The Abolitionists or Absolute Bull?: The Myth of the Great White Hope
by TRUTH Minista Paul Scott
“Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamp”
Fight the Power-Public Enemy
The year is 2020, and Goebbels Entertainment Company has just released its Academy Award nominated documentary, Rap, Unchained about how Hip Hop was successful in emancipating millions of Black children from mental slavery during the late 80’s. While it briefly mentions the contributions of a few Black rappers of the time, the majority of the film is dedicated to one great man who risked his life by speaking out on behalf of millions of oppressed African-Americans. This great hero is none other than the rap abolitionist himself, Vanilla Ice….
This week, PBS will air, The Abolitionists, a movie about people who during the 19th century , spoke out against the evils of chattel slavery. While the flick does feature Frederick Douglas, instead of rounding out the cast with Nat Turner, Gabriel Prosser and Denmark Vessey, it focuses on the lives of good white folks like William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Angelina Grimke and John Brown. Thus, reinforcing the idea that my ancestors were a bunch of punks during slavery, whinin’ in the cotton fields, waiting on the day when some white saviors would free them from bondage.
William Lloyd Garrison
Like many other topics regarding history, the Abolitionist Movement has been subject to historical revisionism and an attempt for white America to pick our heroes.
Although , the film’s trailer proudly proclaims that ” if it had not been for the abolitionists, the United States would have thoroughly been a slave nation,” historian Herbert Aptheker wrote in his book , American Negro Slave Revolts, that there were more than 200 slave rebellions in this country.
What is also glossed over by historians is the fact that while many of the white abolitionists did not agree with slavery as an institution, they, themselves, were still white supremacists who believed that Black people were innately inferior to Whites. Just because an animal rights activist might protest against cruelty to Fido, the pit bull, doesn’t mean that he wants to take him out for dinner and a movie.
Of, course, I’m not the first to point this out.
In 1837, Rev. Theodore Wright told the New York Slave Ant-slavery Society that their doctrine must include “recognizing all men as brothers.”
Also, according to Lerone Bennett Jr in his work , Before the Mayflower, although Frederick Douglas used to hang out with William Lloyd Garrison, he eventually broke ranks, as white abolitionists like Garrison wanted Black abolitionists to merely serve as lawn jockeys. However Douglas believed that Black people should have been at the head of the Abolitionist Movement. As Bennett quotes Douglas as saying, “the man who suffered the wrong is the man to demand redress.”
Although Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is applauded for the role it played in raising awareness about slavery, in his book , Race: The History of an Idea in America, Dr. Thomas Gossett claimed that the novel still “made it quite clear that, in spite of the Negro’s humility and aptitude for religion, he is innately inferior.”
It must be also, noted that the idea that groups who’s religious convictions should have made them long time allies in the fight against slavery has also been blown way out of proportion. In her book , Criminalizing of a Race, Dr. Charshee McIntyre revealed that “ as representatives of the emerging capitalist order, reformers could extend charity to the lowliest segment of laborers, but not even the Quakers could view Blacks as potential autonomous beings”
Although much has been written about the white Jewish connection to Black suffering, Harold Cruse wrote in, Plural but Equal, that it was not until 1915, after the lynching of Leo Frank by a white Atlanta mob, that Jews began to identify with the suffering of African-Americans. Cruse writes that the idea that the Jewish community cared much about Black folks prior to that time is “an inaccurate generalization because it was never explained how Jews as a group were involved in contrast to certain individual Jews.”
The main issue here, is that the further that we get away from a time period, the more distorted the historical accuracy becomes. If we are not careful even modern phenomena such as Hip Hop will eventually become distorted.
As important as Hip Hop has been as a platform that allowed young African-Americans to advocate for the rights of poor and oppressed community, if this legacy is not properly guarded, the clear facts will too become muddied by historical inaccuracies and false assumptions.
Young Black Teenagers
If we are not careful, our grandchildren will believe that just because Vanilla Ice was popular during the same time period of conscious artists such as Brand Nubian, than he was something other than a cheap white washed version of MC Hammer. Or that even though a white rap group was called “Young Black Teenagers” , they may believe that they were a socially conscious group, rather than a gimmick to prove that white kids could rap.
As we move forward , it must be noted that many of the so-called depictions of “Black History” fictitious or otherwise , have been told from the viewpoint of non-Black people, from Django to The Abolitionists. Thus we find ourselves in the same dilemma as Frederick Douglas, almost a century and a half later.,
The solution is that African Americans, must become experts in the field of their own history, as no other racial group would dare trust the interpretation of their culture to others.
