colorlines

Consequently, here’s my top-10 list of things everyone should know about the economic roots of slavery.

1) Slavery laid the foundation for the modern international economic system.
The massive infrastructure required to move 8 to 10 million Africans halfway around the world built entire cities in England and France, such as Liverpool, Manchester and Bordeaux. It was key to London’s emergence as a global capital of commerce, and spurred New York’s rise as a center of finance. The industry to construct, fund, staff, and administer the thousands of ships which made close to 50,000 individual voyages was alone a herculean task. The international financial and distribution networks required to coordinate, maintain and profit from slavery set the framework for the modern global economy.

2) Africans’ economic skills were a leading reason for their enslavement.
Africans possessed unique expertise which Europeans required to make their colonial ventures successful. Africans knew how to grow and cultivate crops in tropical and semi-tropical climates. African rice growers, for instance, were captured in order to bring their agricultural knowledge to America’s sea islands and those of the Caribbean. Many West African civilizations possessed goldsmiths and expert metal workers on a grand scale. These slaves were snatched to work in Spanish and Portuguese gold and silver mines throughout Central and South America. Contrary to the myth of unskilled labor, large numbers of Africans were anything but.

3) African know-how transformed slave economies into some of the wealthiest on the planet.
The fruits of the slave trade funded the growth of global empires. The greatest source of wealth for imperial France was the “white gold” of sugar produced by Africans in Haiti. More riches flowed to Britain from the slave economy of Jamaica than all of the original American 13 colonies combined. Those resources underwrote the Industrial Revolution and vast improvements in Western Europe’s economic infrastructure.

4) Until it was destroyed by the Civil War, slavery made the American South the richest and most powerful region in America.
Slavery was a national enterprise, but the economic and political center of gravity during the U.S.’s first incarnation as a slave republic was the South. This was true even during the colonial era. Virginia was its richest colony and George Washington was one of its wealthiest people because of his slaves. The majority of the new country’s presidents and Supreme Court justices were Southerners.

However, the invention of the cotton gin took the South’s national economic dominance and transformed it into a global phenomenon. British demand for American cotton, as I have written before, made the southern stretch of the Mississippi River the Silicon Valley of its era. The single largest concentration of America’s millionaires was gathered in plantations along the Mississippi’s banks. The first and only president of the Confederacy—Jefferson Davis—was a Mississippi, millionaire slave holder.

5) Defense of slavery, more than taxes, was pivotal to America’s declaration of independence.
The South had long resisted Northern calls to leave the British Empire. That’s because the South sold most of its slave-produced products to Britain and relied on the British Navy to protect the slave trade. But a court case in England changed all of that. In 1775, a British court ruled that slaves could not be held in the United Kingdom against their will. Fearing that the ruling would apply to the American colonies, the Southern planters swung behind the Northern push for greater autonomy. In 1776, one year later, America left its former colonial master. The issue of slavery was so powerful that it changed the course of history.

6) The brutalization and psychological torture of slaves was designed to ensure that plantations stayed in the black financially.
Slave revolts and acts of sabotage were relatively common on Southern plantations. As economic enterprises, the disruption in production was bad for business. Over time a system of oppression emerged to keep things humming along. This centered on singling out slaves for public torture who had either participated in acts of defiance or who tended towards noncompliance. In fact, the most recalcitrant slaves were sent to institutions, such as the “Sugar House” in Charleston, S.C., where cruelty was used to elicit cooperation. Slavery’s most inhumane aspects were just another tool to guarantee the bottom line.

7) The economic success of former slaves during Reconstruction led to the rise of the Klu Klux Klan.
In less than 10 years after the end of slavery, blacks created thriving communities and had gained political power—including governorships and Senate seats—across the South. Former slaves, such Atlanta’s Alonzo Herndon, had even become millionaires in the post-war period. But the move towards black economic empowerment had upset the old economic order. Former planters organized themselves into White Citizens Councils and created an armed wing—the Klu Klux Klan—to undermine black economic institutions and to force blacks into sharecropping on unfair terms. Isabel Wilkerson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “The Warmth of Other Suns”, details the targeting of black individuals, as well as entire black communities, for acts of terror whose purpose was to enforce economic apartheid.

