We cannot accept that which is beneath our worth any longer

Although the Emancipation Proclamation brought with it the promise of freedom, it concealed a secret we now know today as poverty. While slavery was abolished, it would be another century before people of color tasted that which others had been given so freely. As we walk into the future with brighter dreams than ever, let us take a moment to step into the past; to look at the cycle that has broken so many.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation brought with it the promise of freedom, it concealed a secret we now know today as poverty. While slavery was abolished, it would be another century before people of color tasted that which others had been given so freely. As we walk into the future with brighter dreams than ever, let us take a moment to step into the past; to look at the cycle that has broken so many.

The “Lower” Class

With the advent of emancipation came an ever-deepening caste system within the United States of America. Certainly, this had been problematic before, with slaves on the bottom-most rung of the ladder. Yet when slavery was abolished, we came to see another issue. Those who were free prior to the Civil War still found themselves on a higher “tier” than those recently freed.

Strange though it was, this included previously-freed people of color. These people had already found their niche in society and were wont to continue in the manner as before; that of which where they were above at least one “class” of people. Slavery had bred deep rejection into the hearts of many, even in states that had long ago outlawed it.

That’s right. Even in states which were long free, the recently emancipated were considered to be the lowest of the low. And thus, jobs were scarce. Housing was hard to find and often plagued with issues. Schools still refused to serve children of former slaves, giving those children less education. And in a world that was steadily coming to rely on industry rather than workforce labor? Education meant the world. Education is where reparations should begin.

A Nation of Impressions

From the moment you step into a restaurant or a shop, you are assaulted with impressions. The man in the baseball cap with the shifty eyes is one to avoid. The woman with a small flock of children is who you smile at. You don’t know these people, but you make assumptions upon seeing them. We all do it. You can’t help it. You’re only human.

And so were those who performed this precise function upon seeing those of color. They could hire the well-educated, well-dressed young man who stood before them, or they could hire the ragged, tired, scarred former slave whom society sneered at. Of course, they hired the former. And why wouldn’t they? Appearances are worth so much.

There was little that was done to prevent this. The nation assumed that former slaves would find work as easily as others. The whole “40 acres and a mule” bit was a good example of this. If given a plot of land and a good animal, they could farm! The government crowed and purred about all the wonderful possibilities available to the emancipated.

In reality, the intended redistribution of land didn’t go as planned. Slave documentation had not been correctly founded, leaving the Confederate States with far more slaves than they had originally claimed. This, paired with Lincoln’s assassination, left the government with few resources to identify and define claims for reparations.

The Difficult Climb

You’re a shattered country yearning to forget the terrible war that has just occurred. Slavery is a black eye on your history as more modern views grow in popularity. There are millions of mouths crying out for their rights, their newly won freedoms, and what they are owed.

In the midst of this chaos, you have an underlying threat across the southern half of your nation. Something has to give, so you allow it to be those who are in desperate need of support during this newly found freedom. You ignore their pleas for assistance, concentrate on the bare minimum to rebuild the United States, and allow it to continue through the next administration. …And the next.

And the one after that.

As African Americans have their freedom won, Native Americans are tortured and thrust from their land. The government encourages blacks to serve their country in any of many forms of military service. And what do they do with these soldiers? They use them to kill and throw them away when the wars are finished.

The nation collapses under the weight of its economy. The first people to suffer are those of color, the “lower class”. Those who served their country, those whose parents and grandparents were slaves. And it’s all because the generations before them had nothing to build from.

For instance, a grandmother who was a slave cares for the children of a white family when the parents are otherwise engaged. The work is familiar to her. It is what she did on the plantation. She is good at it. It pays 5% that what a white woman would have earned. This impoverishes her family, but it is all she can do. She must care for her own children, because she has never found the husband she lost due to slave auctions. There are only so many job opportunities afforded to her.

Her daughter is a seamstress. Due to the color of her skin, she makes 25% that of which the white seamstresses make. Still, she has improved from her Mother’s Day and she is proud of herself. She has every right to be. She is making a life for her children in a world that does not prioritize them.