There Was a Time When White Men Were Brave

There has been a system of slavery evolving, no, maybe more like metamorphosing, since white men invaded this country beginning with Benjamin Rush, who one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence (called the Father of American Psychiatry). It was Rush who believed that Africans “possessed illnesses that were peculiar to the Negro race of humanity” (Guthrie, 1998, p. 116), and when he went about publishing and speaking about such ignorant beliefs, he helped lay the foundation for the systemic war against Blacks and freedoms.

The first system to gain footing in the US was enslavement, which was made legal through laws created by white men. Secondly, there was a legal system instituted to incarcerate Blacks who fought against the system to be committed into asylums, and because one white man taught others that any slave wanting to be free was insane, it became a tradition and this (albeit irrational) belief was, again, supported by various new laws. Today, these institutionalized, systemic injustices are acted out in the form of incarceration of Black (mainly) men into prisons with sentences that far exceed many of the crimes committed—IF they actually committed a crime.

What all these systems have in common is 1) that they continue to allow Blacks to be held indefinitely and without being sentenced, 2) religion was and continues to be used to support the white right to commit these vile acts, and 3) the Blacks held captive under all systems were made to work for white owners, without remunerations, and mainly in inhumane conditions. All of them.

The numerous, complex and inhumane ways white people used to keep Black people in slavery probably can’t ever be compiled into one document, but they included heinous acts upon Blacks such as lynching, whipping, dismembering, maiming, branding, castration, encasing them in iron fetters, branding, restricting food, restricting nutritious foods, condemning them to work from sun up until sun down (sun-to-sun), being separated from their children and/or spouses, denying medical treatment (for generations), denying them clothing (including shoes) appropriate for the weather, instituting a system of payment for good and services that always kept Black workers indebted to whites, making it illegal for Blacks to leave the land of the slave owners by threat of imprisonment, cutting the Achilles heel(s) of any person disobeying the boundaries of the plantation by going beyond it, making it illegal to communicate with freedmen, beating or death, beating AND death, raping women and children, forcing the Black youngsters to do small tasks in the fields as soon as they could walk, and even using the Black children for alligator bait.

Because illiteracy was so widespread, many illiterate whites were taught to believe that if you whipped a slave long enough, and preached God’s word of obedience long enough, the slave would be brought to their senses, understand the evil of their ways, and correct their misguided behaviors; that belief was taught, re-taught, and passed on for generations.

In order to control the slaves, who were also largely illiterate, slave owners preached to them by reading scriptures of servitude and obedience on a regular basis. Sometimes the slave owners allowed Black preachers to come to their plantations to preach, but dictated what parts of the Bible they wanted to be used. In particular, they emphasized passages like “slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling” (Ephesians 6:5), or “tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect” (Titus 2:9). Christians who wanted to preserve slavery had the words of the Bible to back them up.

But for all this evil, there were occasional beams of bright lights of hopefulness, brilliance, amongst the weariness of the lives of slaves. For now, I’m just going to focus on just one of the many examples that stood out for me as a testament to what white men can do when they stand against the evils of other powerful white men; who actually outnumber the white men causing death and destruction in their wake.

Let me begin by explaining the basic thinking that went into the enslavement of Blacks. For many whites, slavery was an entitlement because Blacks were incapable of fending for themselves, and/or they were less than human. According to Guthrie (1998):

Supporters of slavery struggled to explain why slaves were running away… They attempted to prove scientifically that their earlier exhortations of the happy slave were truthful and that the South was a “rightful” milieu and that servitude was the rightful condition for the African. One such medical authority went so far to declare that the “Negro’s brain froze in cold climate, inducing insanity” and urged, “out of kindness to the Negro, that he be kept in the South.”[1] These supporters of slavery felt that servitude fulfilled God’s designated role because the African was cursed to be a submissive “knee bender” requiring the control of others. As frustrated slave owners searched to explain why supposedly contented and happy slaves would want to run away or escape bondage, accusations were leveled at the border state slave owners, claiming that they created the problem by being too lenient, treating them as equals, and “making little or no distinction in regard to color.”