8) The desire to maintain economic oppression is why the South was one of the most anti-tax regions of the nation.
Before the Civil War, the South routinely blocked national infrastructure protects. These plans, focused on Northern and Western states, would have moved non-slave goods to market quickly and cheaply. The South worried that such investments would increase the power of the free-labor economy and hurt their own, which was based on slavery. Moreover, the South was vehemently opposed to taxes even to improve the lives of non-slaveholding white citizens. The first public school in the North, Boston Latin, opened its doors in the mid-1600s. The first public school in the South opened 200 years later. Maintenance of slavery was the South’s top priority to the detriment of everything else.

9) Many firms on Wall Street made fortunes from funding the slave trade.
Investment in slavery was one of the most profitable economic activities throughout most of New York’s 350 year history. Much of the financing for the slave economy flowed through New York banks. Marquis names such as JP Morgan Chase and New York Life all profited greatly from slavery. Lehman Brothers, one of Wall Street’s largest firms until 2008, got its start in the slave economy of Alabama. Slavery was so important to the city that New York was one the most pro-slavery urban municipalities in the North.

10) The wealth gap between whites and blacks, the result of slavery, has yet to be closed.
The total value of slaves, or “property” as they were then known, could exceed $12 million in today’s dollars on the largest plantations. With land, machinery, crops and buildings added in, the wealth of southern agricultural enterprises was truly astronomical. Yet when slavery ended, the people that generated the wealth received nothing.

The country has struggled with the implications of this inequity ever since. With policy changes in Washington since 1865, sometimes this economic gulf has narrowed and sometimes it’s widened, but the economic difference has never been erased. Today, the wealth gap between whites and blacks is the largest recorded since records began to be kept three decades ago.

Definitely didn’t know a bunch of this.

What Happens When Businesses Use Black Tragedies To Sell Products

- FCKH8 creates a super sarcastic and oddly cheery video “Hey White People: A Kinda Awkward Note to America by #Ferguson Kids,” to sell “racism’s not over but I’m over racism” shirts and claims $5 from each shirt is going to anti-racism charities. The t-shirt slogan is highly suspect and does nothing to support anti-racism but…yeah. Ok.

- Colorlines does a post saying "ummmm there’s something sketchy about using cute black kids from Ferguson to sell t-shirts and this doesn’t really address any issues"

- After FCKH8 lists Race Forward (Colorline’s publisher) as one of the organizations set to receive a portion of the shirt profits, Race Forward releases a statement on Facebook that basically says “we don’t know these people, they haven’t given us any money and we’re not ok with them using our name to sell t-shirts”

- Mike Kon from FCKH8 posts a super passive aggressive comment on the Race Forward Facebook page, and another on the Colorlines article which essentially say, “we just wanted to use a national tragedy to sell some shirts and make a viral video. we didn’t know that we actually had to care about racism or address issues in order for people to be satisfied. don’t you dare critique my allyship or we’ll just take it elsewhere

Americans define racism as individual, overt and intentional. But modern forms of racial discrimination are often unintentional, systemic and hidden. The tropes and images of the civil rights era reinforce the old definition. People taking on new forms constantly look for our own Bull Connor to make the case. We can find these kinds of figures. But there’s inevitably debate about whether they truly hit the Bull Connor standard, as we can see in popular defenses of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Gov. Rick Scott. Politicians, employers and public administrators have all learned to use codes for the groups they target. The notion that all racism is intentional and overt is a fundamental building block of the false solution of colorblindness.
—  Rinku Sen, at ColorLines
FCKH8 Continues To Be Awful, Demands An Apology & Accuses Colorlines Of Being Homophobic

FCKH8 posted a statement on their blog yesterday in response to the Colorlines article that questioned the motives of their “I’m over racism” t-shirt and viral video. If you’re not caught up, here’s a rundown of how this whole thing started.

