Repeated cycle of racism in the U.S. government

SUSAN K. SMITH | 11/28/2016, 10:34 a.m.
I have to be honest. America’s racism, White America’s refusal to acknowledge racism as a factor in nearly everything that ...
Susan K Smith

Crazy Faith Ministries

I have to be honest. America’s racism, White America’s refusal to acknowledge racism as a factor in nearly everything that happens here, makes me ache.

Worse. It brings me to tears.

The election of Donald Trump was about White working class people feeling left behind. True. They were angry. True. They felt unheard, unappreciated and not listened to. True.

But they were also filled with resentment about Black and Brown people making strides in this country.

After World War II, the government put in place a slew of benefits that included access to loans for buying houses and loans to go to school, among other things. African Americans fought in both wars, but when they came home, while their White soldier-buddies were able to take advantage of the government incentives, they were kept out of the loop. Black soldiers couldn’t get loans for homes, school or even a car. White soldiers, of course, knew nothing about the disparity – or maybe they did – but they didn’t have to worry because their lives were being put in order. Black soldiers ended up having to go through all kinds of machinations at banks to get the same loans their White friends were getting, and were often denied. Historians call what the government offered “affirmative action,” and most of the recipients of the benefits were White.

It was only after the federal government stepped in to level the playing field so that Blacks could take advantage of the rewards for having fought for this country that the grumbling about affirmative action began; Black people, said critics, were being given special treatment, just because they were Black.

I tell that story because it is events like that which have characterized life for Black people in America. Whites have held onto their power, and when it has been threatened, as was the case after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued and Blacks were able to claim some of their rights during Reconstruction. The federal government has always had to “protect” the rights of Black people, and when the federal government withdrew from the South after the Civil War and Reconstruction, angry Whites put Jim Crow into action to make sure Blacks stayed in their place. All of the rights they gained during Reconstruction were stripped away. By the late 1800s, Blacks were scraping the bottom of the barrel, looking for what was rightfully theirs but which had been taken away.

The same thing happened after the Civil Rights Movement. Blacks gained the right to vote; segregation was outlawed in historic cases like Brown v. Board of Education, and for a time, Blacks rode the wave of justice. But that period of achievement was resented by Whites as well. Blacks were getting too much help from the federal government, people complained. Entitlements. Blacks were eating up the American economy with their need for “help.” The War on Drugs was really a war on Black people, finding a way to imprison them for non-violent, mostly drug-related offenses, while letting Whites go free. It was yet another way to control what Blacks did and how far they could go.