It’s always ambivalence.

That’s the general feeling I associate with America. Take “General Order Number 3”, the official document associated with Juneteenth which says in part: "The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

There’s always that parting shot,

“…they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

It’s the loophole that Jim Crow and The Black Codes ride through.

And remember, The Emancipation Proclamation freed the enslaved of the Confederacy on January 1, 1863. Also keep in mind that there were Union states where black citizens remained enslaved until the passage of the 13th Amendment.

So, let’s recap: Two and a half years after The Emancipation Proclamation which preserved slavery in Union territory, the enslaved of Texas were informed that they had been freed, conditional on a broad interpretation of their “good behavior” (check out that other loophole in the 13th Amendment).

Hence the source of my ambivalence.

My daughter has a Juneteenth poster somewhere around here inscribed with the tag #freeish

Here’s to a day when we’re all free.

Tertium Quid

Black citizens have been a “problem to be solved” since the inception of this country. The Founders never intended to include black Americans as American citizens. This is not a shock to anyone paying attention. During the Constitutional Convention, the nature of the problem had nothing to do with the humanity of black citizens – the morality of which, had already been decided – but whether to classify us as “property” or include us as members of households.

Property could not be counted for the purposes of congressional representation. On the other hand, male members of households could potentially be afforded the right to vote. Southern states had a vested interest in maximizing their overall representation and in suppressing the black vote. The northern states interests were diametrically opposed to augmenting the southern vote and there were some calls among northern Abolitionists to grant full citizenship to the enslaved.

What to do?

Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the US Constitution states:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxedthree fifths of all other Persons.”

“…three fifths of all other Persons”… they couldn’t even say it with their full chest. The Three-Fifths clause simultaneously increased the representation of southern states while it reduced the corresponding tax burden. Classic having your cake and eating it too.

How did representatives from northern states agree to selling out the masses of black humanity held in bondage in the south? I think it was for the sake of unity, the same principle that continues to betray black citizens to this day, and since black people aren’t considered fully human, it’s easier to betray us.

In “The Souls of Black Folk”, W.E.B DuBois described black humanity as a “third thing” or tertium quid:

The second thought streaming from the death-ship and the curving river is the thought of the older South,–the sincere and passionate belief that somewhere between men and cattle, God created a tertium quid, and called it a Negro,–a clownish, simple creature, at times even lovable within its limitations, but straitly foreordained to walk within the Veil. To be sure, behind the thought lurks the afterthought,–some of them with favoring chance might become men, but in sheer self-defence we dare not let them, and we build about them walls so high, and hang between them and the light a veil so thick, that they shall not even think of breaking through.

Betrayal is very common occurrence among peers, a staple theme running through all literature. How simpler then to betray a class of people who aren’t even considered fully human? In point of fact, the purpose of the Three-Fifths compromise for the northern states was to blunt the effect of the larger populations of the southern states. However, had the north pressed to declare enslaved black Americans as “property” the south would have been allotted 33 representatives in the House of Representatives. But with the Compromise, that number rose to 47.

Ironically, Frederick Douglass defends the Three-Fifths Compromise in a speech before the Scottish Anti-Slavery Society in Glasgow, Scotland on March 26, 1860:

A black man in a free State is worth just two-fifths more than a black man in a slave State, as a basis of political power under the Constitution. Therefore, instead of encouraging slavery, the Constitution encourages freedom by giving an increase of “two-fifths” of political power to free over slave States. So much for the three-fifths clause; taking it at is worst, it still leans to freedom, not slavery; for, be it remembered that the Constitution nowhere forbids a coloured man to vote.

I’d note however that he implicitly acknowledges the innate humanity of black citizens and, in my view, provides an intention toward black freedom that the drafters never really intended. At first glance, a “left-handed compliment” at best, or perhaps, the ultimate expression of “finding the silver lining.” However, I believe, in fact, that it’s a brilliant use of rhetoric. Douglass plainly states that freedom is superior to slavery and “obviously” the aim of the Constitution. Furthermore, nowhere in the Constitution is there an abolition against the black vote. So, therefore…

The south hasn’t needed masses of black labor for quite some time which is increasingly the issue with labor in general.

What do you do with people you no longer need?

If said people aren’t recognized as fully human in the first place, it’s fairly easy for the institutions which have historically exploited them to dispose of them by the most expedient (and often profitable) means possible and for historical “allies” to look the other way.


