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The Evolution of Black Power: Resistance, Determinism, and Compromise

Op/Ed By Wallace Mabry


wallace_mabryThe Black Power Movement has its roots in the rebellious acts of those chained African slaves held in the hold of ships during the transatlantic slave trade. Slaves whose acts of rebellion against the repulsive conditions imposed upon them by their white kidnappers resulted in them being thrown overboard, and fed to the sharks. And when their body counts were duly recorded as financial losses, their tongues, instead, were removed, and tossed overboard.

The movement continued on American soil, where slaves, many of whom had been instructed by the religion of their slave masters—Christianity—to indoctrinate the notion that to be a servant is the will of God, met at night in secret religious meetings, to scheme and plan uprisings that were ultimately compromised by house slaves who revealed the plans to their white plantation masters.

A perusal of black history reveals multiple incidents where black people, whose house-slave mentalities, and the intentions to win favor from whites, expectantly, led to their admissions into white confidences and enclaves, have played significant parts (black agent provocateurs, COINTELPRO) in thwarting the plans of black people, to construct strategic goals and programs by which to achieve black control, not only of predominate black communities, but of local, state, and federal resources available to those communities.

This writer, herein, acknowledges those black men and black women whose lives ended tragically, and to whom we owe our everlasting respect.

In retrospect, too, this writer acknowledges Rosa Park’s tired feet, and impetuous nature of December 1955 that drove her decision not to go and stand at the back of the bus. It was a decision that was the catalyze which ushered in the Civil Rights Movement, and provided Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a platform for his ministry—from sit-in, voter registration, black militant resistance, to love-in.

In undocumented incidences, miscegenation has, and continues to have, a role in determining the impact house-slave mentalities play in carrying the day for white people.

Miscegenation has had a long history on American soil. It has dated back to slavery, where white men raped African women at will, while denigrating the African people from whom they originated.

Subsequent to the American Civil War, and the abolition of slavery, anti-miscegenation laws remained, until they were ruled unconstitutional in 1967.

It was in 1958 that Richard Loving (a white 23 year-old construction worker) and Mildred Jeter (a black 17-year-old girl) were married in Washington, D.C., to evade their home state’s, Virginia’s, anti-miscegenation law.

But, when the Lovings moved back to Virginia, they were arrested “in their bedroom for living together as an interracial couple.”

Following a trial, where they received a suspended sentence, they were told to leave Virginia. However, in 1965, the Lovings decided to appeal the sentence of the Virginia court.

Yet, the judge in the original case refused to reconsider his sentence. As a result, the Lovings took their case to the Supreme Court of Virginia, which invalidated the original sentence, but upheld the state’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924.

The Lovings then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court, ruling unanimously in 1967, condemned Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law as “designed to maintain white supremacy.”

Many of the southern states amended their constitutions to fall in line with the court’s ruling. South Carolina and Alabama did not. In 1998 South Carolina did amend its state constitution to remove language prohibiting miscegenation. Alabama did not amend its constitution until 2000.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision resulted in an increase in interracial marriages, and open interracial relationships.

Miscegenation, however, did not and has not translated into equal opportunity and privilege for black people. Hence, the progression of the law in the Loving v. Virginia ruling has not resulted in progression of socioeconomic, educational, and political ameliorations and comforts for black people.

There is the argument (and there is always the argument) that no one, black or white, is denied the educational opportunity to gain and enhance one’s academic skills, and to apply those skills in the open market, in creative ways, to move one’s life, that of one’s family, and that of the greater society forward. Black educators, scientists, engineers, sociologists, historians, economists, anthropologists, writers, and entrepreneurs, ad nauseam, have been cited as examples.

But, the truth inside the argument is that racism has held black people in check, in a state of hopelessness for so long that millions are today unprepared for such “great educational opportunities.” They rely on the dole, their wits, and many push carts and ride bicycles about the city gathering bottles and cans to cash in at the nearest bottle and can refund store.

There is also the call today for diversity in the workplace.

If diversity is a pipeline and by definition includes the social integration of women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and cisgender people in general into the main stream of the board rooms of American corporate society, the question is, where do black people, black men in particular, stand in the pipeline of that persuasive collective of minorities?

There may be seven or eight black CEOs in corporate America: Ursula M. Burns, Xerox; Don Thompson, McDonald’s (who will step down in March); Kenneth I. Chenault, American Express; Rodney O’Neal, Delphi; Kenneth C. Frazier, Merck; Arnold W. Donald, Carnival; John W. Thompson, Virtual Instruments; and Roger W. Ferguson Jr., TIAA-CREF.

American corporate boards are also overwhelmingly white. Wall Street hires mostly white males. Apple hires mostly white males.

Individuals who end up in the pipeline will need to be getting the proper career experiences that will allow them to have the global perspective to lead multinational companies. And, given the collective of minorities today, where do, or will, black people stand in the diversity pipeline, when those opportunities are made available?

We can no longer rest on who is the most prepared, because there is a history of black people being more qualified for a job that has been given to a white person with far fewer qualifications.

Bias, in the words of journalist Leonard Pitts, is frequently subterranean. It is a learned attitude about black people that lurks, oftentimes, below the surface of consciousness. “In a country,” Pitts reports, “that has used every outlet of media, religion, education, politics, law and science for over two centuries to drive home that black is threatening, black is inferior, black is bad, it is entirely possible..” that white men act from unconscious racism even while having a relationship with a black woman. Similarly, and what may be determined to be innocently, white women act from unconscious racism even while having a relationship with a black man.

Miscegenation, we know, is no defense against racism or a racist act. How, then, will black men fare in the workplace where diversity is the standard by which minorities are guaranteed opportunities?