Unit 1: In All of Us – Witnessing Whiteness
Tree Angel, Mt. Monadnock 2021 ~rch
First some good news and something you might not know about.
Approximately 1.2 million Black Americans served in the military during World War II but most were blocked from receiving the benefits of the GI bill that provided four years of college tuition, cheap low interest, zero-down-payment home loans etc. Of course this denial radically impacted the accumulation of wealth, professionalism and prosperity for future generations.
The good news is that Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., and Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., introduced the GI Bill Restoration Act Thursday. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., is expected to introduce the bill in the Senate. If passed, it would extend access to the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program and the Post-911 GI Bill’s education benefits to the surviving spouse and/or certain direct descendants of Black WWII veterans.
We now will start to examine WHERE the attitudes and behaviors come from in the past and where they reside here and now that demonstrate the importance of saying publicly that Black Lives Matters.
This module explores the places and spaces in our society and ourselves where things started and were incubated to grow into where we are today. History is important as it can tell us where we have been, the lessons we don’t have to repeat, and something about the likelihood of where we are heading, especially if we are able to see different perspectives, including the nuance and the shadow. It’s important to understand the history of white supremacy because learning who we were, tells us the unconscious aspect of who we are.
It is also important to remember that history is now. When Harriet Tubman was born, Thomas Jefferson was alive and Ronald Reagan was alive when she died. For those with internet access click here:
ALL OF US are affected. We are like fish swimming in an ocean who would be unable to identify themselves as wet, just so it’s hard for white America to understand how deeply white supremacy is a part of who we are. Click here to see the video the Legacy of Jim Crow (you might want to think about playing for a small group sometime.)
White Supremacy has been woven into the very fabric of the United States existence from the first beginnings up to today. This is clear when we examine the ideas of the one person that generation after generation has looked to as a role model, an exemplary individual who parents hope their children will emulate, a person who sets the moral compass for the country; the President of the United States. Few people can name even one famous athlete or singer from the 1800’s but almost everyone can name at least a couple of the Presidents during that period. Below is an edited version. Click here for a more complete list.
- 1st President — George Washington 1789-1797 kept slaves who he rotated between Philadelphia (the capital at that time) and his plantation in Virginia every six months, because of a Pennsylvania law that allowed slaves to sue for freedom after more than six months in the state. He ordered General John Sullivan to “destruct” and “devastate” as many Native American settlements as possible. “It will be essential to ruin their crops in the group and prevent their planting more”. (see the Journey of Healing Section about the consequences)
- (Eleven Presidents following Washington owned slaves.)
- 7th President — Andrew Jackson 1829-1837 founded the Democratic Party with a large coalition of southern slaveholders. To protect slavery, Jackson called on Congress to pass a law prohibiting “under severe penalties, the circulation…of incendiary publications.” referring to antislavery tracts.
- 11th President Polk 1845-1849 leaned on the racist idea of the “Monroe doctrine” (5th President — James Monroe) when his administration waged the Mexican American War (1846-1848), framed as bringing freedom and civilization to the backward Mexicans. The outcome was that U.S. seized from Mexico nearly all of what is now the American Southwest.
- 16th President Abraham Lincoln in 1858 at his fourth debate with Stephen Douglas in Charleston, Illinois. “I am not, nor even have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races—that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people…and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”
- 26th President Theodore Roosevelt 1901-1909 believed that blacks were, in his own words, “altogether inferior to whites.” He argued in North American Review that “a perfectly stupid race can never rise to a very high plane; the negro, for instance, has been kept down as much by lack of intellectual development as by anything else.” “Every colored man should realize that the worst enemy of his race is the negro criminal, and above all the negro criminal who commits the dreadful crime of rape; and it should be felt as in the highest degree an offense against the whole country, and against the colored race in particular, for a colored man to fail to help the officers of the law in hunting down with all possible earnestness and zeal every such infamous offender. He spoke of the need to pick up the “white man’s burden” to “civilize” and “colonize” non-white populations. He also refused to enforce the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments or curbing lynching.
- 31st President Herbert Hoover (a Quaker) 1929-1933 laid the foundation for disaffection of blacks from the Republican party during his presidency. In his Principles of Mining, Hoover argued that white workers, were of a higher “mental order” and possessed higher “intelligence” than “Asiatics and Negroes [sic].” They were, better “coordinated” and more likely “to take initiative,” and for this reason, it was cheaper and more efficient to hire white rather than nonwhite workers. “Much observation,” he continued, “leads the writer to the conclusion that, averaging actual results, one white man equals from two to three of the colored races, even in the simplest forms of mine work such as shoveling or tramming.”
- 33rd President Harry Truman 1945-1953 “I think one man is just as good as another so long as he’s honest and decent and not a n***** or a Chinaman.” Truman added, “Uncle Will say that the Lord made a white man from dust, a n***** from mud, then He threw up what was left and it came down a Chinaman. He does hate Chinese and Japs . . . So do I… I am strongly of the opinion that n****** ought to be in Africa, yellow men in Asia, and white men in Europe and America.”
- 39th President Jimmy Carter 1977-1981 spoke against “black intrusion” into white neighborhoods saying that the Federal Government should not take the initiative to change the “ethnic purity” of some urban neighborhoods or the economic “homogeneity” of well‐to‐do suburbs.
- 42nd President Bill Clinton 1993-2001 played golf at a “whites only” country club in Little Rock, Arkansas even though he established the One America in the 21st Century: The President’s Initiative on Race.
- 45nd Donald Trump 2017-2021 called for a ban on all Muslims coming into the US, regularly retweeted messages from white supremacists and neo-Nazis. He said “We have people coming into the country or trying to come in …These aren’t people. These are animals.”, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He then reportedly suggested that the US should take more people from countries like Norway. Trump’s criticism of a Black accountant: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.”
Some of the more recent ones are:
- 1964: The Democratic Party refuses to seat the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in place of the Segregationist Mississippi Democrats at the party’s convention in Atlanta.
- 1969-1972: raids on Black Panther Party offices, assassination of leading panthers, imprisonment of hundreds of others. FBI agents incitement of internal fratricidal struggle resulting in destruction of the black panther party. Many prisoners such as Geronimo Pratt are still in prison.
- 1973: Federal and State police and FBI launch military assault on American Indian Movement activists and traditional indigenous leaders of the Lakota Nation at Wounded Knee.
- 2017-2018: data from ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) shows white supremacists’ propaganda efforts increased 182 percent, with 1,187 distributions across the U.S. in 2018, up from 421 total incidents reported in 2017.
- 2003-2016: there were no white supremacist events in U.S.
- 2016-2017: there were 77
- 2017-2018: there were 172
- 2019: there were 2,724
- 2020: there were 5,125
(the above facts can be found here and here:
Clearly we have a lot of work to do to counter the forces that are in play to divert us from a path toward beloved community. Lets hold this work in prayer gaining wisdom and energy from that source of all goodness and then as Bayard Rustin said, lets become “angelic troublemakers” to realize the dream of a truly peaceful and just world for everyone.
May our imperfections can be useful for creating a tapestry of Light and Oneness,
please feel free to share!