There comes a time for hard truths. More than 150 years after emancipation, perhaps it is time to reassess the trajectory of a people and rethink the things we tell ourselves and teach our children. I acknowledge at the outset that I am writing about a subject that is America’s greatest sin along side the injustice visited upon Native Americans. To coerce a people at the point of a gun and transfer them as cattle across the Atlantic in order to turn once free men into property of others is a treachery that is the highest order of terrorism.
Let me also state that I don’t have the deep injury and pains in my heart that is felt by many who trace their ancestors to former political prisoners. I don’t refer to people who were forced into a life of bondage as slaves; I call them political prisoners because they were victims of a political system that worshiped money above human decency. Moreover, I refuse to reduce people by calling them slaves. What I am writing is not in any way meant to diminish the horrors of the past, I hope you read these words as an attempt to find a way forward instead of being prisoners of historical hurts.
As a first generation immigrant from Ethiopia, I do not have the scar tissue from institutional and a systematic oppression that has left a deep wound in the psyche of millions of “African-Americans”. Although I grew up in America and thus know very well the challenges that come along with being “black”in certain facets of life, I nonetheless do not carry the generational baggage of exclusion which has nullified the hopes of countless million in America. But perhaps it’s precisely because I am from Ethiopia and thus don’t have the cyclical effects of racial mistreatment and its systematic malfeasance imbued in my heart that I can write a dispassionate assessment of the state of “black America”.
What I am writing about the “black community” is one that can be applied to any community or country where a gap between the haves and the have-nots exists and where groups are excluded from the full benefits of society. That means that even if you are “white”, this applies to you as well for there are countless millions in the Appalachians who are broken by injustice that this article also speaks. I also hope you read this article with an open heart and realize pointing out the injustices that are committed against “black people” in no way is meant to append blame on “white people”. People who go around screaming “white privilege” are too wounded by hurt to realize that they too are reverting to the same narrow thinking of bigotry that they are preaching against. Blaming “white people” for racism is no different than painting all “black people” with a broad brush.
Let me get to the heart of the matter. Enough! Enough waiting for someone else to free us and asking for “the man” to liberate us. Enough of peddling grievance and enough to the demagogues who tread on the pains of the people in order to enrich themselves. My people, there is a hustle being ran on us in ways that is more insidious than I can ever describe. I hope people do not politicize what I am writing and synthesize my words as some sort of a partisan ideology for the reality is that both Republicans and Democrats are equally bankrupt and both are bleeding all Americans irrespective of the endless labels we call ourselves.
Being victimized does not mean you have to be a victim. The minute you accept being a victim is the minute you lose hope and accept a life of a hapless by-standard. While the legacy of the slave trade is truly horrific and the traumas of systematic racism has a profound impact to this day, it is time that we as a people stop seeing ourselves as needy infants and instead take control of our destiny. Sadly though, we are led by black leaders and paternalistic spokespersons who have much to gain by our continued state of dependence and impotence. Malcolm X said it best a long time ago, Republicans are wolves and Democrats are foxes. No need to explain how nefarious wolves are; but I’m telling you the ones to watch out for are the foxes for they are the pernicious ones who destroy us from within.
I’m referring to the Democratic party who use our pains and struggle like used paper tissues. Every four years, they come around promising us the sky only to bury us into the ground after elections as they go about implementing policies that have destroyed the “black middle class”. I’m especially talking about the Judas class of race hustlers who are quick to wave grievance as a means to shake down corporations and get paychecks from the very system they are pretending to fight against. From the Congressional Black Caucus to black pundits on TV, there are a coterie of overseers who keep the masses in mired in hopelessness by selling victimization and running to the TV cameras to pretend that they are standing for justice when in reality they are collecting money for just them.
