:: freeman noun
1. a person not in slavery or serfdom
2. one who possesses the rights or privileges of a citizen
May 12, 2012 - How the Amendment to End Slavery Was Damaged by Racism
The Constitution of the United States of America was created to enable the founding ideals and principles of the Declaration of Independence. Yet something went terribly wrong. It failed to recognize, defend and enable those ideals.
The tragedy of such a gargantuan failure is still with us today in the form of institutionalized and systemic racism and a deeply embedded exploitation of labor. Both are still given constitutional sanction. Such sanction resides in the very constitutional amendment that was supposed to free the slaves and end the exploitation of labor in America forever: the 13th Amendment.
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
"[E]xcept as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have
been duly convicted."
The reality of emancipation and racial equality cannot be fulfilled until the collective mindset of the nation is firmly turned away from the idea that slavery or involuntary servitude has any place within the constitutional fabric of the United States. Until the notion is gotten rid of that a person who is convicted of a crime is something less than other citizens, or is something less than human, there cannot be the necessary transformation of the American law enforcement and judicial system from one that is based upon vengeance and negative punishment to one that is focused on 21st-century restorative justice.
So, why does the Constitution of the United States of America still allow for the existence of servitude in America that can be triggered as a punishment for crime?
What America got in the 13th Amendment was a mindset reflected in legislation, law and customary practice best described in 1845 by Frederick Douglass in his "Narrative of the Life of a Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself": "To be accused was to be convicted, and to be convicted was to be punished; the one always following the other with immutable certainty. To escape punishment was to escape accusation ... " Think, please, of a young, black boy - Trayvon Martin - wearing a hoodie, who only wanted some Skittles and iced tea when he was shot to death on February 26, 2012, by a neighborhood vigilante because he looked "suspicious."
As Douglas A. Blackmon has pointed out in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "Slavery By Another Name," those so-called crimes have run the gamut from the actually nonexistent or fictional to relatively minor offenses that would have been handled with non-penal consequences had the offender not been black, but the objective was to procure cheap, nearly free black labor for white farms, other businesses, state and local governments and large American corporations. And the 13th Amendment facilitated this via its language, which empowered law enforcement and the courts to traffic in African Americans for the purpose of rendering them into a post-Emancipation iteration of slavery and involuntary servitude.
It is therefore no accident that there exists a great disparity in the way the American criminal justice system deals with African Americans versus whites. Until the connection between the criminal justice system and slavery and involuntary servitude is condemned and forever severed, America will remain a nation plagued by a criminal justice system, the essence of which is racial inequality.
According to The Congressional Globe, Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner rose on April 8, 1864, during the debate on the 13th Amendment to speak to the inappropriateness of adapting the wording of the Jeffersonian Northwest Ordinance of 1787 to an amendment purporting to grant emancipation to the slaves: "There are words here, I have said, which are entirely inapplicable to our time. They are the limitation, 'otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.' Now, unless I err, there is an implication from those words that men may be enslaved as a punishment of crimes whereof they shall have been duly convicted." Sumner said the words, "do no good there, but they absolutely introduce a doubt."
In 2009, Scott W. Howe wrote in the Arizona Law Review: "Post- [13th] amendment history confirms an original public meaning for the slavery-as-punishment clause that gave states a broad immunity against claims under the main prohibition in the Thirteenth Amendment of improper treatment of prisoners." ("Original public meaning" refers to the method of constitutional interpretation which asks how an ordinary or reasonable person would have interpreted the text of the Constitution at the time it was ratified.)
"Many of the outcomes allowed by an original-public-meaning approach to the Thirteenth Amendment are abhorrent," wrote Howe.
There is a causal and interdependent relationship between the privatization of prisons, "convict labor," attacks on voting rights and attacks on affirmative action. These are all part of a vast and intricate web of undemocratic control established to maintain white elite privilege and power over African Americans and the rest of the 99 percent.
