By Paul Beattie
The title of this piece is as simple as I can make it. This is a long piece and I hope you will read it all for the full impact of my point to this writing. We are facing such hard times right now in this country we love. I truly think that may be the only thing we all agree on right now but at the same time we all have different reasons for the love of our home. I think the biggest reason is simply that, it is our home. No matter how we all got here to this point on Sunday, May 31 2020 this is our home and Americans are not quitters we are competitors by nature. You do not need to be an athlete to be a competitor. But competition is ingrained in all of us and that is why we are not willing to give up despite being scared, exhausted, angry among a waterfall of emotions we are all feeling.
I’d like to go back and look at the history of America and this really is an important part of my thoughts so I again hope you will read it all. Let’s start with how our country came to be, the colonists were rebelling against England for what they believed to be unjust taxes and came to a head with the Boston Tea Party that dumped huge amounts of tea into the harbor to avoid paying taxes to England. The tea tax was after decades of English rule over the Colonies and was fueled by the Sugar Act in 1764, then followed shortly by the Stamp Act.
After years of protesting and the colonists pointing out the injustice of the taxes being placed on them they had enough and militias began organizing to oppose the British rule of King George. England did not agree and as hostilities grew and after learning of some stockpiled munitions in the Lexington and Concord areas a regiment of 700 Redcoats thought they were going to surprise the Revolutionaries.
The famous one single act, “the shot heard round the world” fired by British soldiers at American Revolutionaries began the fight for freedom. Question 1, would we be the United States of America now if American Colonists would have continued to protest with words despite clearly not being listened too and more the King had no interest in listening or cared what the Colonists found unfair.
We know the end of the story and that is a new country called the United States of America. The forefathers who led the insurgence fighting against the unfairness of an oppressive government and treated as second class citizens were hailed as heroes and they were.
However, of the 56 names on the Declaration of Independence none were Black, Native American or Female. All white, well established men. Many of them owned people of color as slaves. Their wives and daughters did not have the same rights as white men either.
Should we now condemn our Revolutionary Heroes for living as they did in a society that not only allowed these awful atrocities but encouraged it? Can we expect Thomas Jefferson who was a slave owner to not have been despite growing up and being taught this is how life is supposed to be? No I don’t think we can expect or believe that many white men who were raised and taught that they were superior to everyone that they wouldn’t go down that path.
Jefferson inherited 175 slaves and through his lifetime he “owned” 600. Some of his writings in 1792 included a desire to stop or severely lesson the violence and the use of the whip on slaves. He began using a gratuity system (tips) to encourage work of his slave population. He believed that Black slaves were inferior to whites and it was their duty to take care of them. Out of 600 slaves Jefferson freed 7, 5 after he died as part of his will.
This after the extreme disappointment to the thousands of Black slaves who fought in the Revolutionary War. Many Blacks fought with the belief that with freedom from England would come freedom for themselves. Many slaves were forced to fight for both sides but soon realized that neither side intended to give them their freedom and escape the horrors of being owned by another person and treated like a disposable commodity.
Jefferson himself said after the slave trade or importing slaves was stopped in 1807 that a female slave that can produce laborers every 2 years or so is far more valuable than a male slave working in the field. Of course the “produced laborer” is commonly referred to as a baby.
The fight against slavery began in the 1760’s but it wouldn’t be until 1863, the 3rd year of the bloody Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Declaration that freed all the slaves in the States that had seceded from the Union. Oddly, the border states still had slavery, it was not a sweeping proclamation. Finally in 1865 the 13th amendment to the US Constitution was passed abolishing all slavery across the land.
What a great thing right? But it took a hundred years to go from people beginning to say this isn’t right in the 1760’s, a Revolutionary War fought to give the Colony citizens their freedom from an oppressive government except that freedom did not include everyone.
