A friend recommended this book as a reflection on the state of racism in America. My first thoughts this book was going to be just another long list of injustices committed on African Americans by European Americans. The book goes deeper than that, fleshing out a systemic racism that many European and African Americans may not realize.
The author, Ezrah Aharone, brings up interesting points of American and world history to show the imbalance of power. He compared the 1873 Treaty of Paris, the document that formally recognized the 13 colonies as separate from Great Britain to the 1865 13th amendment to the American constitution, the document that ended slavery. The former document was 2000 words long and was negotiated and signed by the leaders of Great Britain, the new United States, and France. The latter document was 50 words long, and no African Americans were significant players in the creation of this document. It was not a negotiation between two sovereign people, but a gift bestowed by Euro-Americans to Africa Americans, almost as if slavery had been a rightful act.
Not only that, a significant part of 13th amendment allowed governments to put people into slavery for criminal offences. The American South took advantage of that clause to round up African Americans on minor criminal charges and put them on the chain gangs, a practice which continued for almost 100 years. The goal of such actions was not, according to the author, punishment for crime, but rather to keep an African American community fearful of white authorities and militia. Thus these communities were both overtly and subtly traumatized.
When a community is so traumatized, it is not sovereign in its own right. It gains a feeling of worthlessness and powerlessness, and it cannot make effective decisions for itself. In this psyche, it cannot rise to its potential. Without coming to its potential, the cycle repeats itself—and African American communities are still feeling the effects of slavery even though they have nominally been free for five generations.
The author states the end of racism did not stop with African Americans being allowed in the front of the bus or be elected to the president of the United States. Like any traumatized person, most African Americans are not sovereign in their own minds.
This book proffers many more perspectives of American history. The reader will discover historical facts that seldom get much attention in the mass media and education system, which leads to a better understanding of racism today in America. This book is full of contradictions between the stated liberty of historical American documents and the domination/subjugation relationship of the two races. I, as a white person, now have a better understanding of Black Lives Matter and the silent protest at American national anthems.
While Aharone is critical of institutions that subtly keep a certain degree of white privilege, he calls on African American to take charge of their own affairs. He calls for better understanding their history, then building their own institutions that will truly advance their cause, such as better schools in African American communities.
The true battleground, he says, is not in the streets or in politics, but in the minds of African Americans. There are societal forces to keep African Americans in their current mindset. But it will be up to African Americans to drive these subtle forces out. Then Africans Americans will be truly sovereign in their own country.