In a recent interview Vice President, Pence was asked this question, “is it harder for black Americans to make in this country?” It took him three minutes and 446 words to not answer the question a simple question. This part of Pence’s answer I found interesting:
“Brian, I mean Biden says everybody ought to have a fair shot at the American Dream, well would say ‘well, why don’t you support allowing African American families to choose where their kids go to school?’”
I can see where some people would believe Pence is posing a fair question. School choice is one of the many counterfeit choices Republicans always put forth. He seems to forget black families always wanted their children to choose where their kids go to school.
Like in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1957, black families wanted to exercise their rights for their children to go to the school of their choice Central High School. But, people who looked a lot like Pence seem to have a problem with that. So much so President Eisenhower had to send in the National Guard.
It seems there was a little thing called segregation that lots of people who looked like Pence believed in. To such a level, they didn’t want anyone who was black to have that choice. Strange, thinking people might see that as systemic racism, or in keeping with the tone of the question, one of the many things that made it harder for black Americans to make it in this country.
Let’s not stop with this example. Before Little Rock, there was a work stoppage that affected wartime production because of the promotion of eight people. Under the headline: Eight black transit workers get promoted. Thousands of white workers walk off the job.
Dustin Waters writes:
“The black transit workers’ promotions to motormen quickly triggered a mass walkout by some 4,500 of their white counterparts. For six days that August, trolleys, and buses sat idle. The subway stopped. So did one of the country’s leading wartime manufacturing centers.”
“Many of the men and women employed in the war effort couldn’t reach their jobs on the first full day of the walkout. The federal government’s War Department announced that the strike had “seriously affected the production of radar, heavy artillery, heavy ammunition, military trucks, bombs, and other
Waters’ piece provides additional data that helps to answer the question posed to Pence, but let’s not stop but continue with two examples from Fredrick Douglass’s autobiography. You know that person Trump* said was doing great work.
Douglass provides a vivid account of income denial that is somewhat similar to Waters article:
The real test of civilization of the community came when I applied for work at my trade, and then my repulse was emphatic and decisive. It so happened that Mr. Rodney Frenc, a wealthy and enterprising citizen, distinguished as an anti-slavery man, was fitting out a vessel for a whaling voyage, upon which there was a heavy job of calking and coppering to be done. I had some skill in both branches and app0lied to Mr. French for work. He, generous man that he was, told me he would employ me, and I might go at once t the vessel. I obeyed him, but upon reaching the float-stage, where other calkers were at work, I was told that every white man would leave the ship in unfinished condition if I struck a blow at my trade upon her.
This uncivil inhuman and selfish treatment was not so shocking and scandalous in my eyes at the time as it now appears to me. Slavery had inured me to hardships that made ordinary trouble sit lightly upon me. Could I have worked at my trade, I could have earned two dollars a day, but as a common laborer, I received by one dollar. The difference was of great importance to me, but I could not get two dollars. I was glad to get on, and so I went to work for Mr. French as a common laborer.
Ship caulking was a skilled labor job, as such, and in 1838 making two dollars a day was the equivalent of 55 dollars a day when considering inflation.
Douglass was skilled at doing ship caulking, which paid him two dollars a day, presumably the same as white men. Instead of accepting another skilled caulker, the white workers decided not to continue working on the ship if Douglass was doing the same job as them. They told the owner if he set foot on the boat to do the same work as a caulker, they would not continue. So not allowed to work at this trade, Douglass had to work as common labor that paid one dollar a day. Making it harder for him as a black to get ahead.
Douglass provides us with additional information to answer the question posed to Pence. Writing the following:
“Nothing appeared to make my poor mistress – after her turning toward the downward path – more angry, than seeing me seated in some nook or corner, quietly reading a book ora newspaper. I have had her rush at me with the utmost fury, and snatch from my hand such newspaper or book, with something of the wrath and consternation which a traitor might be supposed to feel on being discovered in a plot by some dangerous spy.
Mrs. Auld was an apt woman, and the advice of her husband, and her own experience, soon demonstrated, to her entire satisfaction, that education and slavery are incompatible with each other. When this conviction was thoroughly established, I was most narrowly watched in all my movements. If I remained in a separate room from the family for any considerable length of time, I was sure to be suspected of having a book, and was at once called upon to give an account of myself.”
A note of particular interest, before Mrs. Auld’s relentless obsession to prevent young Douglass from reading, she was a strong advocate of his pursuit even teaching him herself. That is until her husband discovered what she was doing and told her the following:
“To use his own words, further, he said if you give a n****r an inch, he will take an ell, he would know nothing but the will of his master and learn to obey it. Learning would spoil the best n****r in the world, if you teach that nigger how to read the bible there will be no keeping him, it would forever unfit him for the duties of a slave and as to himself learning would do him no good, but probably a great deal of harm making him disconsolate and unhappy. If you learn him how the read, he’ll want to know how to write, and this accomplished, he’ll be running away with himself.”
The common and accepted attituded of slave owners. The people they held in bondage were not deemed worthy of learning to read and write. It would make them unfit for the duties they were supposed to do as property. After property doesn’t exist to think, it’s there to enhance its owners’ wealth and well-being.
