*The following is authored by David J. Johns, Executive Director of National Black Justice Coalition.
Recently I heard a friend say the following, and I felt each word pierce my heart like a dagger as they fell from his lips, “I know white people who are planning the future while the smartest Black and Brown people I know are focused on trying to get the police to stop killing us.”
This statement still sits with me because it speaks to the continued investments that African descendants chiefly make to address the problems that transatlantic enslavement and U.S. capitalism have created. The statement also speaks to how so many life opportunities and outcomes are shaped by the enduring problems caused by race and racism in America.
On September 18, 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was signed into law by President Millard Fillmore. Created as an attempt to keep the Union together and avoid a civil war, the Act was meant to enforce Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3, otherwise known as The Fugitive Slave Clause of the U.S. Constitution. This article states that enslaved Africans did not become free if they managed to escape to a free state and required them to be returned to their masters. The Fugitive Slave Act and the rift it caused between anti- and pro-slavery states contributed to both the Civil War and the formal end of slavery.
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was actually the second Act of its kind. The first Fugitive Slave Act was enacted in 1793. This law allowed slave owners and their agents to search for runaway slaves in free states and it punished people who helped harbor and conceal enslaved Africans. In the North, where anti-slavery sentiments were rising, many intentionally neglected to enforce the law. Some people engaged in helping enslaved Africans make their way to freedom along the Underground Railroad. Some of the Northern states even passed “Personal Liberty Laws,” which gave the accused escaped slaves the right to a trial and protected free Black people.
An unintended consequence of the Fugitive Slave Acts was the theft and kidnapping of free Black people who were forced into slavery by bounty hunters and others seeking to profit from Black bodies. While there has been much attention paid to the horrifically brutal nature of slavery, the way that we remember slavery in America seems to suggest that both that period in our history and the collateral consequences of it are over. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as evidenced by this moment in the movement for Black lives. Dr. Joy DeGruy has pioneered thinking about “post traumatic slave syndrome”. Building upon the foundation that she has helped to establish, it’s also important to think about the unrelenting impact that slavery continues to play in all of our lives.
Both Fugitive Slave Acts were repealed by an act of Congress during the Civil War on June 28, 1864, and with the Civil War came the official end of slavery. But the oppression and discrimination Black people face did not end then and still continues to this day. There’s a movement to help people and medical practitioners understand the consequences of persistent traumatic environmental factors that impact the lives of African descendants in peculiar ways and the newly released feature film ANTEBELLUM brings the current costs of historical traumas into focus.
The impacts of intergenerational trauma and systematic racism are not discussed enough. The signs, symbols, and systems that are used to preserve and perpetuate privilege often go ignored. And the consequences of Black people still facing disproportionate levels of bias, discrimination, and violence are too frequently dismissed, which is precisely why I am excited about the conversations that will be had after ANTEBELLUM is released on September 18, 2020 — the anniversary of the Fugitive Slave Act.
ANTEBELLUM invites many of us to think about what it feels like to be trapped–confined by the horrifying trappings of our collective and not too distant past. The opening scene of ANTEBELLUM is a reminder of this very fact–of the contradictions that exist in a democracy that has been consistent and intentional in attempting to deny Black, Latinx and poor people access to opportunity. I don’t want to give away anything from the movie but consider the fact that while few people would think to get married at a concentration camp, there are thousands of couples clamoring to celebrate their holy matrimonies at plantations today. ANTEBELLUM invites us all to consider how the legacy of plantations have been shaped over time and how those narratives impact our lives today.
I sometimes wonder if the spirits of our ancestors could speak to well-meaning white people who celebrate confederacy without acknowledging the damage its legacy continues to cause, and what they would say to them. After viewing the film ANTEBELLUM, written and directed by the talented duo Bush + Renz, I can imagine what this conversation might sound and feel like. Go watch the movie and ensure you’re registered to vote.
ANTEBELLUM premiers on demand Friday September 18th, which is also the day that BET & the National Urban League have dubbed as the inaugural ‘National Black Voter Day.’
David J. Johns is the Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC). David is known for his passion, public policy acumen and fierce advocacy for youth. He is an enthusiast about equity—leveraging his time, talent and treasures to address the needs of individuals and communities often neglected and ignored. A recognized thought leader and social justice champion, David’s career has focused on improving life outcomes and opportunities for Black people.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson: Why Trump Keeps Beating Biden Over the Head with the Crime Bill
*On November 18, 1993, then Senator Joe Biden let it fly on the Senate floor. He lambasted the “predators on the streets” and “sociopaths” who were “beyond the pale,” and must be “cordoned off.” Biden punctuated his impassioned cheer of the Clinton Crime Bill up for Senate passage with borderline race tinged rhetoric about broken homes, family squalor and ignorance. The inference was he was talking about young Blacks.
