Slavery in the United States today, and its historical legacy, is still very evident. Virtually every civilization in recorded history has relied on slavery as a major part of its infrastructure. That is not to condone or glorify the practice, it is merely a statement of fact.
As civilizations conquered other civilizations, the defeated became slaves of the winners, and the cycle repeated over many generations. There was always a slave base, and no major overall change occurred in that when the administrations changed. However, in the United States it was slightly different and, I believe, the result was partially responsible for the cultural divide we all experience today, black and white.
When Britain abolished slavery in 1820, it morally blackmailed other Western nations to follow suit. However, the U.S. faced a problem that Britain did not face. It had a huge indigenous slave population. Britain had a large slave population as well but they were not in Britain. Abolition in the U.S. created a large, disenfranchised population that was suddenly dumped, if you will excuse the word, on the rest of the country’s population.
How did the rest of the population react and, more importantly, how did the slave population react? Fear, disbelief, and confusion could only have been part of their reactions, with fear being the major factor I would think.
Any thought of integration, if it occurred to anyone at the time, would have been impossible with such large numbers, even under the best of circumstances, and the best of circumstances did not prevail at the time. The only viable answer was division and separation. Live in your own communities, keep your own culture, food and traditions and, basically, separate yourselves from the rest of the country.
Completely understandable though this may have been, it intensified the division that the abolition of slavery had sought, naively, to solve. We live with that tragedy today. We can blame a lot of people but, in reality, no-one could have stopped this evolution. The issue was just way too big to accommodate or control.
In recent times, this continuing division has evolved into something worse for the future of the United States – a counter-culture within its borders.
The U.S. was built on the idea of assimilation of people and cultures – I admit that assimilation in the case of Native Americans meant annihilation but, in general, the immigration waves from Europe and other continents has resulted in assimilation. The Black slave population did not enjoy this opportunity of integration, partly because there were too many of them “arriving” at the same time.
I referred to a counter-culture above and, in many ways the Black leadership in the past fifty years has exacerbated the situation, albeit mostly with the best intentions. They have actively promoted a counter-culture within the country, and that has to be counter-productive to the country’s future.
Admittedly, it worked well for some of those leaders on a personal basis, Jesse Jackson comes to mind, but as a movement for Black progress, integration and equal opportunity, it has backfired.
Another approach must be considered before the country becomes irreparably, and destructively, divided. Slavery in the United States today has to be eliminated.
Equality of resources and opportunity across public education, nationwide, would be a great place to start. For that, Federal mandates that override state and local government, will be essential.