Something strange has happened in the United States. It happened slowly; so slowly in fact that we can excuse ourselves for having missed it. In the late 1950s blacks stop asking ‘are we there yet’ and gave up seats in the back of the bus to start a march towards civil rights. The strange thing that has happened since began in the late 1980s as large groups of white people got up and claimed seats in the back of the bus.
Throughout the 1990s these ‘whites’ began to ask “are we there yet” as a way of indicating how tired they were with colored people’s struggle for equality and rights. At the turn of the century they accented their “are we there yet” rant with a cry of wolf in the face of what they understood to be reverse discrimination otherwise known as social progress. It is against this backdrop that articles like the one below by Lance Morrow made headway as both common sense and conventional wisdom among ‘white moderates’ and social conservatives.
When the parents, grandparents and great grandparents of these ‘white moderates’ and social conservatives were in the driver’s seat or just along for the ride, they were in no hurry to get “there”. When the revered, God fearing and freedom loving ‘founding fathers’ were in the driver’s seat at the writing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787 they were in no hurry to get “there”.
As a matter of historical fact, the ‘founding fathers’ decided to delay the trip “there” by 20 years when they allowed for the continuation of the slave-trade until 1808. During this delay they managed to craft the first ten amendments to the constitution that reserved seats at the front of the bus for ‘whites only’ until a tired old black women took the bus home one-hundred and sixty-seven years later.
When President Abraham Lincoln had a chance to take the whole country “there” in 1863 he decided to free slaves in territories where he had no authority and allow slavery to continue in territories where he had a monopoly of violence. In other words, he stopped the bus in front of blacks but did not let any get on, preferring instead to show them the places they would eventually occupy at the back of the bus. In 1865 with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment the bus made its second stop but the doors did not open. It pulled off leaving former slaves to enjoy their ‘freedom’ as share-renters and sharecroppers.
“On Aug. 22, 1862, President Lincoln wrote a letter to the New York Tribune that included the following passage: “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”” Five myths about why the South seceded, By James W. Loewen, Saturday, February 26 – The Washington Post
As the ruins of Reconstruction turned into the rot of Jim Crow the bus made a few stops and blacks began to take their assigned seats at the back of the bus. The first few of them that asked “are we there yet” found themselves hanging from trees and the center pieces of barn fires. The next brave souls that ventured to ask “are we there yet” did so as they were getting off of the bus. No sooner had their feet hit the ground than they were driven back by water hoses and night-sticks.
Taking the fight to the United States Supreme Court in Brown V. Board of Education Thrugood Marshall and his team of lawyers were told by the highest court in the land that we will get there with “all deliberate speed”. Much to his dismay and to ours today, “all deliberate speed” meant and means ‘slow’. In the mean time, we will just have to watch as ‘white moderates’ and ‘social conservatives‘ get over our social, economic and political problems faster than we do.
In 1966, Vermont’s Senator George Aiken proposed that the U.S. disentangle itself from Vietnam by declaring victory and withdrawing. America should think < about a variation on the Aiken scenario in order to begin leaving behind its fatal domestic quagmire of race. The nation should decide that, in order to rescue everyone’s honor — above all, that of African Americans — it is time to withdraw from an untenable dynamic, from the racial equivalent of what the French generals in Indochina called “bad country.”
“A tour-de-force by rising indy comics star Gene Yang, American Born Chinese tells the story of three apparently unrelated characters: Jin Wang, who moves to a new neighborhood with his family only to discover that he’s the only Chinese-American student at his new school; the powerful Monkey King, subject of one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables; and Chin-Kee, a personification of the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, who is ruining his cousin Danny’s life with his yearly visits. ”
Richard M. Nixon made disparaging remarks about Jews, blacks, Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans in a series of extended conversations with top aides and his personal secretary, recorded in the Oval Office 16 months before he resigned as president.
“There is another class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. … Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs … There is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don’t want the patient to get well.”
When I was 11, my father thought it was time to show my sister and me the nation’s capital. I have only vague memories of that trip – the heat, the expanse of the White House’s grounds, the Jefferson Memorial. I do remember we took Route 1 through Baltimore (no I-95 yet) and it was there that I saw my first sign with the word “colored” on it – a rooming house, I think. This was 1952, and the United States was an apartheid nation.
But if you don’t have the means to get a driver’s license, or if you cannot afford the time and money it takes to get certain other forms of government ID, you are out of luck? What a great country this is.