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Dr. Joyce Watford and Norris Shelton, Educators and Descendants of America’s Slaves

August 27, 2016

PART II: The Unfinished Legacy of America’s Slavery

Gaining access to the Economic Battlefield is the challenge for the Descendants of America’s Slaves in the 21st Century.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., informed us before his untimely death that the next frontier in our Civil Rights Revolution was the “Economic Battlefield”—the prominent, most compelling component of the unfinished legacy of America’s Slavery.

Unfortunately, for us, Dr. King was assassinated before he could lead us there. And, ironically, for the majority members of the collective group of the Descendants of America’s Slaves, their losses have become insurmountable, as they have lagged behind other groups in pursuit of their American Dreams.

Our country’s first foundation of wealth, prosperity, and then national security was built upon America’s first industry of wealth and power, which was its Slave Industry! American Slaves and their descendants made the abovementioned events happen because they alone made up and sustained America’s Slave Trade Industry!  Yet America’s Slaves and their descendants remain to this day undocumented, unrewarded, and unidentified in our nation’s progress and prosperity! A most wicked andevil system against the nation’s first offspring (the slaves and their descendants) lives on in present-day life. America’s Slaves and their descendants are still an undocumented people—hidden under layers of deceit, secrecy, omissions, and lies—creating and perpetuating the shame of a nation!

The unfinished legacy of America’s Slavery continues to play out in the nation’s gang-like, over-the-top partisan, divisive politics; racial and social unrest; and racial and economic disparities, affecting us still, even in 2016 America.  A case in point is the police shootings primarily in urban, inner city areas, where large populations of Descendants of American Slaves fled to and/or migrated to, from the plantations in the South, after chattel slavery was abolished, and where many are still structurally corralled  and contained today. An attitude toward police and policing sprang up immediately after the slaves were freed, without any provisions for their basic needs. Necessitated by the times and the newly created social conditions, rising from roaming slaves with no place to go and nothing to do, combined with the urgent need to keep “law and order” in society for the protection and safety of whites in their spaces, a dangerously blind bias toward police and policing was thrust into being, which held police and policing unaccountable and above public reproach. We are still living with this dangerously blind bias toward police and policing, as in the days after slavery and during Jim Crow times.  Police patrol, in our urban, inner city areas, is, for the most part, still carried out in the traditional, historical roles of the police, in regards to the slaves and their descendants. Those roles were limited to racial containment, racial subordination control (in relation to white superiority), and racial punishment.  These roles are the crux of the police-black conflicts we are increasingly experiencing today. Because many blacks today, in urban, inner cities, are forced to live in ways that are not too dissimilar from the plight newly freed slaves faced, after the Civil War, they have not had equal access to meaningful economic opportunities for decades and are trying to eek out a living by any means necessary.  Police know that; and, consequently, they view these Descendants of American Slaves—whom they perceive as dangerous and criminal—as threats to decent, law abiding, white society. Consequently, whenever some members of the police have to confront members of the Descendants of American Slaves (DAS), they do so with the intent to harm, exploit, and/or kill.  If they do not shoot to kill DAS, they  go out of  their way to harass and place heavy fines on DAS which DAS are, likely, unable to pay and subsequently are sentenced to jail and/or prison time. Moreover, DAS are racially profiled and/or targeted disproportionately as alternative sources of revenue for metro (and county) governments, through a system of citations and fines. These details provide a window to understanding the historic, systemic, adversarial relations behind the violent clashes, erupting all too frequently, in police-related confrontations with DAS and their neighborhoods/communities. 

Racial and structural forms of discrimination have always been the distinguishing characteristic of urban, inner city communities in America. Even though governing administrators make every effort to conceal racial, structural discrimination, the poverty that these forms of discrimination leave behind in urban, inner city areas, is unmistakable. Because of oppression and rampant racism, discrimination, and economic depression, today, poverty has reached a crisis stage; but because poverty is structurally concentrated in neighborhoods inhabited by the Descendants of America’s Slaves, economic desperation is characteristically ignored by political movers and shakers. The historic, systemic, political pattern is to ignore or deny the economic deprivations Descendants of America’s Slaves endure and have endured for over four centuries.  Those whites (and blacks!), who are in positions to effect change, addressing the sufferings of DAS, either misunderstand or just simply choose to ignore economic-related sufferings that DAS confront on a daily basis, generation-after-generation.

At the heart of structural inner-city poverty is the hidden identity of DAS, which seals their legacy and birthright behind stone walls which block their access to racial and economic equality and prosperity, available to other American groups. The legacy and birthright of DAS are hidden in a shroud of “undocumentation” that conceals their existence and true origin. Even among themselves, DAS have many questions and confusion about their origin and identity: Who are they? How do they differ from all other American groups? Is their history unique among Americans? Where did they come from?  Where are they going?  What prospects await them? Why have they undergone so many name-changes in their short cultural life-span? They were once recognized as “Colored,” then branded as “Negroes,” and now documented into record as “African Americans” and “Minority.”  What is their true identity?

