It’s become a fad for Republicans to claim that, actually, slavery was good for blacks. A fairly long list of Republicans claim that it wasn’t nearly as bad as they say, that slavery allowed Africans to come to the New World, which in the end made them better off than they would be in Africa. Besides, there weren’t that many bad slaveholders.
These people are lost to the reality of slavery and the treatment of blacks ever since. They have only to read the first few pages of Frederick Douglass’ autobiography. In it, he describes being about eight and witnessing from a hiding spot when his aunt was stripped to the waist, hung by her crossed wrists until her toes barely touched the floor, and slashed with a rawhide whip until the blood pooled at her feet. His description will make you sick to your stomach, and rob you of sleep. This slave owner was considered a “good” slave owner.
Such gross brutality was common in the slave South, and yet these Republicans claim it was actually a good thing. It was not, no matter how you look at it. Slavery was a monstrous wrong we have yet to correct.
There’s a gruesome photo of a slave’s back after a whipping going around these days, but it’s Hollywood makeup for a film, a dramatization of what was real. Below is what a real whipping looks like after years have passed. This is the real thing, a real slave, with real scars many years after being whipped nearly to death, and we can only imagine the horror of it. Nothing unusual. It was common, even with “good” slave holders.
Black lives didn’t matter then.
Black lives didn’t matter after Emancipation, either. In the Old South, killing of blacks was normal Saturday night entertainment, not just for the KKK, which is still responsible for many racial hate crimes today, but for white folks in general. Here are some photos of the weekly entertainment. These people had real names, and real lives, real families. The second picture is of Laura Nelson, OK, 1911. Thousands were lynched.
Lynching didn’t only mean hanging. Putting a black person in an iron cage and burning him or her to death was also considered high entertainment. Thousands were murdered that way. Black lives didn’t matter much, after all. Lynching was common, and went on until 1961, the year I began college, with occasional cases later.
And even now, more than a half century beyond the time when lynching ended, mostly, black lives are still considered worth little. Thanks to modern technology, we all know of the endless murders of blacks by the police. Here are some we are familiar with. Eric Garner was purposely strangled to death by New York police for the crime of selling a cigarette.
Jason Harrison, Dallas.
Walter Scott, SC.
Punishment for these crimes almost doesn’t exist, because so many think black lives don’t matter. The police have almost never been held responsible for these blatant murders. Their excuses are often completely contradictory to videos we have all seen. Police reports are a farce. Almost all such murders are dismissed, the officers returned to duty, to kill again.
The brutality and murder has not changed. What has changed is that people can pull out cell phones and take moving pictures of whatever is going on, then immediately post it online so it cannot be destroyed, even if the phone is trashed by police trying to hide their crime.
This has given new life to the black objections to four centuries of brutality by whites. Gradually we are coming to realize that black lives matter too.
Black lives matter? Don’t all lives matter. Of course they do, but the descendants of Africans have suffered some four centuries of the most gruesome abuse and murder that can be imagined, something that whites have no experience of. Of course all lives matter, but it’s the blacks who have been whipped, lynched, and blatantly murdered, not the rest of us.
Yet so many don’t get it, or don’t want to get it. They are the first to say that all lives matter, missing the point of 400 years of unpunished murder and brutality. Don’t all lives matter? Of course, but black killings have gone unpunished since the beginning of slavery in the Americas. Maybe now, at long last, that will change.