The Declaration of Independence was unanimously signed by the Second Continental Congress on July 4th, 1776.
On July 5th, 1776, you, Black Man in America, were still a slave.
On June 21st, 1788, New Hampshire became the 9th (and deciding) state to ratify the Constitution of the United States of America.
On June 22nd, 1788, you, Black Man in America, were still a slave.
The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1865 following the Civil War, outlawed slavery for all people EXCEPT convicted felons. Three years later, the 14th Amendment guaranteed citizenship to all people born or naturalized in the United States. The 15th Amendment ratified in 1870 grants voting rights to all people without respect to race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Of these three amendments, the 13th is the most important in terms of how America uses its laws to continue our oppression in other forms. “Black Code” laws and variations of those laws legally upheld segregation and unequal treatment of Black people for decades. It allowed for harsher prosecution of Black criminals, leading to disproportionately high conviction and incarceration rates, and providing over a century of data to support the “fact” that Blacks deserve the treatment they receive from law enforcement.
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, EXCEPT AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction…”
Keep in mind, from a federal standpoint, women still didn’t have the right to vote. That didn’t come until the 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920. So only our men could vote.
Long story short: The cost of your freedom was NEARLY ALL OF YOUR FREEDOM.
The Constitution is the “supreme law of the land,” and no piece of legislation is allowed to stand in opposition to it. All the legislations, statues, and lesser documents, including the ones that restricted our freedoms, were in agreement with this constitution. America’s history has shown, unequivocally that THESE LAWS ONLY CHANGE WHEN WHITE AMERICA FEELS THREATENED ECONOMICALLY.
Had Black people not rebelled through violence and escape from plantations, causing untold millions of dollars in damages to property (including themselves, because they were considered property), we’d probably still be slaves today. Had Black people not been so economically prosperous during the latter half of the Jim Crow Era, to the point of organizing and sustaining targeted economic actions against legalized segregation, we’d still be drinking out of “Colored Only” water fountains and giving up front seats on public buses.
The reason American politics is a threat to the Black Man in America is because we, as a group, believe that it will cure our economic woes. “Voting for the right politician will help us get out of our rut.” “The next election is the most important election.” And on the day after Election Day, we’re thrown on the backburner, left to wonder in amazement at how we got nothing out of the deal.
Wash. Rinse. Dry. Fold. Store. Use. Repeat.
A big deal was made within the Black community about voting during 2016 election cycle. Two candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton, and Republican Donald Trump, fought for the presidency soon to be vacated by Barack Obama. Neither of the two candidates were good choices for Black people.
Donald Trump…well, we know his history. He touted it as a source of pride throughout the election with impunity. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was considered by many to be the more palatable choice. As First Lady to former president Bill Clinton, she supported his 1994 Crime Bill, which drove already high rates of incarcerated Black people into the outer reaches of space. She was also seen on video referring to gang members (read: Black people) as “superpredators” who needed to be brought to heel.
No remorse for her support of that crime bill or her own statements was shown until she needed our vote. And Black folks FLOCKED to her as though she could do no wrong, the same we were fooled into thinking Bill Clinton was our first “black president” because he played the saxophone on “The Arsenio Show.”
“You have to vote! Our ancestors died for your right to vote!”
You know what my ancestors DIDN’T DIE FOR? Me to settle for mediocre and to just hope that someone will “be nice to us.” Or to settle for “the lesser of two evils.” I didn’t vote in this election for those reasons.
It’s one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made in my life.
Surely, progress has been made in the fight for social justice. The 1964 Civil Rights Act was the last major piece of federal legislation to make us, in theory, equal to the rest of America. In practice, however, America continues to do what it’s always done: find ways to skirt its own laws to keep the upper hand in its relationship with its Black citizens.
We have to stop looking to politics as our way up and out. Given the history of how this country has treated us LEGALLY, I see no hope in relying SOLELY upon our vote. In a nation where capital fuels politics, a broke person with the power to vote can only elect an official who’ll continue listening to the person with the money.
I love you. #BlessedBeTheGrind