Indeed, racial inequality in America's justice system was admitted by the Supreme Court in McCleskey v. Kemp. The Court essentially said that given the inherent racism in American society it is "inevitable" that America's justice system would treat African Americans worse than whites. Yet, the Court ruled that only "individuals" - not the system - could be held accountable.
A recent North Carolina court case hailed as a landmark ruling moves away from that view. On April 20, 2012, Superior Court Judge Gregory A. Weeks of Cumberland County, citing North Carolina's 2009 Racial Justice Act, struck down the capital punishment sentence imposed on Marcus Robinson. Weeks ruled that systemic anti-black racial bias was indeed a factor in Robinson's and other capital cases involving black defendants in North Carolina.
The 1 percent needs to keep African Americans from realizing self-determination and to have a permanent American underclass in order to control the exploitation of labor and continue ramping up the wealth-to-poverty ratio; after all, American slavery and involuntary servitude were modes of labor exploitation which existed in the realm of supposed "free market" private entrepreneurship.
There's something stinking in America. It's that elephant in the living room smoking stogies rolled with thousand dollar bills earned not by him, but by the exploitation of other people's labor.
The immorality of such exploitation and the evil behavior required to maintain it led to the creation of constitutional and institutionalized racism from which flowed rigid systems of control (slave codes, "Black Codes", anti-miscegenation laws prohibiting interracial marriage and relationships, Jim Crow, fugitive slave laws, "one-drop rules" that assigned minority status to mixed-race people), perverse referencing tags used to define those exploited as less than human and to promote a mass psychology of anti-black racism.
The United States of America was founded upon the success of the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. Delegates from the states sent by their constituents to participate in the debates assembled there and ultimately cast a vote towards ratifying the US Constitution. Why is this so important with respect to slave emancipation? Because a concrete legal definition of freedom - and, therefore, what it meant to be emancipated - as well as the practical application of that definition, were rendered. In other words, we have clear precedents which flow directly from the Declaration of Independence: the right to take part in a consent-giving procedure, the right to voting representation in Congress and the great principle that government is only just when it has the consent of the governed. Whatever constraints or limitations are imposed upon that consent still require democratic consultation. Anything other than that amounts to tyranny.
But when the object is to control a people and not to free them, then the reasoning behind the wording of the 13th Amendment becomes clear. It allowed for the government to exercise power over a people which had not been given the opportunity to plebiscite and to render consent; and it underpinned body of law that rests soundly upon a legal fiction and a flowing web of rhetorical political hyperbole that amounts to hypocrisy and demagoguery. That well-known legal fiction was that blacks were not the equal of whites and were not intellectually, emotionally or morally capable of being full participants in a working democracy. What should have been so easy - the unconditional abolition of slavery and involuntary servitude as well as the recognition of the rights and the granting of the privileges of freedom - was burdened, bludgeoned and crippled by racism.
A reading of some of the Congressional debates and bills passed during the 38th Congress (March 4, 1863 to March 4, 1865) is instructive. Congress wrestled with the question of where to build a new penitentiary in the Washington DC area. Ideas were put forward about how best to use prison labor in the service of keeping the government from falling into debt because of the costs involved in incarcerating people. The question of absolute equality between men and women was scoffed at. And there continued unabated the relentless pursuit of further embedding white privilege into the constitutional and institutional fabric of the nation by denying that people of African descent could even remotely be considered equal with whites.
So, it is not surprising that, in spite of the vigorous arguments put forward by the likes of Senator Sumner - who cited the human rights principles of The Enlightenment, some pertinent language from the French Constitution and, of course, our own Declaration of Independence - the language in an initially proposed emancipation amendment recognizing the "absolute equality" of blacks and whites before the law was soundly rejected.
If the opposite of slavery is freedom, and if freedom in America is predicated upon the consent of the governed, the absolute equality of all before the law and the right of every citizen to have voting representation in Congress, then an authentic emancipation amendment should have included those elements.