The post is of course, predictably defensive, patronizing and awful. There’s really too much to parse, but here are some of my “favorite” highlights. And by favorite, I mean eye-roll inducing. 

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"Shame on you…. Colorlines, Race Forward & Aura Bogado. Click-baiting, Race-baiting, Homophobia, Minimizing Ferguson Residents, Trivializing Breast Cancer Awareness Efforts & Distorting Facts to Get Views & Donations."

Uh. What? This is rich, a FOR PROFIT COMPANY is accusing an anti-racism non-profit organization of race baiting for donations?! This from the company that has not once spoken about anti-racism until Ferguson (way genuine!), and their contribution is….t-shirts and a $5 donation. Let’s also not forget their usage of the sassy black woman stereotype to promote marriage equality in addition to really gross memes featuring Native Americans. Way to promote anti-racism folks! 

"We’ve received literally thousands of racist comments, e-mails, phone messages and live-chat notes from racist white people in reaction to these Ferguson kids speaking out. If you like the N-word, you have to read our inbox.”

OMG ya’ll! They stood up for us black folk and now racist people are sending the n-word to their inbox!? This. Is. Unfathomable. I’d bet a day in their inbox is equal to a lifetime of actually being black. Now I feel TERRIBLE. Racism sucks ya’ll. Send those people a t-shirt. Stat!

ps. when dealing with racist hate mail, filters are your friends. I speak from experience ;) 

"With all the hate from racists that has been directed at these kids and at us, one of the most troubling sources has been a blogger named Aura Bogado at Colorlines, a blog put out by an organization you’d expect to be an ally called Race Forward. The blogger continues to fabricate controversy by saying, “FCKH8.com, has made a name for itself selling what it calls ‘LGBT Equality Gear.’” We’re not sure if mocking “LGBT Equality Gear” by placing it in quotes as if it is not real and legitimate is simply old-fashioned underhanded homophobia and trivialization but it looks like it.”

In case you’re unclear, critique from the community you claim to support is on the same level as ACTUAL HATE SPEECH from racists.  And using quotes when….quoting an organization’s slogan is “underhanded homophobia”. (sorry for the quotes, promise I’m not a homophobe) Got it! 

"This video was our collective effort to make a statement out of grief and pain and turn it into something positive, that challenges people to face race and say, like the T-shirt says, “Racism Is Not Over. But I’m Over Racism.” Was the video director a white guy? Yes. He’s directed videos on social issues which have received millions of views and we’d prefer that the video and message from the participating Ferguson families and kids be judged on the content of its character and not the color of the skin of the director who pitched in to help make it.”

"Judged on the content of it’s character and not the color of the skin of the director" (FYI I’m using quotes because I’m quoting FCKH8, not because I’m homophobic)….Why does that sound familiar? Oh! I know! That’s a hat tip to MLK! Totally see what you did there. Love it when people drop the ONE line they know from that ONE MLK speech they know to show how progressive and not racist they are. And don’t worry, I’m not judging the kids who are unnamed or credited in the video, on your website or in the video description box. They’re adorable.

"Perhaps one of the most unsettling parts of this click-baiting blog post beside trivializing Ferguson kids, is the deliberate use of a screen grab of the only white person to appear in the entire video. This image is employed to misrepresent the heartfelt effort of 7 black cast members speaking out, a black producer, a black and Latino co-writer and a black editor. Is this race-baiting for attention? Out of a cast of 8 people, 7 of which are black, this photo seems to have been chosen with the devious intention to race-bait and drum up justified resentment of how many whites treat and marginalize blacks and other POCs, all to gain attention and be sensational. Using race in this way is disingenuous, offensive and reduces the voices of both the local children in front of the camera and the people behind the camera."

Wait. There were black people involved in this project!? Well that changes everything. As we all know, black people are a monolith, so if a few co-sign a project, then we all have to agree with it. Oh, and thanks for throwing in a photo of a black guy holding a sign to support FCKH8’s call for an apology. That really drives the point home. I suggest we talk about this at the next national monthly black people meeting and hug it out. 

