TheThirdReconstruction.com — As the world watches, Baltimore deals with an all too familiar incident of police misconduct that resulted in the murder of a defenseless Black man. This incident is not surprising or unusual in the communities of America’s historical underclass. However, it is of upmost importance to put the death of Freddie Gray, in Baltimore, in Maryland, in context. There seems to be around the clock commentaries on the causes of poverty and massive unemployment in Baltimore. Unfortunately, the commentators rarely if ever, present an accurate cause and timeline of Black poverty and subjugation in Baltimore, Maryland.
Thankfully in a recent speech given in Charlotte, NC, civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson said “the problems facing inner-city African-Americans – elevated poverty, crime and unemployment rates – represent the lingering aftershocks of centuries of slavery and generations of segregation”. Stevenson got it right, Maryland was in fact one of the original slave states.
The reality is that since the days of the founding of the Maryland Colony in and around 1636, the fate of then Black people and their descendants was declared by white supremacist to forever be a non-competitive, non-compensate, managed workforce that existed for the profit and wealth building of White society. The blueprint for the enslavement of Black people was started in Baltimore, Maryland. This pronouncement, which became the founding principle of institutional racism, was the documented origin of the Slave Codes.
The Maryland document became commonly known as the “Doctrine of Exclusion.” There were ongoing amendments to the original pronouncement of the Maryland Colony in Baltimore, but they all served to further restrict and subjugate Black people. So the reality is that even when Blacks had full employment, during enslavement, we were relegated to extreme poverty, brutality and denied basic rights of human beings.
Baltimore was the first county established by the Maryland Colony and of course, home of the institutional racism as defined by and provided for in the Doctrine of Exclusion. The 1630’s Doctrine also provided that present Blacks and their descendants would never enjoy the “fruits of White society.” The Baltimore powers never intended to have the likes of State Prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, a Black female. This is the same as the historical intent of the White supremacist never to have a Barack Obama, a Black president. However, in one bold pronouncement, Marilyn Mosby delivered one of the most cherished fruits of white society to Black America, she delivered “justice.”
The Doctrine of Exclusion and Slave Codes became the public policy of colonial America. Its pronouncements have been the guiding principles on the treatment of Blacks in America, and to date these principles continue to be the un-spoken guiding light that serves to maintain institutional racism in Baltimore and other places around the country.
Except for the fact that institutional racism was born and bred in Maryland, Baltimore is typical of many American communities that embraced the enslavement of Black Americans. Really, America’s historical statement to non-Black immigrants from around the world has been, if you come to America, we’ll discriminate against you, but we’ll put in you in a socio-economic class above Blacks. There is a great book that details how this concept was carried out in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between Blacks and early Irish immigrants. Read How the Irish Became White, by Noel Ignatiev.
Before immigrating to America, the Irish were the despised underclass of Great Britain and in many ways were treated nearly as bad as Blacks in America. Because of this treatment the Irish were strong opponents of the world enslavement of Black people, even when the Irish immigrated to America. However, upon their arrival to America they were promised that they would be treated better than Blacks if they adopted institutional racism and stayed out of the fight to end the enslavement of Black people.
However, the subjugation of Blacks and our relegation to second class citizenship never has and never will be acceptable. Credit must be given to historical activist, the persistence shown by #Black Lives Matter, the multi-ethnic demonstrators around the country, and to the voters that elected Marilyn Mosby. To the many, many Black people that ask why they should vote, Marilyn is your answer. Of course she is not your only answer and it is the responsibility of voters to hold their elected officials accountable for delivering other fruits of American society.
Two other points are important in our reflection on Baltimore, institutional racism and America’s historical public policy. The success of institutional racism is and always has been dependent upon voter suppression. It has been a 400 year component in the domination of Black Americans and our efforts to attain equal opportunity.
Obviously, the way to address voter suppression is through a massive education and mobilization of Blacks and progressive advocacy groups that understand and are committed to participating in the political process and making sure that all eligible voters have proper voter ID in time to vote.
Our more daunting challenge is to defeat institutional racism that is inherent in American society. Several weeks ago I did a commentary on Organizing Against Racism (OAR). They, as well as responsible corporation citizens like Starbucks, are urging a dialogue on racism as a starting point in addressing America’s long troubling problems of racial discrimination. It is imperative that the masses of like-minded individuals, organizations and corporations embrace racial dialogue as the most sensible way to move forward.
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