How did we get here?
America is the greatest country on the planet. There are more freedoms and opportunities here than any country in the world. But we aren’t perfect, there is always room for improvement. I want a better place for my children and future grandchildren if God has that in the cards for me.
In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson wanted to study civil unrest in American inner cities. The President wanted to investigate the causes of the 1967 race riots and other race riots. He wanted to know what happened, why it happened, and how we can prevent it from happening again.
The conclusion of the seven month Kerner Commission - “white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”
But after the commissions report was released – no one listened (more on this later). The 426 page report became an instant best-seller and sold millions of copies. The book’s most infamous quote - “Our nation is moving towards two societies, one black, one white-separate and unequal.”
As you read this book I implore you to leave all of your preconceived notions at the door. Try to read for understanding and to develop a level of empathy. If you read simply to combat you will do the book and yourself a huge disservice.
Many of your ideas on equality, race and racism will be challenged. This topic is difficult because for many on both sides it is very personal and emotional.
Research has shown around 80% of white people today believe the playing field is now level. This false perception fuels a rejection of the conscious that one needs to help end systemic racism.
Structural changes that are mandated by policy aren’t going to find much support in the white community – not when most believe things are already equal. The first step required would be to acknowledge that disparties still exist.
I know from weeks and weeks of conversations and interviews that many assumptions are being made. Assumptions in regards to racially motivated policies and whether or not they still exist, with the majority heavily assuming they don’t. The reasons many state they feel this way are because “many white people never heard about them” or “they ended a long time ago.” You have to fight your inhibition to be dismissive based on assumptions. Dig in a little and arm yourself with knowledge.
I have been asked “do you feel like blacks are playing the victim with all of this race stuff?” In short no. Playing the victim implies that there is nothing wrong occuring and people are crying for no valid reason. The truth is the system is designed to reproduce racial disparities. The system as it stands does not produce equal results as that was not and is not its intent.
Let this book become a starting point for you. Take it a step further and do even more research on the topic before you formulate an opinion if this reading alone doesn’t convince you. The truth is very easy to find if you are willing to accept it.
Liberty and Justice for all; all men are created equal.
Let’s get something else out of the way before we go much further - you’re tired of hearing about race issues and racism? And you just want it to go away? Amen!
Well trust me, so do I and anyone else that’s been affected by racism their entire life. We, even more than you, simply want it to go away! But the difficult conversations must be had and change must be realized.
So let’s address it together once and for all – finally address it at its ugly core. And we can finally ‘Make America Great’ – for the first time. The playing field has (slowly) continually improved but it is far from level. This doesn’t negate personal accountability but to suggest that alone, as the sole answer and discounting the unlevel playing field with no desire to address it is disengenious.
I have engaged in race related conversations with friends – close friends that still had no clue of the day to day issues that I face. These are friends that intimately know my family and I yet they still had no idea of the issues that I deal with being a black man in America. They don’t even understand how or why because they know that I’m a good guy. And well racism doesn’t effect good guys, does it?
Let me also be very clear about something else. I’ve been the butt of many “black jokes.” Some have been funnier than others, and yes I’ve told many white jokes too. I’ve walked into a room full of white people and have been asked to do a certain line dance because it was assumed that I knew how. I’ve been offered watermelon and fried chicken because the host knew that’s what I wanted. Tongue and cheek jokes (although sometimes cross a line) aren’t what this is about. I can take a joke. Hang around me long enough and I’ll probably one up your joke. This isn’t about me walking into a room and someone saying, “Hey can you jump up there and touch that?” Black people aren’t just being oversensitive whiners who can’t take jokes. The racial issues that we want addressed are acts of evil and malice.
There is a misconception among some that black people want everything handed to them. And that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are people from every race that want a free handout and are lazy, but the black people that I know are hard-working proud people that are simply tired. Tired of having the talk with their sons regarding being pulled over by the police. Tired of having to be better and smarter at work to receive the same opportunities. The black people that I know don’t want more, they simply want the same treatment as everyone else. All men are created equal. Why has wanting to be treated 100% fairly and equal become something that requires debate?
