I believe we as a country have to confront and confess the "sins" of our past before we can truly create a better USA.
It is evident to me that while there is much to celebrate about the progress America has made in terms of living out the promise of it’s founding documents, there is still a long way to go. Part of the gap between what America states she is on paper and what she is in reality can be attributed to the question I have been wrestling with in recent months.
“Where does hate go?”
For men who “own” other human beings to begin the existence of their country by stating “all men are created equal” is hypocritical. At best it is deceptive and at worst it is hateful. Assuming America’s founding fathers did indeed believe that all men are created equal, what compartmentalization would they have to engage in to come to the conclusion that “owning” other humans was OK to do.
One could argue that slavery existed all through human history and as men of their time, they were just carrying on tradition. One could argue that, while created equal, some humans have more ability to rise up from the conditions that would lead to them being enslaved. That some are stronger in some way, smarter in some way and even genetically superior so as to develop faster or more effectively so they can master the environment in which they find themselves.
One could argue that because of their superiority, the slave holders were providing their “savage” slaves with a chance at a better more civilized life than they would have experienced in their home country. The inferior brutes should be lucky to have been given this opportunity to be clothed, fed, given a proper Christian religious education and even salvation in exchange for their physical labor. One could argue that If only these black simpletons had the mental faculties to imagine how difficult it would be for them if they had to provide for themselves, they would thank us for ripping them from their motherland.
I am sure these and many more rationalizations helped ease the conscience of many slave holders and the consciences of their current day defenders.
How could a slave owner impregnate a slave by rape, allow that slave to birth the child and hold that child as a slave or sell that child off to some other slave owner?
How could a slave owner brutally torture slaves and treat them with abject cruelty and in the same day act with “love and tenderness” toward his own family?
How could a slave owner profess to be a follower of Christ while refusing access to education for his slaves except for a “christian” education that promoted scriptures advocating that slaves submit to their master.
When one considers the brutality of race slavery in America and the death, dismemberment, splitting of families, rape, torture, humiliation and dehumanization that occurred, one has to wonder if hate is the most likely reason for the hypocrisy.
If one can rightly consider the centuries of race slavery in America as a product of hate then where did all of this hate go? I am finding out that there is no easy answer.
In The Psychology of Hatred, a 2013 paper in the Open Criminology Journal, the authors state, “In childhood and adolescence the attitudes of intolerance - impregnated with hatred – are formed, and these are extremely difficult to eradicate later.”
If media, school, church, family and peers teach me that I am superior to white people, or gay people, or poor people and that they are a threat to my position of power then I am on my way to believing these types of people do not deserve what I deserve and their inferiority justifies any actions I may take to keep them from receiving what me and my type of people rightly deserve.
The authors of The Psychology of Hatred state, “hatred is built on a complex mix of cognitions and emotions. The cognitive components are related to the devaluation of the other, the perception of them as a threat. The emotional part includes a set of feelings like anger, fear, distress, and hostility. Finally, another element related to hatred is a certain, sometimes crazy, sense that we are justified in acting against – or even eliminating – the object of our hate.”
America’s treatment of her black citizens during slavery, reconstruction, jim crow and on into the 21st century reflects hatred’s cognitive and emotional building blocks of devaluation, threat, anger, fear, distress, hostility and justification.
Part of America’s problem is refusing to accept that this hatred existed and exists. Part of America’s problem is refusing to consider where this hate went. Part of America’s problem is refusing to make amends for the hate and part of America’s problem is we embrace our collective greatness and individualize our greatest sin. When considering how WE as a country achieved great success in the past and in recent times we enthusiastically declare WE won 50 gold medals, WE won the cold war, WE are the home of the free and the brave, but when it comes to America’s greatest sin we are quick to declare, “I didn’t own any slaves!” and “I don’t see color!"
In my efforts to uncover answers to the question “Where does hate go?”, I landed at the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) which is an organization founded by Bryan Stevenson, a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer and bestselling author of Just Mercy.
From the “about” page of their website, EJI is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the U.S., challenging racial and economic injustice, and protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.
One of the many elements in their arsenal to achieve racial justice is to shine a light on the injustices committed in the name of freedom, liberty and the American way. EJI does this through their “History of Racial Injustice” calendar. For every day of the year, a racial injustice is memorialized. The Equal Justice Initiative believes we must acknowledge the truth about our history before we can heal: truth and reconciliation are sequential. I believe this as well.
For the month of February, I will be sharing the daily entry from their calendar in the hope that readers will be shocked like I have been by the cruelty and injustice America’s hate produced. Maybe some of you will join me in seeking answers to the question, Where does hate go?
While I appreciate any attention you choose to give my thoughts and concerns, fortunately, you don’t have to visit my site for a daily calendar entry. EJI will send you a daily entry at your request.
The EJI entry for February 8 is:
State Troopers Kill Three Black Students in Orangeburg, South Carolina
On February 8, 1968, white state troopers fired into a mostly African American crowd on the campus of South Carolina State College, a historically Black college in Orangeburg, South Carolina. In what became known as the “Orangeburg Massacre,” the troopers shot and wounded 28 people and killed three Black male students: Samuel Hammond, 18, a freshman from Florida; Henry Smith, 18, a sophomore from Marion, South Carolina; and Delano Middleton, 17, an Orangeburg high school student.
Two days before the shooting, SCSC students had attempted to desegregate a local “whites only” bowling alley. When the owner refused to serve the students, violence ensued, leaving nine students and one officer wounded. On the day of the shooting, students again protested the segregated bowling alley, this time building a bonfire in the street. Escorted by police armed with carbines, pistols, and riot guns, the fire department arrived to extinguish the fire. Police then fired into the crowd as students fled for safety. Police later claimed they were attacked first.
South Carolina Governor Robert McNair blamed “Black power advocates” for the violence and insisted officers had fired in self-defense while under attack from campus snipers. Witness accounts from reporters, firemen, and students contradicted this story; they reported that officers had fired on the crowd without warning. No evidence was ever presented that the protesters were armed.
None of the nine officers charged for their roles in the shooting were convicted of any wrongdoing, but Cleveland Sellers, a young Black man and program director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was convicted of rioting for his role in leading the protest. He served seven months in jail and was not pardoned until 1993.