For my last Times Union blog post this month, even after my goodbye piece, I reposted the first part of my February 5 piece from this blog, about asking three different people (living or dead, famous or not) ONE question.
Edgar, a contrarian who most TU bloggers became familiar with, wrote:
I’d ask Antonio Johnson how it felt to be an African American AND the first American owner of a slave (John Casor).
This actually did happen. “John Casor, a servant in Northampton County in the Virginia Colony, in 1655 became the first person of African descent in the Thirteen Colonies to be declared as a slave for life as a result of a civil suit.”
This predated the large-scale codification of slavery in the future United States by race, in the 1670s and later. Would Johnson’s singular act cause him distress over what became mass enslavement of black people in the years to come? Interesting question and of course unanswerable.
I’d ask Republican President Lincoln how it felt to free Democrats slaves.
Since formerly enslaved people had not yet received the right to suffrage, I don’t know what “Democratic slaves” means. That said, I’ve been recently helping my daughter with American history. It’s clear that Lincoln wanted the states of the Confederacy to rejoin the Union as soon as was feasible. His second Vice-President, Andrew Johnson, WAS a Democrat.
Black Lives Matter
I’d ask Martin Luther King if he approved of the violence perpetrated by members of the “some lives matter, depending on skin color” movement which has abandoned his highly effective peaceful protests against racism.
As is his wont, Edgar has twisted the meaning of Black Lives Matter. That said, he asks a legitimate question about tactics. Yes, there were non-violent actions on the part of demonstrators back in the 1950s and 1960s. The other side – i.e., law enforcement – was often not as pleasant. See Selma, March 7, 1965, e.g. And when America saw the actions of Southern police, the nation was outraged.
“Some 2,000 people set out from Selma on March 21, protected by U.S. Army troops and Alabama National Guard forces that [Lyndon] Johnson had ordered under federal control.’
The Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1956 took over a year, and it involved legal maneuvering. The Little Rock Nine integrated the high school in 1957 with the help of federal troops. In other words, the force of law and/or people with weapons.
MLK’s nonviolent campaign was much less successful when he moved North. And he died by violence.
Black Lives Matter started in 2013 and was largely ignored. It wasn’t until America could finally be ready to see for itself a black man being murdered by a white cop that people seriously started saying, “Oh, THAT’S what they’ve been talking about!” A whole lot of people of various races demonstrated for BLM in 2020. Most of them were peaceful.
Some folks were not. They may have calculated that it was 65 years since Rosa refused to give up her seat, and over half a century since Martin was murdered. How long, and by which tactics, will we be free?
King said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” What do you do when you keep saying it, and they’re still not hearing it? I suspect MLK would understand, even if he disapproved of the tactic.
And of you, I’d ask, do you think that, in your lifetime, we’ll have had a black president… as a bonus question.
When Barack Obama walked the streets of Chicago, people saw a black man. From the NIH: “African Americans in the US typically carry segments of DNA shaped by contributions from peoples of Europe, Africa, and the Americas.” Obama’s racial profile is different from most black Americans. But to suggest he isn’t black is disingenuous. And a boringly divisive trope.
It’s been my theory that some thought that he, as a child of a white mother, wouldn’t be too black. But he kept disappointing them by doing “black” things such as singing Al Green and promoting Hamilton, a musical with a mostly black cast.
Know that many white parents – Halle Berry’s white mom, for one – made sure their children would know how to negotiate this country as black persons, if only because that’s how they’d be perceived in America anyway.
Ibram X. Kendi said recently on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah that black people are not a monolith. We have a diversity of experiences. Barack Obama’s is one experience. And Edgar doubting his “legitimacy” as a black person does not make it less so.