There are about sixty million Americans on welfare. Over one third (24 million+) are white while nearly one sixth (11 million+) are black. Many people on welfare aren’t lazy at all some simply can’t escape the cycle – regardless of race.
During times of civil unrest people love to quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because he promoted peace. They love to reference his “I have a Dream” speech, but they don’t often talk about his “2 Americas” speech. MLK promoted peaceful protest and love to drive out darkness and hate, but he also recognized the white experience and the black experience were very different. And he longed for equal treatment for everyone – not a handout or a gift.
Slavery ended in the United States in 1865 – the year is now 2020. America has had 155 years to make black people feel welcomed, wanted and safe. The gap has closed but we aren’t there yet. Mass incarceration, education disparities and housing segreation among other racist policies must end.
Humans are inherently flawed. That being the case, I don’t think that racism in America (or anywhere) will ever be completely stamped out. However, I do believe the overwhelming majority of Americans don’t condone racism.
The recent murder of George Floyd set off a tidal wave of protests, riots, looting and social media posts from most Americans with a pulse. Most were outraged at the policing employed in the video that we all watched. I’ve watched the video of Mr. Floyd’s murder dozens of times. Each time I watch, high levels of pain, anger and anguish settle deep inside my bones all over again. It’s like I’m seeing it for the first time again. I’m afraid in the near future that a bystander will intervene to save a friend or family member. Why am I afraid? What will the police then do to him or her?
As a black man born and raised in a tiny little town thirty miles south of Houston, I’ve had my own share of police encounters. I’ve never been arrested and I have nothing on my record outside of a speeding ticket here or there. I graduated high school, earned a degree in college, earned my PMP in Project Management and I’ve written several books. I’ve even achieved USA Today Best selling author status. None of those accomplishments have overshadowed my blackness when I have an encounter with the police or with a racist. And many times my successes breed even more contempt.
Over the past few weeks tempers have flared easily. Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic has undoutedly helped fuel the unrest of Americans from all walks. Despite that, I’ve been awed by the comments that have floated up and down my social media timelines. At some point in this book I will address many of them but here’s an example: “Have faith in the system.” One of my white friends that probably meant well replied with that on one of my wife’s posts. As we will discuss in the following pages, the system was created to keep black and brown people as lower class, second tier citizens. So it’s really hard to put my faith in a system designed to entangle me, not to mention a system that has been shown to value my life less.
Here’s another one: “If you stop talking about it – it’ll just go away.” What? Really? Now why would hate groups suddenly just STOP hating blacks or hispanics simply because we no longer talk about it? A cancer diagnoses won’t just go away because you decide not to get treatment. The world doesn’t work that way. These racists will continue to lurk in the shadows and sheets unless we actively root them out. If we want a better America, a great America, then hate groups cannot exist.
The most important thing that I’ve learned over the past few weeks is this – my white friends, even close friends, have no idea what I go through as a black man in America. My stories (which I share later) have become my normal. Quite frankly, it shocked me to know they were shocked that this is still happening today. It means more conversations are needed. It means awareness needs to be raised – not the opposite.
Why does it surprise my friends that I am frequently treated this way? Because they aren’t racist and they know “Terry”. You see, anyone that actually gets to know Terry would easily understand that he’s just a guy. He’s not any of the negative stereotypes that get wrongly equated with blackness or being a black man. No. He’s just a guy. Funny, friendly, smart, witty – he’s just a guy. Or my friends who tell me, “You’re not like most black guys.” Maybe they are right? Maybe I am the only funny, smart, witty, athletic, handsome black guy in America? I mean it is possible.
So why am I writing this book?