This is why we have started the “Black By Nature/Conscious By Choice Campaign. During the late 80’s rap group Public Enemy had as its mission to raise up 5000 Black leaders. So, our task in 2013 to raise up 5,000 Black scholars who will be experts in Black history, so they can defend our culture against distortions and teach the truth to our future generations.
As Nas said on ,” I Can”
“If truth is told/the youth can grow. Then learn to survive until they gain control.”
TRUTH Minista Paul Scott’s website is No Warning Shots Fired.com. For more information on Black By Nature/Conscious By Choice contact email@example.com . Follow on Twitter @truthminista
Nothing exists in a vacuum, so when looking at the tragic shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida because he appeared ‘suspicious’ to a self-appointed Neighborhood Watch captain named George Zimmerman, it can not be viewed in isolation. It’s part of something that’s much larger and systemic.
Many of us don’t like to admit it, but the fact is, this country has a long and sordid history where those who appeared ‘different’, meaning not white and male, were often deemed suspicious resulting in deadly consequences. Call it a Culture of Suspicion if you will, but it one that’s helped shaped social and political policy and impacted damn near everything we’ve done throughout the years.
TheBlack Codes, Vagrancy Laws, Jim Crow, Internment Camps, Salem Witch Craft Trials, Compulsory sterilization, Poll taxes, McCarthyism, Cointel-Pro, The War on Drugs, The War on Terror, The War on ‘Illegals’, The War on Women, these are just a few of the policies and measures that have emerged over the years out of this culture of suspicion…..And let’s be clear, so we’re all on the same page…The Culture of Suspicion is rooted in irrational FEAR and extreme ANGER.
It’s a FEAR and ANGER that dates back to the days of the pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock where those who weren’t Anglo-Saxon in this case Native Peoples were ‘suspected‘ of being ‘less than human’ and thus needed to be civilized, stripped of their land and exterminated. Can we say Manifest Destiny? That’s what that concept and ideology ultimately meant for Native Peoples..Can we say Genocide?
Nat Turner and FEAR of slave revolts has resulted in deep-seated suspicions of Black people that are alive and well today
This FEAR and ANGER was pervasive among those who brought Africans to America in chains and enslaved us. Our culture was stripped, our language forbidden, our Africanisms stamped and literally beaten out of us.. Why? because slave owners had deep-seated fear of slaves revolting. All sorts of laws were put into place and all types of measures including divide and conquer tactics were employed to keep those who were then seen as beasts from rising up and doing what slaves like Nat Turner, Gabriel Prosser and Denmark Vesey eventually did-kill or in the cases of Prosser and Vesey, plot to kill their white masters.
This FEAR of Black reprisals has resulted in nearly all traces of the over 250 of slave rebellions that went down in the American South being erased from our school history books.
What has remained are disturbing stories of Black men, being lynched and hung from trees in what was described by singer Billie Holiday as Strange Fruit. What’s remained are eerie stories of entire Black town like Rosewood, Florida and Tulsa, Oklahoma being burned to the ground by angry white mobs because of FEAR and suspicion.of a Black man lusting after a white woman.
Sadly there’s a litny of stories about Black men being accused of looking at or lusting after a white women. This irrational Fear of a Black Dick and ‘suspicion’ gave rise of the Ku Klux Klan especially after the 1915 DW Griffith landmark film Birth of a Nation which had Black men lusting after white women as a main theme. You can see one of the more controversial scenes from that movie...HERE It also led to this country keeping anti-Miscegenation laws on the books up to 1967. Tragically it also led to countless young Black boys who having their genitals mutilated when those lynchings I mentioned earlier took place.
Again for many this legacy of FEAR and SUSPICION throughout our history is a painful pill to swallow. As a country we don’t wanna have an honest conversation of how pervasive it was and is and how it’s permeated our collective mind-set.. We don’t wanna talk about how this Culture of Suspicion been used toward various so-called minority groups in this country and the deep scars its left.
We don’t wanna talk about how we executed women who we suspected of being witches during the infamous Salem Witch trials.
We don’t wanna talk about how we rounded up Japanese American citizens during World War II and put them in internment camps because we were suspicious of them..
We don’t wanna talk about harsh and often fatal treatment levied upon men and women we suspected of being gay. How many have been killed, beaten, put into special classes to ‘straighten’ them out..
We don’t wanna talk about the horrific legacy of Cointel-pro a government counter insurgency program headed up by FBI directorJ Edgar Hoover. We don’t wanna talk about how Hoover kept all sorts of Civil Rights, Black Power, Brown Power and Anti-War organization under a suspicious gaze and actively used every resource possible to destroy them. He went after everyone from Marcus Garvey to Martin Luther King to the Black Panthers and everyone in between. Irrational fear, deep-seated anger and suspicion that those demanding equal rights were somehow not ‘real’ American were part of the rationale behind Hoover and the FBI actions.
