Emancipation granted the Negro freedom to hunger, freedom to winter amid the rains of heaven. Emancipation was freedom and famine at the same time.
America is a monument to racist social engineering. For black folks, freedom meant out of the frying pan and into the fire. In ‘The Case for Reparations’, Ta-Nehisi Coates reminds us of historical reality:
“Having been enslaved for 250 years, black people were not left to their own devices. They were terrorized. In the Deep South, a second slavery ruled. In the North, legislatures, mayors, civic associations, banks, and citizens all colluded to pin black people into ghettos, where they were overcrowded, overcharged and undereducated. Businesses discriminated against them, awarding them the worst jobs and the worst wages. Police brutalized them in the streets. And the notion that black lives, black bodies, and black wealth were rightful targets remained deeply rooted in the broader society.”
Those roots remain today, wrapped around the neck of liberty like a policeman’s chokehold. America’s cultural genes are radioactive with racism. When white folks today assert the fallacious notion of social equilibrium, and from that conclude black folks are themselves responsible for being at the bottom of the societal barrel, they are saying blacks are inferior, and that is racism.
These toxic, pervasive misunderstandings are encouraged by an American history taught as an archetypal, idealized fairytale, glossing over the ugliness of class and racism with a distorted, whitewashed veneer of heroification and national narcissism. In ‘Lies My Teacher Told Me’, James Loewen, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Vermont, writes:
“The superstructure of racism has long outlived the social structure of slavery that generated it.” And: “It is all too easy to blame the victim and conclude that people of color are themselves responsible for being at the bottom. Without causal historical analysis, these racial disparities are impossible to explain.” 
Many Americans have then, in effect, been blocked from truth, purposefully rendered socially clueless. Every American child is, for example, taught the story of Hellen Keller in a way that fits perfectly into the storyline that America’s greatness results from the individual triumphing over great adversity, but not one word is mentioned regarding Keller’s life’s work of socialist activism.
This state of managed ignorance is then reinforced and protected by a firewall of myth. The fact so many people are oblivious to their own history and present day reality is testimony for just how effectively the lords of money have always managed the American myths: the myth of liberty, the myth of justice, the myth of exclusive righteousness, the myth of opportunity for all, the myth of a superior culture, the myth of a national covenant with God—all seamlessly woven into one supreme monolithic myth: America the Beautiful.
The recent investigation of the Ferguson Police Department by the United States Justice Department in the wake of Michael Brown’s shooting death at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson and the subsequent community protests and rioting revealed an ugly American reality:
“Ferguson’s approach to law enforcement both reflects and reinforces racial bias. The harms of Ferguson’s police and court practices are borne disproportionately by African Americans, and there is evidence that this is due in part to intentional discrimination on the basis of race… The city has been aware for years of concerns about the impact of its focus on revenue has had on lawful police action and the fair administration of justice in Ferguson. It has disregarded those concerns—even concerns raised from within City government — to avoid disturbing the court’s ability to optimize revenue generation.”
The fortunate black Americans who defy the odds and acquire wealth and status can dodge all that; they can escape the existential rendering W.E.B Dubois described as:
“…measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity… an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”
Black men like Barack Obama or Clarence Thomas won’t wind up like Eric Gardner, killed by police on the streets of New York City for selling loose cigarettes — a misdemeanor deserving no more than a citation — but the truth remains that black Americans, especially men, will continue to be targeted by law enforcement. The truth remains America is the undisputed world king of incarceration —leading all nations in both the number of prisoners and in the rate of imprisoned citizens per population — and that the inmate population of its massive and increasingly privatized and profitable prison-industrial complex is both disproportionately black and Hispanic as well as overwhelmingly poor.
To protect its myth, its brand, America’s money-centric commanders have engineered a society where black wounds can never heal. Moreover, they will always deny the existence of any such wounds. The myth can never be compromised. The founding fathers were heroes. America has always been intrinsically beautiful. To waffle means to undermine the foundation of lies that support their thrones. In 1888, speaking on the predicament of black folks in America, Frederick Douglass told it like it was and still is:
“He is the victim of a cunningly devised swindle, one which paralyzes his energies, suppresses his ambition, and blasts all his hopes; and though he is nominally free he is actually a slave.”
This is an apt description for the so-called “War on Drugs,” which is actually a war on poor folks of color, especially blacks, and its goal is to perpetuate black Americans’ occupancy of the societal gutter. In a recent interview with Laura Flanders on GRITtv, Noam Chomsky cut to the chase:
“… the whole drug war is designed, from policing to eventual release from prison, to make it impossible for black men and, increasingly, women to be part of [American] society.”
Even though blacks as a group use drugs at similar rates as whites, they are arrested at triple the rate, and once arrested are ten times more likely to be convicted; one out of every three black males will be jailed or imprisoned in their lifetime. This felony disenfranchisement denies millions the right to vote, and provides a powerful obstacle to economic recovery and growth for black communities.
2013’s “Report of The Sentencing Project to the United Nations Human Rights Committee: Regarding Racial Disparities in the United States Criminal Justice System” concluded with this blistering indictment:
“For decades, the United States of America has employed mass incarceration as a convenient answer to inconvenient questions. In doing so, the U.S. government has glossed over the glaring racial inequalities that permeate every aspect of its criminal justice system. The government has both fostered and perpetuated those inequalities in clear violation of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as other international agreements.
More importantly, however, the proliferation of racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system has a real impact on the lives of people of color living in the United States. Behind each statistic lies the face of a young black man whose potential has been cut short by a harsh prison sentence mandated by draconian drug laws. Behind each percentage point lies the face of a Latino child who will only know her parents through hurried, awkward visits in a prison visitation room. Behind each dataset lies a community of color bereft of hope because its young people have been locked away.
It is the human face — a face of color — of the racial injustice of the United States criminal justice system that is the most compelling reason for reform. It is time for the United States to take affirmative steps to eliminate the racial disparities in its criminal justice system.”
But don’t hold your breath.
“This is American history,” Chomsky concludes in his interview with Laura Flanders. “To break out of that is no small trick.”