If you need more evidence that FCKH8 is awful, this blog details the numerous times they’ve stolen content from LGBT artists, promoted stereotypes, been transphobic in addition to being racist and speaking down to the very communities they claim to support. Just remember, these are the folks that are demanding an apology.

Prisons thus perform a feat of magic. Or rather the people who continually vote in new prison bonds and tacitly assent to a proliferating network of prisons and jails have been tricked into believing in the magic of imprisonment. But prisons do not disappear problems, they disappear human beings. And the practice of disappearing vast numbers of people from poor, immigrant, and racially marginalized communities has literally become big business.

Overview:

One case brings to light the politics of naming.

Story:

The Kansas City Star has the sad storyof a 19-year-old woman who’s gotten a long-awaited — and unusual — early Christmas gift from her white mother: a name change.

The woman, formerly known as Keisha Austin, said that she faced bigoted bullying from classmates and teachers because of her name, which people associated with “video vixens, neck-rolling and Maury Povich tabloid fodder.” In short, having a recognizably “black” girl’s name would up being an emotional and social hazard.  ”In our society, names like Abdul and Muhammad get flagged for security checks,” noted the writer, Jenee Osterheldt. “Tran and Jesus get labeled illegal immigrants. Deonte and Laquita? People see baby mamas, criminals and affirmative action hires. Billy Bob and Sue? Hillbillies and trailer parks.”

For years, Keisha begged her mother to change her name.

“It’s not something I take lightly,” she told the paper, crying. “I put a lot of thought into it. I don’t believe you should just change your name or your face or anything like that on a whim. I didn’t want to change my name because I didn’t like it. I wanted to change my name because it didn’t feel comfortable. I don’t connect to it. I didn’t feel like myself, but I never want any girls named Keisha, or any name like that, to feel hurt or sad by it.”

Her mom, Christy, finally decided to give her daughter what she wanted and paid $175 to make the name change from “Keisha” to “Kylie” official. But she did it with a heavy heart.

“It felt like a gift I gave to her, and she was returning it,” Cristy says. “Keisha was the only name I ever thought of, and when I talked to her in my belly, I talked to Keisha. But she’s still the same person, regardless of her name. But her happiness is what is most important to me. I love and support her, and whatever she has to do to feel good on the inside, I have to be OK with that.”

Absolutely heartbreaking and so emblematic of how white supremacy systematically destroys the lives, confidence and dignity of POC. We can’t even have our own birth-given names and wear those with pride. My heart breaks for this young girl, and this is a pain that many POC can relate to across racial lines. 

[h/t Colorlines]

CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE & ZADIE SMITH GO IN (and also make each other laugh and it's glorious):

CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE: So basically in the US, it’s very hard for white people in general to get what it means to be black in America. It’s the same country, it’s the same country in many ways, but I just find that’s it’s very interesting. And the few instances where I talk to white people who really get race, it’s often because they’ve loved a black person, and deeply loved a black person.

ZADIE SMITH: Well maybe we could think of not just as the literal romance between white and black people but as a radical, philosophical idea, right? Instead of just tolerating your neighbor, you love them. You don’t have to move in with them, marry them, and have children, but you find a way to love them.

CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE:But, but there’s a version of American love that I don’t mean, right? I mean sorry but really. There’s a kind of American love where people just are not really connected. You’re supposed to be comfortable and you know you can be in love in this country and still be expected if you go out to individually pay for your own food, right? You know I come from a culture where loves means you all go out and one person pays for everyone and on the next day one person for everybody else, but in the US even if you’re in love you’re like [looks down at palm as if she were scrutinizing a bill and speaks in an American accent], “Now did you have the calamari?” Even going beyond romantic love, just the idea of trying to imagine. I suppose it’s difficult, I suppose it is, trying to imagine what’s it like to be someone else. Right and also, I don’t know, America fascinates me because I think there’s a willful, almost like a willful denial of history. I keep thinking how can white people not get it if you know the history of America. 