That wouldn’t come until 1865, 90 years after the document that reads:
“The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (Full Text of Declaration of Independence here)
If you were Black in 1776 and read this text would that not make you think this was the validation you have been waiting for? The validation of your beliefs? But then find out not so fast they were only including white people. If you are black, get back to work. In fact the white government officially counted each black slave as 3/5th’s of a human for taxes and Federal Government representation. Although it is laughable to say now that the slaves had any representation.”
That was 1776! but slavery wasn’t formally abolished across the country for another 90 years in 1865. And when slavery was abolished it wasn’t like the welcome wagon was waiting. The violence that so many are focused on now is a jaywalking ticket compared to the brutality of the treatment of black people even though they were free.
So a whole race began their “freedom” in their new home by no choice of their own in 1865. The first slaves were brought to Jamestown in 1620 so for 245 years Blacks were enslaved in the Colonies and then the United States.
Again the word freedom in reference to Blacks is far different than it was for whites. Laws known as Jim Crow were immediately passed by many states and municipalities to limit the freedom of the now “free” slaves. Wages were limited, segregation, blacks could only go to certain schools. This led to Blacks not allowed in restaurants, movie theaters, you had to sit in the back of the bus, drink from a different water faucet and use a separate bathroom. The rise of White Supremacy groups most notably the KKK would pillage, rape and murder “Free” Black citizens with impunity.
Then the Supreme Court supported the Jim Crow laws with an 8-1 ruling in 1883. The ruling stated that Congress can not limit discrimination by private individuals. The one dissenter was Justice John Marshall Harlan who dissented on several Civil Rights cases in the late 1800’s basically saying this was an attempt to get around the 13th and 14th amendments.
We are now in the year 1883 and even though the Declaration of Independence states “ALL” men are created equal and then we have the 13th amendment abolishing slavery in 1865 and then the 14th amendment in 1868 that gave citizenship to “ALL” citizens born or naturalized in the United States, including slaves, shall receive equal protection under the laws. In 1875 the first Civil Rights was signed into law that guaranteed Blacks equal treatment in public transportation and public accommodations. This brings us to 1883 when the Supreme Court votes 8-1 that the Civil Rights Act of 1975 is unconstitutional.
It would now be 71 more years before the 1964 Civil Rights Act is passed. JFK fought for the Act to be passed but was assassinated in Dallas before getting it passed but Lyndon B Johnson finished what Kennedy began and signed it into law. If you are unaware of the law here is a summation from Encyclopedia Britannica:
“Civil Rights Act, (1964), comprehensive U.S. legislation intended to end discrimination based on race, colour, religion, or national origin. It is often called the most important U.S. law on civil rights since Reconstruction (1865–77) and is a hallmark of the American civil rights movement. Title I of the act guarantees equal voting rights by removing registration requirements and procedures biased against minorities and the underprivileged. Title II prohibits segregation or discrimination in places of public accommodation involved in interstate commerce. Title VII bans discrimination by trade unions, schools, or employers involved in interstate commerce or doing business with the federal government. The latter section also applies to discrimination on the basis of sex and established a government agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), to enforce these provisions. The act also calls for the desegregation of public schools (Title IV), broadens the duties of the Civil Rights Commission (Title V), and assures nondiscrimination in the distribution of funds under federally assisted programs (Title VI).”
The struggle for equality was littered with battles both peaceful and violent along the way. We could start with Rosa Parks refusing to give her seat up for a white man despite sitting in the back of the bus in the “black section”. Parks was arrested for non-compliance because a white man wanted to sit down. Martin Luther King led the largest protest again peaceful with the march on Washington where more than 200,000 were in attendance for MLK’s famous “I have a Dream” speech in 1963.
The Civil Rights Act is signed into law in 1964 but the resistance to simply treating people with a different color of skin remained strong. There was bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama where 600 peaceful protesters were bringing light to the killing of a Black Civil Rights Leader, Jimmie Lee Jackson by a white police officer. The 600 protesters were met by police blocking their way over a bridge as they were headed for Montgomery. After the protesters surged to continue on their way it turned violent as police launched teargas and beat several of the marchers. Bloody Sunday was televised live.
