Month: April 2017

gtown

If Michael Jordan scored ten points in a game during his prime, we’d be disappointed. If his teammate Dennis Rodman scored ten, we’d be impressed. The difference is expectations. We expected so little of Rodman, as we do white people on issues of race. Georgetown University is now an anomaly and trailblazer in academia, after the school recently apologized for its role in slavery. The University renamed two buildings after slaves and will now give preference in admissions to descendants of the 272 slaves the school sold in 1838 to settle its debts. It pains me to criticize the university in any way –sincerely– because their actions are lightyears ahead of other institutions. But that just shows how little white folks have to do in order to impress us.

Georgetown University owes its existence to plantations the Jesuits operated –in the name of Jesus, I’m sure– to finance operations and the 272 slaves sold in 1838 to settle the school’s debts at that time. There is no way to erase these offenses. The hope is for some meaningful form of repair toward the untold damage done and that is not what Georgetown has offered. Renaming buildings does not repair the damage done. Giving preference in admissions is cute but the children and grandchildren of Georgetown alumni already receive that perk. Indeed, to receive in 2017 what those who (largely) benefitted from the system of slavery have received for generations is not a radical effort at repair. Still, the most important lesson in this ordeal has largely been overlooked.

Georgetown fails to understand that slavery was a system, not an individual circumstance. That system impacted all black people and their descendants, not just the 272 sold in 1838. Georgetown could only benefit from the sale of those 272 slaves because it participated in a system that made all black people subject to a similar fate. To solely acknowledge the harm done to the descendants of those 272 slaves is tantamount to planting an atomic bomb in one home and refusing to acknowledge the damage done to the entire city which that bomb decimated. It is to deny benefiting from the other slaves that worked the Jesuit plantations that financed the school and the system of slavery as a whole. The life outcomes of the 273rd slave cannot be divorced from the 272 acknowledged by the University.

Even the best known attempts at reparations in the American context are laughable, at best. This is merely the latest chapter in a larger story. But Georgetown is at least pursuing some substantive efforts toward atonement and that makes the institution rare. I want to praise them and perhaps should, but I am conflicted. If I criticize the University, well-meaning whites will undoubtedly be frustrated. They will think, understandably, that any attempt at repair –rare as it may be– is not rewarded but scorned. So why bother? If I praise the University, however, I signal that such paltry efforts at repair satisfy the requirements of true justice. That is one hell of a quandary to live in and yet one more burden black people are asked to carry.

Ultimately we must come to accept, as a nation, that the legacy of slavery is far more dramatic than we have acknowledged. Many have just now begun to understand that academia is yet another staple of American greatness that owes its existence also to slavery. We fail to grasp how deeply our banking, manufacturing and various other sectors are rooted in slavery. More troubling, we fail to discern how damaging its impact was for people of color, even to the present day. Our view is further distorted when we consider the tremendous progress black people have made in this country. It is because we fail to discern the true depth of it all that we struggle to approach repair in a meaningful way. For the sake of survival, black people cannot wait for others to understand. Black power requires committed action, even when others refuse to render justice.

freedom paper

You can literally create a job for someone by wiping your ass. No, seriously. Based in Maryland, the Freedom Paper Company is a black owned firm that produces paper products, including “bathroom tissue.” The founder of the company is serious about creating great products and more importantly, creating a black presence in industrial production. I have met with him personally and heard his passion for business and communal uplift. That is why I dropped my old tissue brand. Now with every wipe, I am doing my part to end black unemployment.

We can end black unemployment, as I’ve discussed previously. The key is simply identifying one product or service each month that you already use and finding a black owned company to fill that need permanently. This month consider switching your freedom paperbathroom tissue brand. Not only is Freedom Paper offering a product that has an amazing impact socially, it is also a game-changer environmentally. Their bathroom tissue is made from 100% recycled paper — 100%. As someone who cares deeply about the environment and what condition we leave this planet in for future generations, this distinction is invaluable. I can think of very few other purchases which will move us toward ending black unemployment by promoting sustainability. I have no intentions of going back.

The time for a switch is now. We can promote hiring in our community and also promote environmental sustainability. What else is there to think about? You can go to the corner store to pick up a roll or two but to stretch your dollar further, it pays to buy in bulk. Click here to purchase your Freedom Paper bathroom tissue for the next couple of months for $20.00. Unless you actually eat toilet paper, the twenty-four rolls (500 sheets each) should last you as an individual a couple of months, at least. This one is pretty straightforward, there’s not much to think about. Make the switch and do your part to end black unemployment. Make the switch and help preserve our environment. Freedom Paper is more than a brand, it’s a promise.

affirmative-action-color-blind

At times it is difficult to discern just how much racism influences behavior but this is not one of them. It is completely obvious in this moment that some white folks just hate black people. Author Jeff Thomas released documents this past week from the University of Virginia showing the university’s fundraising office tracked applicants connected to large donors and advocated on their behalf to the admissions office. The practice is not new; it is a well known that from the Ivy League down money talks, with respect to admissions. But it is only when black students are granted admission to universities that white people file lawsuits and produce Supreme Court cases, even as less qualified white students routinely receive unmerited access. The people who file such lawsuits are not angry that someone may have taken their seat in class, it’s simply a hatred for black people that moves them.

Dr. King once said, “I am sorry to have to say that the vast majority of white Americans are racists, either consciously or unconsciously.” When Abigail Fisher was denied admission to the University of Texas Law School, she fought her case all the way to the Supreme Court. Fisher genuinely believed she was wronged because five black or Latino students with lower grades and scores were admitted to the school, although forty-two such white students were also admitted. For some reason, Abigail managed to only see those five. I wonder why. Whether conscious or unconscious, racism was the motivation. Abigail and her supporters only noticed the five students of color when, mathematically, the forty-two other students represented a greater hindrance to her admission and thus should have been the logical target of her anger. But racism does not allow for that. Conscious or unconscious, she was bothered by the darkness of the other students, not their grades.

If you are an applicant connected to a Harvard alum or donor, you are about five time more likely to gain admission to the University. The same is true at Princeton. Given the prestige and opportunities those elite schools confer, it is a wonder that there isn’t the same type of outrage from students who are denied admission due to the obvious unfairness of the process. The difference is simply color. If all of the “legacy” students who gained admission happened to be black, it is certain that the public outcry would be deafening. The same is true with these most recent revelations from UVA. While a few cries of unfairness are being raised, this will not become a “big deal” or end up in court, most likely. Although this is the norm around the country and generally known, the nation has accepted it. As long as the beneficiaries aren’t negroes, it’s all good.

When people scream and holler “unfair” because race is a consideration in admissions, they are in fact revealing their racist souls. They are not motivated by fairness. If they were, what is happening at UVA and essentially every other competitive university in this country would push them into the streets and the courts. But none of it ignites them, only color does. This is but one more example of how much we truly hate black people in this country.