Biden’s words that day keep coming back to haunt him like a hideous nightmare. Trump dredged it up again at the last presidential debate. Joe, Trump intoned, you branded young Blacks as “super-predators.” He then gleefully finger pointed Biden as practically the Founding Father of the 1994 Crime Bill; the bill widely reviled as the single biggest cause of the mass prison incarceration of explosion of mostly young Blacks and Hispanics.
Biden, in defense, did the same two things that he’s done repeatedly every time he gets hit over the head by Trump and the GOP with his cheerlead of the bill. He denied that he called anyone “super predators.” He didn’t, but his label of “predators on the streets” came darn close. It’s his second counter though that he hopes will take some of the sting out of his overexuberant tout of the bill a quarter century ago. He called it “a mistake,” and says times have changed. He spruces up some of the features of the bill such as ramped up drug treatment and services that he claims ownership of in the bill.
Biden pivots and rightly points out that the majority of the Congressional Black Caucus backed it out of fear of violent crime and drug plague hammering Blacks. He then does a quick fast forward to cite his array of criminal justice system and police reform-oriented proposals he’s put forth during the campaign.
It doesn’t change the past but it’s part mea culpa and bigger part hope that it gets Trump off his back, and does no damage among Black voters on November 3.
Trump, though, won’t go away on this. He senses a tiny opening with this that can be exploited to fuel the still very deep sting and resentment over the bill. There’s some cause for worry about that.
The draconian bill was the brainchild of Reagan and Bush Sr., they could not have gotten the bill through a mostly Democratic-controlled Congress. But then President Clinton did. He muscled it through Congress. The bill shelled out $22 billion to the states and feds to hire more police and prosecutors build new prisons, and courts, and establish crime commissions.
It criminalized thousands, mostly Blacks and Latinos, for petty crimes and drug possession, ignited the biggest prison-police boom in U.S history, spurred dozens of states to adopt three strikes laws, led to the deadly rash of racial profiling cases, and widened the gaping racial disparities in prison sentencing. The anti-crime legislative mania also tacitly encouraged more states to disenfranchise thousands of ex-felons. The law added more than 30 new provisions for the death penalty in federal law. To no surprise, the majority of those that await execution are Black men. In 1993, there were less than a half million blacks in America’s jails. That figure has soared to more than 2 million today with still about half of them Black.
Biden’s public pledge to change that takes the battle against crime in the direction that it should have gone even twenty years ago. And that’s putting massive resources into investment and repair in poor and minority communities, while committing to fight to end the blatant racial disparities in arrests, sentencing, imprisonment, and the death penalty that have become the trademark of the criminal justice system.
However, the damage that the bill wreaked is done. And Trump knows the bitterness that it has caused among many Blacks. He can take the issue twist and turn it around on Biden to the point of casting himself as some sort of Harriet Tubman liberator of Blacks from the shackle of mass incarceration. So, as Biden squirms on the crime bill, Trump parlays his threadbare record on criminal justice issues which include nothing more than after much arm twisting endorsing a Second Start and a handful of pardons of Black inmates.
The challenge then is not to hold Biden’s feet to the fire for a policy from the past that’s had and has bad consequences for the present. But to hold him feet to the flame to deliver on her pledge to push for meaningful criminal justice system reforms, and programs and initiatives to aid the urban poor once in the White House.
The crime bill will forever remain part of Clinton’s legacy, the good, and the much larger bad of it. Trump will cynically and calculatingly twist that odious history around and call Biden on the carpet for it. And hope that enough other Blacks do the same to dampen enthusiasm for him.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of What’s Right and Wrong with the Electoral College (Middle Passage Press)He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio-one. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK-Pacifica Radio.
The Black Hat: Ice Cube Wants Democrats to EARN the Black Vote – How’s That Make Him a Sellout?
It’s funny – when the quarantine was finally lifted, and clothing stores across the country were allowed to reopen, blacks far and wide emerged from their section 8 apartments and used their COVID relief money to buy GUCCI, Prada, Versace and other European brands created by old white, nigga-hating racists.
Be patient – I’m going somewhere with this …
That’s right – as I write this sentence, some fool in the ghetto is putting on his Louis Vuitton belt – it’s the newest addition to his collection of overpriced junk he’s purchased since the pandemic began.
Pookie and so many others like him are part of a lynch mob on Twitter bashing rapper Ice Cube for meeting with president Trump recently.