Again Trayvon Martin‘s tragic fate is not isolated. It has to be seen through this historical lens that reflects long-standing racial prejudices and attitudes and race based policy decisions in our society.
The unsavory actions of George Zimmerman coupled with the racial hostility he displayed in widely heard 9-11 call where he refers to Trayvon as a ‘F–king Coons and his paranoia (calling 9-11 over 40 times in the past year) are not out of the ordinary. He personifies the culture of suspicion.
The questionable actions and neglect displayed by the Sanford police department (not talking to key witnesses and keeping Trayvon’s body for 3 days without telling his parents) not only have the look of an outright cover up, but they too reflects this culture of suspicion… The message their actions convey is that; Trayvon must’ve been in the wrong. A young Black male wearing a hoody is always suspect. There’s no way Mr Zimmerman would’ve shot him for no reason.
In looking at Trayvon’s murder its also important to connect the dots to fear based incidents currently going on.. Look at the type of anger and hostility directed by those we are suspicious of…
Angel Rodriguez, a Puerto Rican basketball player was greeted with chants of Where's Your Green Card by Southern Mississippi band members.
Sadly similar scenarios played out in other schools around the country including last month in San Antonio, Texas where players from mostly white Alamo Heights started chanting ‘USA USA’ after they defeated their mostly Latino rivals from Edison. Again there was a suspicion that the players from Edison weren’t one of us (American) They must be illegall.
Sadly the culture of suspicionit doesn’t stop there. There’s been a rash of anti-immigrant bills being passed with the harshest in Arizona (SB 1070), Alabama (SB 56) and just the other day Mississippi passing (HB 56). All are born out FEAR and suspicion.
We’ve had people like Texas lawmaker Debbie Riddle coin the phrase ‘anchor’ babies and ‘terror’ babies when referring to the children of Mexican and Middle eastern immigrants and push to pass laws to stop them.. This sort of fear mongering has resulted in entire communities being profiled and suspect.
9 year old Brisenia Flores was shot and killed after self-styled vigilante border patrollers suspected her family of being in this country illegally
People like Riddle help foster a deadly climate of suspicion with deadly consequences. For example, we should never forget what took place 3 years ago in Arizona when Shawna Forde a self-appointed border patroller formed the group anti-immigrant organization Minutemen Civil Defense Corps.
The extreme measures taken on those ‘suspected’ of not being America are not just limited to hard-working, law-abiding immigrants. That anger and suspicion has been directed to President Barack Obama. We have a whole segment of society called birthers with people like businessman Donald Trump and Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio leading the charge. In a recent poll over 45% of folks in the south believed he was a Muslim and over 25% don’t believe he was born here in the US..
The suspicions of the birthers is unprecedented. First, they demanded the president show his birth certificate. After he did that they demanded he show a long form certificate. After he did that, they accused the documents of being forged and wanted original draft cards. In fact as we speak Arpaio is launching yet another investigation into the president. Can you say Culture of Suspicion gone wild?
It doesn’t help that President Obama has contributed or reacted to this climate of suspicion, by deporting over one million people and increased surveillance in American Muslim communities..His policies dovetail with the policies of many police departments that have also heightened this culture of suspicion.
It was just 3 or 4 weeks ago that a ‘suspicious’ looking Ramarley Graham was standing outside his home in the Bronx when he saw police officers roll by. He walked into his home only to be followed by police who ‘suspected’ he had a gun.. Police busted into his house and shot Graham in his bathroom in front of his grandmother and a 6 year old.. No gun or weapon was ever found..
Jordan Miles is a 18 year old violinist who played for First Lady Michele Obama
Graham was one of over a whooping 680 thousand New Yorkers who police stopped and frisked last year in their attempts to find ‘illegal’ handguns.. Over 80% of those stopped and frisked were Black or Brown men.. less than a 1% of those stops have resulted in any weapons being found. This policy has led to racial profiling and Black and Brown men being seen as suspects before being seen as productive citizens in their community.
The case of Pittsburgh, PA 17-year-old honor student Jordan Miles being stop frisked and beaten beyond recognition with his dreadlocks torn out his head is another example of what happens under this culture of suspicion..
Ironically in both the Jordan and Graham cases the police accused both men of fleeing when in truth, knowing the history of such encounters they probably developed a healthy suspicion of police who are no longer seen as friendly public servant there to protect and serve, but a vicious gang with a badges and license to kill.