This set the stage for another physician, Dr. Samuel Cartwright, to make remarkable claims that the slave’s running away indicated a mental disorder called drapetomania[2], which he said was common to Blacks and to cats.[3] (Guthrie, p. 116).

Dr. Cartwright advised slave owners to whip slaves who became “sulky and dissatisfied… as a preventive measure against absconding, or other bad conduct. It was called whipping the devil out of them.” (Guthrie, p. 116).

Although it was thought to have happened prior to this time, in 1897 a Virginia slave named Henry Brown arranged to escape from freedom by having himself shipped like freight in a small wooden crate from the plantation of his owner to be received by a Quaker merchant and several abolitionists in Philadelphia; it took 26 hours of misery for that journey. His escape involved white men for both sending and receiving his body.

Fast forward to 60 years later: In 1957, a Black man named Arrington High lived in Whitfield, MS. Arrington had been committed to the Mississippi State Hospital for the Insane solely (near Jackson, MS and the Terrapin Skin Creek) because he was leading protests against the ill treatment of Blacks in the south. It was common knowledge to whites that anyone seeking to flee the south was insane (it was medically labeled Drapetomania. It was also common knowledge to all, Black and white, that anyone going into that hospital never returned.

Arrington High was the publisher of Eagle Eye (a mimeographed flyer more than a newspaper) for fourteen years. His commitment to the asylum was due to him exposing the segregationists who were seeking out Black women prostitutes for sex at an establishment that catered to politicians. In October of 1957 he was committed to the asylum for “the remainder of his life,” he was 47 years old. The asylum was more than 15 miles from the nearest city, and Blacks had little to no means of transportation in (or to) that area (Wilkerson, p. 351).

Fortunately, and although it took four months to plan, a coordinated effort of five brave white men in MS arranged for his escape by driving five cars in a caravan near the asylum where they met him early one morning. He got into one of the cars and they drove him (careful to obey the speed limits) to the state line. He was told to get out and walk across to the Alabama state line where he was met with five different cars with Alabama license plates; four of those were driven by white men, the fifth was driven by a Black man so that there was no attention called to a Black man riding in a car with white men. Once in Alabama he was put into a pine coffin equipped with air holes, it was nailed shut, and he was put on a railroad car for a FIFTEEN HOUR ride to Chicago. While in the coffin he was unable to make a sound, was unable to turn over, and had to lay still. Once the train left the station, a Black physician, Dr. Howard, who was to receive the coffin, was telephoned with the code words, “The Eagle has flown the coop.”[4]

Even though this happened in the post-slave era that was just six years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is well documented that even post-slavery whites made it physically and legally difficult for Blacks to live free and without harassment

Now, 54 years later, there seems to be a political bent to revise these old beliefs and conditions by dehumanizing people of color, and by damaging, misdirecting funds, and/or gutting the education systems for the poor and making it available only to the wealthy. We must not let this prevail!


[1] Quote from S.A. Cartwright, “Essays, being inductions drawn from the Baconian philosophy proving the truth of the Bible and the justice and benevolence of the decree dooming Canaan to be servant of servants; and answering the question of Voltaire… From a series of letters to the Rev. William Winans… Vidalia, LA, 1893. [NOTE: The Baconian method was a means of studying and interpreting natural phenomena.]

[2] Drapetomania, defined by Dr. Samuel A. Cartwright in 1851, was assigned to runaway slaves as a mental illness (in the early editions of the DSM for psychological disorders) and type of mania for wandering behavior, given to one with an uncontrollable urge to travel.

[3] Guthrie, Robert V. (1998). Even the Rat was White: A historical view of psychology (2nd ed). Allyn & Bacon (eds). Needham Heights, MA.

[4] Wilkerson, Isabel (2010). The Warmth of Other Suns: The epic story of America’s Great Migration. Random House, Vintage Books, New York, NY.

Flashback of Walking While Black

From: “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson (p. 335)

FLASHBACK of this scenario (above): Twenty or so years after this incident happened to Ida Mae in Chicago, I’m in (nearby) Milwaukee, WI riding the bus, which I didn’t do that often (I had a car early on). Somehow, I missed my stop (don’t remember where I was going) and got off the bus to walk back to where I could catch a connecting bus on the right route.