These questions have haunted DAS (and most other Americans) for centuries because of the secrecy, lies, and deliberate cover-ups around DAS’ true origin and identity. Answers to these questions require all Americans to address the questions collectively and impartially, with moral conscience, responsibility, and fairness, and with the intent to face up to and remediate a national past which, after centuries later, continues to compromise our national identity and interests. By confronting that past which continues to drag the country down and reflect negatively on its national and global image—which has been cast in deceit, bigotry, and dishonesty—the United States can exploit a unique opportunity to lead, by providing a transformative example for the rest of the world governments to follow in bringing about change, restoration, and redemption to their governments. (Given the state of world affairs today, caused by many countries stuck in archaic ways of inhumane governing, the United States could become a model (a paragon!) of change for them, showing them how to rectify a dangerous, ugly past, in order to move forward with clean slates.  Imagine the peace and harmony such a move could bring to the world!) 

The unfinished legacy of America’s Slavery causes the country’s greatness to be compromised by fraud and secrecy to avoid responsibility for committing acts of inhumanity against its own people. If the truth about DAS were really conscientiously and morally confronted, there is no doubt that racial and structural inner-city poverty and despair among DAS would be remedied. The benefits to the collective group (as well as to all Americans) could be vastly profitable for the reasons below:

The birth of American Slaves is truly a hallowed event. Their initiation into the human race is sealed in the cornerstone of America's foundation. Their contribution to America's success is preserved in the underpinning of America's economic wealth. Yet, in spite of their economic and cultural contributions, Descendants of American Slaves have never been allowed to equitably share the fruits of their forbearers' labor.

Misidentifying DAS by mislabeling them as “African American” and/or “minority” makes it easy for others to malign and undermine DAS—by diverting to front-line companies and migrant cultures—economic help that is earmarked for inner-city development in DAS’ neighborhoods. Dumping Descendants of America’s Slaves into “minority” programs is misleading and culturally deceptive. The reasons are that immigrant cultures qualify for racial assistance because they are specifically documented, while DAS are not. Immigrant cultures are on record as being disadvantaged and are legally qualified to receive minority program/group assistance. DAS are not. The unfinished legacy of America’s Slavery which causes economic suppression/oppression to DAS has had a devastating, demoralizing effect on them.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking so memorably of the national economic neglect of DAS, said, "This is a bill, addressed to the nation that has come due." Interest is accumulating. The Economic Battlefield is where Descendants of American Slaves must collect the huge debt that's owed to them. It's way overdue.

Presently, the United States is a simmering pot in which hostilities from American Slavery (which was a lucrative business venture) still simmer. The root cause of racial hostilities is economic drought among DAS and economic hoarding among whites. Cultural and economic discontentment often spirals out of control and results in racial conflicts that lead to inner-city violence, such as is visited upon us now in 2016. Descendants of America’s Slaves, the foundation builders of America's economic wealth, are lacking in organizational structure and void of internal leadership (the result of “Divide and Conquer"—the unfailing white supremacy strategy to control other groups). Consequently, DAS have no control over their most basic economic needs. The masses of Descendants of American Slaves continuously live their daily lives in poverty, fear, and disillusion, from one generation to the next. Crime and decay are now escalating out of control all over America. Innocent children perpetually die in diverse skirmishes of a war, started long ago, in slavery. Deep-rooted racial bias continues to exact a toll in lost opportunity and wasted potential among DAS. The economic drought among DAS has far-reaching ramifications which create a profound unease in our already unstable national affairs.

In all their American diversity, the mantle of the oppressor still hangs heavily upon Descendants of American Slaves who, like their American counterparts, also would love to have freedom and economic prosperity. However, the tyrannical clutches of white supremacy and abject economic neglect cause structural economic stagnation in DAS’ communities and neighborhoods. The end result is that our inner-cities remain wastelands of oppression and economic depression. The present racial and structural inequalities are in part a residue from an earlier time when people of principle acquiesced to racist tyrants who gained affluence from human capital and who, in character, gave back in the form of free reign to oppressive greed. The current racial disparities among blacks and whites today are shameful reminders of the persistent exploitation that American Slaves and now their descendants have always suffered.

