In a funeral oration on 12 April, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, recently departed from candidate Barack Obama's official campaign, said "America’s mistreatment of blacks is the result of the founding fathers, who 'planted slavery and white supremacy in the DNA of this republic,'" according to Fox News. Wright has also claimed that the current fathers (okay, the founders' progeny) have planted HIV/AIDS in the republic's African-American DNA, so he has a perfect score in defining various types of DNA, but hasn't yet discovered his own disease – "hoof-in-mouth."
Wright is joined at the hip with the reparations crowd that feeds on the black liberation theology of Union Theological Seminary Professor James Cone, a fundamental of which is that African Americans are entitled to a place at the public trough because their forebears were slaves, notwithstanding the fact that no white American born since at least 1850 has had anything to do with slavery.
Slavery per se was the linchpin of all economies since the beginning of commerce right into the 20th century throughout the world, so its existence in this country was just a part of the overall economic system and was vital, particularly, to the agrarian economy of the southern colonies. Thousands of so-called Native-Americans were also pressed into slavery. John Wesley published in 1774 (Thoughts Upon Slavery) some interesting facts about how slaves were procured, particularly as Africans sold each other to the traders, and the picture was not pretty. It was never right, of course, but it was a fact of life, and there's enough blame to go around for its institution and maintenance.
Wright's assertion that the "founding fathers" planted slavery in this country constitutes a lie and he should recant. Slaves were introduced into Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, at which time Jamestown and all other parts of the eastern seaboard constituted a part of the British Empire/Monarchy, though the first slaves were discharged from a Dutch trader. This was 113, 116, 132, and 124 years, respectively, before even the births of founders Washington, Adams, Madison, and Jefferson. So…the founders did not introduce slavery. They simply inherited it in both the northern and southern colonies.
A time-period of 170 years elapsed while slavery was operated under the British in the colonies, both north and south, before the United States was founded in 1789. It took only 19 more years before slave-importation was outlawed by Congress in 1808. Slavery was abolished altogether 74 years after the founders did their work as more than 360,000 Union soldiers, nearly all of them white, gave their lives in the process, fighting their brothers in many cases during the Civil War.
The abolition of slavery did not abolish both prejudice and racism, endemic to all races, notwithstanding the constant drumbeat in both the African-American and intellectual communities in this country that it occurs only among white people. In a sort of strange way, it can even be explained with regard to the South in that some 258,000 southern white men also lost their lives in the Civil War, as well as their livelihoods in many cases. So, the African American became a symbol of sorts with regard to their horrendous losses, and this symbol amounted then and even now to hatred.
The loss of some 618,000 mostly white men in the Civil War, two percent of the entire population, was bound to leave scars throughout the nation and some of those scars obtain today. Concerning today's population figure of some 300 million, that circumstance would amount to the loss of nearly six million lives, virtually all, white men. When observed in these terms, it isn't hard to understand why many white people feel as they do with regard to prejudice, especially in the South, where southerners' forbears were totally devastated both physically and commercially in many huge areas (Sherman's march to the sea, for instance). The prejudice isn't right, but it's a fact of life and part of human nature in all races, including blacks.
The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright is a selective historian or maybe not a historian at all when he accuses the founders of introducing slavery and, of course, doing nothing about it. As he tells it today – that white supremacy and HIV/AIDS thing – white people are holding down his race. He would have had a point in many areas between 1865 and 1960, not because of slavery but because of discrimination normally to be expected after a national catharsis of the dimensions of the Civil War. Beginning in the 1950s, continuing hugely into the 1960s, and right up to now, national and local lawmakers (mostly white), elected by the people (mostly white), have done about everything imaginable to legally make up for lost time with respect to African-American opportunities, even to the point of having to answer for "reverse discrimination."
This is not enough for the Rev. Dr. Wright – he demands cash payouts. So…who gets the money? The great influx of European/Asian immigrants from the 1840s on had nothing to do with slavery, and their heirs of today not only owe nobody anything but actually have records and pictures of their beloved forebears who died or were wounded in that hideous conflict of the 1860s. My paternal great-grandfather's family made it to the U.S. in 1857 just in time for him and his two older brothers to fight in the Union Army, as did my wife's great-grandfather, though none of them had to do it, being from the "border state" of Kentucky. Great-grandfather was wounded once, had terrible disease once, and finally merited a pension.
This is the other side of the "reparations" coin. In 1960, about 75% of African-American households in that time of discrimination were headed by parents, a husband and wife. Currently, 70% of African-American babies are illegitimate – no fathers of record. So…about 70-75% of black families are headed now by a single mother or grandmother or other relative. Many of the undocumented fathers are in jails and penitentiaries. With all the civil-rights acts in place, did black men simply ignore them and decide not to work?
The voices speaking out to lead the black community out of the wilderness it's created itself are not those like Rev. Dr. Wright's. Like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, he preaches the "victimhood" message. The voices of reason belong to high-profile African-American intellectuals like Bill Cosby, Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, and Walter Williams, who make the case that African-American men will either get their acts together or doom their race to welfare status from now on. White supremacists are not the enemies of Wright and other African Americans – his own people are.
And so it goes.