Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Give me (and a few others) liberty ...

Note to the headline writers at "The Daily Beast" --- Missouri is not burning, although the situation in Ferguson is awful and no one seems to know what to do to avoid making it worse.

Like many others, I was thinking about Ferguson Sunday morning when one of those odd overprinted images with a message showed up in my Facebook feed. I suspect it was intended as a commentary on social welfare programs.

This one was of Patrick Henry (left), one of our "founding fathers," in an oratorical moment and offered up his famous "Give me liberty or give me death" line with the subtitle, "It wasn't free condoms, food, housing and make my neighbors pay for it."

Well of course it wasn't. I honestly don't know about the condoms, but Patrick had slaves to do his farm work, grow and prepare his food and keep his house tidy. The first six had been a wedding present from his father-in-law upon his first marriage.

It's not clear how many enslaved black folks Henry owned during his lifetime, but there are records of 78 purchases and his property at death included about 65.

Other founding fathers were slave owners on a grander scale, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

By the time of the Revolution, an estimated one-fifth of the colonial population consisted of enslaved black people (who really weren't looked upon as people at all) and the colonial economy south and north was fueled by slave labor.

When Henry arose to deliver his impassioned and famous line, he had white male property owners in mind --- not black people, not indigenous people and certainly not women.

When compared to the tyranny of the slave-based society and economy in which Henry and his counterparts moved, the offenses of the British were minor.

Some years later, roughly 620,000 young men north and south died in a great war that freed those enslaved by their forefathers, dying for their sins; other rights and privileges have been granted, in many cases grudgingly, by white folks as the decades have rolled on.

But we've never really dealt with our racist roots nor acknowledged that racial prejudice is as American as apple pie and in many cases embedded as deeply as it ever has been. Nor do we deal with our own racism, subtle or overt. Until we do, Fergusons will occur.

Lord have mercy.


Anonymous said...

Indeed! And tolerance and compassion. mem

The St. Andrew's Team said...

Well done Frank.