It sucks being black.

While the United States fights over "undocumented" immigrants, our black citizen's suffering often goes unnoticed. Here's a story about two brothers that spent eight years fighting dispossession of their family from land that had been in their family for generations. They fought the case from jail, becoming two of the longest-serving inmates for civil contempt in U.S. history. Eight years.

Between 1910 and 1997, African Americans lost about 90% of their farmland. This problem is a major contributor to America’s racial wealth gap; the median wealth among black families is about a tenth that of white families.

Source: Their Family Bought Land One Generation After Slavery. The Reels Brothers Spent Eight Years in Jail for Refusing to Leave It. -- ProPublica, 7/15/2019

Another recent hot topic has been the pay disparity between female and male soccer (football, for non-US readers) players. While rightly a subject worthy of discussion and correction, many black families wish their problems were so simple. Gender pay disparity is a first-world issue, and a lot of American blacks don't even feel as if they're welcome in the first-world.

A group of economists and statisticians recently calculated that, since 1910, black families have been stripped of hundreds of billions of dollars because of lost land. Nathan Rosenberg, a lawyer and a researcher in the group, told me, “If you want to understand wealth and inequality in this country, you have to understand black land loss.”

The Reels brothers expected to argue their case in court. Instead, the judge ordered them sent to jail, for civil contempt.

By the time of Melvin and Licurtis’ hearing in 2011, they had spent decades fighting to keep the waterfront on Silver Dollar Road. They’d been warned that they would go to jail if they didn’t comply with a court order to stay off the land, and they felt betrayed by the laws that had allowed it to be taken from them. They had been baptized in that water. “You going to go there, take my dreams from me like that?” Licurtis asked on the stand. “How about it was you?”

After the Civil War, General Sherman issued an order declaring that 400,000 acres formerly held by Confederates be given to African Americans — what came to be known as the promise of “40 acres and a mule.” Then Congress passed the Southern Homestead Act, opening up an additional 46 million acres of public land to former slaves and union supporters.

Naturally, white people were outraged.

A white supremacist backlash spread across the South. At the end of the 19th century, members of a movement who called themselves Whitecaps, led by poor white farmers, accosted black landowners at night, beating them or threatening murder if they didn’t abandon their homes. ... Ray Winbush, the director of the Institute for Urban Research, at Morgan State University, told me, “There is this idea that most blacks were lynched because they did something untoward to a young woman. That’s not true. Most black men were lynched between 1890 and 1920 because whites wanted their land.”

I'm at risk of running out of fair use privilege, so I recommend that you read the entire article. It's a reminder that the generous and compassionate hearts of Americans often become less so when it comes to the treatment of our black fellow citizens.

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Raggedy Ann's picture

I have to agree with your essay title. Pleasantry

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"When will our conscience's grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?" Eleanor Roosevelt

"The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new." Socrates (469-399 BC)

mimi's picture

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