“This is no time to fight only with your white hand and allow your black hand to remain tied. Men in earnest don’t fight with one hand, when they might fight with two, and a man drowning would not refuse to be saved even by a colored man.”
~ Frederick Douglass — abolitionist and writer
These last few weeks I’ve been on a journey studying Southern history, hands on, with a new set of eyes. My eyes have been on the literal fights by slaves and Native Americans for their freedom, the Civil and Revolutionary War, The wars. The history of slavery and imprisonment. I walked the grounds of Castillo de San Marcos. I felt the walls. I saw the jails. I watched the White men proudly pretend they were American Revolutionary War in the 104 degree FL heat.
I read the history. I touched the walls. I felt the suffering. I relived the fights.
The United States jailed Seminoles, Kiowas, Cheyennes, and others at Fort Marion, (formerly Castillo de San Marcos) to break their wills and force them to accept treaties and reservations in the 1800s. Americans Indians were forced to choose extinction or assimilation (so were Blacks, Jews, and every other ethnic group coming to America)
The impact of Native ancestors being killed, forced assimilation, displacement, fighting, having their lands stolen, enslavement, and imprisonment still have a devastating impact on Native Indians today. Many Native American Indians preferred dying over assimilation for a fantasy civilization called America.
That fighting spirit still lives on. No one should have to assimilate to have their hands untied.
Despite gaining citizenship rights in 1924, Native Americans have yet to see the day that they enjoy benefits of a nation which boasts “liberty and justice for all.” They have been fighting with one hand tied. I’m thinking about those unfair fights.
Imagine a big bully (White men) forces you from your home and banishes you into some new desolate land with hardly anything and tells you to be satisfied with it. Then, the bully refuses to acknowledge your existence after they’ve stolen your land, water, food, killed your family members, forced you to fight (and kill) with them, and forced you and your family into slavery. The bully even has the audacity to tell others you should do better by now, as if you’ve had the power, opportunity, and privilege to do better.
The bully never tells you they took your language, your culture, your clothing, your heritage, and your skill sets to survive. Let’s not even talk about how the bully stole and monetized your intellectual and agricultural property for self-preservation.
No man can fight a fair fight, let alone win a fight, with one hand tied.
I also went to Charleston this past weekend to get reacquainted with my past. I went to Fort Sumter, the Gullah Festival, visited St. Helena Island, walked past Mother Emmanuel Church on Sunday morning, and reviewed with a fresh set of eyes my old home state’s violent history with Black people. I felt the pain. I learned about the fights of slaves and African Americans in the South. I read those treasured pro-slavery quotes.
Like the quote from the Richmond Enquirer in 1856:
“Democratic liberty exists solely because we have slavery… freedom is not possible without slavery.”
Think about that for a moment. In order for America to have liberty, they needed slavery. And while we do not have visible slavery, there are plenty of ways African Americans are not free. They wear invisible shackles. African Americans are still fighting with one hand tied.
Referring to slavery, in 1820, Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to John Holmes:
“We have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.”
Thomas Jefferson was an abolitionist slave owner. Quite a contradiction when the tellers of history looked and thought like Jefferson. When someone shows you who they are, believe them.
White America has always been concerned with unequally applied justice and their own self-preservation at the expense of African Americans and Native American Indians. European colonists made fortunes on the backs of slaves and passed those fortunes down generation and generation. Today’s patriarchal, sanitized, corporate America continues the same inequitable business practices today. Blacks continue to fight for economic fairness and justice. 400 plus years later.
The harshest slave laws in North America were passed to control slaves and protect the slaveholders’ economic investment. Today, we call America’s modern slavery “the labor market.” It’s same bullshit from slavery, just dressed up, sprayed with perfume and resold to us as a choice when it’s really not. Except nowadays, slaves come in all shades and colors.
All of us are enslaved to something or someone to keep White men’s profits rolling in. Patriarchy and White Supremacy are a hell of a drug.
White politicians (both White and White passing GOP and Dems) worrying more about their own interests (self-preservation, White justice, White preservation) than they are the freedom and economic stability of all persons. America hates equality. Just look at her history, she deserves no credit.
America’s credit is bad!
