil rights as a personal responsibility. It was not just the work of leaders or ‘others’. It was every black person’s duty to play whatever part he or she could to ensure the success of the civil rights movement. The civil rights movement was everyone’s solemn duty.

Finally, the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act were signed into law. Discrimination was outlawed; the full rights and benefits of citizenship were declared by law to apply to everyone, including black people. Black people could no longer be denied access to justice, access to public and political benefits, and discriminatory laws became a thing of the past. Black people everywhere celebrated this new day. They had achieved what they had fought for so long. They then laid down their weapons and savored their victory.  Mission accomplished. But what a mistake that was!

Black people forgot that the passage of the Civil Rights Act was not an end, but just the beginning.

What Martin Luther King Jr. and others had achieved was important. They had opened the door to freedom, but just a crack. They had not flung it open. They had simply laid down a basis for future generations to build on. They expected black people to employ a determination even greater than their predecessors to finally swing the door wide open. But this opportunity was missed.

Black people forgot that, the same forces that so strongly fought against the civil rights movement did not fold and go away. They stepped up the fight to dismantle every gain that had been achieved by the giants of the civil rights movement.

The Civil Rights Act did not do away with the established structures which perpetrated discrimination, oppression and the subordination of the black man. The structures and systems remained in place.

The system was going to fight back. And win.

The police were still white. The law makers were still white. The courts were still white. The laws were still white. The schools were still white. Congress was still white. The Judiciary was still white. The executive was still white. All public authorities remained white and populated by the same people who so strongly resisted the civil rights movement. Worst of all, the Supreme Court was still white and none of its philosophy, methods or jurisprudence really changed. These were the systems which were entrusted to faithfully protect the civil rights of black people. It is like entrusting the old wolf to care for the little lambs and no longer see them as food.

Black people meanwhile, after declaring victory after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, forgot about the struggle and dispersed to their own little corners totally satisfied with the result.

There is someone who once said that, conquering territory is the easy part. Keeping what you conquered is the harder part. Black people never learnt this lesson.

Since the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1963, the white establishment, almost immediately started dismantling what had been achieved through the sweat, tears and blood of the civil rights movement.

The Supreme Court led the way.

Since the Supreme Court is tasked with determining the constitutionality of all the laws passed in the United States, it started steadily making decisions which distorted the legislative intentions of the civil rights movement. It started distorting the meaning of the Civil Rights Act, misinterpreting the law and misapplying the enabling provisions.

The supreme court of the United States, almost immediately went to work chipping away at the Civil Rights Act by making misleading interpretations of its provisions. The Supreme Court failed to be mindful of the context in which the Civil Rights Act was passed. The result was the watering down of the Civil Rights Act that continues to this day.

At this date and age, states are steadily taking away black people’s voting rights. Segregation is coming back. School systems have been permitted to segregate children. The Supreme Court has all but declared that racism is no longer a problem in America. Affirmative action, a key component of policies intended to heal the past effects of institutional racism, has been outlawed.  The Supreme Court has even taken the words of Martin Luther King Jr., out of context, contorted and confused their meaning and intention, and supplanted them with the court’s misleading opinions.

For example, the Supreme Court on in June, 2013 effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval. The decision had almost immediate practical consequences. Texas announced shortly after the decision that a voter identification law that had been blocked would go into effect immediately, and that redistricting maps there would no longer need federal approval. Changes in voting procedures in the places that had been covered by the law, including ones concerning restrictions on early voting, will now be subject only to after-the-fact litigation.

While the Supreme Court is doing this, local, state and federal authorities are busy doing their part. They have re-drawn electoral maps to smash black people in isolated districts; they continue to pass laws which target black people without explicitly saying so. They have denied black people basic social amenities and they have kept government services away from black people. States controlled by republicans are relentlessly attacking public school systems with the effect of denying good public education to blacks and other minorities. We are seeing widening racial disparities in housing, education, health, social services and economic benefits. Public programs benefitting black people are also under attack and are being eliminated on a daily basis.

In April 2014, the Supreme Court on upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action in admissions to the state’s public universities-another blow to civil rights. This decision opens the door to many more states eliminating affirmative action not only in University admissions but also in other spheres as well.

So what are black people doing about this?

Black people have become so compliant that they are hardly putting up any resistance. Their civil rights are being taken away every day but all you hear are isolated voices of dissent.  Black people have become lazy and selfish. Everyone has gone their own way and nobody has remained to carry on the fight. Black people are under the delusion that the civil rights war has been won. That everyone is now equal.

Black people seem to have bought into the idea that the problems they are going through can be solved only by individual merit. They don’t seem to realize that individual merit can achieve very little in a system that is still so heavily stacked against them.

Black people have become cowards. There are no longer any individuals left who can rally and inspire black people to reclaim the rights that are being taken away every day. Black people have been cowed into not talking about racism for fear that they will be called racist themselves. Don’t they realize that there are people who had much more to lose than a mere label? Don’t they realize that there those who stood up to much more serious challenges than those of today?

Black people need to realize that the their civil rights are being taken away every single day, without a fight. The election of Barack Obama, a black president, did not improve racial disparities. The racist system is too established, even for him. Obama has given in to the racist forces amassed against him mostly by Republicans. He fears to take a stand against racism for fear of being called racist himself. President Obama is not that brave, his presidency is irrelevant to the struggle of the black man against institutional racism and racial disparity. As a matter of fact, the election of president Obama has advanced racism and racial disparity. How?

The racist forces are able to point at him as the first black president and say, “look black people, you have a black president, what are you complaining about? There is no racism”. Obama has served to mask racism. He has strengthened it. Because of his election, black people have been told to shut up, while racism grows unabated under the surface.

By the time Obama is out of office black people will have lost more of their civil rights than if the current president was white. Black people are being pushed back to slavery by a sustained force. This force will take away all their civil rights. Black people will continue to accept this as the new reality. And they will soon be back to slavery. The only difference is that, poverty, hopelessness, lack of education, political isolation, and complete subordination, will be the new whips. The slavery of the black man will once again be the new normal, and the black man will have allowed it.

Japheth N. Matemu Esq.
Attorney
Master of Laws (LL.M)-Immigration law and Policy
5540 Centerview Drive, suite 200
Raleigh, NC 27606
(919) 424 6332
Fax: (919) 424 3866
WEB: www.matemulaw.com
(Practicing exclusively immigration law in all States)

 

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