Swastikas in the brickwork

Sort of a proverb: If you look for something hard enough, you'll eventually find it — even if it's not really there.

During our current moment, public discourse is obsessed with racism.  In a population in excess of 300 million, there have to be some particularly hateful people.  But racism is not the reason for the lower standard of living endured by the descendants of slaves who were freed by the Civil War. 

One of the smartest of the 300 million is a descendant of those slaves, Thomas Sowell.  Dr. Sowell has written several books, one of which is titled Ethnic America.  In it, he describes the history of every significant ethnic group in our midst...including those whose ancestors came from Africa.  He breaks those into three groups: 1) Free persons "of color."  Prior to the Civil War, some Blacks had already achieved their freedom, Frederick Douglass being one of the most famous, and Crispus Attucks had come about a century earlier, and was killed at the Boston Massacre.  2) African and West Indian immigrants...such as Vice President Harris's father (Jamaican).  And 3) the descendants of slaves freed by the Civil War.

The last group is certainly the most numerous.  The first two groups, early freedmen and immigrants, are mostly identical to the "white" population as far as educational achievement and income, thus blowing up the use of racism as a cause for the disparity — since, to the typical hateful "Cracker," they all look alike.

Dr. Sowell proffers an explanation for this phenomenon.  The early freedmen had been integrated into American society long before slavery in the South was abolished.  Slavery in the West Indies was particularly harsh (compared to that in the U.S.), so the ultimate survivors of that practice had finely honed survival skills.  African immigrants are typically representative of the elites of their countries of origin.

Historically, post–Civil War America was deluged with freed slaves.  Obviously, mistakes were made.  In our modern world, it would be assumed that plans were afoot to deal with the hordes of new citizens, but things were different back then.  Race riots overwhelmed places like New Orleans, and the next elected president, Ulysses Grant, stated that the American Indians were his first priority since America was really their property in the first place.  Various state militias, now battle-hardened, were ruthlessly forcing Indians off land they wanted for themselves.

Upon Grant's retirement, the election of 1876 was a humdinger.  Ever wonder why various streets and parks are named "Tilden"?  Samuel J. Tilden, Democrat governor of New York, failed to get a decisive majority in the Electoral College — as did his Republican opponent, Rutherford B. Hayes.  Thus, the election was decided by the House of Representatives, where each state's delegation got only one vote, as specified by the Constitution.  Unspecified was the political reality that the fix was in.  The Democrats let Hayes win in exchange for the Republicans putting an end to Reconstruction.  Thus began the era of Jim Crow.

Time passes.  The Second World War spelled the ultimate end for Jim Crow.  First, Southern Blacks migrated north to find work in defense industries.  Second, and more subtly, Hitler's grotesque fanaticism gave racism a bad name.  Previously, speaking ill of certain types of people was acceptable in polite conversation, but no longer.

Racism persists, however, as a political weapon.  Herding voters into groups enhances the efficiency of getting elected.  Sure, it's demagoguery...but it still works.

To comment, you can find the MeWe post for this article here.

If you experience technical problems, please write to helpdesk@americanthinker.com