So in the eyes of Mrs. Auld’s husband, Douglass wasn’t in their household to learn how to read and write, but there to serve them in the way and manner he deemed fit.
To Auld, and others like him, American didn’t exist for slaves to advance, that was only for white men and women such as himself and his wife.
So when the reporter asked Pence the question, “is it harder for black Americans to make in this country?” his rambling answer suggests he knows the answer but is too afraid to say it. So allow me Mr. Pence: Yes, it is harder for African-Americans to make it in this country.
Just went through another serious relapse of the one-niner.I figure that I’ll be fried monkey meat by Christmas, Big Daddy.
I guess that I was born with a defect: I never could see any difference between black men and white. “A man is just a man”. “The color of a man’s skin is of no more significance, than the color of his eyes.”
I learned to talk the Jive in Memphis, and I’ve been busting the same blow for 60 years – and pretty consistently getting my ass kicked. It was worth it!
I agree with Professor Chomsky, this is the turning point. We have just had enough of racism. It’s so stupid.
For far too long, we have had all this pent up pentupness. This country is aching to be reborn. So many claim our greatness, often men whose lives repudiate it. It is a very simple proof: “We will never be great until every American admits to the wrong of slavery, and proudly proclaims our brotherhood.” We will never be great until we can look at a policeman and say “I love you brother, and I respect your courage, and your sacrifice; but Man, we need to talk!”
It’s nearly impossible to write now, the bug took my vision, and I guess some of my focus. But not my passion.
Have a great life,everyone! If I could give one bit of parting advice, it can be expressed in one word: “Believe!”
“We have lingered in the chambers of the sea…” (It means: “Stop listening to the voices that tell how magnificent you, and the works of Man are, and strive to be fully formed humans, as God intended – before it’s too late!”)
The USA was formed and established for white European immigrants. They “discovered” a land where beings had inhabited for centuries, but EUROPEANS “discovered” it. Although ALL people of color have been oppressed, exploited and excluded in the USA, indigenous people (those who were here before anyone else) and black people (those who were kidnapped and brought here as slaves) have suffered the most.
EVERYONE knows the truthful answer to that question. The person who asked it knew the answer. It was a rhetorical question that was obviously intended to start a conversation. A conversation that many white people are fearful of, any many simply want to ignore. To be sure, we have always moved in the direction of a more perfect Union, although it has been a very slow process. I recall Condi Rice commenting that the Constitution did not have people like her in mind when it was established. Clearly, she was absolutely correct in that people like her were not considered as “people”.
The good news is the ignorance of white Americans is literally DYING. As of 2017 the majority of new births in the USA were non-whites and non-Hispanic whites are dying at greater numbers than other ethnicities. What does this mean? One thing it means is that people who actually lived in a government sanctioned segregated society are dying, and those who never experienced that environment are less likely to harbor racist attitudes.
TOCB, good to hear from you. I appreciate your insightful comments on this post.
While it’s not unexpected, Pence skirted answering the question. It does place a spotlight on how many like Pence will do all they can to ignore the issue.
I believe it’s because to state the truth, they will have to acknowledge the continuing ugly history of racism. It’s like a musty smell one attempts to get rid of with air fresheners to no avail, so it lingers, and one becomes inured.
Your Condi Rice reference to the 3/5th rule reminded me of this statement made by Justice Taney in his Dred Scott ruling, “no rights or privileges but such as those who held power and the government chose to grant them.”
Both these were rectified by the passage of the 13th 14th and 15th amendments. While these amendments were crafted to correct the wrongs of slavery and racism, they didn’t remove its lingering stench.
I will have more to say. Thanks again for taking time to read and comment on the piece.
A very current blog post says that Trump still thinks that the virus is a hoax. You know, in a bizarrely strang way, that’s the truth. The Response, at least, probably was a hoax. Pence was a plant as the Chief. He never really did his job, he hamstrung his professional partner’s who knew what to do, and he lied…like a Trump. And Trump was lying like a dog the whole time. And Trump could never believe that anything that didn’t fit his plan for global domination could even exist. Pence was in charge, he was officially elevated to the position by Trump. He had a responsibility, we all depended on him. All our lives were at stake. And he didn’t even make an effort – except to run the response off the rails. I’ll admit that sometimes I speak in superlatives, but you know: this, if true, actually is treasonous, and murder. Pence could have said, “I can’t,” or “I won’t,” but he said, “I will; and we put our lives in his hands.This isn’t just another lie, this is inhuman, monstrous. His fanatical religious beliefs, and his native cruelty, drove him to commit the most hideous crime in American history. He didn’t care. He never thought about the suffering.This can’t be passed off as a joke. Pence is, “the Plague Spreader,” and a mass murderer. He and Trump have just admitted it: they insanely, stupidly never believed that a pandemic existed. I know that Trump is: “the Chosen One,” and all that sacrilegious garbage, but Pence should be impeached and spend the rest of his life in prison. He admitted it. There was talk today about how treason carries a possible death sentence, they just had the wrong object.
Excellent article, twilson117!
