By Siahyonkron Nyanseor
January 19, 2001
The greatness of America has come from it being a beacon of hope for the helpless and the deprived on the one hand, and the brightest minds and the most talented on the other hand. America has offered hope and opportunity to many immigrants. The Irish came from Ireland during the great potato famine of 1840s, the Jews emigrated from Europe during and after the 2nd World War, the English escaped a depressed English economy in the 1700s to a land that offer a chance for the future. But Africans were forcibly brought to these shores against their will. They worked from dawn to dusk to create wealth for a nation that has denied them freedom and opportunity.
Now that they have been here (in America) for a period over 400 years, they too, would like to be treated like any other American whose ancestors worked to make this nation what it is today. But this is not how William Safire, the New York Times Columnist sees their plight. According to him: “The biggest gamble of the past election was made by the African-American leadership. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sponsored the most extremist ad attacking Republicans since LBJ’s discredited “daisy spot” of 1964. The Rev. Jesse Jackson went all out to paint the GOP as a hotbed of reaction and its standard-bearer as a danger to the hopes and jobs of black Americans.”
Andrew Carnegie, the wealthiest of multimillionaires of his time, once said “Put all of your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket.” Robert G. Allen, the author of “Nothing Down” and “Creating Wealth,” transformed Carnegie’s statement in Wealth Principle Number 3 (Don’t Diversify. Concentrate All of Your Eggs in the Right Basket). According to him, Carnegie understood the basic principle of wealth. In a way, blacks too, have learned from the experience to put all of their eggs in one basket (Democrat) and concentrate, because the Democratic Party basket has served their interest.
But the party of Abraham Lincoln, which supposedly free the slaves and became the party for Blacks during the Reconstruction, failed to seek and promote African American causes, instead, the politics and policies of the Republican Party blamed African Americans for almost all of the ills of the American society and have denied them the gains (like Affirmative Action, the rights to vote, etc.) that they have achieved through “blood, sweat and tears”. And one does not have to be a Nuclear Scientist to be able to choose his friends from among his enemies, even animals’ lower class have this ability. And whenever the Republicans show genuine interest and concern in the affairs of African Americans, they will diversify.
Moreover, to the African Americans, the Republican Party is like the Tanzanian proverb says: “A good thing sells itself; a bad thing advertises itself for sale”.
In short, one like Safire is caught up in his conservative idealism until he fails to understand the black perspective and the practical implication in the statement that Bush made when the whole world was watching and listening. Blacks in the Third World and here in America have had bitter experience with U.S. domestic and foreign policies. So, when Bush said that Africa would not be a foreign policy priority in his administration, African Americans, the continent of Africa and blacks in general had to look to the candidate that could best serve their interest.
Despite President-elect Bush’s selection of two African Americans, Condoleezza Rice to run his National Security Council and retired Gen. Colin Powell to be Secretary of State, it has done little to assuage the fear that his administration will not ignore Africa.
Joseph Ahwa Laryea, Ghana’s deputy foreign minister, called the appointments “an honor and great relief for the black race. However, we’ll like to see whether it is not cosmetic or symbolic,” while Dr. Stanley Macebuh, an aide to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, said Africa should abandon hopes of close ties with a Bush administration.
Why can’t African Americans’ critics see their point of view? All African Americans have fought for and continued to fight for is to be treated like any other America. But unlike others, they had to fight for everything that they have achieved through the courts.
With history as their best teacher, it reminds them that they do not need Safire to tell them (Africans or African Americans) the way they should respond to Bush’s comment. As a people, they have suffered the worse humiliation that no other race of people has ever suffered. These are experiences, the likes of William Safire, J. C. Watts and Clarence Thomas of the Republican Party wants them to ignore and forget.
It should be noted that four hundred years ago, their ancestors were brought to these shores against their will, accorded the worse type of treatment that was not even reserved for beasts; forced to work the land of their masters without compensation, under the worse of conditions that ever visited upon any human being. They were sold like cattle, with tags attached to their bodies in the market place; their mothers forced to breed more commodity to increase the wealth of their masters. Yet, it never dawn on their oppressors that since they were all humans, they could be related. But instead, they were distinguished on the basis of their features and the color of their skin.
How can a nation supposedly established on the basis of the inalienable rights of man, subject other people to the same inhumane practices from which they escaped to seek freedom? Believing in a sacred document to “Hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal;” but when it concerned their ancestors, those same truths could not be applied. Instead, they were referred to as property and three-fifths humans in the US Constitution. And to justify this cruel act of slavery, they were considered uncivilized and inferior, the same excuse that was provided in order to hunt Native Americans and showcase their heads as trophies.
It had to take a civil war and thousands of lives lost between the North and South before a Proclamation was to finally admit that slavery was unjust. But the many promises made on behalf of blacks were never honored, the 40 acres and a mule and Freedom from Harassment Acts. Instead, a new conspiracy to keep blacks oppress took roots, beginning from Reconstruction to Jim Crow and the Separate but Equal Laws that violated the very foundation the Proclamation stood on.
Having been denied true emancipation and integration, their ancestors were not considered citizens. They were taxed without representation, and denied access to education too. But when they were finally allowed to enter through few doors of opportunity, they were used as experiments. Even when their fathers and brothers died in wars to liberate Europe, they were refused burial rights in the same cemetery with whites because of the color of their skin.
The same holds true today because they are being blamed for crimes, drugs, welfare, you name it. How cruel can a nation be to a people that have suffered the worst kind of crime ever committed against humanity? And yet, it continues to be argued that they are inferior and that whites are superior! But the question that has yet to be answered is – if whites are so SUPERIOR and blacks are that INFERIOR, why goes through all the trouble to make LAWS to OPPRESS only them?
This is one question I would like for William Safire, J. C. Watts, Clarence Thomas, the Republican Party and those who think like them to answer. Why can’t they view slavery in the same way, they view the Jewish Holocaust? Like the Jews, blacks too, cannot take things for granted or leave their plight to chance. For example, reparation for the ancestors of slaves, is a topic the US government does not want to address. Yet, the government has compensated other groups of people they have wronged.
Salih Booker, Director of both The Africa Fund in New York and the Africa Policy Information Center in Washington recently wrote:
“Africa did not make his [George W.] short list: the Middle East, Europe, the Far East, and the Americas. A Bush presidency portends a return to the blatantly antiAfrican policies of the Reagan-Bush years, characterized by a general disregard for black people and a perception of Africa as a social welfare case. Vice President Dick Cheney is widely expected to steer the younger Bush on most policy matters especially foreign affairs. Cheney’s perspective on Africa in the 1980s was epitomized by his 1986 vote in favor of keeping Nelson Mandela in prison and his consistent opposition to sanction against apartheid South Africa.
In Africa, a Bush White House will likely concentrate on helping its oil industry friends reap maximum profits with minimum constraints, and it will have absolutely no sense of responsibility for past American misadventures, or for global problems like AIDS or refugees. But events and activism in Africa plus grassroots pressure in the U.S. and internationally could change all of that, as it did during the White House tenure of the last Republican Africaphobe.
However, thank God this is America! Blacks as Americans, will have their say in Bush’s America. He has to deal with African American issues, one way or the other because in Bush’s America, Blacks too, are Americans!
Published in the January 19, 2001 Edition of The Perspective.
2001: From Siahyonkron Nyanseor’s Archive