We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Off and on throughout the years, I've gone through major stints into the world of political thought, diving in head-first to swim through the sometimes murky and oftentimes polemical and myopic drive for change.
This is not one of those books. Each essay in here is very well researched and backed up with a plethora of references I've either already read before or have been featured in grand scale elsewhere.
The big question being raised must also be willing to be extremely courageous.
We might assume this could be a last hurrah for equal rights for blacks right before the great backsliding, or we might assume that the issues are not as dire as they are portrayed, but I think both of these assumptions are false.
What am I trying to say?
Three hundred years of injustice just changes its face but never its core tenant. This is a systemic racial problem masquerading as a poverty problem. Of course, if you set up the housing issue so that blacks pay for worse housing at a much higher rate, we don't call it racism, we call it redlining. Never mind that it causes systemic poverty.
Or how about the fact that in five decades America now has 25% of the world's total inmates while only containing 5% of the world's total population? Or that reports were made right before this shift in policy that outlined the need to break away from the segregation of the 60's, the need to educate, equalize the possibilities for housing, and reversing the course of the breakdown of families due to opportunity and poverty in general... but yet, right after that time, all choices went another direction: prisons. Trump up drug charges and use draconian punitive measures for every inmate. No rehabilitation, just punishment. Make the prisons a moneymaking business, stack the deck against anyone getting out to lead a decent life, and then realize that 7 times as many men in the system are black. Instead of giving them jobs and education and the ability to move away from a system that now has tons of single-mothers raising their children in poverty, we are just putting a heel on an entire subset of humanity.
If that isn't racism, I don't know what is.
It doesn't even have anything to do with individual voices or desires. It doesn't have anything to do with single mothers working harder to break through the circular hell that is this system. It has to do with the system itself.
You know that housing bubble? The predatory lenders that sold hope to millions of people and downplayed the bottom line that their mortgages would increase in time, or drastically increase with a single missed payment? When you look at who they targeted the most, you should see things clearly.
Black men and women aren't a race of super predators no matter what the crime rates say. And the crime rates say a lot of things. Very interesting things... such as the increases in crime and decreases in crime remain pretty stable across all countries. Almost as if they are a function of population pressure, and not inherent badness. The measures taken, such as harsher sentences and the three-strike rule and more and more prisons DO NOT MAKE A DIFFERENCE. All we're doing is making a new class of slaves locked into poverty and despair.
This hasn't changed. Eight years of Obama as president has not changed anything except give a tiny glimmer of hope, properly squashed with the next big backlash.
This book spells out the tragedy.
Hell, most of the stats aren't new. What is really awesome about this book is it's writing. One needs to have this presented well for it to make any difference at all. Coates is a good writer and his objectivity is peerless. Of course he spells out where he is less than objective, but let's get real here: most whites don't scratch the surface to SEE what's going on.
Systemic oppression on multiple axis, approved of at every level, and reinforced by narratives that seem valid only because the actual causes are ignored.
So many things in our world follows the same suit.
Naysayers get screamed down by louder blustery demagogues.
Propaganda works because all you need is more voices saying the same lies repeatedly before the general populace starts believing it.
Is racism alive and well? Obviously. It might even get worse.
So what kind of world do we really want to live in?
All this money and effort that the system has put into segregating blacks (unofficially) could have gone into education and real opportunity. The old horrors of slavery have only taken new forms.
Who are we to let this continue?
Yes, I'm a freaking white man. I don't approve of this s**t. The injustice is real and pervasive and overwhelming.
And I don't know what to do except talk about it. Honestly. And from the heart. And it makes me so damn angry. This should never have happened.
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