What America Owes Frederick Douglass - 'relevant lesson during this error of Drumpf'

Discussion in 'Politics and the Topics of the day' started by muckraker10021, Nov 25, 2018.

  1. muckraker10021

    muckraker10021 Superstar ***** BGOL Investor

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    What America Owes Frederick Douglass

    He said black people had three tools: their voice, their pen and their vote. Today all three are under threat.

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    by David W. Blight | November 5 2018 |
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/05/opinion/what-america-owes-frederick-douglass.html

    In the introduction to Frederick Douglass’s second autobiography, “My Bondage and My Freedom,” published in 1855, his friend James McCune Smith wrote that if a stranger landed in the United States and sought out its most prominent men by using newspapers and telegraph messages, he would discover Douglass. Born a slave in Maryland, Douglass had escaped to the North to become a renowned abolitionist orator and writer. He was, Smith said, the sort of person people would ask, “‘Tell me your thought!’ And somehow or other, revolution seemed to follow in his wake.”

    When he started his career, Douglass eschewed politics in favor of changing hearts and minds through moral suasion. But in the decade before the Civil War, he had become a thorough going political abolitionist, a believer that slavery could be destroyed only through power politics.

    At the end of the memoir, Douglass admitted that he had, until recently, fought only with “pen and tongue.” But now, in the roiling crises over slavery in the 1850s — fugitive slave rescues, violent clashes in Kansas over slavery’s expansion and a nation enthralled by the antislavery novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” — the author announced his new “disposition.” He had discovered the force of politics in a republic dominated by slavery. He wished to add his own story to the nation’s “blood-written history” as clouds of “wrathful thunder and lightning” hovered over the land. Then he gave voice to his life’s work. He would, as long as “heaven” gave him the ability to speak and to write, fight for abolition and the beginning of black equality with “my voice, my pen, or my vote.”

    So much of Douglass’s life echoes down through American history, but especially this week, perhaps nothing more so than those words. All those Americans voting across our country right now, and especially those whose votes are thwarted by people who still refuse to accept historical verdicts a century and a half old, owe Douglass a nod of recognition.


    In 1866-67, the United States had no obvious path ahead in the wake of the Civil War. A people — North and South, black and white, still mourning 700,000 dead (2% of the U.S population) — faced elections without clearly defined rules about who could vote. Nearly four million former slaves, many living in physical hardship and under the threat of terror and violence in the South, did not yet know what “freedom” would mean, nor what kind of civil and political rights they might exercise.

    Americans ached to be put back together in some new, reimagined way. Hundreds of thousands had fled their homes during the war. The nation’s politics was shredded into blood-born hatreds and seemingly hopeless polarization. Its national and state governments had to be remade. Racism, fear and hope all marched together as traumatized soldiers from both sides made their way home to farms in a thriving Northern economy but an utterly devastated South.

    The party in power in Washington was led by a group of visionaries, the “radical” Republicans who had championed the cause of emancipation during the war and believed in an interventionist federal government as a means of fashioning a second American republic out of the destruction of the first. They imagined at least the beginning of a revolution in racial equality. The war was over, but everything still seemed at stake in the struggle over Reconstruction. Whether free exercise of voice, pen and vote would really be protected for all remained to be seen.

    The president was Andrew Johnson, a Tennessean who had been invited onto Abraham Lincoln’s ticket in 1864 because he had been the sole senator from a Confederate state who did not secede with it. Johnson’s support of the Union notwithstanding, he was a staunch proponent of states’ rights, a virulent white supremacist and a believer in limited federal government. Johnson grudgingly accepted the end of slavery but denounced the extension of civil and political liberty to black Americans. His spirit lives on today, in more subtle ways, in the voter suppression practices of the Republican Party and in the desire to revoke birthright citizenship.

    As Johnson and the radical Republicans locked horns over fundamentally different visions of Reconstruction
    in the winter of 1866, Frederick Douglass led a delegation of 12 black leaders to the White House. Hoping for an honest hearing of their hopes and grievances,— they received a barrage of vitriol from an angry racist president who hoped to thwart any revision of the Constitution that would guarantee rights for blacks. Johnson and his anxious conservative followers desired an America that was largely pre-1861, a society many Northerners believed had been buried by the sacrifices at Antietam, Fort Wagner and Gettysburg.

