I've traced my family history back on my father's side to a German immigrant who moved here shortly after the Civil War. It is staggering to think that most black Americans who trace their family histories back that far would find someone who had been held in chattel slavery. Everyone who is an American citizen
is the son or daughter of immigrants.
However, black 'immigration' wasn't voluntary. They were stolen from their homes, if they weren't already slaves, and shipped here, forced to work and beaten if they didn't do enough. Sometimes even mutilated. If they were beaten to death, it wasn't considered murder any more than beating a dog to death was considered murder. If they ran away, they were hunted down by men with dogs, and dragged back in chains. It was worse for any slave that dared raise a hand against a white person; very few were simply killed as a result. More often, they suffered brutal tortures to serve as an object lesson to other slaves.
Black women were frequently raped, whether it was in a slave shed by an overseer, or between silk sheets by their master. Children of such unions were automatically slaves at birth, as indeed any child of a black woman was automatically a slave at birth, even if the father was not black
. Families were frequently split apart as slaves were bought and sold; parents from children, husbands from wives (not that marriage was legal among slaves), brothers from sisters. The lucky slaves were the ones who were held by kind masters, who felt that black people just needed the 'civilizing' influence of whites long enough to gentle their 'bestial' natures.
Yes, they were considered beasts and animals by white people. It was a catch-22 with a vengeance; because they were born slaves, white people considered them to be the equivalent of talking animals, and justified owning them as chattel slaves because they were considered to be animals and thus property. But they could not win or earn their freedom through anything they themselves did, and so the cycle continued on and on.
Just thinking about this sickens and disgusts me. Writing it makes me want to scream in fury and break something, when it doesn't make me want to hide in a corner and weep. But none of those will do anyone any good. But writing about it, talking about it, trying to get through to people that these things are at the core of American prejudices about black people...that can do some good, assuming people are willing to listen.
I, too, am a male Caucasian, the son of German, Scottish, and English immigrants. Yet I know what it is like to be tormented and harassed for something I had no control over, where fighting back or even challenging my tormenters made it worse; to be caught in the middle of my own personal catch-22. If I had not broken the cycle...I don't know what would have happened, but it would not have been good. Yet many black people in this country are caught in a catch-22 of their own. As I stated earlier, if you treat a person like a criminal long enough, they are likely to decide that if they're going to suffer the consequences of something they never did no matter how hard they try to to get out from under it, they might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb.