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.