Regardless of what some of our fellow Americans may wish to believe, captured Africans ferried across the seas in abhorrent shipboard conditions dating back to 1526 laid much of the groundwork for the modern United States of America.
For the next 337 years, our people were compelled to toil in bondage under the lash as human chattel whose masters had complete control over their lives. It was not until 1964 — 438 years after the first documented cases of slaves in America, less than 50 years ago — that full civil rights were extended to our people.
Even unto this day, while the trappings of slavery are no longer part of this nation’s laws, the subtle and not so subtle reminders of those days dominate the relations between the races and influence laws, attitudes and the cultural ethos of the people who comprise the American nation.
Why mention all of this now?
Because there are many Americans who would like nothing better than to have the world forget that we are a nation where once some human beings owned other human beings the same way they owned animals and objects. That can never be allowed to fade out of our individual and collective consciousness.
The slander persists even today that African Americans are, at the core, a shiftless, essentially criminal and lazy people unwilling to do for themselves and satisfied to be leeches of society.
There could be no mistaking that undertone in Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s remarks about 47 percent of Americans being content to suckle at the teat of the federal government. For Romney, African Americans, at 13 percent of the population, must be a part of the “47 percent.”
That is where the history of slavery and racial discrimination comes into play.
The economic field has never been level for blacks in this country. While the slave masters and their descendants were able to accumulate capital and collateral that enabled them to move freely up the economic ladder, blacks have never been able to do so.
This applies not only to the capacity to own and invest in businesses, which is a prime requirement for wealth creation, but also to every other aspect of life.
To say that we are all full American citizens with all the opportunities available to other Americans is not enough. America’s leaders must adopt policies and practices which will reflect this truth.
When they refuse to do so, our response must be to reject their efforts to become leaders of our nation. We must vote.