I have looked in the mirror and found myself wanting. As a Gen-Xer, I was brought up being taught not to acknowledge color, that, instead, you judge people by what they do. This way of thinking had made me more than colorblind, it had made me blind to a great many things. I had spent a life judging people by their actions not realizing many of their actions had been influenced and heavily weighed upon by hundreds of years of injustice. It seems strange and counter intuitive, but I have to start seeing color and use it to paint with empathy.
I am guilty of many things in my life, from laughing at crass and racist jokes to being ignorant of the insult I offered by saying things like: “All Lives Matter.” Of course, they do, but when a cancer awareness supporter comes up to you for support, you don’t condescend to them and declare: “All Diseases Matter,” or say to a Save the Whales supporter: “All Sea-life Matters.” My points were shortsighted, wrong, and I apologize for making them.
My eyes have been opened. Black lives matter. In a society were such a distinction need exist, there can be little doubt that a problem of institutional racism also exists. It’s not simply the horrific deaths and police brutality that wear on people of color. It’s the daily pressures that build up. It’s the profiling, the unjust persecution by judges and law enforcement. It’s the poverty. As a white man, I too can know and experience these bricks on my back, but I can never understand the weight of one extra brick stacked on top of it all. I can know, but never understand, the challenges, the cruelty, the looks, the hatred and violence that blacks have experienced. I swim hard in life, but not as hard as if I swam against the current.
I cannot be held guilty for being born to white privilege. I, of course, had no more choice in the matter, than does a person of color for their lot. What I can do is become conscious of my privilege, and work towards a society where the life someone builds from birth to death is judged not by who their father was but the actions they have taken or failed to take. We are a long way off from this vision and I have much yet to explore within myself. My own and much of American thinking on race needs further enlightening. Changes must be made, but whom should we trust to shepherd us forward?
I can totally understand why people would not choose to embrace Republicans to guide the flock. So many of their loudest voices promote misinformation about different people from around the world so as to promote fear, make them our enemy and justify the war and empire they so desire. A great many Republicans are also vigorous supporters of giving government police agencies wide powers of surveillance to spy on the movement and activities of our citizenry. They lie and tell us these Big Brother tactics are justified to keep us safe. Again, they use fear to control us. Our current Republican president often has little more tact than a baby sitting in a highchair and throwing a temper tantrum by banging his spoon in his smashed peas. A last point to dissuade you from seeking their moral guidance, is the Right’s proclivity for legislating their morals upon other individuals in an attempt to thwart others from engaging in their right to live alternative life styles.
Certainly, shunning an offer by Republicans for guidance is totally understandable. What is less understandable is why, if institutional racism and white privilege are so ingrained in our society, do so many people look to their societal counterbalance, the Democrats, to shepherd us forward. I can think of no other organization in the history of America that has done more to institutionalize racism. That this information is not disseminated by every school, pundit and media outlet points to a wholesale whitewash of one of our major political parties.
Let’s examine the Democratic Party’s history:
For starters, I won’t even get into what Democrat Andrew Jackson did to the Cherokee. I’m going to delve right into the Democratic Party splitting the Union to preserve the evil of the enslavement of black people. After years of war that put an end to their “cherished institutions” and sowed the deaths of hundreds of thousands of American lives, both black and white, they cushioned the pain of surrender by creating the Ku Klux Klan, a paramilitary organization that went on to lynch and terrorized black Americans for over one hundred years.
After the end of the Civil War, the Democratic Party countered the inclusion of blacks in voting and civil governance by creating black codes that made it difficult, if not impossible, to exercise their restored natural rights. Poll taxes, free-grandfather clauses, property and literacy requirements effectively removed the right to vote from most blacks.
Next up for Democrats were decades of Jim Crow Laws meant to segregate and oppress blacks. Separate bathrooms, schools, buses, entrances to buildings and the like, were mainstays of the Democratic Party platform playbook.
While Jim Crow Laws continued, Democrats elected the “progressive hero”, Woodrow Wilson to the presidency, who was known to have said the following: “The white man were roused by a mere instinct of self preservation – until at last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country,” and also, “[Reconstruction government was detested] not because the Republican Party was dreaded, but because of the dominance of an ignorant and inferior race was justly dreaded.” Wilson personally saw to the re-segregation of his Federal agencies. In many cases, not placing them in separate work places, but simply firing black employees and replacing them with whites.
