Two black women have an inspired idea for dealing with systemic racism
Ashley Scott and Renee Walters have a dream — and if you're not black, it doesn't involve you. The two Georgia women are founding an all-black town in central Georgia to shake off 400 years of oppressive racism. Their inspiration is the fictional Wakanda in the movie Black Panther. Unwittingly, they're repeating an old American tradition of utopian communitarianism.
According to Yahoo! News, Scott and Walters inspired 19 black families to purchase 96 acres of land for their "safe haven" (hat tip: Breitbart). The Yahoo article opens with a rote recitation of how awful America is ("the nation continues to confront the toxic legacy of slavery and Jim Crow"). Only then does it get to the actual story, which is Scott's and Walters's plan:
[T]wo Georgia women have come together to build a community that will be a place free of oppression, "a tight-knit community for our people to just come and breathe."
They are calling it Freedom, Georgia, and draw their inspiration from Wakanda, the fictional comic-book country that was the setting for the movie "Black Panther."
Ashley Scott, a realtor from Stonecrest, Ga., who was driven to seek therapy by her reaction to the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, a young Black man jogging in a white neighborhood, said that after several sessions she realized that her problem was 400 years of racial oppression and trauma dating back to the establishment of slavery in North America.
"We are dealing with systemic racism," she wrote in an op-ed for Blavity last month. "We are dealing with deep-rooted issues that will require more than protesting in the streets."
With her friend Renee Walters, an entrepreneur and investor, she founded the Freedom Georgia Initiative, a group of 19 Black families who collectively purchased 96.71 acres of rural land in Toomsboro, a town of a few hundred people in central Georgia, with the intention of developing a self-contained Black community. The space will have small homes for vacation use and will host weddings, retreats and recreational functions, and may eventually evolve into an incorporated, self-sustaining community.
"It's now time for us to get our friends and family together and build for ourselves," said Walters, who serves as the president of the organization, in an interview with Yahoo News. "That's the only way we'll be safe. And that's the only way that this will work. We have to start bringing each other together."
If we ignore the loopy-loo psychobabble about living in the freest, least racist country in the world, but nevertheless being rendered dysfunctional by the 1619 Project, and if we also ignore the belief that a Hollywood superhero fantasy provides the answers to that mental fragility, the reality is that Walters and Scott have come up with an all-American plan.
From the moment the Pilgrims arrived, Americans have dreamed of communes that they were sure would free them from the inequities, burdens, and sordid realities of daily life in America. The Shakers, a subset of the Quakers, emerged in America in the 1780s. They settled in small communities that were very egalitarian, for they did not divide themselves along class or sexual lines. Their communities were pleasant places because the residents were hardworking pacifists. They were also celibates, which is why there are no more Shaker communities in America, although they did leave behind some lovely furniture.
In 1825, Robert Owen, a British industrialist, founded New Harmony, in Indiana, a very early commune built along pre-Marxist socialist principles — that is, the property was self-sufficient with shared ownership, but it wasn't seeking world domination. The socialist experiment failed for the same reason the Puritans' socialist experiment failed: people will work harder for themselves than for the community. Also, all socialist communities eventually run afoul of the tragedy of the commons, which sees people hoard what they can of a shared resource for fear of scarcity in a non-market economy.
As every American girl once knew, Lousia May Alcott's father was a transcendentalist in New England. In the 1840s, some of the men dragged their families to Fruitlands, a farm that was supposed to be a paradise of collegial work untrammeled by the sordid outside world. It was a failure. The men were too busy intellectualizing to work, and the women, despite their efforts, were unable to grow enough food to support the vegan commune. Alcott remembered the experiment as a bitter time of poverty and despair.
And there were the hippie communes in the 1960s and 1970s. To the best of my knowledge, as with their 19th-century predecessors, none was successful.
Still, it's an honored American tradition, and I wish the residents of this new Freedom community well. Indeed, if things at Freedom go really well, Scott and Walters may find that, thanks to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, they're going to have to allow people of all races to join them in their successful communal experiment.
Image: Robert Owen's vision for New Moral World, which was never realized. Public domain work.