What we’re seeing and experiencing today is deeply rooted in America’s DNA. It should surprise no one. I’m not. But I just needed to go back to the Black Trail of Tears to reaffirm my need to fight and resist this nation’s corrupt government. It’s dark. It’s dirty. It’s two-faced, and it’s callous about Black lives, Black bodies and Black souls. We’ve never been respected, and I don’t expect to get it now. I’m still knuckling up buttercup. I’m may be down, but you can never count me out.
I need to resist, even though this fight isn’t fair. My hand is tied. But after this weekend, my faith is renewed, my mind is refreshed, and I’m refocused.
Black folks have been fighting since we arrived here for our freedom. I read an inspiring quote from abolitionist Henry Highland Garnet from 1843 which was so timely, so relevant, and so important for this hour Black people are living in. The abolitionists said:
“Brethren arise, arise!… Strike for your lives and your liberties. Rather die freeman than to live to be slaves… Let your motto be resistance, no oppressed people have secured liberty without resistance.”
In the age of Donald Trump, an inept and corrupt CONgress, failing government and political institutions, lies, violations of public trusts, greedy White male politicians practicing their favorite past-time (self-preservation), overt and covert racism, cronyism, neo-liberalism and all the other bullshit that’s been unmasked for the world to finally see… remember we need to resist.
We need to fight. Even when the playing field is unfair, and believe me I already know for some of us it’s always been unfair, we need to continue this fight.
Even when White men have tied one of our Black or Native American Indian hands, we must continue to fight.
No matter how much White men try to take us Blacks and Native American Indians back to pre-Civil Rights Era times, we must resist.
Our Black suffering may not be as bad as some others around the world, but that does not mean our individual and collective suffering should not be discounted. Those making comparisons in an effort to discount our suffering should be ignored. They cannot effectively explain what they do not explicitly understand.
Remember our ancestors. Remember, none of those oppressed people could have secured their freedom without resistance. The history books are filled with foot soldiers who fought, died, and resisted despite having their hands tied, feet shackled, wages stolen, labor used freely, abuse, murder and spirits defeated… my people resisted.
I know I am a descendant of slaves. If they could do it, so can I.
I believe we all need a refresher course on American history in order to win this old battle America continues to wage on people of color with the help of ignorant White people and their non-White allies/sympathizers. White Supremacy puts us against each other, Whites against everyone. They are used as tools. Poor and/or ignorant Whites willfully become the tools that tie our hands, making the playing field uneven, and the fights unfair. The great Frederick Douglass said men in earnest don’t fight with one hand.
It’s not right — but it doesn’t have to be that way.
If we don’t remember our history, we will relive it. Blacks cannot afford to go backwards. We don’t time for backwards — allies I hope you understand this. We cannot allow those living among us to take us to the past when America was good for them.
We must resist.
We must work together and oppose the evil thing that is now America, and we must defeat all persons who stand in our way — regardless of party, religious, or political affiliation. Resistance isn’t just about talking either. Resistance is planning. Resistance is working with allies. Resistance is working towards equality mindsets which births tangible equity.
We. Must. Fight. Even with one hand tied. We must continue this fight. Visit the sea fort and National Park in Charleston, South Carolina Fort Sumter. Visit Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida. Visit the 12,000 miles of Gullah-Geechee Corridor stretching from South Carolina to Florida. Visit Abbeville, South Carolina, Milledgeville, Georgia and all historic war sites and monuments in between. Study America’s history.
View the places where the fights for our Black and Native Indian lives took place. Touch the grounds, read the history, relive our past. We need it to fight in the present.
Remember, America specializes in unfair fights. She bullies and she beats her people down. Nothing from America comes easy for those of us with dark skins. It’s time we all hold her accountable. Call her by her names.
Unjust, unfair, unequal, racist, cheater, biased, prejudiced, freedom stealer, dream stealer, protect of Whiteness, White Supremacist, killer, murderer, liar, and thief. America’s history precedes her, and we should never forget it.
Men (and women) in earnest don’t fight with one hand. They shouldn’t have to. It’s time for America to fight fairly, and allow Black and Native Americans to fight against her, fairly.
Maybe, just maybe if America fought fairly, we could actually win.
© 2019 Marley K. 2019. All rights reserved.