Tuesday, November 15, 2005

the question of empowerment

the conservative mindset is nothing new. it's almost utopian in philosphy, really. every man for himself, every person gaining success solely on his or her own merits, little to no government inteference in the daily pursuit to happiness. simple, really.

way too simple for such a complex existence we lead in today's society.

in a perfect world, a person's skin-color would have absolutely no bearing whatsoever on whether or not she succeeds or fails. her looks would have no influence on whether or not she'd be afforded more or less of an opportunity to succeed. her history wouldn't begin with freedom in her motherland followed by enslavement in another land, followed by freedom without equality later. see, this is the reality of what we live with today. the emancipation proclamation, signed to end the civil war, not to suddenly decree that black folks were equal in every sense of the word to white folks, sent thousands of blacks into the world with their freedom and little else. then they were told they had all the freedom in the world to pursuit their happiness by getting a good education that would lead to a good job that would lead to the success they want.

but just because they were told they were free didn't mean the people who had just owned them as chattel would suddenly see them as equal humans afforded the same right as as them, so of course with all that freedom talk came the backlash of lynching, jim crow laws, and general animosity towards these suddenly free yet totally unequal black folks. their "place" wasn't in the same schoolrooms, universities, and workplace as white folk, but how to make this message clear? well, considering black folks didn't get the 40 acres and a mule, they were already at a disadvantage when it came to demanding their rights. i mean really, how difficult could it have been to switch tactics of oppression from iron chains to invisible ones? they already didn't have money or an education. while there was plenty proof around of black folks ability to survive, there was little if any proof of black folks ability to thrive.

so where does the idea of self-empowerment take root?

when obstacles are created with the specific intent for a person to fail, how is that person supposed to all of a sudden become empowered? if, regardless of his or her efforts, forces beyond his or her control have made it difficult if not impossible to obstain self-sustainability, how is this person supposed to be self-empowered enough to find success on his or her own merits?

and before the discussion turns into "there's no conspiracy against black folks", let's look at the facts:

1. the emanicipation proclamation was signed to end the civil war. lincoln didn't think black folks were equal, nor would he have set them free if he could have found another way to end the civil war.

2. the government has a history of defining black folks as anything but human. from laws established to define them as property to laws that said basically black folks weren't human enough to intergrate with white folk, the government has only responded to black folks after they bitch enough about their treatment and demand their rights. let's not kid ourselves, folks. if black folks hadn't demanded their rights, they wouldn't have been given to them, unless of course the state of america was at stake and giving us our rights was essential in maintaining a state of prosperity. during reconstruction, the government put in a couple of measures meant to afford black folks equality. however, it was the equivalent of the following conversation:

fed. government - "we just kicked you southerners ass. now that we have you where we want you, we demand you allow the folks you just owned as slaves to vote. we demand you treat them as equals. "

southern state governments - "what the fuck? you expect us to give those niggers the same rights we have? are you out of your fuckin' carpetbagger mind? you fuckin' northerners, thinkin' you know more than us...thinkin' you're better than us...well you know what? fuck you! we're not givin' 'em SHIT and there ain't a GAWTDAMN THING you can do about it!"

fed. government - "oh yeah? well, we're going to send down some of our agents to make SURE you abide by what we say."

southern state governments - "is that so? well send your fuckin' agents. you won't be able to send enough to make us do it, you yankee bastards!"

fed. government to self - "well, it ain't really all THAT important. we'll send down a couple of folks and if they can't get it together down there, so be it."

after about five years, the whole project was abandoned and that was that. they didn't even bother to enforce the so-called laws giving black men the right to vote. a law ain't shit if it's not enforced. funny how the government made a point of enforcing the laws established during the time of slavery.

3. intergration laws, once established, weren't enforced until black folks demanded they be enforced. again, here we go forcing mothafuckas to acknowledge our rights again. inferior schooling, inferior jobs, inferior living conditions...these were all things black folks had to contend with ON TOP OF daily escape of the hangman's noose and the beating of them into their "place". lynchings were a common occurrence with the turn of the century and the government pretended it wasn't happening, instead choosing the "if i don't see it, it's not happening" stance. shit, that was basically the stance of the government right up until the civil rights movement.

4. racism, and the aggressive hatred brought on by it, didn't die with the end of segregation. the predominant mindset of black folks being sub-human didn't disappear with the civil rights movement. therefore, there is still a population of people out there who maintain that mindset. a person doesn't have to wear a white hooded costume or drive a ford pick up or live in south of the mason dixon line or fuck his first cousin in order to be racist. black folks were denied rights all over the u.s., not just the south. their pursuit for equality met with resistance no matter where they went, thus further hampering their attempts at reaching that level of "self-sustainability" conservative people are so fond of using.

was there a conspiracy against black folks? i think initially there was an active attempt to keep black folks in their "place". once the handicap was established, the active participation in the oppression was unnecessary. i mean really, once you cut off a person's feet, do you really have to worry about sticking rocks in his shoes to prevent him from being competitive in the race?

so again i ask the question...when does empowerment become self-evident? if it truly came at birth, it would have been damn near impossible to keep black folks enslaved, nor would it have been so easy to keep them oppressed afterwards. if it were truly about a person's abilities, absent of the racial or other obstacles in her way, there wouldn't be nearly as many black folks living at or under the poverty line.

and if empowerment is indeed known from birth and it's all about a person's abilities and nothing else, the most obvious answer surrounding black folks not succeeding on the whole in america must be our total and complete lack of intellectual ability and desire to succeed.

in other words, it's our fault and our fault alone.