By Dani Ross, Staff Writer
Black people have been many things in America. We have been property, a fraction of a person, enslaved, marginalized, displaced, disregarded and disrespected. There has always been a certain hatred for dark skinned people in America, but today is something different.
When the first enslaved people were brought to America, they were brought here against their will. They were used as human farm equipment or domestic tools. Never were they regarded with respect, but they had something then that we do not have now; they had value.
In the early centuries of America’s existence, White men invested in Black people much like one invests in stocks. They had the money, the power and the land to do so. They would use their money to buy into the stock of black laborers and expect a certain yield in return. And they got it.
Black labor made America, and many other developed countries at the time, extremely rich. As a matter of fact, slavery was America’s first big business. Black people were the country’s largest financial asset.
Any job that was to be done was done by a Black person. This single group of people held almost all of the skilled labor. Perhaps that is when the value of a Black man turned into the unbridled hatred of a Black man.
As long as he was seen as valuable, there were limits to how far the overseers (officers), would go. It didn’t make an sense to kill your investment. So, the Black man had a use and that use was to make money for his master.
The disrespect was always there. Black people had about the same respect one would have for a cow. They are good for what they are good for, and that’s all. People may not like it, but they can live with disrespect. When hatred enters, that’s when people start dying.
After the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, Black people became more of a liability in the South than an asset. They began to lose their value.
With the integration of schools they began to lose their knowledge and creativity. The fiber of the Black community was coming unraveled one pull of a string at a time.
Now, here we are today, struggling to figure out where we fit in this America. The country that was built on the backs of Black people is now shooting them in its streets. The same country that robbed so many of our ancestors of their lives just so it could make a buck, is now denying the debt that it owes.
Does this mean that Blacks in America will go the way of the dinosaur? Will forced selection be the final act of this 400 year drama that has played out?
When something becomes obsolete you discard it. If you break a wooden spoon for instance, you don’t bring in a carpenter to mend it, you simply throw it away. Why? Because it is cheaper to get another one than it is to fix the broken one. Even though you broke it, that spoon was not valuable enough for you to invest money in fixing it.
Imagine if you were told that you had to fix that spoon. That it didn’t matter how much money you had to spend out of your own pocket, you must pay to fix that broken wooden spoon. How would you feel? It’s just a spoon right? Who in their right mind would spend hundreds of dollars to fix a stupid, broken wooden spoon? You worked for months to save that few hundred dollars and now you have to give it up over one stupid spoon!
This is the mindset of America when it comes to Black people. Why spend billions of dollars to fix the one that is broken when there are so many others to choose from?
Immigrants from all over the world have come to America to take the place of the Black American. There are so many shiny new spoons to choose from. Where is the value of fixing the broken one?
This mindset is more than evident in the brutal murders of unarmed Black men and women by the people that made an oath to protect them. The reckless disregard for a Black life shows how little value it has in America.
The Civil Rights movement pushed back hard and gained some headway. Now the Black Lives Matter movement is attempting to do the same, but why are we still fighting for the most basic of human rights? Why are Black people hated so much?
Blacks have been hated so much, for so long, by so many people that we have begun to hate ourselves. But why?
When you read about the killing of Black men by police, you never hear that any officer was fired upon. It is reported that the suspect had a gun or a knife, but how many times was an officer shot or stabbed by a Black person? White men can fire shots, wave guns, lunge at officers with machetes and the officer may not even pull his weapon. Black people do not get that same respect.
This scenario is repeated over and over again in the work place, on athletic fields and in schools.
The question remains, why?
Why are Black people disproportionately affected by COVID-19? Why are almost 50 percent of Black businesses forced to close due to lack of financial support during this pandemic? Why are unarmed Black people being shot and killed? Why are Black babies dying at a higher rate? Why are Black women more likely to die from breast cancer? Do you see a pattern here?
The Tuskegee experiments, eugenics and countless other medical experiments have been conducted on Blacks throughout American history. Dangerous and extremely painful medical procedures were performed on slaves to advance physicians careers as well as medical science.
Harriet Washington, the author of Medical Apartheid, stated, ‘‘There’s no sphere of American medicine that was not touched by the use in research of African-Americans.’’
Though American medicine was also built on the backs of Blacks, it still remains one of the most difficult services to access.
As resilient and brilliant as Black people are, we have yet to figure out that our value must come from within. Black Americans have shaped the entire world! Though we don’t get credit, there is value in that.
Illustration By Robert Ball