A Lawyer’s Thoughts on Slavery and Racism.
Published to: abolition, Carl Sagan, enlightenment, oppression, Perspectives of a Small Town Lawyer, Politics, prejudice, racism, reading, womens' suffrage
on October 11, 2018 8:46 pm
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A Few Thoughts on Slavery and Racism.
And a post-script on the related subject, subjugation of women.
One can tell one’s self that he needs to go to bed at 8 PM because our dog Duffy has a 7 AM appointment at the Pittsburgh Veterinary and Surgical Center, but one cannot convince one’s brain that he did not fall asleep in his chair for four hours and simply needs to wake up from a long nap ready to go.
Thus I found myself wide awake at 1 AM and unable to sleep until the planned 3 AM.
Before falling asleep, I had a remarkable reading experience starting at page 354 of Carl Sagan’s “The Demon – Haunted World”.
“We must not believe the many, who say that only free people are to be educated,
but we should rather believe the philosophers who say that only the educated are free. “
Roman philosopher and former slave, Discourses.
The author describes a young fellow named Frederick Bailey. He was a slave. He had no father or mother to look after him. He later wrote that it was the custom of slave masters to separate children from their mothers before they became 12 months old. Think about that.
As a boy, Bailey witnessed and experienced horrible events including repeated beatings of his aunt, mother substitute. He often would wake up to her screams as the slave master for some reason took particular pride in beating her, and cursing, raving, cutting, and slashing among the slaves in the field. He truly enjoyed it, and Bailey called it “fiendish barbarity.“.
Isn’t it funny how we know something, but we manage to put into the back of our brain, and we refuse to pull it out and give it a good clear look when we need to. It just becomes part of the fabric, but not of our day-to-day awareness. That’s me talking.
Frederick Bailey became the legendary Frederick Douglass.
He wrote and thought that the core of slavery and the key to keeping the Negro enslaved was to make sure that he and she were never educated and always made to feel inferior.
As a child he was sent to work for captain Hugh Auld and his wife Sophia, moving from plantation to urban bustle in Baltimore.
Being exceptionally bright, the young Bailey noticed that white people use marks on paper. He could see their lips move. He could see their fingers moving across the line, and he could see them accomplishing things using this mysterious tool,
He got ahold of Auld’s, “ WEBSTER‘s Spelling Book“ and memorized the letters of the alphabet. He tried to understand what the words stood for and eventually asked Sophia Auld to help him learn.
Impressed with the intelligence and dedication of the boy, and perhaps ignorant of the rules against “educating Niggers“, she complied.
By the time Frederick was spelling words of three and four letters Captain Auld discovered what was going on. Furious, he ordered Sophia to stop. In Frederick‘s presence he explained:
“A Nigger should know nothing but to obey his master – to do as he is told to do.
Learning will spoil the best Nigger in the world.
Now, if you teach that Nigger how to read, there will be no keeping him.
It will forever unfit him to be a slave.!”
As a young adult Bailey escaped, fleeing to New England where slavery was illegal, and he took on the name Steven DOUGLAS from Walter Scott’s “the lady of the lake“. He eluded bounty hunters to track down escaped slaves and became one of the greatest or orators, writers, and political leaders in American history.
He pointed out that if you repeatedly are given the message that you are too stupid to learn, or given the functional equivalent that learning makes you “too white“ (I added that, as the modern equivalent), and if there’s no one there to contradict you, you might very well “buy” this pernicious advice.
In 1761 the British Royal Governor of the Colony of Virginia wrote:
“I thank God there are no free schools or printing; and I hope we shall not have them this next hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them and libels against the best government. God keep us from both!”
1 Sagan points out that Americans were remarkably well-educated and therefore rebellious, in the early years and now America has fallen woefully behind the educated countries of the world. We do not teach critical thinking, We do not focus on science, and we are simply beginning to lag terribly. That was 20 years ago and now it is even worse.
2.“Frederick Douglass thought the literacy is the path from slavery to freedom. There are many kinds of slavery and many kinds of freedom. And reading is still the path.“
3. When Steven DOUGLAS finished his first great speech with William Lloyd Garrison, abolitionist, in the audience, Garrison asked the crowd, “Have we been listening to a thing, a chattel personal, or a man?“ And “the crowd yelled “A man! a man!. “Shall such a man be held a slave in a Christian land.?“ called out Garrison. “No! No!” shouted the audience. And even louder, Garrison asked: “Will such a man ever be sent back to bondage from the free soil of Old Massachusetts?” And now the crowd was on its feet, crying out “No! No! No!” He never did return to slavery.
4. I happen to know from Ron White’s Grant biography that Stephen Douglas credited Ulysses S Grant as the greatest friend of the Negro even while stating appreciation for Lincoln. Grant and DOUGLAS became friends and allies and attempting to implement reconstruction of the south, but the counterrevolutionaries came back with a vengeance. They still exist. They were walking around Charlottesville just a year ago
5. I have read from many sources, and DOUGLAS spoke of it frequently, that the main tool for the oppression of the Negro was the Southern Christian church, the same group that wants to restore “the old south“ even as I write this. Its old testament especially but even New, justifies, and treats as the normal way of mankind, the subjugation of men by others. If that was God’s way, who are we to question it?
6. I have also learned from Susan Jacoby that, again, it was the Southern Christian church especially that oppose the rights of women. Even male abolitionists were not ready to have Women’s step out of their submissive role.
7. The white man and his Southern Christian Church kept the black man and woman from education, from reading, from having feelings of self-worth, except the ones they could generate by themselves, and denied them training in critical thinking and even from being nurtured by loving parents.
8. Who in the hell are we now to point at someone because of their color, make assumptions that they lack the skills, and if they do lack these skills, to condemn them for being stupid?! Any appearance of such traits is a direct result of hundreds of years of oppression. And there are people of all races who are not so smart, not so educated, and not so capable of critical thought. They too are entitled to respect. We are all so human.
9. Any differences in the races are statistical and have no meaning regarding individuals. 10. The races are virtually indistinguishable through DNA, and the changes make great sense simply because of the environment in which they adapted for the last 10 to 100,000 years. Inconsequential and DALE today life and something to be studied by academics and figured out.
11. If I would be liberal on any subject it would be one that would condemn a white person from holding back any reasonable effort to make sure that the people of America are free, regardless of race, gender, or sexual preference.
12. My “post script“ is even some of the most enlightened male abolitionists would still want to keep their women in place and grant the right to vote to a black free black male while denying it to their own lives and daughters. Think about that one too.
I’m still not for excusing bad behavior. But every word on every page of Sagan’s fine book resonated with me last night.
This post was written by Burton Hunter