There are a few main reasons. One, I’d like to educate you on the systematic racism that has prevailed in America since slavery ended; and to discuss the policies that are still enforced today. I won’t go in depth into every nook and cranny, but you’ll finish in shock about many of the things our government has supported despite the detriment to blacks in America. Secondly, I’d like everyday Americans to understand what it’s like to be a black man in America. I don’t want or need a pity party – I want a better America for my son and daughter, and one day their kids as well. I want to share stories of normal black men like myself and their police experiences. Not people that were asking for it by engaging in illegal activity. Lastly, I want to discuss ways that each of us can foster change. Sitting this one out isn’t an option. Black men and women need the inclusion of our white brothers and sisters to eradicate (as best we can) the deep seated hate in sects of the white community. Silence emboldens cowards and suggests complacency. We need to drive out racism in the deepest, darkest corners of our country. Not being racist simply isn’t enough.
As the title “Stop Killing Us” suggests, the murder of unarmed minorities, in addition to murder in our own communities, must be addressed. “Stop Killing Us” then becomes a battle cry to everyone. Here we’ll focus primarily on law enforcement and the judicial system and the role they both play.
As you read my stories and the stories of others, I hope that it angers you into action. I also hope that you gain a level of empathy and understanding to the fatigue that many of us feel.
Prejudice is an emotional commitment to ignorance.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Slavery in America was abolished with the 13th amendment – this was 1865. June 19, 1865, (Juneteenth) is the day that the last African Slaves (in Galveston, Texas) finally received word that they’d been freed. Juneteenth is a holiday observed by many (mostly southerners) to celebrate that day. Some also call this day Freedom Day. Unbeknownst to many, by 1867 black men were voting, holding public offices and rapidly carving out their place in society.
In 1935, famous black sociologist W.E.B. Dubois wrote “the slave went free; stood for a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again towards slavery.”
The Confederacy had lost the Civil War and their right to own slaves, but peace was still many years away.
Memphis, Tennesse – May 1, 1866 kicked off a three day event named the Memphis Riot of 1866. Post Civil War President Johnson (who had previously been a slave owner) did very little to keep white southerners from reclaiming racial dominance over blacks in the south. Black soldiers in Memphis had been given authority to help police patrol the city and this disturbed many of its white citizens. On May 1st, white police officers began shooting into a crowd of African American men, women and children who had gathered. Over the next three days the black community would be destroyed. Whites (including police officers) looted and burned black homes, businesses and churches. By the time the riots ended, nearly fifty blacks had been killed, another nearly three hundred had been injured and more than one hundred homes and businesses had been burned down. Five women were also reportedly raped yet, zero arrests were made. Every black church and school was gone. Many blacks fled the town with nearly one quarter taking up permanent residence elsewhere.
The Civil War threatened to destroy the most profitable industry in the south: farming – specifically cotton farming (notably the free labor). But many other southern industries were also negatively impacted. This problem plagued many white southerners and it made them angry, and resentful. These white men had killed to protect their right to beat, rape and murder black men, women and children. They’d lost loved ones, homes, farms and businesses. Too much had been sacrificed to simply throw in the towel.
During this post-slavery time literacy within the African American community was quickly rising and in some cases advancing past that of many white schools. Many in the white community were angered by this as well.
White southerners were in desparate need of a way to reverse this new normal and get back to the ways of the south. In order to jump start this change, a group called the Redeemers were born. The Redeemers were southern white democratic militant nationalists that instituted many tactics to try and regain control of the south.
The group used murder, bullying and intimidation to force their way into power. During local elections, blacks also known as freedmen (the term used to identify former African American slaves) were murdered by the hundreds by white militants. Various terrorist groups like the Pale Faces, KKK, the White League, and the Red Shirts developed and began murdering blacks and Republicans – of which African Americans largely were. An important thing to note here is, these white militant groups were Democrats. Fast forward to 2020, most blacks vote blindly democratic. A few years ago ESPN anchor Stephen A. Smith took a lot of heat from the black community when he challenged black voters and the Democratic party to show blacks why their vote was so important to them. What has the Democratic party done for the black community as of late? He also challenged the black community to do some research into the Democratic party to find out how the party started. His plea fell on deaf ears.