I cannot begin to explain how infuriating I find the current Senate spectacle.
No job is worth this.
To be publicly debased for a Senator’s political cred is beyond the pale.
But black citizens have it almost encoded in our DNA that this is “the price of the ticket.” That our qualifications and our behavior have to be absolutely immaculate to even be considered for anything that whites have historically dominated, and that this is somehow a good thing.
I’ve said elsewhere that “I don’t hate America but some says I’m tempted.”

Today is one of those days.

We’re Lying to You Most of The Time

“‘You’re acting all the time when you’re black’.” And it’s true. Black people are acting out roles every day in this country just to keep on getting by. If white people really knew what was on most black people’s minds it would scare them to death.” – Miles Davis, from “Miles – The Autobiography”

I offer this as an exhibit for anyone concerned about impediments to free speech as I believe the Times Editorial Board characterized it. I use it to remind myself once again that the concept of “cancel culture” is another tool of white supremacy. For black citizens it could mean your life. I’m thinking of Fred Hampton, MLK, & Malcolm X. They were “canceled” for just speaking the truth. For having the nerve to suggest that that full citizenship for black Americans, for the poor and marginalized, was long overdue. For just suggesting that America needed to change.

“If white people really knew what was on most black people’s minds it would scare them to death.” And when white people get scared, black people die. That’s why “lying to white folks” comes as natural to black people as breathing.

To be able to speak your mind without the threat of criticism, or even shame, is a privilege enjoyed at the expense of others. If the only threat to your ability to speak freely is criticism and shame, you’re still privileged.

You’re Welcome, Senator

So rather than, the “black women save America again” narrative, how about “black women again voted in their own best interests, like everyone else does? ”

And don’t forget that black people are often left with the choice of voting for the candidate that will do them the least amount of harm.

While generally being ignored at best.

And at worst, scapegoated.

This has nothing to do with “love of country.” Love America, hate it, or likely, feel generally ambivalent about it, for black residents, voting is about self preservation.

Beyond his conviction of the Birmingham bombers – which was significant (but also his job) – I know little about Doug Jones. I supported his candidacy because he was not Roy Moore.

I have it on good authority that, among white progressives, Jones is considered the real deal, the diametric opposite of Moore. I hope that Jones works to bring black constituents around to the same enthusiastic view.

I hope that Jones truly understands that there is rarely any enthusiasm behind a black person’s ballot. But there is usually much at risk. Little promise and much to lose. ‎And usually, just the act of voting comes with difficulty, in the face of interference and even intimidation.

Black voters don’t get much from our votes, generally. Yet we keep showing up.

It’s past time we received something for it.

Progress In The Party of Lincoln

My grandfather voted Republican for a good portion of his life. Largely, because Lincoln freed the slaves, or at least that’s how it was told to me. I imagine it had a lot to do with his experience with southern Democrats for most of his life.  They were pro slavery, pro Jim Crow, and anti practically anything that had to do with full citizenship for black people.

So I imagine the choice was pretty easy for quite a while.

Conventional wisdom has it that the Civil Rights movement changed all that. Essentially the progressive planks of the Democratic platform – and LBJ’s signing of the Civil Rights Act – sent southern Democrats, the “Dixiecrats”, into the welcoming arms of the Grand Old Party. Which says a couple of things to me. One: Race (at least in this case) trumps party affiliation. Two: In politics, winning trumps everything.

Either way, it took a lot of coaxing and cajoling to get my grandfather to change his party affiliation, even after his party changed their racial affiliation. Loyalty trumped everything for that old man.

I wonder how my grandfather would feel  about Herman Cain. A friend commented to me once that she could not see how a black person could support the Republican party. I flinched a little, recalling my grandfather’s history, and kept my own council.

I’ve always tried to give people the benefit of the doubt, at least upon first glance. This is something my mother taught me. Something she learned from my grandfather. But I don’t think the old man would be too impressed with Cain after hearing him speak for a while. I think he’d see the hypocrisy of a man claiming to be a victim of the Race card while dealing it or in a black man promising to exclude members of a minority group from his (hypothetical) cabinet because of the behavior of a few within that group. I think he’d be struck by the irony of a true carpetbagger as standard bearer for the very people who historically exploited fears for the majority with the image after Reconstruction [exhibit A: BIRTH OF A NATION]. I think my grandfather would be put off the claim, put forth by Cain, that black people who don’t support the GOP “can’t think for themselves.”

I don’t know my grandfather’s voting record after breaking his solid streak with the GOP. I do know that he voted, rain or shine, whenever the polls were opened. I wish he could see what’s become of his once beloved, GOP. I wonder if he’d count it as progress.