Tag Archives: Frederick Douglass

A TALE OF TWO MEN: THE DIFFERING VIEWS OF DONALD TRUMP AND GREG POPOVICH ON AMERICAN RACIAL MATTERS

I must tell you that I have always shied away from blanket statements that indict an entire race as being monolithic and therefore possessing some draconian view of African-Americans or racial matters. Life has taught me that there is a wide-range of experiences that goes into forming what we believe, what we “know”, and who we become as adults.

The above realizations serve as constant reminders that not only do I as an individual have an opportunity to choose what I will and will not believe, others have the same decisions to make in their lives. It is this reasoning that facilitates my understanding of the irreconcilable positions of President Donald Trump and San Antonio Spur basketball icon Greg Popovich.

I am certain that you have heard Donald Trump’s incoherent ramblings regarding Black History Month. The alluded to moment will go down in history as definitive proof that America’s new President knows absolutely nothing about Black America as he insinuated that the great Abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who died in 1895, was still in the land of the living. Despite the protestations of supporters, the Commander in Chief is indicative of what occurs when privileged Americans exist within a bubble that shields them from the many challenges and issues facing non-elite Americans.

Fortunately for this nation, there is a sizable population of whites whose experiences have led to a much more illuminated understanding of American racial dynamics. San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich has repeatedly proven to possess a quite impressive understanding of American race relations. During a recent interview session, Popovich offered the following words of wisdom regarding America’s most significant social cancer.

But more than anything, I think if people take the time to think about it {racism}, I think it is our national sin. It always intrigues me when people come out with ‘I’m tired of talking about that’ or ‘Do we have to talk about race again?’ And the answer is, you’re damned right we do. Because it’s always there, and it’s systemic in the sense that when you talk about opportunity, it’s not about ‘Well, if you lace up your shoes and you work hard, then you can have the American Dream.’ That’s a bunch of hogwash.

If you were born white, you automatically have a monstrous advantage educationally, economically, culturally in this society and all the systemic roadblocks that exist, whether it’s in a judicial sense, or a neighborhood sense with laws, zoning, education — we have huge problems in that regard that are very complicated but take leadership, time, and real concern to try to solve. It’s a tough one because people don’t really want to face it.

In many ways, it is astounding that Trump and Popovich were raised in the same nation. However, it is this diversity in thought that provides definitive proof that all is not lost in regards to having honest discussions regarding American race relations or the securing of some level of racial justice. If only we were able to arrange for the development of more Greg Popovich’s the world would be a far more enlightened place.

At least it is something to hope for.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

What President Donald Trump’s Belief that Frederick Douglass is Still Alive Reveals About the American Educational System

There is a wise saying that says; it is “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” I am always amazed when people possessing enough power and resources to have a cadre of individuals around them make avoidable missteps in public. Unfortunately, I was not surprised when America’s Commander in Chief, Donald Trump, made an inexcusable intellectual stumble.
Just in case you missed it, this is what occurred during a recent Black History Month celebration. America’s ‘can’t get right’ President attempted to once again prove to Black America that he is on their side by delivering a Black History Month speech that included him reading a list of African-American heroes from a sheet of paper.
Now I am confident that you are wondering what could go wrong with the reading of a list of names from a prepared speech. Unfortunately for Donald Trump, he apparently became too comfortable and unwisely choose to insert impromptu comments regarding these esteemed individuals. During this rather awkward moment, President Trump began discussing Frederick Douglass, this nation’s greatest Abolitionist voice. Of course, there is nothing wrong with President Trump speaking about such an esteemed American historical figure. However, Trump’s remarks regarding Douglass were spoken in the present tense as if he believed that the famed Abolitionist was still in the land of the living. It was evident that the Commander in Chief had no clue whatsoever that Douglass died February 20, 1895. Hilariously, Trump made it seem as if Douglass would be leading the next Million Man March.
On the surface, this public misstep is little more than a representation that President Trump knows absolutely nothing about African-Americans or their protracted struggle for politico-economic liberation in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. From a deeper view, Trump’s ignorance of African-American History, albeit we will remember this moment of ineptitude forever, places the spotlight on an American educational system filled with persons who know as little as Trump does about the African-American experience. Unfortunately, African-Americans from every walk of life, including educators, are included in the population mentioned above.
I previously used this space to tell a humorous story regarding a discussion among a group of African-Americans, each possessing a Ph.D., who wanted to bring in Richard Wright to deliver our keynote address for Black History Month in honor the 65th Anniversary of his epic tome, Black Boy. Although I was stunned that such ‘learned’ individuals had no idea that Richard Wright died fifty years prior, I did my best to hold in my laughter as these people pledged thousands of dollars to a pot with the intention of bringing the noted author to our campus. It was at this moment that I asked a member of the committee, who was also a Reverend, the following question.
“Do you speak to God on the regular?”
He responded, “Absolutely Brother Jones, is there a lamentation that you wish for me to deliver to the Lord?”
“Nah, I’m good on that front. However, there is one thing that you are going to have to do. Now he is still in the miracle business isn’t he?”
He nodded his head.
“Well, tonight when you talk to God, please tell him that he is going to have to reach into his old bag of tricks and breathe life back into Richard Wright as he did with Lazarus. And while he’s at, have him bring Malcolm and Martin back as well. Richard Wright has been dead since 1960. When was the last time you saw him on television? What was the last Richard Wright book that you read?”
Obviously, those ‘educated’ people around me had not only never read a Richard Wright book, but also had no idea of who he was or what he accomplished during his life.
Despite our hesitation to admit it, the truth of the matter is that the vast majority of our people emanate from the same educational system that produced our genius of a President. And without a serious infusion of “blackness” into our personal educational curriculum, we will be just as ignorant as our Commander in Chief regarding matters affecting our people.
I hope that we can agree that being ignorant is one thing, however, being “Trump dumb” is inexcusable, particularly when it comes to African-Americans. I hope that we each use this year’s Black History Month as an opportunity to not only raise our consciousness but also apply that knowledge toward the uplift of our community “By Any Means Necessary.”

