Black people bought. Black people sold. Black folk owned as slaves. White people owning black people. Slavery. Human chattel.

Slavery and race are not politically correct topics. Slavery and race, especially in the American context, are topics that the urbane and civilized want to let lie dormant so as not to disturb the good feelings we all have toward each other in a place like, say for instance, Chicago.

Slavery and race may not be politically correct topics, but they are historically correct topics. Invariably, when these topics would come up in conversations with my white friends, colleagues and acquaintances, I would often hear (even before I could give any unsolicited substantive commentary), “I’m not responsible and should not be punished for what white people who lived before me did to your people.”

My short, quick response to that statement is, “I shouldn’t be responsible and be punished for what your people did to my people either.”

I’ve learned over the years that the discomfort stirred up by conversations about slavery and race isn’t because of historical relevance or social transparency but more about the discomfort of advantage in the presence of the disadvantaged. Or to press it further, how this advantage was acquired.

Of course I’m writing about this subject because Rev. Al Sharpton recently discovered that his family was once owned by the legendary southern segregationist and former presidential candidate, Sen. Strom Thurmond. Rev. Sharpton, in acknowledging the tradition of sexual abuse on the plantation, is also requesting a DNA test that might just prove they’re related.

Will the Sharptons receive reparations from the Thurmond clan? Will he become an heir to the Thurmond estate? Will Rev. Al will be the keynote speaker at the next Thurmond family reunion? Maybe Sen. Thurmond’s daughter (the black one) will introduce Rev. Al to everybody.

All kidding aside, we must acknowledge there is no expiration date on unfair advantage. What affects unfair advantage is a raised consciousness, uprisings, movements and revolutions. There is no painless solution to this American tragedy.

Immigration is a major issue in our country. We talk about America being a country of immigrants. We praise the values and work ethic of our immigrant population. But the major difference between immigrants and black Americans is that immigrants are leaving their poor, struggling or oppressive homelands to come to a place that we black Americans, slave and free, have made better for everyone.

Never, never, never underestimate what it takes to overcome the legacy of slavery.

If America began purchasing/kidnapping and enslaving our present representative immigrant populations, how long would this enslavement have an impact on these populations if they were enslaved for the next 50 years before being set free? One year? 5? 50? 100? I think you get my point.

I’m not attempting to create any kind of victim/slave/immigrant hierarchy. I’m not trying to get you to vote on who has suffered the most. I just want us to understand that every effect has a cause. The harsher the cause, the harsher the effect. Slave conditions create slave traditions.

The slaves and slave owners are dead. We, their children, are not. The wrong that was done by slavery continues to manifest itself. Like the blood of murdered Abel crying from the blood soaked earth, so cries the souls of blackness struggling to be free.

Shackled by the new slavery of drugs, unemployment and despair, can we be “free at last”?

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