To declare in subsequent amendments that everyone born in the United States is a US citizen and that all citizens have the right to vote is patently different from declaring that those who were once held in bondage and persecuted because of their "race" must be afforded some sort of plebiscite, guaranteed equality before the law and voting representation in Congress - and that Congress must be the enforcer.
The treatment of slaves had to do with control and the maintenance of the slavery system. This mindset spilled over into post-bellum America and was responsible for the slavery and involuntary servitude clause in the 13th Amendment. This mindset is manifest in a presumption of inequality, inferiority and guilt which extends its reach into present-day society at large; it is a mindset which does not recognize the sanctity of the individual and which reared its ugly head in the recent federal appeals court decision of a California case (Haskell, et al vs Harris, et al; No. 1015152 D.C. No. 3:09-cv-04779-CRB; February 23, 2012) which tested the so-called "test-on arrest" policy. The split-court ruling said that building a DNA database of anyone arrested is acceptable. This should be of particular concern to those who believe it is their American right to protest and who not only risk arrest when they do so, but risk getting their mouth swabbed and their DNA stored against their will.
Thurgood Marshall said, "The framers possessed no monopoly on the ability to trade moral principles for self-interest" when it came to the fate of African Americans. He believed the Constitution to be a living document, something that could be refreshed and renewed in the spirit of the ideal and principles of the Declaration of Independence. That is America's true bottom line.
Having an African American president does not mean America is post-racial. It doesn't mean that the debate on race is moot. As we have seen over the past four years, racism and the exploitation of labor are alive and well in America. President Obama and his family's residence in the White House is an expression of hope that we can courageously and progressively engage this debate and enact the appropriate constitutional and institutional reforms.
American freedom is a living, breathing, complicated thing. Individuals' racism, undemocratic beliefs and behavior will not be rectified by amending the 13th Amendment, but certainly, opening the dialogue and pushing for our Constitution to unconditionally recognize the abolition of slavery and involuntary servitude would be a mighty shove to the door.
This must be America's springtime. There is no greater time than now to open the most compelling dialogue on race in the history of our nation.
Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission: "How the Amendment to end Slavery was Damaged by Racism"
May 1, 2012 - Gary Freeman Interviewed on CBC's Power & Politics
See Gary Freeman and lawyer Barbara Jackman interviewed by Evan Soloman on the CBC News program "Power & Politics" on May 1st.
In the House of Commons, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair had contrasted the treatment of Gary Freeman with that of Conrad Black who has been granted a one year temporary resident permit by the Harper Government. In response, Immigration Minister Jason Kinney made erroneous statements about Gary Freeman's case both inside and outside the House of Commons. See video of the exchange in the House of Commons.
See NDP MP Olivia Chow and Liberal MP Irwin Cotler discussing the apparent double standard being applied to Gary Freeman's request for a permit to enter Canada and be with his family.
April 22, 2012 - 40 Years On
At Truthout's website, read "1960s Black Radical Still Suffers Racial And Political Injustice"
by Rania Khalek, detailing Gary Freemans's struggle against the racial
and political injustice perpetuated first by the United States and now
by Canada. The current Canadian government continues to deny him the
right to re-join his family in Canada based on a completely false
allegation of past membership in the Black Panther Party making him
"inadmissible on security grounds."
October 6, 2010 - MPs Present Petition to the House of Commons
This week, two Members of Parliament presented the petition to the House of Commons asking that the Minister of Immigration grant Gary Freeman a temporary resident permit so that he can be reunited with his family in Canada.
Alan Tonks, Liberal Party Member of Parliament (York South-Weston), said:
"Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition on behalf of Mr. Gary Freeman, who was involved over 30 years ago in a racially charged incident in Chicago.
In 1974 he came to Canada. He has raised four children. In fact, I knew Mr. Freeman when he was an employee of the Metropolitan Toronto Library, and he has had an absolutely impeccable character and record of service in that position.
A few years ago, he was ordered for extradition and returned to the United States, where he stood trial on the charge that he was given over 30 years ago.
