By Farayi Mungoshi
NOT every African American is as rich as the musicians and athletes we see on television, the majority are struggling, not because they opted for it but rather, they were beaten and hammered into submission over a lengthy period.
The lynchings carried out over the years in America were executed in order to keep negroes in ‘their place’.
And where is this, ‘their place’?
It is at the bottom of the food chain and beneath the whiteman’s foot.
White families would gather like they would at picnic spots just to watch African Americans get lynched.
They would bring out their little baskets, complete with food and drinks, merrily sit on the grass with their children, laughing and having a good time with their mates as they waited to watch the show (a human being getting hanged by the neck till death).
Imagine the kind of mentality the children watching this would grow up with?
How would they view blacks when they grew up; as human beings or as animals?
And what of the African American children who were also forced to watch these killings; what would they turn out to be?
Having been subjected to such traumatising experiences, what kind of a mindset would the little African Americans grow up with; that of a victor or a victim, strong or fearful?
One writer, after watching the Blackwall Street documentary (refer back to previous week’s edition), shared on how his grandmother, born in 1901, in Tulsa, lived through the lynching of 1921.
The writer says that he observed what he believed to be odd behaviour from his grandmother during the times he would visit her: “When dealing with bill collectors or those who claimed ‘authority’, she would always put her head down in a submissive manner and say, ‘yes sir or yes ma’am’.
So, I would ask her why she always looked to the ground when speaking to the whites or the ‘pale ones’ as I call them today, she would then look away with a sad far away look in her eyes that I did not quite understand and say: ‘Child be glad you live in a different time and place than I did,’ but never did she speak of the events that had shaped this behaviour as is natural in any PTSS (post traumatic stress syndrome patient usually brought on by war).”
I wonder how many, across the US, were affected in the same manner as Mama Dixon (as the writer affectionately called her).
Having witnessed such atrocities, very few are able to lift up their heads again and as a result, they remain unproductive and at the bottom of society, which is where these white supremacists want them to be.
It’s simple; how can a blackman who was brought to America to work the fields as a slave and turn out profits for his master suddenly become equal with his master?
How can he own businesses while the one he was brought in to serve is struggling and has no food on his table?
In Arkansas Delta, in 1919 between September 30 and October 1, over 237 African Americans were lynched in what became known as the ‘Elaine Massacre/The Elaine Race Riots’.
The similarities between the Elaine Race Riots and the Tulsa Lynching of 1921 are that, in both cases, whites were jealous of the money and wealth African Americans were creating.
According to David Kugler’s article of 2015 titled ‘America’s Forgotten Mass Lynching: When 237 People Were Murdered In Arkansas’, most blacks at that time worked as sharecroppers on land owned by whites.
Whites controlled the economic power and would in turn shortchange sharecroppers.
Arkansas Delta Attorney, Ulysses S. Bratton, in 1918, received a number of complaints from African Americans, of theft and exploitation by white landowners.
One sharecropper’s complaint best explains it all when he told of a landlord trying; “…to starve the people into selling the cotton at his own price. They ain’t allowing us down there room to move our feet except to go to the field”.
E.M. ‘Mort’ Allen was one such landlord. He controlled the local economy, government, law enforcement and the courts.
Allen and the county’s white landowners understood that their continued prosperity depended on the exploitation of black sharecroppers and labourers.
Such men still exist in the US; no wonder lots of black men are behind bars in the US today but some of us prefer not to see it.
Rape, murder and theft by a blackman at the turn of the 20th Century in the could not warrant mass murder but when blacks organised themselves businesswise and were creating wealth as well as accumulating possessions, the US retaliated by killing thousands of black folk and then tried to hide the truth.
Each time blacks organise themselves in business, just like the Jews have done in their communities, they are met with heavy resistance and are being killed for it.
The same people who cause the mayhem are the ones who own the newspapers, hence they always try to hide the facts.
More than 6 000 blacks were arrested in Tulsa on June 1 despite the fact that it was the Ku Klax Klan and white mobs who instigated the riots there.
A blackman could only be set free upon being vouched for by a white person, without which one was expected to remain imprisoned.
In the Elaine Race Riots, 122 were arrested and even though official reports put the death toll at 237, it is believed over 800 were killed just like it is believed 1 000 to
1 500 were killed in Tulsa.
Why all this killing?
The reason goes beyond putting blacks in ‘their place’ or making them feel inferior but rather it is because these whites are driven by fear. Fear of the capabilities of black folk.
They don’t want us working together because the moment we do, our true abilities and power will be unleashed.
Hunhu/ubuntu says: ‘I am because we are. We are because I am’.
Our place is not at the bottom of the food chain or under the whiteman’s feet.
Thus, let us draw our lessons from the people of Tulsa/Blackwall Street, from Muammar Gaddafi, Nkwame Nkrumah and the other founding fathers of Africa that we cannot rise higher than the lowest blackman but together we can reach such heights and realms we never knew existed.