    Douglass led off the encounter by respectfully informing the president that they had come to ask for “equality before the law,” and to be “fully enfranchised throughout the land.” “Extend us the ballot,” Douglass pleaded, “with which to save ourselves.”

    Johnson interrupted and for the next 40 minutes harangued and insulted his guests. He was willing to be their “Moses,” he declared. His “feelings” had always been with blacks. “I have owned slaves, and bought slaves, but I never sold one,” he assured the delegation. He did not like being “arraigned” by one — Douglass — “who could get up handsomely rounded periods and deal in rhetoric.” If his guests pursued their goals of equality it would cause “race war,” and he insisted that the only good solution was for blacks to leave the country. As Douglass looked at him in disgust, Johnson asserted that in his relationship with blacks, “I have been their slave instead of their being mine.”

    Johnson then made a fierce defense of states’ rights. The federal government could not force a state to follow its dictates, the president claimed. The “law” and majorities must be obeyed. As if he had not offended Douglass and his colleagues enough, Johnson then maintained that the truest victim of slavery and the war was the poor, non-slaveholding Southern white: “The colored man and his master combined to keep him in slavery.”

    As this disastrous meeting came to an end, Douglass did manage one direct claim to Johnson’s face. “The very thing Your Excellency would avoid” — a race war — “in the Southern states can only be avoided by the very measure that we propose,” i.e., black suffrage, Douglass said.
    As the delegation walked out, the president was overheard saying: “Those damned sons of bitches thought they had me in a trap. I know that damned Douglass; he’s just like any niĝĝer, and would sooner cut a white man’s throat than not.”

    In the wake of this worst-ever meeting between black leaders and an American president, Douglass did what he so frequently did in the middle of crises — he went to his desk, wrote a remarkable speech and took it out on the road. From Brooklyn to St. Louis, Douglass, who called his speech “Sources of Danger to the Republic,” skewered Johnson as an “unmitigated calamity” of a president under whom, for now, the nation “must stagger.” A constant refrain in this and other postwar speeches was his claim that “slavery is not abolished until the black man has the ballot.”


    Douglass left a timeless maxim for republics in times of crisis: “Our government may at some time be in the hands of a bad man. When in the hands of a good man it is all well enough.” But “we ought to have our government so shaped that even when in the hands of a bad man we shall be safe.” Politics, he insisted, mattered as much as the air he breathed.

    Douglass’s words echo on today. Are our institutions adequate to the challenges presented by a president animated by a combination of authoritarianism and ignorance? Is the right to vote really safe and free? Are our political parties disintegrating? Is our free press robust enough to withstand the attacks upon it and the technology revolutionizing the dissemination of information?

    At this moment in our history we too are tested by the same question Douglass posed about bad men and government (in 1866). And the only weapons most of us have in this historical moment are those Douglass named: our voice, our pen and our vote.

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    Last edited: Nov 25, 2018
    QueEx likes this.
  2. QueEx

    QueEx Well-Known Member Super Moderator

    Still. In 2018 as much as it was in 1866.
     
  3. HAR125LEM

    HAR125LEM Well-Known Member BGOL Investor

    What's going on in this country right now is what many Black Historical figures predicted.
    Our people back in those days were Prophets.
    They knew this Country more than anyone.
    And many of US keep ignoring their words.
    I say this to folks all the time.
     
    QueEx likes this.
  4. thoughtone

    thoughtone BGOL Supporter Registered

    The power of African Americans has always been there. Only our will to use it has varied over time.
     
    QueEx likes this.
  5. muckraker10021

    muckraker10021 Superstar ***** BGOL Investor

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    Why Trump Fears Women of Color
    The right recognizes their political power. The left takes them for granted

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    Aug. 13 2019
    by Taeku Lee and EunSook Lee | https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/13/opinion/trump-black-women-2020.html



    Conservatives tacitly recognize the political power of women of color when they try to discredit them through ridicule and harassment. Consider President Trump’s attacks on the members of “the squad” who have proven to be remarkably deft and savvy politicians.

    Or recall that Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia played referee, scorekeeper and contestant so he could tip the scales in his favor in the 2018 election for governor against Stacey Abrams, whose voter protection efforts had begun years earlier.

    Women of color, especially black women, are potent forces in progressive politics, both in office and as organizers who mobilize voters. It seems that conservatives understand this better than liberals.

    That’s why it’s important to note that the outcome of the 2020 election will likely depend upon the efforts of independent groups led by women of color — like Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta and the New Virginia Majority Education Fund — that are expert at the nuts and bolts of politicking.

    A new report called “Ahead of the Majority,” by the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund and Groundswell Fund uses recently released census data, polling data from the 2018 midterm elections and interviews with community organizers to illuminate the political power of women of color. Their numbers are growing, and they are turning out to vote; mobilizing their families, friends and communities; and taking to the streets.

    Since 2008, women of color have grown by 18 percentage points in the general population and by 25 percentage points among registered voters. This is starting to show up at the ballot box. The 2018 election set new benchmarks for turnout in a midterm election, with a whopping 30 million more people voting than in 2014. For women of color, the increased turnout was even more stark, at 37 percent; for Latinas it was 51 percent; and for Asian-American and Pacific Islander women, 48 percent.

    Women of color incited this change because they mobilized their friends and family in significant numbers. Black women led the way, with 84 percent convincing members of their social networks to register and vote, followed by 76 percent of Asian-American and Pacific Islander women, 72 percent of Native American women, 70 percent of Latinas and 66 percent of white women.

    Turnout also substantially relied on the efforts of independent political groups. Consider that nearly half of 2018 voters who were contacted to register or go to the polls reported that the contact came from a group unaffiliated with a political party.

    Voters of color were more likely to have been contacted this way, and these numbers buttress the experience of community-based organizations on the ground that carried out an uncommon range of nonpartisan civic engagement activities to reach those who had recently become citizens or who were classified as having a “low propensity” to vote.

    The impact of community groups is especially impressive given their limited resources. Those focused on reaching communities of color have even fewer resources.

    Women of color who are organizers on the ground testify that they were effective because they came from the same communities they were organizing. These independent community groups see women as the original influencers in the family and designed culturally informed programs for them. Those programs drew from the knowledge of existing networks and were used to help develop homegrown talent instead of simply relying on outside strategists who parachute into communities to extract surgical campaign victories

    We also found that in 2018 voters were engaged beyond the ballot box. What looked to be an unprecedented number of Americans took to the streets, with communities of color especially active in grass-roots political activism and mass protests. Surveys from previous midterm years show protest participation typically hovers in the low single digits. But in 2018, an extraordinarily high estimate of 1 out of every 8 Americans engaged in protest politics. That figure was nearly 20 percent among African-Americans and Native Americans.

    We are in a time of extraordinary challenges and opportunities for our democratic politics. At moments like this, people most directly impacted best understand the urgency for change and action. In 2018 women of color showed America what that urgency means in terms of political engagement.

    Ninety-three percent of black women voters supported a Democratic House candidate as did 68 percent of Native American women, 76 percent of Latinas and 73 percent of Asian-American and Pacific Islander women. This does not bode well for the incumbent president.

    Mr. Trump’s re-election strategy is focused on energizing his base of disaffected white men. And with white women evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, we would do well to heed the potential for women of color to decide the outcome of the 2020 election.

    In other words, steering away from the divisive rhetoric and vitriol is the right thing for both major political parties to do in 2020. So is investing in women of color. To do so, donors should fund work in ways that are not episodic, chaotic or project-based, which is now the status quo. Instead, they ought to provide multiyear, general operating grants that allow women of color to develop leadership skills, execute culturally informed approaches and learn and grow in other ways. Organizations led by women of color are chronically underfunded and expected to produce measurable outcomes in a short time.

    Moreover, we know very little about how to engage women of color in politics. We need to support more research, more innovation and greater improvements to existing voter contact tools. And we need to focus on protecting voting rights as voter suppression continues. Finally, people working in civic engagement must help create infrastructure, the formation of durable groups that are led by women of color and that are in the fight for the long term. We urgently need this. Our democracy itself is at stake.


     

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