Reverend Clemson Brown stopped by the other day and asked us out to the car with something to show. The items were rusted relics of the slave era, that 340 years that Africans in the Americas were held as property with implements like what Rev. Brown had for us. He gave me the shackles on a ball and chain and said “Pick it up.” The weight of the ball stunned me. But it was more than the physical weight that I felt. There was a visceral horrifying surge, a shudder of images of being held in place and made to move down a field of crops, periodically stopping to pick up the sixty pound ball of iron with metal shackles rubbing at bare ankles.
Imagining being in the field, knowing of the shackled father and grandfather and the shackled sons and daughters, the thoughts were so powerful, I put the ball down even as I was picking it up. It was an experience that all African-Americans should have. It was a window on the pain that has shaped our emotional character. The psychological gymnastics of denial necessary to survive those centuries of terror lives on in boys and men, wearing pants below their behinds, with no job or business, and who answer, “It’s all good,” when asked “How’s it going?”
And on the other side of that coin of pain are those many Christian white people who thought that this state-of-affairs was perfectly acceptable and the norm of the day.
And for the Planters, it was Capitalism’s Golden Age: a time when land could be stolen and labor could be held in place with a ball and chain and not paid anything at all. American manufacturers have been outsourcing around the world, looking to find conditions as close to those halcyon days as possible. Humanity means nothing to these folks. These,”good” Christians would organize picnics and outings around an upcoming lynching of an African-in-America. That history is a part of the United States and is a view of humanity that lives in the emotional core of the Tea Partiers who are so adamant that cuts be made to any services for people they perceive as not like them.
It forms the core of the thinking of Anders Breivik, the 32-year-old right-wing terrorist who killed more than 70 people in Norway this past weekend and who got his ideological justifications from white American racial activists, who now voice dismay at his actions, but offer understanding of his warning that Christianity faces an Islamic threat. These people we will always have with us. They are the reason good folks have to stay busy. They must be continuously countered by progressive movements and by the Clara Lemlich’s and A. Philip Randolph’s of the world.
Whatever comes of these budget negotiations, it would seem that the Republican Party is intent on balancing the debt on the backs of the poor. The Republicans, who have been cutting taxes for the rich for three decades of legislation, are now demanding cuts Social Security and Medicare and refuse to have any tax increases on the wealthy and are using the threat of national default as the outcome if the country does not comply.
Well, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” After the bailouts of Wall Street, financial interests are trying to fool us again and panic the nation into cutting help to seniors, those in poor health and the children. Shame on the Democrats if they give in to them. You can’t negotiate with racial terrorists, whatever their disguise.