Why America Stays Stuck

In the future, I may ignore such expressions. For the record, someone’s actually said this in print.

On a CNN program not long ago, one white man, who proudly claimed his belief in white supremacy, had the audacity to say, “I wish we had picked our own cotton.”

So do we. African Americans, I mean. We wish you had picked your own cotton, nursed your own babies, tilled your own fields, built your own roads, and done the scut work in factories that made the Industrial Revolution the “success” that it was.

You didn’t, though. African Americans made this country with their hard labor, as slaves and later as individuals caught up and used in the Convict Leasing programs in this country. …

I’m not sure who “you” is here.  For generations, the African-American population was a significant minority and highly concentrated in the American South.  Who tilled the fields and built the roads elsewhere?  For everyone?

Consider the food on your plate.  Were black people alone involved in farming the wheat that goes into your bread; in raising the livestock that provides the beef, turkey or chicken; in picking the fruit?  For everyone?

Consider the house you live in.  Were black people alone involved in its construction?  In making the bricks?  In its electrification?  The heat and light you enjoy come principally through the hard labor of coal miners, many of whom are not black.  For everyone.

I have reflected often lately on the miracles, in this country, of indoor plumbing and potable tap water.   Did black people alone extrude the pipes and lay them?  Build the water treatment plants and reservoirs?  For everyone?

The history of wealth creation in this country involves the hard labor of many different ethnic groups.  It’s a mistake to suppose that only one deserves any credit.

2 thoughts on “White-shaming

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