Here’s the irony behind it all: while these idiots pay thousands to wear brands created for WHITE PEOPLE, they still have the audacity to point their crusty, dusty, ashy fingers at Ice Cube. Why?
How could anyone with intelligence call this man a “sellout?
According to multiple sources, including his own Twitter page, Cube successfully negotiated a multi-billion dollar deal with the Trump administration aimed to empower Black America for YEARS to come. It’s called the “platinum plan.”
Don’t you niggas like platinum? You’ve been whining about “reparations” for decades. Why y’all fools complaining? He’s trying to HELP.
Who cares where the money is coming from. Does it matter? I didn’t see any of this energy back in April, when that stimulus check came in the mail. I thought y’all niggas hated Trump and the government. It hasn’t stopped you from using y’all’s EDD cards to buy crab legs and Escalades. That’s courtesy of Trump.
When did it become a rule that you have to “like” whoever you’re doing business with? Trump will never be compared to Nelson Mandela. He may very well be an undercover racist – but in the grand scheme of things, who gives a damn? Y’all niggas want help or what? Al Sharpton and his pal Jesse won’t be offering you the same deal anytime soon.
Why y’all mad?
It’s a sad reality – the black community is plagued by monolithic thinking, especially when it comes to issues surrounding race and politics. It’s gotten so ingrained, that if an individual publicly disagrees with or questions the black majority in any fashion, there are often swift and vicious consequences. Ice Cube is the latest example of what happens when a black independent thinker decides to challenge the status quo.
He asked a simple question: When will Democrats be required to EARN the black vote?
They’ve shown a lack of urgency to empower the neighborhoods and townships they govern. Nevertheless, black and brown communities led by Democrats routinely vote for the same politicians. It’s insanity.
Ice Cube went to another source for support, and now he’s being labeled a “sellout” for his efforts. How typical. Maybe he should’ve waited another 30 years for Democrats to finally reciprocate the support and loyalty they’ve received from minorities without having to EARN any of it.
Is that what it takes for a black individual to avoid being called a sellout – accepting the status quo?
In case some of y’all need help remembering just how “pro black” rapper Ice Cube has always been, let me remind you of his role as a founding member of the notoriously controversial 1980’s rap group “NWA” – Niggas With Attitude.
As teenagers, they created songs with lyrics that directly challenged the white power establishment in America, including their most popular and polarizing hit, “F*ck the Police.”
During his portion of the classic anthem, Cube laments racism’s impact on the welfare and social status of minorities, and he eviscerates law enforcement and the criminal justice system for its disproportionately harsh treatment of African Americans.
It’s some of the most “pro black” musicianship you’ll ever hear.
More than 30 years later, after helping to empower the careers and aspirations of several black performers via film and television – Cube finds himself in a rather precarious position as rumblings of his alleged “coonery” reverberate throughout the Black community.
That’s right – despite his contributions to hip hop and black culture as a whole, the successful mogul is being accused of turning his back on other minorities because of his recent dealings with president Donald Trump and the Republican Party.
It’s my understanding that Cube recently contacted Democrats and Republican leaders about drafting a official contract between themselves and African American voters. The stipulations were to include tangible and actionable steps both parties would take to accommodate the interests and concerns of African Americans.
According to the reports I’ve seen, Cube garnered tepid responses from Democrats (no surprise there), while Trump’s administration jumped at the opportunity to meet with him. It’s not a matter of Cube choosing one group over the other – he gave Democrats an opportunity to participate in the discussion and they passed on it.
I’m not aware of what he and Trump discussed, but it’s probably safe to assume that Cube expressed his frustration at how both parties routinely pander to black voters during every election cycle, while failing to actually deliver on any of the promises they make.
Nevertheless, even after explaining his intentions publicly, Cube is being thrown into a pile of black celebrity castaways. The list includes Kanye West, football hall-of-fame inductee and civil rights pioneer Jim Brown, and Steve Harvey.
These men were each given hell on social media for their interactions with the commander-in-chief, but is it fair to call them “sellouts” for merely thinking outside of the box?
Why do blacks scoff at the terms “monolith” and “groupthink,” even though evidence proves there’s a collective bias within the community against anyone who dares to step outside of certain norms and cultural traditions?
I could go on and on about why it’s problematic for black people to alienate one another based on their political affiliations. But it’s even more disheartening to witness a community spew hate and vitriol at one of their own simply because he’s choosing to ignore the political boundaries established for the black voter.