Former Undocumented Immigrant Leo Manzano Wins Silver Olympic Medal for U.S.

On Tuesday, Mexican-born American runner Leo Manzano won a silver medal in the men’s 1,500-meter final, running the fastest time ever by a U.S. athlete at the Games. Manzano, 27, entered the U.S. at the age of 4 without papers, according to LetsRun. He didn’t gain legal residency until 10 years later.

“Silver medal, still felt like I won! Representing two countries USA and Mexico!”, Manzano tweeted shortly after his win. Most of his tweets throughout the Olympics have been in both Spanish and English.

All the feels right now, guise.

Meet the very problematic Mindy Budgor.

When Mindy Budgor was 27 years old, she apparently tried to find meaning in her life by temporarily ditching her wealth in Santa Barbara and jetting over to hang with the poor people of Kenya for two weeks on a humanitarian mission. While there, she says she met Maasai warriors and a chief named Winston who told her women were not allowed to be warriors. Budgor then returned home and hired a personal trainer to prepare her to return to Kenya to test the Maassai’s practice. According to Yahoo.com, Budgor says she was rejected by Winston, but then found someone else to help her meet her personal challenge:

"After working with a personal trainer for six weeks in California to get in shape for her upcoming challenge, Budgor, along with a similarly adventurous friend, returned to Winston. He reneged on his offer, but the determined women found their way to a more open-minded warrior named Lanet, in Nairobi, who agreed to take them on."

In an essay on The Guardian, Budgor claims that she was successful in her inexplicable drive to change a people she never had any connection with. On her website, which promotes the book she penned called “Warrior Princess: My Quest to Become the First Female Maasai Warrior,” the oddly beaded Budgor is described as answering a higher calling:

"Mindy immediately realizes her calling and thus begins her amazing adventure to become the first female Maasai warrior. As a result of this training and advocacy, the Maasai in Loita, Kenya, are leading the charge to change tribal law and allow women the right to become Maasai warriors. Mindy as a tribe member is ready to return to stand with her fellow-warriors against whatever opposition they might face—be it lions, or elephants, or Western-influence.”

There’s a very long and tragic history of white people acting as saviors, going abroad and wreaking absolute cultural, environmental, economic, and political havoc. There’s also a very troubling history of white people misappropriating customs and robes that do not belong to them. Budgor seems to be comfortable repeating these practices and then some.

The fact that Budgor recognizes tribal law but feels comfortable challenging it—while claiming she is helping “her fellow-warriors against […] Western-influence”—is disturbing, least of all for the contradiction her practice contains. Perhaps more disturbing is that Budgor regards herself “as a tribe member” after spending several weeks in Nairobi on a self-styled safari and returning to her actual home in the U.S. Budgor seems to be behaving less like a Maasai warrior and more like a white woman writing a book to turn a profit from her romanticized trip to Kenya.  

NO. NO. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

White people please STOP. PLEASE.

This blog was also tagged in the tumblr cross-post of FCKH8’s response to colorline’s criticism of their practices:

Will Some Bloggers Say Anything To Get a Click? We’d Like an Apology.

You first, FCKH8! We’d like for you to stop exploiting the murder of Mike Brown as a means to make profit for your company.

Calling legitimate criticisms of your organization “click baiting” is an attempt to distract from the content of those criticisms.

Expand

from Why the ‘He Can Beat Me’ Tweets About Chris Brown Aren’t Funny

Every year, almost 1.5 million high school students experience dating abuse, and it takes on many different forms. It can be physical, emotional, sexual, verbal or stalking and can happen face-to-face, online or by texting. Some victims don’t realize that these unhealthy relationships are abusive and normalize the abusive behavior which tends to lead to abusive relationships as adults. Teen victims are more likely to become depressed, do poorly in school and take on unhealthy behaviors such as relying on drugs, alcohol and developing eating disorders. 