The Watts riots in Los Angeles broke out in the summer of 1965. A white police officer pulled over a black man and his step-brother. It was a low key traffic stop and the driver failed the sobriety test which led to an altercation. The mother of the boys arrived on the scene and tried to assist her sons and the altercation escalated resulting in a 6 day rampage that resulted in 34 deaths and damage to the Watts area of 40-million dollars in 1965 which is the equivalent of 325-million in 2020.
This led to California Governor Pat Brown forming a commission to find out why this rather minor incident led to this 6-day explosion of violence. This commission was led by former CIA Director John McCone. McCone organized a 120-member commission and took a hard look at the Watts riots and came to some conclusions and recommendations. They included lack of education, decent employment opportunities, poverty, housing limits and an overall brewing of discontent that fueled the explosive reaction. Ultimately the government virtually ignored the recommendations and it was business as usual. Here are two links for more information on on both the riots and the commission report. Watts Riots McCone Commission Report
The next piece of legislation was the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which expanded the Civil Rights Act for further protections of voting rights. But 1965 remained violent with the assassination of Malcolm X a Civil Rights leader. MLK continued his work for true acceptance and legitimacy for black citizens that ultimately led to him being shot and killed at an event in Tennessee in 1968. Days later President Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act that prevented housing discrimination.
Progress was being made through all of this and we see there are improvements. Some Blacks are able to excel with the new opportunities many in sports. The Sports leagues also finally came around with Jackie Robinson in 1947 playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Other milestones included Bill Russell becoming the first NBA Black Coach to win a Championship in 1968, Russell was also the first black player to be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1975. The first black coach to win an NCAA Champinship was John Thompsen in 1984 at Georgetown.
The first black NFL Quarterback won a Super Bowl in 1988, Doug Williams with Washington it was also the first year for a black NFL head Referee. 1989 the Raiders hired the first Head Coach in NFL history. Think about that 1989 just 31 years ago. Slavery was abolished in 1865 and it was determined that it should take 124 years from that time to allow a black person to be the head coach of a game.
In 1991 Don Chaney became the first black Coach of the Year in the NBA. Tiger Woods would win the first Golf major, the Masters in 1997. In 2007 was the first time a black Head Coach was in the Super Bowl. It was a tie with Lovie Smith who coached the Chicago Bears and Tony Dungy with Indianapolis. Dungy would then be the first black Super Bowl Champion Head Coach as the Colts beat the Bears. In the following year 2008 the first black NFL Referee worked a Super Bowl, Mike Carey. It took 143 years for society to be ok with a black man to flip the coin at the start of a football game.
I know this has been long and I sure hope many of you who clicked on this to read have made it this far. So why would I go back this far to get to my point? It is imperative to remember, it is imperative to understand how and why we get to certain points of our society and the only way is to look at history.
I am a white gay man, 55 years old and married to a man who is half Mexican. I have two daughters, one is autistic. I have witnessed inequities which include my husband profiled while driving our car. Pulled over for a “brake light” and when the officer comes to the window is surprised to see me sitting in the passenger seat. I say oh it’s the brake light huh, let me get out of our brand new car, literally, and see which one it is. The officer says no that’s ok just check it later and gets in his car and leaves while I get out and check the light and wow, somehow it fixed itself.
I have been intimately involved in my daughters education working with her teachers and administrators to make sure she gets the best chance to be successful while not impacting other students. It was hard to do and I had to stand up for my rights and demand the laws on the books be followed. I was not asking for more than what was required for her to be successful.
As a gay man I have lost some friends and some folks determine they do not want to work with me or be associated with this website because of my private business. In fact this is the first time I have mentioned any of this personal information on this website. So why now?
Why? Simply because despite these issues I have dealt with in my life I can not imagine or come close to understanding what it is to be Black in America. I do not know what it’s like to be looked at so differently instantly. To be followed around in a store. To have people cross a street to avoid me walking down a sidewalk. Assume I am not smart but am a good athlete. Think if I wear the wrong color or style of clothing that I am in a gang or a thug.