We are being bamboozled by our own and by a paternalistic liberal class who get to play god as they treat us like a bunch of helpless puppies. They don’t want to empower us, they seek to cripple us so we can always be in need of their assistance and benevolence. In this context, I actually respect the Republicans a bit more compared to the bankrupt Democrats–at least Republicans have the decency to tell us they don’t care about us. Democrats though are like the left testicle of Satan for they smile in our face pretending to be concerned about us when all along they are just treating us like docile pets who can’t do for ourselves.
Let me pause here and properly condemn one of the biggest racists who ever resided in the White House. History professors paint Lyndon Baines Johnson as a kindly man who fought for equality. History professors are full of more manure than all the steers in Texas. In reality, LBJ was a rabid racist who would have made most Klu Klux Klan members proud. Don’t take my word for it, listen to some of his remarks on this YouTube video (link). Lyndon Baines Johnson’s “Great Society” was nothing more than a Trojan virus that infected the “black” community and destroyed the masses by kneecapping people into a life of dependency. A safety net of public assistance, welfare and governmental interference became a danger dragnet that drowned independence and replaced it with a life of servitude and neediness.
What we needed was a hand up; what we got was a handout. Let me tell you my people, there are no free lunches in life. When someone gives you something for free, it is because they see you as the product. We have become a product as the money they give us is immediately sent right back. We purchase trinkets and products we don’t need and in the process communal wealth is erased–they have made slaves out of all of us. Debt is the 21st century slavery and boy have a powerful mix of corporate interests, government bureaucrats and duplicitous civic leaders enslaved the masses into a life of never ending bondage. They have put us right back into the shackles of economic enslavement as welfare and mindless consumerism has rendered hopeless the lives of tens of millions.
This is not to echo Republican talking points for their position is to take away all forms of public assistance and let us fend for ourselves. Republicans don’t care about us, they care about serving their corporate masters the same way that Democrats do. Both parties serve their billionaire masters, they just pretend to serve the people using different forms of duplicity. This is what happens when we depend on the system to free us. Breaking news my people, politicians will NEVER free us nor is there a Moses to be found in any empty suit from Obama to your favorite politician. The only way we will find redemption and liberation is when we get off our knees begging for liberation and take control of our own destinies.
Not too long ago, I used to advocate for restitution for those Americans who could trace their ancestry back to former political prisoners who were called slaves. Of course that would have precluded me for immigrants have no right accepting benefits for suffering they never felt. However, after what I’ve been through the past two years and seeing first hand how the welfare state destroys the masses and the utter folly of depending on others to liberate us, I now stand firmly against restitution. What we need more than anything is empowerment and empowerment is never found when money is just bandied about. What we lack is not money; what we lack as a people is a sense of community.
Let me say something that will sound heretical for a minute. Though people like me benefited from the Civil Rights Era, for the masses who suffer behind walls of poverty and penury, the Civil Rights Era in a lot of ways had negative implications. A community cannot thrive if the talented tenth are not there to lift up the rest. What the Civil Rights Era did was put value on integration at the cost of community. The message became about selfish pursuit instead of collective wealth. Thus a community that was thriving in the 1950’s because folks reinvested their money where they lived–even if Jim Crow laws made an alternative impossible–the 1970’s witnessed the eradication of that same community as the middle class and affluent fled to the suburbs and disavowed a sense of oneness they once shared with the rest.
It is within this context that I oppose restitution. Getting what is effectively a lottery bonanza from the government will not do anything to address the lack of community that is killing hope among the masses. Throwing money after the problem is not what we need anymore than we need a bunch of double dealing demagogues whispering into our ears and into the spirits of our children that we are victims. Even if each person got a million dollars tomorrow, that million will flow right back into the coffers of corporations and will do nothing to enrich the communities where we live.
What we need is not reparations; what we need is reinvestment. How about we follow the model of the Jewish community. They became powerful because they have fostered a sense of community and communal reinvestment whereby most are dedicated to shopping within the communities where they live. This is the only way to redemption because a life of senseless consumerism is a life of economic slavery. Every dollar in the Jewish community is reinvested upwards of 8 times before a dollar flows out the community. In the “African-American” community, a dollar is reinvested less than 1 time before it leaves the community. Money in; money out–this is how a people become indentured servants.
