To begin, let’s understand that the single biggest oppressor of Black Americans is the United States government. Hands down. Whoever takes the silver medal comes in a very distant second.
Slavery was a state-funded, state-run institution that would have struggled to survive a few years without support from the government.
Jim Crow legislation forced businesses to resist the urge to drift toward the state of color-blindness that usually results when folks are more concerned about making money than making enemies.
But this isn’t the way most people remember things. And that faulty memory is not an accident.
The skilled politician can make an art of walking in the same direction as the parade and pretending they are leading it. Abe Lincoln was, in this way, as skilled a statesman as history has ever seen.
Textbooks teach us that the abolition movement effectively began and ended when Honest Abe bravely fought a current of disapproval to free the slaves. But the truth is that waves of people fought for the end of this shameful chapter in our nation’s history decades before The Great Emancipator had even decided that maybe black folks were human after all.
As for Jim Crow, history books sing a similar tune. Uncle Sam to the rescue! Never mind the millions of brave souls who fought to remove the real roadblock to freedom: government. As usual the state came on the scene late with a panoply of “cures,” from which Black America may never fully recover.
As black people we should be leery of the statesmen-lead parade. Not just because of who’s pretending to be leading it. But because as long a politician is in front, we should worry about where that parade may take us.