Now, you may be tempted to say, these examples were from a long time ago. How about we bring this history lesson into a time frame that people still alive today might recall? Okay. Harry Anslinger was the Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics for decades under Democratic presidents F.D.R and Harry Truman. A notorious racist, Anslinger sought to target jazz musicians and black laborers moving about the country in search of work during the Great Depression. He found many of them enjoyed marijuana and started a propaganda campaign against the herb as a means to arresting and imprisoning them. He said, “Most marijuana smokers are Negros, Hispanics, Jazz musicians and entertainers. Their satanic music is driven by marijuana, and marijuana smoking by white women makes them want to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and others. It is a drug that causes insanity, criminality and death – the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.” Anslinger was “too racist for even many other racists of the time.” He hounded the brilliant Billie Holiday to her death, reportedly handcuffing her on her death bed for marijuana use. Anslinger helped convince Democratic President Harry Truman to sign the Boggs Act of 1951, which made sentencing for marijuana possession a mandatory two year sentence. I don’t see how we can call out systemic racism without calling out the number one cause of institutionalized racism – the war on drugs – and the Democrats started it.
The Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first major civil rights legislation to be enacted in decades, and which sought to protect the voting rights of black Americans, was approved in the House of Representatives by 84% of Republicans and only 51% of Democrats. In the Senate, 93% of Republicans approved the measure, while did only 59% of Democrats.
Moving forward into the the 1960’s, we have Democratic President Lyndon Johnson. He called Asians, “barbaric yellow dwarfs.” It was said in meetings behind closed office doors, that he was nothing less than a connoisseur of the word: n****r. Yes, Johnson did appoint the first black justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, but even when asked why he did not pick a lesser controversial black appointee, he said, “When I appoint a n****r to the bench, I want everybody to know he’s a n****r.” He also asked his longtime black chauffeur if he wanted to be called “…boy, n****r, or chief? Because, “as long as you are black, and you’re gonna be black until the day you die, no one is gonna call you by you by your goddamn name. So no matter what you’re called, n****r, you just let it roll off your back like water and you’ll make it. Just pretend you’re a goddamn piece of furniture.” Statements like this make it hard to not believe one of Johnson’s Air Force One servants recalling him telling two state governors, “These Negros are getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now, we’ve got to do something about this. We’ve got to give them a little something to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference. For if we don’t move at all, then their allies will line up against us and there will be no way of stopping them. We’ll lose the filibuster and there will be no putting the breaks on all sorts of wild legislation. It’ll be Reconstruction all over again. I’ll have those n****rs voting Democrat for the next 200 years.”
The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation in public places and work place discrimination was approved by 78% of Republicans in the House, while only by 60% of the Democrats. In the Senate, 82% of Republicans approved the bill, while did only 69% of the Democrats. These Civil Rights Acts did little more than enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments that Republicans passed after the Civil War ended one-hundred years earlier. Think of how much further we could be as a country right now in regards to race relations if the Democratic Party had not had us spinning our wheels for a century.
But these people are all dead. Maybe, you claim, the Democratic Party has become more enlightened in recent days. Yes? Well, maybe not. In 1994 Democratic President Bill Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act which has become emblematic of the shift toward mass incarceration in the United States and gave his presidency the honor of having the largest increase in prison population in the history of the United States. It provided institutional funding for 100,000 more policemen on the streets. It created the infamous “three strikes policy,” potentially putting people with three non-violent offenses in jail for life. It gave billions to the F.B.I., the D.E.A., and corporations who build prisons. Drug and gang related offenses carried harsh new sentences, further ramping up an already failed war on drugs that effected black communities in far worse ways than white ones. This hard-handed legislation was not only voted for by current Presidential nominee Joe Biden, he was also it’s chief author in the Senate. The runner-up for the Democratic Party nomination, Bernie Sanders, also voted for this bill that helped institutionalize racial inequality. And, so did Democratic Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer. And, so did Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. At the time, the N.A.A.C.P. called this bill: “A crime against the American people.”
Has the Democratic Party ever apologized for these injustices? They have not. They have blacked-out and whited-out their shameful history. Go to the Democratic Party website today and click on “Our History” to see for yourself. It begins by saying: “For more than, 200 years our party has led the fight for civil rights.” HA! It also conveniently skips over the first one hundred years of their history and goes right into the 20th Century. Here they outrageously have the gall to take credit for passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that they opposed in greater numbers than the Republicans.
Have these establishment Democrats “changed their ways”? No? Maybe, you hate the Democratic establishment as much as the Republican establishment, and say, “Yes, these people are corrupt and part of the problem too, but the message they corrupt is still a good one.” Let’s look much further down the chains of power and away from the establishment elite.
The places where I see the scourge of racism most pronounced is in America’s cities. Poverty and crime run rampant in big cities like Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Memphis, Atlanta, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Oakland, Newark, Camden, Buffalo, and Birmingham. The one thing all these cities have in common is all of them have been run for decades by liberal Democrats. In most of these places, it has been a half century since a Republican mayor has been elected.
In Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the atrocious murder of George Floyd occurred, calls against systemic racism are justified, but who, I ask, controls the system there. The Governor of the state is a Democrat. It’s two U.S. Senators are Democrats. Minneapolis’ U.S. House Representative is a Democrat. The Mayor’s Office in Minneapolis has been held by a Democrat since the Vietnam War was raging. The Chief of Police is a Democrat. Their city council has 13 seats. 12 belong to Democrats, the other is held by a member of the Green Party. Democrats have had near 100% control of Minneapolis, and many cities and states similarly composed, and have done nothing to break down institutional racism. Prisons are handled locally. Schools are handled locally. City tax codes are handled locally. Fostering business development is handled locally. Local policing is, of course, handled locally. Left-wing Democrats have held a super-majority and been free from any opposition, unencumbered, to institute any policy they wished in nearly every major American city since the late 1960’s, but what have they wrought in black communities? It’s almost as if black people’s feeling of victimization and the Democratic Party’s hold on power is somehow interconnected.
At this point, if you are asking yourself, “Really?! Democrats are responsible for the vast majority of institutional racism in American history. How have I not learned about this before?” Look no further than our public school system. More than 9 out of 10 teachers in our public schools are Democrats. (Universities are even less “balanced”) What do they have to gain if your education included the knowledge of their past and current injustices? Ask yourself, if the History they taught us was so censored and slanted, were also the Civics, Science, Health, and the Literature classes? What kind of Economic lessons might I have been taught in class by an employee of a socialist government monopoly? Or, more importantly, what did they not teach me? What did they leave out? Does a teacher employed in a socialist school know anything about free-market laws? Is it any wonder people of color struggle to start businesses?
It’s not black people’s potential which hold them down, it’s the system. Again, who built and controls that system?
Our public schools have failed our citizens in many ways. Their failure is most pronounced in urban schools where people of color attend despite the fact that city schools spend more per child on average than rural schools. For instance, Baltimore devotes the second highest amount of dollars per child than any other school district in the nation, but their test scores are dead last. Yes, urban teachers face unique challenges brought on by their students broken home lives, caused a great degree by institutionalized racism, but they have compounded the problems by refusing to yield to their one size fits all approach to their monopoly system. They delay the speed of finding a better way to educate by denying competition and choice to black parents. The education unions are far more concerned about teacher job protection, than educating children. If you think it’s a difficult maze of red tape to fire abusive police officers because of their police union, try to fire a lazy and abusive teacher with tenure in our public school system.
So, if you cannot trust a Republican to tear down systemic racism, and the Democrats are guilty of building the very foundation and steel girders that hold it up, to whom should we look to for answers to the change we so greatly need? First, look away from anyone who says there is no problem of systemic racism in America. Second, look away from anyone who benefits from keeping blacks in an eternal state of mental victim-hood. People of color are victims, but instilling them with it moving forward keeps them distracted from seizing responsibility for their own destiny. We have stood in their path long enough and must now get out of their way.
Look to politicians in any party who would hold policemen accountable by getting rid of qualified immunity. Look to ones who seek to reduce police union power, the ones who would reduce bloated police department bureaucracies, ridding them of overtime and pension abuse. Look to politicians that support banning no-knock raids. These raids hurt too many innocent citizens (and cops too). Listen to the ones who would demilitarize our police. Policemen don’t need tanks.
Find politicians from any party that would end the “War on Drugs.” This more than any other issue would restore black communities to health. It would defund the gangs that use the guns to battle over street corners, and that kill innocent children and make business investment in these communities impossible. The ending of the black market for drugs would free thousands of black men from behind bars for victimless crimes. It would return them home to help their families and community rebuild. It would free up jail space for violent criminals and unburden our court system. Ending the war on drugs, would have us needing a fraction of the police force we have now, and the savings could go into helping people “get clean”. Less laws for victimless crimes, equal less cops, equals less chance for confrontation.
Follow politicians of any party that wish to give black people a choice in their children’s schooling. Give parents the power to control the funds which communities spend on their schooling. Let them shop around to new private schools and watch the market place blossom with choice and quality. If parents find a school that is more cost efficient than their child’s given funds, let them pocket the rest in a college savings account for their child’s future.
Listen and vote for politicians in all parties who want to rid our cities of their penchant for complicated tax codes, regulation, red tape and high taxes that are barriers to both outside companies moving into black communities to offer real good-paying jobs and also to black people within the community who wish to start and grow their own businesses. Look to politicians who are aware of the economic systems around the world that have brought abundance and plenty to their citizens regardless of their country’s ethnicity.
Finally, most of all, look to those who lead their message with love and optimism. Reject those who peddle their message from a place of hate, fear and negativity.
I have looked in the mirror and my eyes have been opened to white privilege. If you are a partisan, and your instinct is to black out or white-out these things I have written here, well then, perhaps now, you might be the one in need of a mirror.