There are too many cases to recount.. but the results are damn near always the same death, scarred communities and a legacy of deep mistrust.. Trayvon Martin is the latest casualty in this long line of tragic mishaps.
What if the Shooter was Black and the Victim White?
John White shot a White Teen who showed up at his house with a mob..He was convicted and sentenced
There are many who have rhetorically asked this question. It’s done not so much to plant seeds of racial hatred and be divisive but to point out the inconsistencies and double standards that exist within our justice system. Its way for us to look at situations and hopefully be moved to change them.
One glaring example of a Black man protecting his family and shooting a white youth involves took place a few years ago in Long island New York. In August 2006, John White confronted 17-year-old white teenager named Daniel Cicciaro who had been threatening White’s son. Cicciaro showed up with a group of his friends to get at White’s son. Fearing for his safety White shot the teen who was on his property. He was convicted and sent to jail. You can and should read about that case HERE.
At the time of White’s sentencing there were many who compared his situation with that of a White man out of Texas, named Joe Horn who shot two Black men on his property who he shot and killed after disobeying police orders. Like Zimmerman, Horn wasn’t directly threatned but he went ‘hunting’ for the people he eventually shot.. You can read about that case HERE and HERE.
This should come as no surprise to anyone that we have this type of double standard. The question and challenge before us all, is how will we fix a broken, racially biased justice system? Do we have to vote in new judges, new DAs and new prosecutors? Do we have to change the entire way we do business in the justice arena?
There are no easy answers and ultimately we are going to have to change people’s hearts and minds. Say what you will, but what fueled these confrontations and uneven results was racism and the suspicion that those who have darker skin are ssuspect..
The Zimmerman Is Hispanic Not White Argument
In recent days we’ve seen many in the media play this card and play it hard.. There’s a couple of things going on here that we should all think about.
First, is by playing up the fact that Zimmerman is half Hispanic suggests that he at one point or the other has been subjected to the suspicious FEAR laden gaze of society and hence he’d be a bit more sensitive and perhaps a bit more insightful when confronting folks, in particular Black folks. The implied thought is that Zimmerman, the half Hispanic would know what Black or Brown man to confront and not to confront better than the average white person..That’s utter nonsense so lets put that to rest..
Zimmerman was a racist who had a clear disdain for young Black males. He was as FEARFUL as any of the white person who has held similar attitudes. In short, what does Zimmerman being Hispanic have to do with anything? He drank the kool aid of white supremacy. His Hispanic background didn’t make him immune, the same way it doesn’t immune self-hating Black folks who buy into the same flawed belief systems where even with Black skin and having faced discrimination themselves, will see a young Black male with a hoodie and think the worse and become suspicious. Some of those FEARFUL Negros once they get a position of power or get to wear a gun and badge act out fearfully and suspiciously with the same deadly consequences.. So Zimmerman being Latino means nothing..
The other thing at play here is by the media highlighting Zimmerman’s ethnicity, Black folks are supposed to suddenly unite and start bombing on Latinos. We’re supposed to suddenly be upset with our Mexican, El Salvadorian or Puerto Rican neighbors? Was Zimmerman acting on their behalf and carrying out their agenda? I think not..
If they’re gonna play the ethnic card with Zimmerman all of us should be asking is Zimmerman repping for a large Latino body of people who are in the same struggles and fighting against an oppressive system. Is he part of an organizations like La Raza, MeCHA , NDLON, Puente, and in are they vouching for him? Would he have been suspicious of one the courageous Dreamers, undocumented youth who actually Marched through Florida a year or so ago pushing for passage of the Dream Act? Has Zimmerman been out there protesting all the anti-immigrant laws popping up all over the country or was he the type to support them, suspicious off other Latinos confronting them asking if they’re criminals or here ‘legally’?
Again either your working to free people from oppression or your working for the system, helping keep people disenfranchised and marginalized. Don’t buy into divide and conquer tactics. Connecting the dots, uniting marginalized communities and addressing institutionalized oppression is not in the best interest of those in power.
I’m not sure what Zimmerman represents and who he rolls with, but his actions deserved to be punished. And while in many places there are Black and Brown tensions which should be addressed the shooting of Trayvon Martin is not the jump off into further divisions. Whats at stake here is the death of an innocent 17 year old coming home in the rain wearing a hoodie and carry a package of skiddles..He was confronted by large, overzealous, suspicious wanna be cop who killed him.. We must resist the attempts to keep this tragedy isolated from these larger issues and histories at hand..We must seek justice and seek it in such a way that it puts a major dent in some of overarching problems and prejudices impacting us all.