The Black Hat is written by Southern California based Cory A. Haywood, a freelance writer and expert on Negro foolishness. Contact him via: [email protected] and/or visit his blog: www.enterthehat.com, or send him a message on Twitter: @coryahaywood
Instead of Meaningful Commitment to Cube’s C.W.B.A., Trump’s Platinum Plan Disregards Rapper’s Most Innovative Ideas
*This past Tuesday, social media users were outraged to discover via Twitter that former N.W.A. member and “Are We There Yet?” actor, Ice Cube has collaborated with the Trump Administration. The news was revealed when Katrina Pierson, senior advisor to the Trump campaign publicly thanked the rapper using the social site for his assistance in consulting the Administration on its “Platinum Plan.”
Originally introduced at a campaign rally in Atlanta back in September, the Platinum Plan is an economic proposal intended for Black Americans with the goal of financially empowering them through four pillars: opportunity, security, prosperity, and fairness. According to Ice Cube, his involvement with the proposal came only after the teams of both Biden and Trump contacted him regarding interest in his own plan for Black Americans entitled “A Contract with Black America” (C.W.B.A.). However, this explanation did not suffice as the rap icon’s actions still left many of his followers appalled even prompting famed journalist, Roland Martin to question whether he got: “used politically for their purposes.”
Performing damage control with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Friday, Ice Cube elaborated further on his involvement saying, “One campaign said ‘We love what you have, but let’s really dig into [it] after the election.’ And one campaign said ‘We love what you have, do you mind talking to us about it?’ And that’s what I did, so I didn’t run to nobody”” (Vera, 2020, para.3).
Ice Cube’s “A Contract with Black America” is a twenty-two-page, thirteen-point, ambitious demand to politicians: “that strikes at the heart of racism and presents a blueprint to achieve racial economic justice” (Hamilton, 2020, para.1). Developed in July, a couple months after the murder of George Floyd, the C.W.B.A. extensively covers not only how to redress the wealth gap between Whites and Blacks through initiatives like federal funding of “baby bonds” and one-time interest free loans for home ownership, but also touches upon judicial and police reform solutions such as eliminating privately run prisons and abolishing qualified immunity for officers, respectively.
Overall, the C.W.B.A. is a mostly practical and very well-researched manifesto that thoroughly examines the sins of America against its Black citizenry and provides a list of solutions to rectify them.
Anyhow, two days before his interview with Cuomo, Ice Cube tweeted that the: “Trump campaign made some adjustments to their plan after talking to us about the CWBA.”
However, after viewing both his and the Trump Administration’s proposal for Black Americans, I can confidently say that very little of Cube’s suggestions went into the Platinum Plan. Trump’s proposal is nothing more than empty promises written in a vague manner to create false hope amongst Black voters in order to win over some of their ballots this election. Cube’s proposal addresses a wide range of topics such as reparations, the implementation of affirmative action at all educational institutions, mandatory civil rights and anti-racism classes at all elementary schools, changing the way schools are funded, a formal apology to Black Americans for past wrongs, revamping the credit score model, eliminating three strikes, removal of Confederate statues, and lots more. All subjects Trump’s plan either fails to touch on or fully implement.
The Platinum Plan is brief in its points and makes promises that simply could have been accomplished in Trump’s first term. For example, it promises to: “prosecute the KKK and ANTIFA as terrorist organizations and make lynching a national hate crime.” But, this is laughable coming from a President, who just two weeks ago at the first presidential debate had the opportunity to denounce white supremacy, but hesitated, telling one racist group to instead: “Stand back and stand by.”
Trump also had the chance to advocate on the part of an anti-lynching bill back in June, when Representative Bobby Rush introduced the Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act to Congress, specifically the House. The bill would of recognized lynching as a hate crime for the first time under federal law, however its passage through the Senate was blocked by Senator Rand Paul, who felt that it as too broad. Where was the President when this was happening? I’ll tell you, not caring in the White House.
Ice Cube’s C.W.B.A has many great ideas, but he is wasting his time if truly believes the current administration will fully implement any of his most significant recommendations in their proposal. President Trump is a walking contradiction, he will say anything if it means personal gain. Black voters should take heed this coming election.
EURweb.com, Everything Urban & RadioScope (formerly The Electronic Urban Report) Covering the Culture since 1997
David Anthony is a new graduate of Grand Canyon University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government. A self-designated history buff and random fact finder, David could rattle your ear for hours with information. Born and raised in the City of Angels he is a huge fan of the city’s culture and hometown NBA team, the L.A. Clippers. A future attorney, businessman, and civil servant, he hopes to be an impactful individual in life. Contact David: [email protected]
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