Strongly active during the late 1870s, these violent militant groups staged themselves (with long guns) at voting booths to disuade blacks and Republicans from voting. They also assassinated many Republicans that already held public offices. This was their plan to take back the south.
On Easter Sunday, April 13, 1873 in Colfax, Lousiana, nearly one hundred and fifty black men were killed by white southerners. Black Republicans (blacks were voting at around 90 percent as opposed to roughly 55 percent today) had won the 1872 Governor race by an overwhelming majority. Former Governor Henry Warmoth was in major disagreement with President Grant’s reconstruction plan. He began soliciting the help of local Democrats in order to steal the election. These solicited men terrorized blacks, changed the site of registrar offices (without notifying blacks), and threatened to burn their homes and businesses if they voted Republican.
The blacks who aimed to halt this injustice took over the courthouse and controlled it for three weeks. Warmoth called in help from neighboring parishes who were more than willing to join forces against the blacks. After being outnumbered, many blacks fled and were gunned down. The remaining surrendered by waiving white flags. The black men left the courthouse and laid down their weapons, believing the standoff was over. That night the white militia groups hunted down and publicly executed the surrendered men. The message was loud and clear - if you oppose us, even in surrender, we will kill you. This day would be known as the Colfax Massacre.
We are beginning to see a disturbing trend forming. White men who want change aren’t peacefully protesting. Instead they terrorize, intimidate and murder anyone who gets in their way.
In addition to their political strong arming, these paramilitant groups had to find a way to get their free labor back as well. Slavery had ended and along with it went the free labor needed to maintain the deep south’s status quo.
And then they found their ticket!
The 13th Amendment abolished slavery, however a loophole in the amendment allowed involuntary servitude to be enforced to those in prison while they served their time. Basically, an inmate could be used for free labor while he served his prison sentence.
Convict leasing (or penal labor) was born and developed largely out of a need to fill the farms with free labor essentially replacing slaves. So, when somone mentions that slavery ended in 1865 that isn’t entirely true – it was merely reformatted. This is one of many things I’ll discuss that was omitted from our history classes. The terms convict and negro became almost interchangeable. These men were subjected to working inhumane amounts of hours and like slaves, were bought, sold and traded. They were also subjected to sexual violation by their masters/overseers.
One major difference between this new slavery and chattel slavery was the concern for the inmates health. These convict laborers weren’t treated as well because the plantation owner didn’t pay as much or anything for the men. 25% of the inmates died due to the harsh conditions.
Orphaned and “criminal” black children were also subjected to being prisoners.
Wait… what laws were being broken in order to send someone to prison?
The Black Codes.
The Black Codes were created in order to give black men prison time where they could therefore be used as slaves. These include minor infractions and in most cases, specific laws that were created under the pretense they would inherently be broken. Thus creating an automatic violation, arrest, and sentencing consequently producing another slave. It is thought that some 800,000 men were subjected to this free slave labor – after slavery had been abolished.
Other black codes included being illegal to walk beside a railroad on a farm at night, for black men to speak loudly in the presence of white women, to sell anything from their farm after dark, nor could they be out after dark. They were also unable to serve on juries or testify against a white person in court. Nearly every aspect of these “free” men and women were still being controlled by white men. We speak of 1865 as the year when blacks were freed – this is hardly free to me.
The most blatant of these new laws was that of vagrancy or simply being unemployed. Black men were being arrested for not having a job in order to send them to prison. An additional way to increase black slave labor was discriminatory sentencing which is still an issue as I write this book today.
Black men accounted for about ninety percent of the convicts on these prison farms. The other ten percent were comprised of poor white men. This, more than any other factor, contributed to black fathers being removed from the home. It is ironic that one of the stereotypes surrounding black families today is father absenteeism. Removing fathers from homes erodes communities (more on that later).
These newly imprisoned convicts were used in coal mines, on railroads, in steel mills, on produce farms and just about every other industry in-between.
Even after slavery had ended, America was still being built on the backs of the negro – for free.
Another irony is the sterotype that blacks are inherently lazy. As history demonstrates from America’s earliest days, the men and women peforming more than their fair share of the work have always been African Americans.
