Mass Incarceration

All we want: The racial chorus of American history

In 1905, the good ethical thinker George Santayana wrote, “Those that can not bear in mind the previous are condemned to repeat it.” He was partly proper. For some of us, it’s not that they will’t bear in mind; it’s that they refuse to.

Many individuals refuse to have a look at the lengthy line of American historical past and see the repeated refrain of violence and oppression that rings out at any time when we start to restore the scars of slavery’s unique sin and attain for that “extra excellent union” promised in our nation’s founding paperwork.

Don’t consider me? Give it some thought this fashion. What occurred when a brand new technology of freedmen emerged from the crucible of the Civil Warfare with the hope and promise of Reconstruction backed by the Thirteenth and Fourteenth amendments to our Structure?

They have been met with newly instituted Black codes and Jim Crow ordinances. They confronted armed resistance from lynch mobs, reminiscent of former Accomplice Gen. Martin Gary’s “Pink Shirts” and the Ku Klux Klan, decided to reestablish the outdated order of Black subservience and worry. They bled the bottom on the New Orleans Massacre, the Wilmington Insurrection, in Reconstruction Florida, what Daniel R. Weinfield referred to as “The Jackson County War,” and extra, as their desires have been met with violence and loss of life.

What occurred when the Great Migration and Progressive Era spurred cultural and financial alternatives for Black households throughout America and new manifestations of risk made headlines with the founding of the NAACP and the City League, the Harlem Renaissance and the emergence of Black Wall Road?

Merely, the nice ol’ boys buttressed a brand new segregation period with laws reminiscent of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Legal guidelines, used the filibuster to dam federal anti-lynching legal guidelines, and launched a brand new wave of violence just like the Red Summer of 1919, the Tulsa Massacre and the assassination of Marcus Garvey.

This doesn’t shock many people. We noticed the identical factor with the violent opposition to desegregation and voting rights that pretended to be a protection of “states rights” throughout the civil rights motion of the Nineteen Sixties. We noticed a repeat of historical past with voter ID legal guidelines and Tea Occasion extremism after historic Black turnout elected the primary African American president. And we’re seeing the identical factor now with actions making an attempt to whitewash historical past by banning books and suppressing voters.

Those that can not bear in mind the previous are condemned to repeat it. The identical goes for individuals who refuse to recollect.

Actually, President Biden and progressive management in Congress have taken some historic steps ahead previously two years. Working collectively, they expanded the Little one Tax Credit score, with an intention of chopping youngster poverty in half, and drove unemployment to its lowest point in 50 years.

They handed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which included $15 billion to interchange lead water traces throughout America. They capped prescription drug costs, banned police chokeholds and “no knock” warrants, and turned again the tide of mass incarceration with federal marijuana reform. They delivered on pupil debt forgiveness, made historic investments in America’s Traditionally Black Schools and Universities, and ensured roughly $100 billion in federal contracts would go to small, deprived and Black-owned companies. 

The Biden administration has stood as much as racist housing coverage, championed Black maternal health and led what Senate Majority Chief Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) referred to as “one of the most productive stretches in Senate history,” whereas managing to nominate eight Black ladies to 13 U.S. Courts of Appeals and ensure the primary Black lady to the U. S. Supreme Courtroom.

By any measure, that’s an enormous deal. However there’s nonetheless rather more work to be carried out.

The actual fact is, after generations, we’re nonetheless preventing. Practically 60 years after Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “We’re uninterested in paying extra for much less. We’re uninterested in residing in rat-infested slums,” we’re nonetheless preventing for high quality well being care and inexpensive housing. Greater than 100 years after the Home of Representatives handed the Dyer Anti-Lynching Law, we’re nonetheless taking a look at a felony justice system that bends for some — however breaks these of us who’re twice as likely to be shot and killed by cops as a result of we’re Black.

We’re nonetheless preventing for respectable infrastructure, for schooling fairness, for an sincere day’s pay for an sincere day’s work. And, 148 years after the Election Massacre of 1874, we’re nonetheless preventing for voting rights that shield our poll as an alternative of suppressing it.

Why can we struggle? As a result of, on the finish of the day, we’re simply like Amos: We wish justice — oceans of it. We wish equity — rivers of it. That’s what I would like.

We struggle as a result of there isn’t a American historical past with out African American historical past, and it’s time that America discovered the teachings of that historical past as an alternative of simply repeating it.

Antjuan Seawright is a Democratic political strategist, founder and CEO of Blueprint Strategy LLC, a CBS Information political contributor, and a senior visiting fellow at Third Manner. Observe him on Twitter @afolleyntjuansea.

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