Sunday, February 07, 2016

America was never great.

"I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. 

Never was there a clearer case of "stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in." I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. The man who robs me of my earnings at the end of each week meets me as a class-leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of life, and the path of salvation. He who sells my sister, for purposes of prostitution, stands forth as the pious advocate of purity. He who proclaims it a religious duty to read the Bible denies me the right of learning to read the name of the God who made me. He who is the religious advocate of marriage robs whole millions of its sacred influence, and leaves them to the ravages of wholesale pollution. The warm defender of the sacredness of the family relation is the same that scatters whole families — sundering husbands and wives, parents and children, sisters and brothers — leaving the hut vacant, and the hearth desolate. 

We see the thief preaching against theft, and the adulterer against adultery. We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen! all for the glory of God and the good of souls! The slave auctioneer's bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together. The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time. 

The dealers in the bodies and souls of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other — devils dressed in angels' robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise." — Frederick Douglass, Life of An American Slave, 1845

America was never great.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

A World Without Black History...

This timely informative nugget is brought to you by MTV Decoded, hosted by the irrepressible Franchesca Ramsey -- and as usual, the hate spewed in the comments section is even more entertaining than the actual video.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

The Real Harriet Tubman

 "I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves." -- Harriet Tubman

I LOVE Drunk History.  This episode describes The Combahee River Raid that freed more than 700 slaves, thanks to Harriet Tubman's brilliant strategies.  This show used to be a guilty pleasure but when they're telling the history that's usually ignored -- that is, when the drunk people are giving a more nuanced interpretation of what happened than what's usually taught in schools -- it should give everyone reason to pause, and tune in.  This should be required viewing for high school students. Whatever it takes to reach one and teach one, I'm all for it.

In a perfect world, there would be no Black History Month because if you tell the whole story, everyone is in it.  The problem is that, like Ben Affleck not facing his slave owning ancestry on PBS' Finding Your Roots by forcing the producers to erase it, Americans can't handle the ugly truth of how this country came to be. Instead, they tell their sanitized version, something they're comfortable with -- and ignore what actually happened.  Because white fragility.

You're not supposed to erase history or reimagine it because it makes you uncomfortable.

Until everyone can own their history -- Texas textbooks, anyone? -- Black History Month will be mandatory, for all of us.

If it's one name that gets thrown up in the air whenever it's time to teach black history, it's Harriet Tubman.  The sanitized version of her story is nothing in comparison to what actually happened. Context is everything -- especially when its historical. 

Here's a few fun facts that offer a glimpse of the real Harriet Tubman.
  • Her first name is Araminta. Everybody called her Minty.
  • Click here to read about how white people rented her out as a house slave from the age of five (her first job: winding yarn!) and how, amongst other things, she had to sleep on the kitchen floor at night and share leftover food with the dogs.
  • Minty was only five feet tall.
  • When she was an adolescent, Minty was inadvertently hit in the head by a 2 pound weight by her white master for not helping him restrain a runaway slave. It took her years to recover. This caused epileptic seizures, severe headaches and narcoleptic episodes that she endured for the rest of her life.

    In Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero, Kate Clifford Larson writes:

    Bleeding and unconscious, she was returned to her owner's house and laid on the seat of a loom, where she remained without medical care for two days.  She was sent back into the fields, "with blood and sweat rolling down my face until I couldn't see." Her boss said she was "not worth a sixpence" and returned her to her owner Brodess, who tried unsuccessfully to sell her.  She began having seizures and would seemingly fall unconscious, although she claimed to be aware of her surroundings while appearing to be asleep. These episodes were alarming to her family, who were unable to wake her when she fell asleep suddenly and without warning.

  • Minty says that knock on the head made her hallucinate and gave her visions from God. 
  • Of course, she couldn't read or write.  The Slave Codes forbade it. Teaching black slaves -- as well as mulattoes, Native Americans and indentured servants, by the way  -- was punishable by severe fines, multiple lashes and more for the teacher, and much worse than that for the student.
  • A part of the reason why her master didn't pursue her or her family when they escaped to the North could have been because legally, they were free.  In their former master's will, her parents were manumitted at the age of 45 and so were their children. Their present owners simply didn't tell them and kept them working as slaves.
  • Minty's first husband, John Tubman, was a free man.  The mother's slave status determined whether any offspring would be slaves, which may be why they never had children.  She changed her name to Harriet when they got married, probably in preparation for her escape.