Understanding the ‘White’ advantage
Jason Lewis firstname.lastname@example.org | 2/11/2016, midnight
“Lincoln freed the slaves like 130 years ago. How long does it take to get your act together?”
—American History X (1998)
Black people have been free in the United States of America since 1865, but there has consistently been an economic gap between Black and White Americans.
While many people choose to ignore that the history of this country, dating back to when these lands were “discovered,” was built on a foundation that allowed one race of people to dominate everybody else, it is clear that White America has greatly benefited from acts that have taken place over the course of the last five centuries.
A look at history clearly reveals that Black people in America have spent more time in slavery than free. The first documented African slaves were brought to Virginia in 1619, and slavery continued through the Civil War, which ended in 1865. That equates to 246 years of slavery and 150 years of freedom. But those 150 years are really more like 50 years, because African Americans experienced nearly 100 years of oppressive segregation and Jim Crow.
When the 246 years of slavery is combined with the 100 years of segregation, in reality that means that Black people were legally oppressed for 346 years, and have only had slightly more than 50 years of ‘legal’ equality and freedom. However, there have been major obstacles in those 50 years.
Slavery appears to be the starting point for the problems that the majority of Black Americans have endured for their entire existence in this nation. But there may be a larger issue in the situation that was not ended in 1865 or 1964 with the signing of the Civil Rights Act.
“The original sin of America was not slavery; it was White supremacy,” said sociologist Harry Edwards, Ph.D. “That (belief) mandated slavery, as well as the genocide (of) aboriginal natives, as well as segregation, as well as lynching, as well as attacks against anybody else who is Black and has success. That continues and remains with us to this day,” contends Edwards, best known for co-engineering the “Revolt of the Black Athlete” in the late 1960s. This movement eventually led to San Jose State University becoming the first major college in the U.S. to cancel an athletic event under the threat of racial protest.
While the United States has put slavery and segregation in the rearview mirror, and White America has apparently separated itself from the oppression of an entire race of people, it can be said that White supremacy and its actions keep the Caucasian race above all others.
“When the United States of America was founded, the benefits were not for all of the people,” said Courtney Young, who studied social Justice at UCLA and teaches at Executive Preparatory Academy charter school. “Even though the Constitution says ‘We the people of the United States.’ They weren’t talking about Black people. They weren’t talking about slaves, or free Black people.”
White supremacy is one of the foundations of this nation, and it is older than the institution of slavery. Young points out that when Christopher Columbus “discovered” the Americas in 1492, he led his men to loot the land of its resources, and murder the people who occupied the region. Not long after that, many Europeans made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean seeking liberty, freedom, and free enterprise in the so-called “land of the free, home of the brave.”