4.12.2011

150 Years Later-Still Fightin'

"This is a white man's government; that white men are able to defend and protect it, and that to enlist a negro soldier would be to drive every white man out of the service,"-Ohio Governor David Tod responding to a request to allow Black men to join the Union Army to fight against the Confederacy.

"The employment of negro soldiers is...a disgrace to the Government that employs them--a reproach to our cause--calculated to bring upon us the shame of the whole world, and to cause the South to fight as one man against us."-A Cincinnati politician's statement printed in the Cincinnati Enquirer, 1862.

Today marks the anniversary of the shots fired at Fort Sumter South Carolina, to start the Civil War. Southern states have been celebrating since the first of the year, presenting and spinning a squeaky clean image of the turmoil that tore apart the new nation of America. The south argues to this day that states rights were the reason behind the Civil War, while refusing to admit that the only states right in question was the right to own another human being as property.

Meanwhile, northern states such as Ohio, where slavery was outlawed from the beginning, have been content to stand behind an equally squeaky clean presentation of what took place back then...a “south, bad-north, good!” scenario, when the truth is out there and a bit more complicated.

In 1803 Ohio's capital was in Chillicothe, not Columbus. In 1803 state lawmakers decided to outlaw slavery in the newly formed state. However the decision was a majority decision that rested on just one vote. That one vote may have outlawed slavery, but it didn't make Blacks free, especially in Cincinnati which sits on the banks of the Ohio River directly across from the slave holding state of Kentucky.

Blacks who made it across the Ohio river were constantly looking over their shoulder for the Kentucky slave catchers who operated in Cincinnati just like they operated in the Bluegrass state. Blacks had to post a bond just to stay in Cincinnati and another bond to work, if they could find a job in the first place.

It was a common occurrence to see free Blacks literally snatched off the downtown streets by slave catchers and returned to points south, never mind if they were runaways or not. Despite popular notions, many Blacks did not come to this country in chains. Many came as free men, at least or until they crossed paths with a slave tracker.

The Cincinnati Enquirer is still in existence operating today with the same sort of blind eye bigotry that it did back in the early days of Cincinnati, presenting white washed stories of heroic people who took part in the Civil War starting with the Black Brigade and Powhatan Beaty.

Beaty was born a slave in Virginia in 1837 and came to Cincinnati in 1849, although it is not clear if he was freed before or after he arrived here. In Cincinnati, he studied acting and was a free man when the war broke out. In 1862, Beaty joined the “Black Brigade,” a unit of African-Americans who built many of the defenses around Cincinnati when it was threatened by Confederate forces.”- Cincinnati Enquirer, 4/2011.

Or William M. Dickson:

"A Cincinnati lawyer, Dickson organized and commanded the “Black Brigade,’one of the early all-African-American units. Dickson’s Black Brigade didn’t fight, but it built all the breastworks and defenses around Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Dickson’s wife was a cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln”.- Cincinnati Enquirer, 4/2011.

The truth of the matter is that the Black Brigade, like everything else about Black life back then was not voluntary for Black men. In September of 1862, days after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, Powhatan Beaty and other Black men were rounded up and jailed until they were set free to labor for the Union Army. This was how the Black Brigade was formed, no organization needed from Mr. William M. Dickson.

These men were taken away from their families and were never compensated for their work, barely remembered in historical reference. Other Black men left the state to join legitimate regiments such as the 54th out of Massachusetts. Beaty distinguished himself when he was finally allowed to fight and a was awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery. He is buried at Union Baptist Cemetery in Price Hill.

Ohio, in fact had a law on the books banning Blacks from joining the Ohio Militia in any form, a law repeatedly upheld by the aforementioned Governor Tod until he was forced into action by the federal government.

This white washing of history does no one any good. All people suffer when the truth is not told. The sanitized version of the Civil War as presented by nearly everyone north or south perpetuates deeply buried racism and bigotry that underlies every institution in the United States of America. When Blacks talk about institutional or ingrained racism, this is what we mean. Institutional and ingrained racism is denied by whites today as a figment of a Black mindset that simply won't die.

Ingrained racism is mirrored in insidious, bigoted and cowardly attacks of a bad makeup wearing, on paper, billionaire real estate developer looking for publicity for his television show.

Ingrained racism and bigotry keeps alive the birther movement long after the truth is known.

Ingrained racism against Blacks gives birth to the tea party movement today while harkening backward in history to a movement called the copperhead movement. Today's tea party regularly uses slogans coined by copperheads back in the day.

Institutional and ingrained racism allows deniers of all colors to rewrite history into a fairytale of happy Negroes singing, dancing and smiling on the plantation, safely snatched from the horrors of their African origins and families.....”America, white people, good-Africa, black people, bad!”

Institutional racism allows the news media to give air time to any bigot stupid enough to utter or write out the word “nigger” in an email addressed to people of similar mind set, while ignoring the lack of diversity within their own ranks.

Blacks suffer, victimized outright by white denial and flight, but also from refusing to recognize our own complicity in our degradation.

Blacks must first seek the truth behind the history presented. Blacks must also learn the difference between “integration” and “assimilation.” We are being assimilated and erased...not a good thing.

Salvation lies not in the Black church...another product foisted upon Blacks by whites during slavery...but in education and the taking of responsibility for our own communities and behavior. 72% out of wedlock birth rate is not responsible, nor are the daily killings of young Black men by other young Black men..it is slow and painful community wide suicide.

In 2011, on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Sumter, Black people rather than celebrating the beginnings of our official fight for freedom are embroiled in a fight for existence.

And the fight for civil rights, well it is basically passe...destined to become a footnote in the history of a now, admittedly mixed race America.
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