He made restitution. He served two months and he was on probation. He is not on the no-fly list, but he is unable to visit his family. After 30 years, the petitioners feel that justice delayed is justice denied. They are asking that the Minister of Immigration use his ministerial discretion under section 25 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to grant a temporary resident permit on humanitarian and compassionate grounds so that Mr. Freeman can be reunited with his family."
Thierry St-Cyr, Bloc Québécois Member of Parliament (Jeanne-Le Ber), said:
"Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from people requesting that the House direct the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to use his ministerial discretion to grant a temporary resident permit to Mr. Freeman on humanitarian and compassionate grounds so that he can be reunited with his family.
Mr. Freeman has spent most of his life in Canada. He has four Canadian-born children and his wife is Canadian. He had a run-in with the American justice system at a time when there was significant racial violence in Chicago. He has fully paid his debt to society, having served his entire sentence in the United States following a plea bargain with American prosecutors.
Those who have signed the petition feel that we should help him so that he can be with his family again."
See a video of Thierry St-Cyr presenting the petition in the House of Commons.
August 22, 2010 - Support from Toronto Public Library Workers
The Toronto Public Library Workers Union (Local 4948, Canadian Union of Public Employees) recently wrote to the Minister of Citizenship & Immigration: "Mr. Freeman poses no threat to anyone in Canada, and the United States Goverment has posed no objection to his returning to Canada. We are requesting that you exercise your discretion in this matter, on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, to grant Gary Freeman a temporary resident permit that will allow him to be reunited with his Canadian wife and children."
August 20, 2010 - Letters from Members of Parliament
Members of Parliament Oliva Chow (New Democratic Party) and Alan Tonks (Liberal Party of Canada) have written letters to the Minister of Citizenship & Immigration and the Minister of Public Safety supporting the Freeman family's request for a Temporary Resident Permit.
Oliva Chow writes: "I urge you to take all of the information into consideration in addition to the humanitarian and compassionate nature of Mr. Freeman's case and grant him a Temporary Resident Permit so that he can be reunited with his family in the country he calls home."
August 13, 2010 - Mississauga News Article
The Mississauga News publishes "Freeman not free to come home".
August 13, 2010 - Toronto Star Article
On Friday August 13th the Toronto Star publishes "New granddad kept out of Canada". Denied entry to Canada, Gary Freeman must meet his newborn grandson in Buffalo NY.
The article reveals some details of an internal Immigration Department report about his request to visit Canada for the funeral of his father-in-law, obtained under the Access to Information Act by Gary Freeman's lawyer.
Lawyer Barbara Jackman had also written to the Canadian Consulate in Buffalo in July to point out that the State of Illinois' prosecution's summary of the case contained no allegation of membership in the Black Panther Party.
Note: The Toronto Star article and photo caption incorrectly stated that Gary Freeman was released after serving 2 years in an Illinois jail.
Gary Freeman served 30 days in an Illinois jail. He was released March 6, 2008, and served 2 years probation in Washington DC.
August 12, 2010 - New Democrats Call For Immigration Fairness in Freeman Case
Canada's New Democratic Party, represented by Member of Parliament for Trinity-Spadina Olivia Chow and NDP Deputy Leader Thomas Mulcair, issues a statement at a press conference on Thursday August 12th calling on the Government to allow Gary Freeman to return to Canada.
Deputy Leader Thomas Mulcair says: "He presents no threat to Canada. It makes no sense and is grossly unfair to deny Freeman and his family the right to live together in Canada for another five years."
August 5, 2010 - This Magazine, July/August 2010
This Magazine, the leading alternative Canadian magazine of politics, pop culture, and the arts, publishes a short article "Nowhere Man" in their July/August 2010 issue.
June 5, 2010 - Toronto Star Article
On Saturday June 5th the Toronto Star publishes "Is Mississauga man a terrorist or a lonely father?", an article about Gary Freeman's struggle to return home from Washington DC to his family in Canada.
February 3, 2010 - Coelho-Freeman Family Re-unification Petition
Bring Gary Freeman Home!