American Slaves never received the same investment in recovery as whites were given in governmental catastrophes.  The Slave Industry reformed society with captive forced-labor which took its toll on slave life in the forms of early deaths; horrific physical, sexual, mental, and emotional abuses; perpetual, generational post-traumatic stress disorders, stemming from past and present race-related traumas and fallouts (which they are subjected to at a disproportionately higher level and rate than are other American groups); abject negligence of basic needs; destruction of slave families, and other unimaginable acts of horror and terror, too many to cite here. However, there have never been acknowledgments and/or atonements for the epic—astronomical—injuries to America’s Slaves and DAS. For many DAS, not realizing they are the victims of slavery and should be compensated for captive forced-labor, DAS instead bear the perpetrator's shame of slavery and accept redundant poverty as payment for hundreds of years of inescapable toil and injuries. The chronic inequalities that stem from American Slavery are no longer acceptable on any level, by or for anyone, for any reason, which also extends unacceptability to, of, and for the people who profited and continue to profit from the exploitations of slavery.

The reason that DAS continue to lose economic ground while other groups, especially whites, gain and/or maintain, can be attributed to historic, systemic, deeply entrenched and/or unexamined acceptance of the fallouts from exploitations of slavery, as the following statistics reveal.

From 2007-2009, during the Economic Recession, the wealth of blacks fell 53% while the wealth of whites fell only 16%.  Blacks fell behind whites on every indicator, which is troubling, since we have seen a significant rise in the number of blacks with college education (as well as a significant rise in the number of self-made wealthy blacks, including millionaires and billionaires!) than ever before in our history, beginning  with the 1960s. What needs to be addressed, today, then, in understanding blacks’ collective lag behind the collective group of whites is to find “real-life proof” of answers to the question: Why are blacks as a collective group still significantly not employed and/or earning and gaining equal to whites as a collective group? The answer certainly is not found in the standard reply, “We can’t find any qualified blacks!”—which may be at the crux of explaining and understanding why the stats below continue to reveal troubling economic gaps between the collective groups of blacks and whites.


FROM 2005 TO 2009





Wealth among whites remains the highest among all groups in the United States.Household wealth is the accumulated sum of assets, such as houses, cars, savings and checking accounts, stocks and mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc., minus the sum of debts, such as in mortgages, personal loans, auto loans, credit cards, etc.  The statistics reveal that whites had more assets and fewer debts than blacks, while blacks had fewer assets and more debts than whites.

Quality of life by race also reveals stark disparities between whites and blacks, as the table below indicates:


According to the Blair Center of Southern Politics & Society and the Clinton School of Public Service, statistical data revealed that the quality of life for whites greatly surpasses the quality of life for blacks.  Below are some common indicators and accompanying measurements, showing differences:

Primary insurance is Medicaid                            3.90% white

                                                                                    12.80% black

Own Home                                                              76.00% white

                                                                                    46.00% black

Earned Bachelor’s Degree                                    21.00% white

                                                                                     13.00% black

Earn Less than $35,000                                      27.50% white

                                                                                     55.00% black

Laid Off/Looking for Work                                    9.00% white

                                                                                      19.00% black

The statistical data noted above are dated and do not reflect the increasing gaps that have persisted between blacks and whites since 2009.  The gaps have predictably grown larger, not smaller, because they are driven by historic, systemic white supremacy and racism which have not stopped affecting DAS the most and which, moreover, are in full-force against all of us, as intended in the white supremacists' pushback and/or resistance to our Second Civil Rights Revolution of the '60s and which is documented in (white) Southern Strategy, that "blacks get hit the hardest," in the scheme to continue Jim Crow practices into the 21st Century and to appease angry white voters. And, do we ever get hit the hardest!  Furthermore, while some of us continue to nap, but wake up just long enough to glorify in the race-related symbolisms and then dance a jig to the tired and worn out tunes of "divide and conquer," white haters were/are still scheming  to hide and secure their racism and white supremacy obsessions in this millennium by reinventing the KKK and calling it by a new name,  "Alt-Right"!  Let's wake up, brothers and sisters, and understand that napping is a luxury we can ill afford, these days!

Leveraging and/or revealing the true racial identity of DAS will tell the world who they truly are and why they continue to struggle in poverty, lagging behind whites and other American groups, centuries after slavery was supposedly abolished.

The supposedly end of slavery and the re-invention of the United States as a “raceless, color-blind nation,” where everyone has equal access to economic opportunities, leading to wealth and prosperity and the American Dream, never materialized collectively for DAS. That United States of America has never existed for DAS, collectively. 

It is believed that confronting and revealing the true racial identity of DAS will begin to peel away layers of lies, deceit, and neglect, which have kept DAS from an equal share of the American pie.  The deliberate undocumentation, secrecy, hypocrisy, and lack of moral and legal responsibility to DAS have contributed to why and how DAS have historically and systemically been left behind.  Lifting these veils and finally confronting responsibly what is underneath will then begin to propel DAS onto the Economic Battlefield that Dr. King envisioned where DAS will win their birthright, positioning them to claim equally, once and for all, opportunities to share in their birth-country’s wealth and prosperity, made possible by America’s first industry—the Slave Industry, sustained solely by their American Slave ancestors. 

© 2016

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