September 21, 2011

Slavery is Alive and Well Today in America (But it's not what you think)

Just when I thought I’d heard just about everything…

In a recent development (read all about it here):

On September 11, 2011, (Rev. Wayne) Perryman brought together blacks from the West Coast and the East Coast to sign one of the most comprehensive legal briefs ever prepared for a racial discrimination lawsuit. The suit was filed on September 12, 2011 in US District Court against President Barack Obama and the (Democratic National Committee). The plaintiffs, who refer to the defendants as the “Father of Racism,” allege that as an organization, the Democratic Party has consistently refused to apologize for the role they played in slavery, Jim Crow and for other subsequent racist practices from 1792 to 2011.

I don’t know where to start.

I certainly understand the logic of past efforts to sue Congress, or the president, or the US government at large, for the evils of slavery. For they are in fact successors of the government institutions that either actively supported this evil practice or passively failed to oppose it. (I still think the whole idea is crazy, but at least I understand the argument.)

But this recent case has raised the whole dispute to a new height of absurdity.  It’s a doctrine of political Original Sin, no matter how tangential the defendants’ connection might be. Even if they had denounced slavery from the highest mountaintop, so what? The DNC is not responsible for such evils, and it was never in their power to stop it. That responsibility, and that authority, rests with individual legislators, presidents, and judges. And in time, of course, they did come around to abolish the practice.

Perryman and his colleagues, it seems, need a history lesson on at least two fronts:

First, the African slaves who came to our shores were not abducted. They were purchased. If not for this betrayal by their own brothers, they never would have left home.

Secondly: For about the past 30 years or more the Democratic Party has been, if you will, the black man’s best friend. Due largely to the noise of Democratic advocates, governments at all levels have favored people of color in many ways: Affirmative Action, public housing, contracting set-asides, etc. Political terrorism by black activists has led to manifold economic gains for the black man as well. They've offered more than an apology, more than mere talk; they came through with billions of dollars in tangible economic benefits for Mr. Perryman's constituents, and continue to do so.

Seeing as Perryman fancies himself a champion of racial reconciliation, his own history (as described on his website) is interesting: He serves as a pastor a church which appears (in its many websites) to have no white people – none – among its staff and leaders. His stated career achievements consist almost entirely of making war on whitey on behalf of black folks.

And now this.

This discussion of slavery reminds me: Right here in my local community, the Section 8 program (federally subsidized housing for the poor) has been subjected to fraud and abuse for many years. People lie to get into the program, and they continue to break the rules once they’re in. In the past couple of years, the local cities – aided by the L A County Sheriff – have begun to enforce the rules as never before. After all, these residents agreed to a set of rules when they moved in, and they knew that they could get an impromptu visit at any time. Plus, the county has a waiting list of thousands of equally needy families waiting their turn.

The community’s response? Did they applaud the local authorities for defending the the rule of law among a population that pours contempt on any notion of accountability? Nope. Local activists quickly took offense, bringing a lawsuit against the county, the cities, and their mayors for their overzealous prosecution of blacks and Latinos, who represent the vast majority of the enforcement actions. A group of local clergymen called a press conference to proclaim that this awful persecution is tantamount to slavery.

Say whaaaaaat? You’ve got to be kidding. When you pull out the “S” word, it only goes to show that you’re running out of legitimate arguments. And that’s the point where I’m tempted to stop listening.

Here’s the part the local NAACP chapter won’t tell you: Black and Latino families constitute about 70-80% (depending on who’s counting, and when) of the population of the Section 8 residents. Hence, it’s only natural that blacks and Latinos will constitute a similar percentage of any subset of that group. Show of hands, please: How many people in here drive a Honda? How many shop at Sears? How many have acne? It’s almost inevitable: Among this group, no more than 20 – 30% of those hands will be white.

You want to talk slavery? Let's talk about it.

Embracing a self-identity of eternal victimhood, is slavery.

To hate whitey because he hates you, is slavery.

Waiting around for someone else to do something before you get on with your life, is slavery.

Holding on to decades- or centuries-old resentments, no matter the offense, is slavery.

Unlike the slavery of the old plantations, this is a bondage of voluntary choice.  And you need not wait for someone else come along and release those chains, because your liberation is only a decision away.

You want an apology? I’m still waiting for Al Sharpton to apologize for inventing the rape of Tawana Brawley. Or Jesse Jackson – for his extortion of large corporations, demanding favors for his friends. Or Julian Bond – for demanding that banks make more mortgage loans to black families, only to demonize them when they complied (and then had the nerve to actually expect repayment!). You know, apologize for things that they themselves actually did.

Should I hold my breath?

President George W. Bush had it right: “We are challenging the soft bigotry of low expectations.” He said it in the context of education, of course, but the principle applies at every level of our society. Jobs. Housing. Public office. Crime. Welfare. You name it. The solution to our social ills is not to let our people stew in that cesspool of mediocrity, but to hold them accountable for their actions. Political consequences be damned.

We must call ourselves, and each other, higher.


  1. Well said, Steve. Holding on to bitterness for past injustices destroys any hope for reconciliation. Trying to hold today's white population accountable for the sin of slavery would be the same as Native Americans teaching their children to require retribution from every American living today because of the injustice they suffered. Injustice was done...but not by us. (And if you want to take a close look at the civil war, starvation, genocide, poverty and political unrest in most African countries, you might well conclude that most black Americans should be thankful they were brought here, even if the conditions were unfavorable.)

  2. Couldn't agree more, Steve. Love your point that there are different ways to be enslaved. Being bound by anger, resentment, bitterness, and often rage, is a sad way to live. It's even more tragic when it's passed down to future generations, promoting an entitlement attitude which leads to poor self-esteem, as well as increase in crime, gang membership, fatherless children . . and so the cycle of poverty spins. And yes, I'm a social worker!