Download & sign the petition to the House of Commons!
To the Minister of Immigration and the House of Commons; the undersigned Canadian citizens desire to draw your attention to the following extraordinary situation:
Douglas Gary Freeman, an African American, is married to a Canadian, and they have four Canadian-born children. He has been a well-loved and respected member of the community since his arrival in Canada in 1974.
The Canadian government is trying to prevent Mr. Freeman, who has lived the majority of his life in Canada, from returning home.
In 2004, Mr. Freeman was sought for extradition to the US to face decades-old charges stemming from an incident involving a white police officer in the racially and politically charged Chicago of 1969.
Court documents proved that Mr. Freeman's presence and location in Canada was known to authorities since 1974, yet U.S. authorities waited 30 years to seek his return.
After 3 years and 7 months of pre-extradition custody in Canada, Mr. Freeman voluntarily returned to Chicago in February, 2008, where he accepted a prosecution proffered plea bargain agreement of a guilty plea to a single count of Aggravated Battery for a sentence of 30 days in the Cook County Jail, 2 years of probation, and a major contribution to a Chicago police charity.
Mr. Freeman was released from custody in March 2008 and successfully completed his probation without incident in February 2010.
Mr. Freeman began the process of applying to return to Canada while on probation during which Mr. Freeman's family was struck by the death of his father-in-law in Montreal on October 31, 2009.
Mr. Freeman sought and received permission from U.S. authorities to attend the funeral but the Canadian government refused him entry for reasons of "serious criminality".
Further, the Canadian government has deemed Mr. Freeman "inadmissible" to Canada on "national security grounds" due to the false, unsubstantiated allegation that Mr. Freeman had been a member of the Black Panther Party (BPP) which the government of Canada alleges, again without supporting evidence, "is an organization which has engaged in terrorism".
The Black Panther Party is not listed anywhere in the world as a terrorist entity, either by the U.S., Canada, or the United Nations, and former high-profile members and associates of the group continue to travel freely to Canada for speaking engagements.
Court documents corroborate Mr. Freeman's assertion that he was not a BPP member, and former Conservative Minister of Justice Vic Toews wrote in 2006 that the US would have to prove the BPP allegation essentially conceding that the government of Canada had no proof.
Before Superior Court of Ontario Justice Ian Nordheimer in 2004 Canadian government prosecutors essentially conceded that Mr. Freeman was NOT a threat to society.
Mr. Freeman holds a U.S. passport and has already flown twice since his 2008 release so he is definitely NOT on a no-fly list.
We therefore request of this House:
To direct the Immigration Minister to exercise ministerial discretion under Section 25 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in granting a temporary resident permit on humanitarian and compassionate grounds so that Mr. Freeman can be re-united with his family.
Help Re-unite The Freeman Family!
What you can do:
Download the petition, get your family & friends to sign, and return it to:
Family & Friends of Gary Freeman
H - 110 Frederick Street
Write to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. Ask them to exercise their discretion and allow Gary Freeman to come home to Canada.
Mail may be sent postage-free to any
Member of Parliament at the following address:
House of Commons,
Canada, K1A 0A6
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews' email: email@example.com
Arrange a meeting with your local Member of Parliament to discuss this issue.
Make a donation. Write cheques to "Toronto Action for Social Change" (add "Freeman" in memo section) and send to:
PO Box 73620
509 St Clair Ave West
February 22, 2008 - Plea Agreement & March 7th Release
Following a plea agreement approved by all parties in a Chicago courtroom on Friday, February 22, Gary Freeman will serve an additional 30 days in custody at Cook County Jail, followed by two years' probation, and will donate $250,000 to the Hundred Club of Cook County, which helps provide for the surviving spouses and dependents of law enforcement officers, firefighters and paramedics who lose their lives in the line of duty.
Gary is scheduled to be released from Cook County Jail on Friday, March 7th. Arrangements are being made to have him serve the probation period in Washington, DC, where he has family, relatives, and friends.