Intimate partner violence affects everyone regardless of gender, race or class, but many are still afraid to speak out when they are being abused

Colorlines Issues A Correction & FCKH8 Is Still Awful

So. Yesterday, after FCKH8 accused Colorlines of “race baiting”  and spammed the site with links to their “call for an apology”, Colorlines updated their post on FCKH8’s video with the following: 

Update, September 15, 2014, 5:28 p.m.:

Colorlines would like to acknowledge that we did not reach out to FCKH8.com before running the blog post “This is the T-Shirt Company Making Money Off of Ferguson.”  We make the following clarifications in the post:

1. According to a FCH8.com statement, the kids were from Ferguson.

2. Our piece says, “Five dollars from each shirt will supposedly go to unidentified ‘charities working in communities to fight racism.’” After publication, we learned that the organizations FCKH8.com had designated as recipients were listed elsewhere on-line, including in a September 9, 2014 Shadow and Act story.

3.In our post we say “The company behind the video, FCKH8.com, has made a name for itself selling what it calls ‘LGBT Equality Gear’(which sort of covers some LGB themes, but sort of leaves the T part out)…” According to an September 13, 2014 visit to FKH8.com, there is a transgender-themed T-shirt on sale in the “LGBT Equality Gear” section of the website.

4. After publishing the post we later learned that the organization behind the campaign had designated our publisher, Race Forward, as a recipient of a portion of the proceeds from this campaign. Unfortunately, contrary to philanthropic best practices, Race Forward hadn’t been previously notified of the the donation and immediately issued a statement that it would not accept any funds from the effort. Race Forward stands by that decision and would not have accepted the designation had we been previously aware.

It is important for us to assure you that our readers can trust us to report and behave with integrity. For 16 years, Colorlines has been a news source where race matters, featuring award-winning investigative reporting and news analysis. The questions we raised about the relationship between commerce and community politics with regard to race are important and legitimate, and we will continue to explore them generally on our screens.

At Race Forward, the organization you have come to know over 30 years —formerly under the name of Applied Research Center — our mission remains clear: to build awareness, solutions and leadership for racial justice. We do that by addressing: the impact of individual acts of racial discrimination within a deeper analysis of systemic racial injustice; the racial impact of individual and institutional actions and outcomes, as well as the intentions behind them; and the consequences of unconscious racial bias. Race Forward will remain committed to using this approach in considering any organizational perspective, opinionor association.

We remain committed to working towards a vibrant world in which people of all races create, share and enjoy resources and relationships equitably.

—Colorlines and Race Forward

On the one hand, I get it. Journalistic integrity yadda yadda. But the above correction essentially throws the author, Aura Bogado under the bus. Yes, there were errors in the original post that should’ve been fact checked before publishing BUT those errors do not negate the original rightful critique. FCKH8 is completely in the wrong here, as evidenced by their temper tantrum and endless stream of spam all over the Colorlines post. As they say, “a hit dog will holler”. 

FCKH8 REGULARLY uses problematic language and imagery when talking about POC and race, which is why their “anti-racism gear” and light hearted Ferguson video came off as disingenuous and incredibly opportunistic. How can an organization “support” an issue in which they have no understanding and are completely unwilling to learn? How can FCKH8 support anti-racism and accuse a non-profit dedicated to anti-racism of “race baiting”? ”Race baiting” is how RACISTS attempt to derail conversations about racism. Real allies don’t claim “race baiting” when called out. FCKH8 is not an ally to the anti-racism movement and does not deserve an apology. 

There’s really no way to wrap this up other than to say I’m incredibly disappointed that this is where this story has ended up. FCKH8 will no doubt take this as a “victory” and not analyze any of their behavior or understand why the critique was made in the first place. Instead, they’ll use this situation to silence other POC who take issue with their “anti-racism work” and continue to water down serious conversations about race and equality all in the name of t-shirt sales. 

The singer has thrown himself into the political moment.