It’s summer and I’m dressed real cute, but I’m lost in my own mental reverie when subconsciously I began, not so much noticing, but FEELING that people, white people, are coming out of their houses to stare at me as I make my way down the street. It was like someone had a telephone tree, or some secret signal that a Black person was walking in the neighborhood. I got more afraid the further down the block I walked while trying to find a bus stop or phone booth, but now I’m walking with my head up and ears alert because I’m scared shitless and don’t even know where I am; no phone booth in sight and the street looked miles long, but I’m trying my damnedest to look brave and fearless [I know I must have failed miserably].

Suddenly, a car pulls alongside of me and a Black man leans over, rolls down the window, and said, “you look lost, wanna ride?” Now I’m thinking I’m in a really bad situation and if I disappeared no one would know it was simply me getting off the bus in the wrong neighborhood.

I quicken my pace, but he keeps up with me and he says something like, “I know you don’t live around here. You don’t have to be afraid of me. Here… (he holds his wallet towards the window) you can see who I am and where I live. I’m not going to hurt you. I’ll take you wherever you want to go.”

I slow down, trying to keep from crying [I’m in my teens] and finally relent and get into the car because I’m seeing too many white folks, some holding rakes standing in their yards [perhaps they were gardening?] and I make a choice to trust this Black man and got into the car.

He said he would take me either to a bus stop or to my home, wherever I wanted to go, but he wanted to make sure I was safe. He asked my name, I only gave him my first name, and he took me back to a neighborhood where I knew my surroundings. I hugged the door handle [did that years earlier in my bio-father’s car—another story, another time] the whole I was in his car. By the time I got out of the car I was so stiff with fright that my bones were locked in place and you could have snapped me like a twig just by slapping me on the back.

I don’t remember his name at all, but when I got over my fright, I was thankful that he got me out of that scary place (that really wasn’t that far from where I lived at that time). I never told my mother because I was embarrassed to say that I got lost in the city.

What This Picture Represents


What This Picture Represents

This picture, or rather, pictures of Blacks in the south such as these, have been used for years to capitalize on how Blacks are incapable of pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps, as it were.

In reality, what this picture (and others like it of that post-slave era) shows is NOT how backwards Black people were, rather, it shows that no matter how little they had, they literally put sticks together to provide shelter for their families. They cut down trees to build their own cottages and shingled them as best they could.

What the pictures don’t say or show is how whites (#wp) have worked as a group (with a few outliers) to keep people of color (#POC) oppressed. For example, POC were routinely denied proper clothing so they learned to soften burlap bags (aka croaker sacks), dye them using natural coloring, and design their own clothes. Routinely #wp, pre- and post-colonial era, ran “tabs” of debts that they used to accuse POC, particularly Black people (#Bp), of owning them after their harvests, because as long as Blacks owed debt they were not allowed to leave (by law) that farmer’s property. Hence, Black people would work from sun-to-sun (sun up to sunset) and #wp would give them pennies on the dollar for their share of labor, whereas they would give white workers the standard pay.

Another example is if the Black worker (#Bw) picked 100 lbs. of cotton and cotton was valued at 25-cents per 100 lbs., the white worker would get the 25-cents for his 100 lbs of cotton picked, but the #Bw may only get 5-cents for the same 100 lbs. picked. Added to that, the farmer (plantation owner, slaver) would “supply” the workers with food and cloth, but charge exorbitant rates for their purchases so that after harvest the #Bw would still owe for the food, or tools, or cloth.

So #Bp would garden, soften burlap, and whittle or forge their own tools in order to survive. There was a time when #wp would charge #Bp, or even imprison them for cutting down trees for their shelter. When they became adapt at short-cutting, or circumventing, some laws or traditions controlled by #wp, often #wp would find a reason to riot. There was no law enforcement representative who would or could help #Bp fight for their rights (because most were white supremacists), nor courts to enforce any law suits against white landowners (regardless of whether or not they owned slaves). Additionally, Blacks were prohibited from owing guns (and sometimes knives) to protect themselves.