I humbly suggest that we leave the 40 Acres and a Mule promise in the past and move forward into a new age of economic and social independence. Let go of the Democratic party and Republicans alike and learn to be self-sufficient. Loose yourself of the broken ideology of soulless jackals like Al Sharpton, Van Jones, and Barack Obama who keep using our pains to stuff their pockets. And set aside the language of grievance and victimization and become victors instead. The same rhetoric for generations has led us into a hole of hopelessness and communal indigence. Instead of begging for restitution based on a broken promise of 40 Acres and a Mule, we can buy 4,000 acres and many mustangs if we choose to empower ourselves rather than viewing ourselves as powerless people in need of rescuing from others.
Free money is like free lunch, those who partake in either end up destroyed. Do you know what happens to most people who win the lottery? Most of them end up right back to being broken and a high number of them commit suicide. Why do you think this is so? Because money is not a source of happiness nor is it the pathway to redemption. What we need is a communal sense of oneness where we support each others business endeavors and in the process share a journey of building up our community one block at a time. Like I said, this same message is applicable to the broken communities of West Virginia, the foothills of the Appalachians and endless “white” communities mired in deep poverty from Boise to Birmingham.
Did you know that “African-Americans”, on a per capita basis, are the largest spenders of money and the most dependable consumer group. This is why endless commercials and ads are aimed at us; they know that we are quick to spend our money elsewhere away from our own communities. If we truly want independence and liberation, let us look to the north star of reinvestment and away from the plantation of dependence and a life spent begging for restitution. The spending power of the “black community” is astounding, we have more wealth in our communities than the GDP of most nations. Think about that for a minute; in our hands we hold the keys to our own redemption.
No more being victims, we come from the continent of birth and a people of royalty. Be champions and rise instead of belly aching about the past. Let us commit to building our communities ourselves and in the process shopping where we live instead of shopping at Walmart and giving our money to corporations that are bleeding all of us. Slavery does not start until you accept that you are the property of others; enough of acting like property of others, let us commit to properly building up ourselves. We don’t need free lunches from anyone, if we reinvest and help each other succeed, we have enough wealth to feed the world. #40AcresNoMore
“A little less complaint and whining, and a little more dogged work and manly striving, would do us more credit than a thousand civil rights bills.” ~ W.E.B. Du Bois
If you liked this article and agree with the message that we need reinvestment not restitution, share this article far and wide on social media using #40AcresNoMore
If you want to know why I kept using quote marks on the words “black” “African-American” and “white”, check out the #GhionCast video below, you will never see race the same again. Check out the poem “History’s Malevolence” below the video as well.
Below is an excerpt from “Serendipity’s Trace: a poetry book of our common pains and common hopes”
The middle ground is treacherous
Preaching unity to all sides dangerous
I mean trying to find a universal language
Creating consensus out of chaos
Is often laden with insults—profoundly onerous
It’s easier rebuilding the tower of Babel
But lend me an ear brethren and sisters
What if I told you history was malevolent
Facts rewritten by victors and conquerors
In order to split the masses into opponents
Propagating propaganda to prolong injustice
What if I told you that the Civil War
For example to pick one of many instances
Was not truly about slavery
It was about the economy
Forcing one ideology over another
The powerful versus the feeble
A clash of aristocrats and the prosperous
Who duped the powerless to fight each other
Most “white folk” in the south
Were struggling as indentured servants
Deteriorating in barrenness
Now the powerful spread lies
Fracturing society into encampments
Pains of the subjugated
Being used to hide intentions of a system
In the process pitting one against the other
Racism is about power
But they deceive you into thinking
That fellow victims are racists
To obfuscate the true malevolence of bigotry
Hiding the hands of those who bleed society
What if I told you
That poor “white” folk in Antebellum
Had more in common with “slaves”
Than they did with nefarious “slave” owners
And only a fraction of society, the wealthy aristocracy
On both sides of the war irrespective of location
Thrived in the midst of hardship
The multitudes on both sides
Living in destitution and squalor
As they teach that Lincoln was the “Great Emancipator”
Educating us to elevate a president
To the status of God for “black people”
Maybe you should read Lincoln’s speech
“A House Divided”
And you would realize that history
Is full of utter bullshit
Injustice only prospers
When the people are splintered
And feed into the propaganda of the system
Did you get mad, think of me as a sellout
As if I was dismissing the horrors of slavery
Or diminishing the pains of its legacy
Do you think I am trying to erase Jim Crow
Will you accuse me of negating
The terrors of Reconstruction
Or do you understand
That the ancestors of “black” and “white”
The children of the masses
Irrespective of color
Are besieged in poverty and squalor
At this precise exact moment
For the Civil War is still raging
As they pit races against each other
Trying to instigate strife and friction
As they manipulate society
To rupture into racial warfare and hostility
Think about this for a moment
Who shares the burdens of the broken
Of “black folk” who shiver in Chicago?
Is it the bourgeoisie Congressional Black Caucus in D.C.
Is it the “first black president”
And the jive talkers like Sharpton
And his ilk who live in Manhattan partying in the Hamptons
Attending soirées in Martha’s Vineyard chalets
Or do poor “black” folk in the cities
Have more in common with their brethren
The impoverished “white people” in the Appalachians?
It’s always easier to speak to individual grievances
To impassion flames instead of spreading light
Insults follow the ones who preach universal justice
Applause given to those who demagogue incessantly
See history is meant to cleave people
To teach that others are dissimilar
But in truth the lives of most are unbearable
Slavery has taken on a new concept
Where debt has become the new bondage
And poverty is the new shackle
Most of us are ensnared in irrespective of identity
More and more falling into this depraved captivity
When it comes to historical injustices
The sins of a diabolic few
Cannot be blamed on the masses
I mean Mussolini’s army not too long ago
Terrorized my native land Ethiopia
As mothers and children
Perished by the hundreds of thousands
Charred up by chemical weapons
A holocaust visited upon my ancestors
But I can’t blame Italians
For the horror of a murderous cabal
For there are masses in Italy
Suffering just like the masses in my country
This same message I preach to my fellow Ethiopians
Those who are blinded by tribalism
As they insult their countrymen
Letting animosity overcome their emotions
This is the reason Ethiopia is shattering
And why tyrants rule with iron fists
Injustice making us forget our common heritage
Making us disregard that we are one people
United by one common struggle
It’s always easier for the powerful
To pilfer the citizenry and fleece us blindly
As long as we are distracted by differences
To “white people”
This message I reiterate
So called “minorities” have identical struggles
The same burdens that you go through
So why get mad at the meager means
Of those who are broken by poverty
The pittance given to those caught in bleakness
Instead of being outraged
By the thievery being undertaken by the few
The billionaire class who we worship
As they swindle our life savings
History is mendacious
Truth subverted into propaganda
Instead of dwelling on past pains
And residing in separable grievances
Why don’t we unite as one people
If you want to end injustice
Stop monopolizing pain
And understand one thing
We are all in this together
Or we will suffer forever fractured
This is why I keep using quote marks
Around the words “white” and “black”
Because these labels are pernicious
They prevent us from realizing our cohesion
For we are more than labels
We are humans united by the same purpose
History is full of lies and divisiveness
It’s in our hearts we find humanity’s oneness
~ Excerpt from Serendipity’s Trace, a book of our common struggles and connective hopes. Click HERE or on the picture below to find “Serendipity’s Trace” ~
Construct: Discussion about Race & Identity
Saturday, April 22nd, 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM MST
Location: Dazbog Coffee Store : 401 Mason Court, Fort Collins, CO 80524
(click on picture below to RSVP or click HERE – the YouTube video below the picture will be the focal point of our discussion)
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
Latest posts by Lij Teodrose Fikremariam (see all)
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