I’d suggest that it is an intentional ignorance that many in the White Elite express. They know full well that they are beneficiaries of racism and they want to keep it that way. But admitting that would of course be pouring gasoline on the fires of inequity so they instead play a very cynical and harmful game of claiming they don’t see any bias.
The BS includes using Pres. Obama’s two terms as proof we’re past racism, holding up the exceptions to the rule of black millionaires like Oprah, LeBron, etc. and waving the flag saying that America is the land of opportunity for anyone of any race.
And that slavery thing, that Jim Crow thing and the current disenfranchising of black voters, nothing to see here.
It’s a passive aggressive evil. And as the BLM/George Floyd protests show, most Americans who don’t wear red caps and don’t call screaming a conversational tone aren’t buying it anymore. Change is coming now and it will take many years to take hold but Republicans feigning ignorance of institutionalized racism in order to protect it, aren’t going to get away with it anymore.
Thank you for taking time to comment on this piece. I appreciate your input.
When writing this I couldn’t help but think of the years of outright racist bigotry that has permeated the American culture since it’s inception.
It’s difficult to read articles and hear these tired tropes about electing the first Black President as the absolvement of four centuries of racist behavior.
I don’t know what it is that people do not understand regarding the treatment of people regardless of the skin pigmentation, to a point of denying them the opportunity to fully participate in the country.
The belief the US is supposed to be a “white” only country such a flawed premise it’s beyond ridiculous.
I have more to say about recent events and will be posting additional pieces soon. Thank you for provide me the opportunity to express my views.
Ever been to East Saint Louis, or Southside? Small towns in Mississippi or Alabama? Do you have any idea what the employment rate is. (I’m speaking to the public.)
Ever had friends who never really had a chance to thrive. Ever known a black person who wanted the best of everything for their children, the best education, the best life, but who worried themselves to death because they felt like they had failed them.
Ever see a mom desperately watching the clock after school, because their child could be running with a gang?.Ever live in a 20th floor walk-up? Ever work until you are 65 years old, riding the bus five miles to clean and cook for a family that lives five miles away; and everyone on the bus is doing the same thing?
Have you ever cut pulp wood, where loading 16 tons is a child’s portion. Ever live in the “quarters,” where preventive healthcare is unknown?
Have you ever stood meekly, and been called, “one of them,” as though you were not really an American?
Have you ever been told that you don’t have a soul?
But then, have you ever been to church in Jackson, where the sound of the choir is glorious, transportive? With dinner “on the grounds.” Where everyone sings, and children play.
Have you ever seen the charred remains of an A.M.E. church?
I have always been ashamed of our racism and brutishness. How can we claim greatness with a president and vice president who hardly acknowledge the existence of black people, but honor endlessly Andrew Jackson, and Robert E. Lee? How dare we call ourselves Americans, in the tradition of Jefferson, and and Lincoln. It has to stop.
Steppenwolf, as always a very thoughtful response.
Your provoking questions cause one to reflect and think. Something I wish more would do when this topic of racism.
For such a complex and painful topic, the ultimate solution is rather simple, yet people dance around it. Just get f**k out of the way. Let people work. Let them be what they’ve always waned to be contributing members to the society they are part of. Trust that they will live by the laws that society deemed necessary.
Stop inhibiting their ability to start and grow a business, own a home, and send their children to good schools, that theri tax dollars pay for.
Why is that difficult for so many white people?
As always I appreciate your comments and thanks for reading the article.
Those who harbor racist views and feel guilty from it are those grasping for false “proof” that racism is over and not an issue. Sort of the Trump-Covid-19 thing, if we stop testing, the numbers will show it’s gone away. They try to push, if we stop talking about racism, it doesn’t exist anymore.
They have the minds of toddlers who haven’t learned object permanence yet.
The bottom line is, those who want to keep the status quo of embedded racism that benefits them while wanting to claim they aren’t immoral, are the ones intentionally trying to stretch that lie around reality.
As Kipling described, this mentality of White Man’s Burden is all about bigotry and oppression. It hasn’t gone anywhere, the slave states still are filled with modern-day would-be slavers. Things haven’t changed enough since the U.S. was founded on the backs of slaves.
The momentum is on the side of justice right now, thanks to people of conscience and it must continue to be generated through Nov, year after year until all the big steps are taken to address this institutional racism. And until those who demonstrate racism are chased into the shadows and intimidated out of propagating it.
I’m really looking forward to your upcoming posts!
AdLib, appreciate your kind words on my post.We truly live in interesting times. I will be writing something soon.
BRAVO, twilson 117 — Q.E.D.! Quod erat demonstrandum (What was to be shown).
No greater proof of “Yes, it is harder for African-Americans to make it in this country” is required, and no greater proof of Pence’s racism and moral
degeneracy is needed than his blatantly transparent failure to answer the
NoManIsAnIsland, thank you for your kind words. I must admit it’s the first time someone used QED to one of my posts. Very much appreciated.
You’re most welcome, twilson 117. And while I must admit
it’s the first time I’ve ever written Q.E.D. at all, let alone in
a post, it’s still part of my vocabulary — having been firmly
planted there as a legacy of my six years of Latin classes
from the seventh through twelfth grade!