John Legend and Chrissy Teigen Hire Food Trucks to Feed Protesters in New York

BY JOANNA ROBINSON

DECEMBER 7, 2014 5:10 PM

BY ANDREW GOODMA/GETTY ImAGES

Despite New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s prediction that public demonstrations over the Eric Garner and Ferguson Grand Jury decisions would “peter out,” the protests are still going strong thanks, in part, to a generous contribution from musician John Legend and his wife model and food blogger Chrissy Teigen. The couple purchased a fleet of food trucks to serve up free food to hungry protesters in New York’s Lincoln Square.

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Though neither Legend or Teigen are on the ground or taking direct credit for the trucks, Teigen did retweet the following message to her 500,000 followers.

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For his part, Legend has let his art do the talking for him. The musician (who was just nominated for several Grammy awards) co-wrote a stirring track from the upcoming (and sadly timely) film Selma about the three Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 which led to to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

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The track, entitled “Glory,” contains the lyrics: “That’s why Rosa sat on the bus/That’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up.” You can hear the full song here

On the very site of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the nation’s first black president told America yesterday that African-Americans and other people of color carry a substantial portion of the blame for the persistence of economic inequality. Sadly, his speechemployed the very stereotypes that were used to legitimate racial discrimination and economic injustice 50 years ago. But like those caricatures of historically marginalized people, the president’s analysis of where America veered off course in its long walk toward freedom is simply ahistorical and factually inaccurate.

Twenty minutes into his commemorative address, President Obama shockingly declared that the fight for freedom had “lost its way” because historically marginalized Americans had instigated “self-defeating riots” in the wake of the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. He added that if progressives and communities of color were “honest” they’d be compelled to admit that their “call for equality of opportunity” had devolved into “a mere desire for government support.” Obama wrapped up his examination of this period of American history by saying that blacks and Latinos had often acted “as if we had no agency in our liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child.”

What makes the president’s remarks so troubling is that it’s impossible to fix problems that are mislabeled and misdiagnosed. Consequently, the president’s erroneous assessment of the continuation of racial and economic inequity may provide insight as to why his administration has not pushed coherent policies to end the racial aspects of economic unfairness. From his talk, Obama indicates that he sees them as character flaws rather than structural ones.

In a sign of begrudging progress however, yesterday’s address was one of the rare occasions—if not the first time—that President Obama has used the words “black” and “unemployment” together in the same sentence.

He also acknowledged, though somewhat tepidly, that the racial wealth gap had expanded. Yet this is a vast understatement. The wealth gap between whites and blacks, as well as whites and Latinos, is the highest on record. And there’s no clear Obama proposal to begin to close it. Nor is there a clear proposal for homeownership in communities of color, which has also plummeted to new historic lows.

The organizers of the original March on Washington, A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, didn’t share the president’s reticence in identifying the systemic unfairness that allowed racial and economic injustice to thrive. That’s why the 1963 march called for fundamental structural changes to America’s economic system, such as a program to find work for everyone without a job, equal access to decent housing, and a minimum wage that in today’s dollars would be the equivalent of $15 an hour….

So in the five decades since the original gathering on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, war and economic policies, fueled by political backlash, have made America’s march towards jobs and freedom more arduous. But instead of telling this truth, President Obama treated his audience to an assessment that declared violence and laziness in communities of color as the actual cause of inequity. The evidence points clearly in a different direction.

Incredible piece from colorlines and I highly suggest that everyone click through and read the full article with additional historical context of why Obama’s speech was just SO fundamentally wrong and off base. This is exactly why I avoided watching his address in the first place, because I knew it would be filled with Uncle Tom, kool-aid sippin fuckery. How shameful that this is all coming from the nation’s first black President before a national audience on the day meant to celebrate the 1963 March. Disgusting.

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I had the pleasure of being on a panel called “Race & Gender in the 21st Century” at last month’s “Facing Race” conference by the Applied Research Center, which publishes Colorlines.com. In it, I added my two cents on the intersections of race and gender, specifically issues and advances for trans women of color.

The Center for Social Inclusion’s Maya Wiley led the conversation with myself, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health’s Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, race scholar Michael Omi and the Albany Law School’s Christian Sundquist