There were even more petty laws forbidding #Bp from looking directly into the eyes of #wp, laws restricting every way of life that made living worthwhile was used to dampen and defeat Black people, but they were resilient and circumvented what was in order to create alternative routes to accomplish what they wanted.

No, in my eyes, the picture doesn’t show defeated Blacks, as some might see, but shows their pride in being able to create a home and family amidst the cruelty of white rule.

[Picture from:]

Thanksgiving Revelations 2017

Well folks, I solved the problems of why this country got itself into this sorry state (and the world followed)! In one evening at the annual Turkey-fest dinner in the fabulous home of people I’ll call my Fabulous Family, I think I finally understood how wypipo have come to hate Black people. By the way, I didn’t get permission to explain this publicly, so I’ll just use nicknames. So, let me just set the scene for you:

This family has hosted this event almost fifteen consecutive Thanksgiving holidays. And after much concerted, often orchestrated, efforts of (mainly) the womenfolk, seven big tables had been set with charger plates, dinner plates, bread plates, linen napkins upon nice linen tablecloths, and real silverware; the food was blessed. Mind you, everyone knew what they needed to do, or saw what needed done and did it. There was barely a raised eyebrow during the whole process, but there was MUCH laughing and joking going on.

Around the time most of the people (maybe a little under about 50 people in the headcount) had finished stacking their plates with second and third rounds back at the food stations, and everyone was deep into the mountain of desserts, people began piling up to-go boxes (also provided by the hosts). Few people drank and the hardest drink was beer.

Now it was fun time; time for the traditional concert that this Fabulous Family (FF) puts on annually. Host mom, Mrs. Doc, is very proud of this FF (and rightly so) which is stacked deep in generations of great artists of singers, soloists, musicians, and DJs. There is no lack of talent, nor musical ambition in this FF. They were all born ready and able. So… that night…

Mar (in her 20s) was killing it on vocals (ooooo, vocals that give you chills)! Rho (mother of Britt) wasn’t slacking either. Britt (also in her 20s) had to be cajoled into singing, but she didn’t have to be cajoled into doing background for most of the songs the others sang, with the intermittent help of little Jordy (who, at 11 years, can belt with the best of them). Robbie (sister to Rho and mother of Mar and Jordy) punched the sky in vocals to start it off [no room for the holiness dance]. And Doc, dad/granddad, showed his flare as he zipped through “The Girl From Ipanema” on the organ; we shoulder dances like Ethiopians in our chairs.

Then… there was Miss J’s group (NOTE: For some reason, all the white folks sat at one table designated specifically for them nearest the front door in chairs marked “reserved.” Didn’t figure that out; didn’t ask for an explanation). Now, Jean and her family have been acquainted with this FF for years and have attended this holiday function for almost as long as they’ve held it, so why they were separate I have no clue (nor care).

Anyway, this year Miss J’s family brought a cute little friend-girl who envisions herself a singer. Lawd! From what I could hear, the child couldn’t carry a note if she paid someone to help her with it (but she had the guts to try). She “sang” a couple of songs, the first of which she kept losing her key and her part (even though Mar patiently held the phone (with the song on it) before her so she could see the words). My daughter, who sat closest to her, said that although she didn’t do too well then, at least she wasn’t tone deaf, and she needed a LOT of practice. That was generous.

The second time around she got up more nerve and wanted to do that new type of “singing” recently named “cups.” Now, a cups song (bonafide wypipo’s music) is a new form of rhythmic singing; it is snappy-fast and coordinated, and mainly consists of the hollow snap of the mouth of a cup hitting a flat (wood/metal) surface, accompanied by the sharp clap of the hands in a fast moving, rhythmic fashion, which is (ordinarily) a nice sounding accompaniment. But little friend-girl made very little noise when she was supposed to bang the cup (losing 1/3 of the effects) and almost no sound when she (almost) clapped her hands, which lost another 1/3 of the effects because the voice is supposed to round it out by being the last 1/3. So, in summary: she’d flip the cup on a cloth-covered table, quietly, “almost” clap her hands, then issue out weak “notes” (trying to modulate). The group encouraged her and clapped for her efforts. I used this time to gather plates.