I don’t know what it feels like to be pulled over by an officer and feel that immediate tension and suspicion. I don’t know what it is like just based on my skin color to be an assumed drug addict or drug pusher, thief or all around criminal. I don’t know what it feels like to have people fear me for simply being in their presence. I don’t know what it’s like to work hard, follow all the rules and still be questioned on the legitimacy of my education or that the only thing I have going for me is my athletic ability.
So when it comes to this past week of watching our country explode the reactions to what’s happening are heart-wrenching and disappointing. Watching a white officer nonchalantly choke a man to death with his hand in his pocket is more than disturbing it is abhorrent. Equally the 3 other officers should be held accountable but first they should be ashamed of themselves for not having the guts to do the right thing.
Certainly there should have been an expected response to George Floyd having his life choked out of him, after all a DUI arrest that went a little sideways sparked the 6-day Watts riot not to mention the Rodney King beating in 1992 but still in neither case the officers didn’t kill the suspect like in this case. So if we look at those responses why is anyone surprised after what we saw last Monday.
I don’t condone burning buildings and looting but man I sure understand the anger and frustration. What is more disappointing to me is to read on my Facebook posts from people I know, some are friends and their focus is on the violence of the reaction. Are there people trying to take advantage of a situation by taking things out of a store that is being looted, yes. But no I am not going to be more outraged that someone is stealing a microwave versus a police officer choking the life out of a suspect in a low level property crime that was only was alleged.
No I don’t understand lighting a building in my neighborhood on fire to make a point but that hardly compares to me not understanding why there is not more understanding of why Blacks still don’t feel like they are true Americans. What else do white people want from black people? They have fought in all of our Wars including the Revolutionary War.
How much did the Confederacy rely on slaves for their economy? Well had they actually seceded the Confederacy would have been the 4th richest nation in the world. Think about that and how much of that money went to the slaves? Slaves built the White House, the U-S Capitol, the Smithsonian Institute, Wall Street and Trinity Church in New York, Fort Sumter, the University of Virginia, University of North Carolina, Harvard Law School, Georgetown University along with the homes of President’s Washington, Jefferson and Madison. All slave labor…all of it.
So what else do white people need? Why are so many people distracted from the pure fact that the life of a black man was choked out of him by a white officer with 2 other white officers holding him down and an Asian officer standing by looking on? I get it the riots are bad, they can easily divert attention from the issue but Black people are tired of being told to be happy with the rights given to them like it was favor.
1865 slavery was supposed to have been abolished and in 1868 all slaves born or naturalized here were declared citizens of the United States. Why have they had to continue to fight for each right one at a time over the past 155 years since the end of slavery?
We are all tired of this and many of us who are white simply can’t understand why still many of us can not see the humanity in every person regardless of color or where they came from. Black people have more than earned their share of the American dream. They have earned far more than most of us who happen to be white. This is not a commentary on who is to blame for where we are now at this point in time.
However, there should be no doubt who to blame if we can not finally understand that withholding the rights of anyone in the United States is counter to what this nation is now supposed to be. The learning curve should be over by now.
It is truly an honor and privilege to do what we do here at Eli Sports and I do not take this for granted. We all have issues and problems and obstacles in our lives and the best we can do is learn from our mistakes and preconceptions and be better. I love watching black, white, hispanic, asian, gay, straight, trans, blonde, black, brown, red even blue haired student athletes compete.
I love watching how they come together, work with each other, support each other all for a common goal. Each one of those athletes takes their own path to get to where they are but they unite with each other to accomplish their goals and dreams. Why is it so hard to understand Black people’s frustration and why is it so hard to simply do what we all want and treat them and look at them and think of them as we want people to think of us, frankly quit thinking and referencing them as “THEM”. We are us! We are United States Citizens there is no us or them.
This isn’t about individuals taking advantage of the situation there were those types from the beginning of time. They are not the focus or the concern of those that for 155 years still are not being treated or respected. This is about being an American and yes it is difficult to watch buildings burn and the conflict between us and them when it should all be us.
I don’t understand the pettiness and selfishness of those so disturbed with protesters blocking a road they they write on their little Facebook musings that they would drive through them or pull out their guns. Really? Let me ask why those same people so upset that a road is blocked that you’d run over them that you never posted a message that said if I saw that cop choking a man to death I’d run over him? Why such a visceral reaction to property crime or simply blocking a street but we can pass on the taking of an innocent life so easily?
I hear often “well slavery was so long ago get over it.” Think about this a woman named Redoshi, later had her name changed to Sally Smith was kidnapped from Africa, chained up in a ship and smuggled into the U-S in 1860. She died in 1937. That’s the year my Mom was born. Then there are reports that that Sylvester Magee fought in the Civil War and died in 1971. He had very detailed stories of being a slave in Mississippi and fighting in the War he claimed to have been born in 1841 which would have made him 130 years old. They weren’t sure of his actual birth date but experts stated the detail he described the Civil War was extensive and matched with many documents that historians were able to compare.
My point here is it seems like 1865 is a long time ago but really you are talking about just 2 generations or our great Grandparents for many of us. Can you imagine some of the stories that are passed down from generation to generation in Black families? The atrocities of slave culture are really not that long ago and I can’t imagine sitting down with my Grandpa who tells me about what it was like being owned by another human and that it actually happened and it happened to my family.
Sorry to go so long but this is important and if it’s not to you it really should be. I hope for the violence and burning and looting to end but I refuse to miss the message that those who are truly hurting from this institutionalized racism continue to suffer from and it is time as Americans we stop it all. It is time for all of us to look in the mirror and ask ourselves how we can be better.
This is not anti-police like everything in this world it is a small percent that need, no not need MUST be weeded out. It is a very difficult job and so maybe we need to make sure people wanting to do this kind of work are properly trained for society today. We must start talking with each other again, we must stop the blame game and look for answers together. We must stop being so scared of everything and remember our greatness and strive to be great again. We must understand that not everybody comes from the same history but how important it is to learn from each other and have empathy and sympathy.
It is not weak to care and to love it is exceptionally weak to blame especially when you are sitting in your $400,000 home watching the current issues play out on television while sipping a drink and cooking your dinner. Stop throwing around thoughts and words like “looks like it’s time for another Civil War or if you don’t like it here go back to where you came from.” Just stop it and be an American. No there is no one way to be an American or Patriotic so stop judging and come down off your perch and join this great country once again.
We need new people to step forward to be our Senators, Representatives, Mayors, City Councilors, School Board members and so on. We must become engaged in our own cities, towns and most of all neighborhoods. It is time to put down or turn off the technology for an hour and go next door and introduce yourself to your neighbors that you probably have never met.
Organize a neighborhood BBQ or group and go around introducing yourselves to each other. Meet and get to know people. Look, search and find goodness in your own world. Wouldn’t it be nice to know if your child riding their bike crashed in front of a neighbor that you knew if the neighbor came out to help your child that you felt relief that they were their instead of panic because you don’t know who that person is? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could really walk next door and ask your neighbor for a cup of sugar?
Black and Brown skinned Americans simply want that. Why can’t it be this easy? Why do we continue to divide ourselves, why do we look for differences instead of similarities? What is everyone afraid of these days? Blacks literally built much of America it is time they get to enjoy the fruits of their community’s labor, blood, sweat and way too many tears.
This stuff going on now should be an end and a beginning. It should end the institutionalized racism and should begin a truly United States. Quit picking sides and start picking what’s right. I’m tired, exhausted from all of this and would much rather talk, think and prepare for the next time we get to watch high school athletes compete again.
It is time to stop finding blame and start finding answers and solutions. Racism is ugly, disgusting, repugnant and has no place in the United States of America in 2020. Please let’s love and respect each other. That is truly the path to our greatness.