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

What the Black Man Wants!!!!!!!

“What shall we do with the Negro?” I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us!

If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature’s plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! If you see him on his way to school, let him alone, don’t disturb him! If you see him going to the dinner table at a hotel, let him go! If you see him going to the ballot- box, let him alone, don’t disturb him! If you see him going into a work-shop, just let him alone,–your interference is doing him a positive injury…Let him fall if he cannot stand alone!

If the Negro cannot live by the line of eternal justice…the fault will not be yours, it will be his…Let him live or die by that. If you will only untie his hands, and give him a chance, I think he will live. He will work as readily for himself as the white man.

If you see him on his way to school, let him alone, don’t disturb him! If you see him going to the dinner table at a hotel, let him go! If you see him going to the ballot- box, let him alone, don’t disturb him! If you see him going into a work-shop, just let him alone,–your interference is doing him a positive injury…Let him fall if he cannot stand alone! If the Negro cannot live by the line of eternal justice…the fault will not be yours, it will be his…Let him live or die by that. If you will only untie his hands, and give him a chance, I think he will live. He will work as readily for himself as the white man.

A great many delusions have been swept away by this war. One was, that the Negro would not work; he has proved his ability to work. Another was, that the Negro would not fight; that he possessed only the most sheepish attributes of humanity; was a perfect lamb, or an “Uncle Tom;” disposed to take off his coat whenever required, fold his hands, and be whipped by anybody who wanted to whip him. But the war has proved that there is a great deal of human nature in the Negro, and that “he will fight.”

Frederick Douglass (1865)

Delivered at the Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Anti Slavery Society in Boston on April 1865.

INCREASING THE DARKNESS: WHY THE DISAPPEARANCE OF CLASSIC LITERATURE REVEALS SO MUCH ABOUT CONTEMPORARY AMERICA

Where they have burned books,

they will end in burning human beings.

(Heinrich Heine)

Recently the white mother of a biracial child took the Accomack County Public Schools (Va.) to task for assigning classic novels “To Kill a Mockingbird” (Harper Lee) and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (Mark Twain).

Unfortunately, district administrators cowered before the “Request for Reconsideration of Learning Resources” and temporarily suspended the use of the classic texts.

The request to no longer assign the books flowed from one individual being severely disturbed that Harper Lee and Mark huckleberry-finnTwain repeatedly used the word “Nigger” in their work. Apparently, “Nigger” remains the equivalent of nitroglycerine in the English language; it appears over two-hundred times in “Huckleberry Finn” and nearly fifty in Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

The frequent use of the word “Nigger” is the primary reason that “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” have earned the dubious ‘honor’ of being two of the most banned books in this nation’s schools and libraries. The fact that the two texts being discussed stand as public statements against racism highlight the general ‘lack of understanding’ that serves as the foundation for such foolishness.

In this latest attack against freedom of speech, the complainant has stated, “I keep hearing ‘This is a classic, this is a classic.’ I understand that…but there are so much racial slurs in there and offensive wording that you can’t get past that. Right now, our nation is divided as it is. I teach my son he is the best of both worlds, and I do not want him to feel otherwise.”

What this misguided parent fails to realize is that the scrubbing and sanitizing of this nation’s racial past does significant harm to its present and compromises its future.

In every way, when school administrators honor requests such as this, American history is destroyed. Put simply, such a criminal to-kill-a-mockingbirdaction clouds this nation’s storied past. Frederick Douglass warned the American citizenry against such attempts in his speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” when he stated that such actions made “America false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.”

It is shameful that so many Americans do not understand that the initial step in solving this nation’s racial problems is an honest view of its sordid racial past. The ridiculous attacks upon classic literature will never have a positive effect upon contemporary race relations.

In fact, it could worsen this nation’s tenuous race relations. Absent an understanding of America’s racial past; one could believe that the current ‘have-not’ socioeconomic position that so many African-Americans have found themselves ensnared within is attributable to personal flaws such as laziness, stupidity, and absence of focus, not discrimination and institutional racism.

As with most things, a complete review of the past is the only explanation of the present. And trust me when I say, the alteration of classic literature that illuminates this nation’s racial history guarantees that the racial inequality, discord, and hatred that has cloaked America for over two centuries will continue to be its most indispensable accessory. When you think about it, what would ‘Lady Liberty’ look like without it?

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2016

‘What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?’: Frederick Douglass Speaks

Fellow Citizens,

I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory….

…pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national wilmington 2independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Would to God, both for your sakes and ours that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation’s sympathy could not warm him?…

…But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, Selma 3rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!…

…Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them…To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave’s point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting.

America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to ferguson1perpetuate slavery the great sin and shame of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse”; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just…

…What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the lynch5constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and lync1despotism of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival….

#MRC