“Would any one believe that I am master of slaves by my own purchase? I am drawn along by the general inconvenience of living without them. I will not — I cannot justify it, however culpable my conduct.” — Patrick Henry
Very often, I write one story that leads to another. I’m on a Malcolm X kick and am working on a series of articles about how things would have been different if Martin Luther King had been assassinated first on February 21, 1965, instead of Malcolm. You can subscribe to my e-mail list at the bottom of this story to not miss an episode. I recently wrote a historical piece on Patrick Henry and his hypocrisy which kept me thinking and led to this story. He knew enslaving people was wrong, but it was too convenient for him to let it go. I submit that we could quickly eliminate most racism, but it’s too damned convenient for those who benefit from it that they can’t end it. Instead, they deny it, ignore it, or blame those who suffer because of it.
Henry may have truly wished to end his racist behavior, yet he couldn’t stop doing it because it made him wealthy and life more manageable. To paraphrase a Dave Chappelle routine, if I ever met Patrick Henry, I would thank him for his honesty and then kick him in the nuts. The shame is that in 2021, things aren’t that much different; certain people support transparently racist policies and laws or can’t manage to change existing ones because they benefit. It’s too convenient to let them go.
Voter suppression would be one example. It’s more American than apple pie (apples came from Asia, and recipes recorded apple pies in England as early as 1381) and has always been part of our society. Indeed, all voter suppression isn’t race-based. In America, voting was initially only allowed for white, land-owning males. Suppose you translate that to wealthy, white men. The same group has tried to control elections ever since. Controlling the laws and the courts made and kept them prosperous, and it was convenient.
Housing was and is an expression of racism. Black people were denied VA and FHA loans for decades while white people formed the middle class through housing. Throw in redlining, steering, and all the things allegedly legislated away in the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Like most laws designed to eliminate racism, people find a way around it and call it something else. After enslavement, there was the Black Codes, which was the basis for Jim Crow and the foundation for how America discriminates today. Black people selling homes have to remove all traces of being Black to get appraised at full value. This still exists because it produces the desired result that is too convenient to fix.
Corporations that discriminate in hiring and promotions do so because they can, creating the work environment they want. The manager’s meeting and boardroom may no longer be totally white, but does it reflect America. Now that they are people too since the passage of Citizens United. They can more easily buy the support among elected officials and judges to ensure they can keep doing what they like. Enough people benefit from the status quo to be convenient to change. They also have the power to ensure they don’t change their behavior.
Police forces exist to protect property and keep rich people safe. They evolved from the existing groups that performed similar functions; slave patrols in the South and private security forces in the North that mainly controlled immigrants. Police forces didn’t become racist; they always were and still are. To pretend otherwise is to ignore the evidence before us; people still do because it’s convenient.
America is changing. The county is becoming browner, Blacker, and more yellow, like it or not. Estimates are that by 2045, white people will be a minority in America. Just like when they first got here. Part of how they became a majority in this land they migrated to was by wiping out most of those who existed when they came. Much of that process was through disease as opposed to intentional. The rest was on purpose.
Don’t think there is not a plan to maintain power in 2045 and beyond. Rich American white people have watched white South Africans trying to rule as a minority which eventually didn’t work out. White power brokers do all they can to control the courts, schools, voting, and the media while espousing small government and freedom of speech. They aren’t ready to give up all the benefits of racism and will fight to the end to preserve them.
Patrick Henry told anyone that would listen that slavery was terrible. He hoped it would go away in future generations. Yet, he fought against the ratification of the Constitution for fear the federal government would outlaw slavery one day.
“But sure I am, that the dangers of this system are real, when those who have no similar interests with the people of this country, are to legislate for us — when our dearest interests are left in the power of those whose advantage it may be to infringe them. How will the quotas of troops be furnished? Hated as requisitions are, your Federal officers cannot collect troops like dollars, and carry them in their pockets. You must make those abominable requisitions for them, and the scale will be in proportion to the number of your blacks, as well as your whites, unless they violate the constitutional rule of apportionment. This is not calculated to rouse the fears of the people. It is founded in truth. How oppressive and dangerous must this be to the Southern States who alone have slaves? This will render their proportion infinitely greater than that of the Northern States. It has been openly avowed that this shall be the rule. . . .”
At least Henry acknowledged what he was doing. He didn’t claim his support of existing laws was for a dozen reasons he knew weren’t true. Henry knew racism wasn’t Christian and was totally and morally wrong. He didn’t pretend he was being a patriot or blame those he enslaved. He accepted enslavement as a convenience which he benefited from. If I ever met him, I would thank him for his honesty, then kick him in the nuts.
This post was previously published on MEDIUM.COM.
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