This new form of convict labor/slavery wasn’t abolished until 1951.
When educated people, black or white, talk about systemic racism in America this is one of the many forms they are referring to. From America’s inception many whites (mainly men) have been working hard devising plans with the sole purpose of keeping African Americans beneath them - white supremacy and politics colliding at the expense of African Americans.
This is another reason why it’s so important to exercise your right to vote. It was only fifty five years ago (1965) that the Voting Rights Act was passed. When you go to a casino the house always wins. White men in America have been the house since the late 1600s.
After the black codes, came the infamous Jim Crow laws which were also enforced in the U.S. until 1965. Think of it this way, if an upstairs sink has been running in your bathroom for weeks suddenly is turned off, it doesn’t magically make the disaster you now have suddenly go away. The fallout from that sink running will take days if not weeks to rectify and that’s not including the cost of the damage that was done. To date, African American’s have never been given repair for the damage caused to our community. For example, the post Civil War promise of forty acres and a mule was overturned and never fulfilled. Another promise broken by white leadership. So, the damage that was caused was never reversed, it was just left to fester and rot.
The goal of the Jim Crow laws were to effectively destroy the economic and politcal gains made by many African Americans. This time period is where we get the phrase “separate but equal,” but in fact, nothing was equal at all.
Facilities for African Americans were never equal to their white counterparts. Schools, the military, restrooms – all public places were segragated. Professional sports leagues were even segregated.
Due to the fact that blacks were unable to vote they couldn’t lobby for their own interests in regards to these lesser facilities. So those interests were overlooked and the cycle of poverty worsened. Meanwhile, the wealth gap between blacks and whites grew larger. This segregation was heavily influenced by the southern white democratic paramilitants that had already left their mark on black America.
This is also the time that white flight began. White flight is described as white families leaving industrialized cities and moving to the suburbs. In addition, bank redlining was also implemented. A government sanctioned program denying blacks from receiving loans in a certain geographic area that had been zoned (redlined) on a map. This led to even more inferior facilities for blacks and contributed to urban decay.
The government approved redlining practices were prevelant in the United States from the 1930s until the mid-to-late 80s. Blacks, in zoned areas, were not only denied loans to purchase homes away from the ghettos and slums but they were also denied business loans. The programs intent was clear – “you blacks are staying in the ghetto.”
As white flight and redlining continued, urban decay thrived. As property values decreased, more and more underprivileged populations of blacks moved in.
So far into the 80’s, American banks (owned by white men at the direction of the government) were intentionally running programs aimed at keeping blacks out of white neighborhoods while encouraging whites to abandon ship to even better neighborhoods. This directly contributes to the cycle of poverty.
Meanwhile, welfare programs were offering more money for two things that further crippled the black community: having more children and not having a man in the house.
Let’s pause for just a moment – someone born in a 1977 project (because their parents couldn’t get a home in a better neighborhood) would only be forty three years old today! Not sixty, seventy or even eighty years old. This isn’t a century old problem. Ending the cycle of poverty created by immoral programs is a current issue. We’ll dive deeper into this program later.
Systemic racism is still affecting millions of black Americans across the U.S. today. Racism isn’t only defined as feelings of dominance but also hidden programs designed to promote white superiority and black inferiority. So it pains me greatly when I hear someone spout something ignorant like, “how long ago blacks were treated poorly here or why can’t they just get over it?” It - is still affecting the black community today.
I can’t speak for other blacks but I don’t tell you this history for your pity or sympathy. I want to educate you so you can understand why a man or woman or a family even today may still be stuck in the cycle of poverty seemingly unable to escape. We don’t know what we don’t know and many, even today, don’t know that there are opportunities beyond their hoods.
I often laugh when I read a post that says, “What we are doing isn’t working…” in regards to making racism end and holding the police accountable.
Why do I laugh?
Because the system is working – just like the white democratic nationals intended it to.
America doesn’t simply need a new hard drive – we need an entirely new operating system.