Then little J (Miss J’s son) wanted his turn in the songfest. Keep in mind that any effort he makes will be championed because he is a sweet, cheerful, teenaged boy with some challenges who rarely separates his teeth even to talk, and loves country western music (as does Rho, by the way). For him, Chelle (sister to Rho and Robbie) turned the volume waaay up on the background soundtrack, but it wasn’t high enough to make it much better so I used that time to gather napkins and silverware. Personally, I think he wasn’t too bad so I cheered and clapped for his enthusiasm along with the rest of them, because—he deserved that (even I don’t have the nerve to sing in front of all that talent).

When I wasn’t clearing up I sat and recorded the FF’s young ladies actually sing and Doc play one song on the organ that made us bounce in our seats; I just enjoyed the hell outta the concert.

Then, quite unexpectedly, a singular, strong thought entered my mind as I watched the wypipo–watch the FF young ladies and Doc (he kilt-ted that organ!!) entertain the crowd as they showcased their enormous, collective, wealth of talents.

It occurred to me that eons ago, wypipo picked Black folks to enslave after they saw these larger-than-life kinds of talents that Black people (innately) have and realized on some unconscious level just how weak they (many, many of them) are in comparison and decided, subconsciously, that they needed to control those talents; to profit from all those gifts and skills. I mean, even back then there were wypipo having to use special made tools to make stuff, but imagine how gob-smacked they were when they saw a Black man whittle a doll, a fiddle, perfect figurines, guitars, or even a drum with a singular, semi-dull pocket knife. Then, factor in that in spite of making it unlawful to teach Black people to read, some were smart enough to figure it out and learned on their own (like my oldest brother did) by teaching themselves to read simply by observing in the shadows what the wypipo did without those same wypipo understanding just how smart their shadowed audience was.

In that moment, I generalized them as they generalize Black people–into one singular group, while denying them an individual identity. I look at them as they do us–as if we have no significant within-group distinctions. I wondered if that’s what’s fueled them for generations to keep Black folk from out-shining, out-doing, out-performing them in life–in general? Granted, there have been many white people contributors to the growth of the world, but who can say with unproven certainty that none of those contributors carried enough Black DNA to make those contributions possible or worthy? Let that sink in.

And we, Black folk, don’t help our own situation because we’ve been cheering their weaknesses for generations as if by doing so white people will work harder to get better—be better people. As if they, after seeing our collective brilliance, will recognize that we are now, and have always been, strong contributors to all that this nation has produced, created, and thereby, progressed from. As if by doing so that wypipo, in turn, will step back, acknowledge those contributions, and let us be. They haven’t, and with their faulty thinking of somehow being superior, they can’t, because they are limited, no–controlled–by that very thought that all they have to be is–born, and somehow that makes them superior. Think about that, just by birth you are superior in thought, word, and deed, without any work to improve your condition, and you are better than a whole continent of people. How tainted, tarnished, faulty, is that!

Yup, I thought all that in those moments. I felt that I finally understood what I imagined started all those years of slavery and degradation, Jim Crow years, segregation, and public executions to anyone who dared to show talents, intelligence, or evidence an interior brightness that couldn’t be tolerated so had to be snuffed out, the consistently inconsistent give-and-take social systems which continue to make Black people, in particular, people of color in general, socially paranoid; all of it came into focus.

I concluded that:

1-They (generalized wypipo) have operated on a subconscious belief that if they kill the light, they stifle the people (whereby they continue to underestimate us all),
2-dolt45 is their weakest link (which has no impact of their unwavering support and loyalty),
3-“And their weakest link shall lead them” must be in the wypipo’s Bible (Dotoallofme 12:2-48) somewhere,
4- They’re very insecure people (as a group—who else would follow the weakest link except lemmings?),
5-Petty minds breed petty people.

6- Like lemmings, the petty minds are still breeding and regenerating that same pre-colonial ignorance of how the world works (but never really has).

Boy, what an evening of revelations!