Monday, July 04, 2016

A Visit to a Forgotten Cemetery on the Fourth of July

I stopped at a little country cemetery I often pass while out hunting.

It's a small African-American cemetery.  

Yes, we are not treated equal, even in death.

Graves here go back over 150 years, with one or two just a few years old.

The graves, above and below, are of African Americans who fought in World War I in one of the American "colored" units that served under the French.

Over 300,000 African-Americans fought for European freedom in World War I at a time when they were still treated as third class citizens, without full rights, back home.

It is a sign of white privilege that so many white people believe racism is an artifact of the past. Do they not see it all around them today!?

Yes, we have made progress, but let us not kid ourselves that we have made more than we have. One need only listen and read the utterances of the current Republican candidate for President of the United States to see that the dark heart of the bigot still beats in far too many Americans.

All of this reminds me of a speech Frederick Douglas gave when he visited Rochester, New York on July 5, 1852.  The speech is entitled "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" and it is a paint-blistering indictment of the American self-congratulations that is still far too common,

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour forth a stream, a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and the crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

As luck would have it, Donald McCaig sent me a link to a piece on Vox, which suggests 3 Reasons the American Revolution Was a Mistake, not the least of which is that it kept millions of Americans in bondage longer than they might otherwise have been.

[T]he British Empire, in all likelihood, would have abolished slavery earlier than the US did, and with less bloodshed.

Abolition in most of the British Empire occurred in 1834, following the passage of the Slavery Abolition Act. That left out India, but slavery was banned there, too, in 1843. In England itself, slavery was illegal at least going back to 1772. That's decades earlier than the United States.

This alone is enough to make the case against the revolution. Decades less slavery is a massive humanitarian gain that almost certainly dominates whatever gains came to the colonists from independence.

The main benefit of the revolution to colonists was that it gave more political power to America's white male minority. For the vast majority of the country — its women, slaves, American Indians — the difference between disenfranchisement in an independent America and disenfranchisement in a British-controlled colonial America was negligible. If anything, the latter would've been preferable, since at least women and minorities wouldn't be singled out for disenfranchisement.

The past is the past, and there is no changing it. But should we remember? Oh yes! I pulled a few weeds and bits of grass from the graves of these two World I veterans. It was not much, but they are not forgotten.

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