January 21, 2008 - Returning to Chicago
The day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated was easily the worse day of my life. After attending my classes at Howard University, I was in the home of a classmate and close friend listening to some of her mother's jazz albums when the news burst from the television.
We both sat shocked, speechless, semi-paralyzed, and unable to do anything except watch the TV. Major cities quickly became engulfed in the flames of despair and Washington joined them. It was something I never could have imagined happening. But then, someone killing the world's foremost prophet and disciple of non-violence was also something I would never have imagined.
Later that year, when I came through Chicago, one of the first things I heard about was Dr. King's march through the area a few years earlier. He had come to focus attention on the plight of African Americans who were ravaged by poverty and inequality in housing opportunity.
The magnitude and ferocity of the hate directed at Dr. King and his fellow marchers was shocking. It moved Dr. King to remark that he had never been to such a hate-filled place.
When Dr. King was assassinated and parts of black Chicago joined in the flames of despair, the Mayor of Chicago issued instructions that suspected looters and arsonists should be shot on sight. He later rescinded the order but the mere fact the Mayor possessed the idea of suspending due process and engaging in summary executions on the streets of an American city spoke volumes about an ugly reality.
But a lot has happened in the world and America since then to move humanity in the direction of fulfilling Dr. King's dream.
Apartheid in South Africa ended not with a military victory but with the victory of the democratic process and the commitment of both sides to engage in a process of peace, truth and reconciliation.
The Troubles in Northern Ireland have ended, not with military victory but with the victory of non-violent conflict resolution and the engagement of the democratic process.
The US Congress apologized in Senate Resolution 39 for not doing anything to stop the terrible crime against humanity known as lynching. And last year, a bi-racial, bi-partisan group of American legislators put forward the End Racial Profiling Act of 2007 to put a stop to that crime against humanity.
Meanwhile, the current Mayor of Chicago and the Democratic Party establishment have endorsed an African American man to be the next president of the United States of America. Underpinning that endorsement rests a city that deeply desires to make a clean break with the past and to create the kind of society Dr. King dreamed of.
I cannot ignore what is taking place. Nor do I want to. I desire to be part of what must be acknowledged as a defining moment in history. Ultimately, I know I have a responsibility to help create one nation out of a fractured past.
My extradition fight has been first and foremost directed towards having some truth revealed about many things, perhaps most importantly an extradition process that remains a rubber stamp that denies fundamental human rights. To that extent, it has succeeded. A continuation of a legal battle in Canada would aim to get the courts to acknowledge the truth and then to act accordingly. But our efforts thus far, and those of others in a similar situation, tell us that this isn't likely to happen.
Instead, I have decided to abandon my Supreme Court challenge of the Ontario Court of Appeals decision. I will be returning to Chicago and will be incarcerated at the Cook County Jail until such time as we reach a final determination through the judicial process.
In the meantime, I look forward to what I hope will be a dialogue to achieve a resolution in my 39 year old case, one that is grounded in the spirit of peaceful conflict resolution.
Clearly it is time to make the much needed clean break with the past and look to the future with eyes on the prize while clasping the hands of those who have formerly been adversaries. If it can be done in South Africa and Northern Ireland, if Israel and the Palestinians can sit down and talk, certainly the opposing sides in this 39 year old case can engage in a dialogue of resolution if for no other reason than to allow for the healing of two families.
I have learned how much I and my family are loved and respected. Your support has been an immeasurable gift. The past four years have interrupted one of the most important parts of my family's life: community involvement. After this episode is over, I certainly intend to return to the community and engage in public works for the public good for the rest of my life.
Above all, we must remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "Everybody can be great because everybody can serve".
December 28 - Obama and the Disappearance of Race
If you're black, get back.
If you're brown, stick around.
If you're white, you're alright.
At least, so goes a familiar ditty.
Sadly, we are still talking about "race" in the 21st century. Oddly, there are those who would say that the only black presidential hopeful for 2008 who certainly looks black, isn't. Which raises the interesting question regarding what advice he would receive from the he-ain't-black-enough crowd? Well, he's not alright 'cause he ain't white. If he ain't black, he can't get back. And not being brown, he can't stick around. Perhaps they'd like for him to get out of town; town being the presidential race for 2008.
Do they suppose he's not black enough to run for the presidency? Or is it that he's not black enough to be the first black president? History has taught us that one cannot be too white to run for the presidency. Nor has a white candidate ever been deemed not white enough to be a white president. Yet, perversely, a recent white president has been widely and approvingly lauded as being the first black president.
Isn't this all so silly? Of course it is. But race in America is silly. If only racial matters in America were simply harmless manifestations of silliness. But race in America is dangerous. Race has murdered. Race has oppressed. Race has been what is defective in American democracy from the Declaration of Independence to the present. It's been like a deadly viral infection that has always been curable if properly treated. But no one in a position of executive power or authority has had the desire, the guts or the wherewithal to treat the American socio-political body and cure it of the scourge.
That could well be changing. And no one of sound mind and heart would deny that it must change. The agent of change will be the skinny black kid of multiethnic parentage who grew up to be a wise and experienced junior Senator from Illinois. History will record that he is only the third black American elected to the Senate since reconstruction. However, he has been described by Salon.com's Debra Dickerson as not black "in our political and social reality". Is she referring to America?
With all due respects to Ms. Dickerson, she's confused. Probably many are. She wants us to define "black" as those "descended from West African slaves". Such criteria are not social nor political, but legal; and strictly speaking, legal in the context of determining the monetary value and possible recipients of dispensations due to a successful reparations suit. Ultimately, that may require resolving by modern DNA tests; something that would make the Founding Fathers go cross-eyed and drive the originators of the one-drop rule into insane asylums once they realized that everybody, all of us, came out of - oops - Africa.
The one-drop rule was America's social and political reality. It was divining rod "scientific". It used only the observation and conjecture aspects of the scientific method to arrive at conclusions that proved the sum total of hate plus ignorance equals destruction.
Black, in our social and political reality means anyone who would have been declared black by the one-drop rule. By that measure, the Queen of England is black. There are those (excluding the Queen's Ethiopian ancestor) who would find that notion ridiculous, even offensive. But "race" is ridiculous and offensive. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the idea that the longest reigning monarch is a strong black woman. (Please chuckle here!)
There is certainly nothing wrong with the idea that the next president of the United States could well be a black man.
What this really means is that America is finally ready to cast off its shackles of ignorance and hate, and to step firmly into the future where the only race that matters is the human race. President Obama will take you there.
The dream of America and the reality of America have always been in conflict.
The first time the dream challenged the reality was during reconstruction. The promise of reconstruction was that race would not matter in the economic political and legal reality of America. That promise was not allowed to develop because the reality of hate and ignorance produced the destructiveness of the KKK and other repulsive features of American Apartheid.
The Civil Rights Movement represented the second great attempt to supplant the racial vulgarity of the American reality with the humanity of the American promise. It almost worked. President Lyndon B Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. He also signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act. As a result, Richard Hatcher became the first black mayor of a significant American city - Gary Indiana - since Reconstruction. And since then African Americans have enjoyed unprecedented opportunities and achievements in some important spheres of American life.
But still African Americans are not equal partners in the construction of the American dream. Race is the culprit.
President Obama will end America's racial suffering and bridge the gap between the reality of America and the dream of America. America senses this. America is right.
President Obama reminds me of Sidney Poitier's character confronting his father in that classic scene from Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. "You think of yourself", he said to his father, "as a coloured man. I think of myself as a man". By virtue of his innate desire to be a man, President Obama will compel everyone to consider his and their humanness. He does this effortlessly.
If he has not pronounced on some of the issues the African American community is expecting of a black candidate for the presidency, perhaps it is well to remember that the ultimate aim of any freedom struggle is to deliver the oppressed into the bosom of the human family. No other candidate can do that.