Reading For the Weekend: 1619 to Today

Four hundred years of slavery, Jim Crow, voter intimidation, mass incarceration, lynching, segregation, voter suppression, redlining and poverty. The NY Times shines the light on it all.

Events & Actions

Retake Our Democracy on KSFR 101.1 FM, Saturday morning (TODAY) at 8:30am with Miranda Viscoli, Co-President of New Mexicans for Gun Violence Prevention. Recorded on Thursday, this show is well worth your time, as Miranda spells out both what has been accomplished in NM to prevent gun violence and the significant challenges ahead. And a bold prediction: Miranda predicts the NRA will no longer exist in 5 years. May it be so.

August 17, 2-4 pmMarch in Support of Pueblo Liberation and Reclaiming Sacred Land.The march on Aug. 17, 2-4pm. Meet at the Fish Sculpture outside the Convention Center. This is an important way to show support for indigenous populations and indigenous rights. The march will be led by Pueblo womxn to reclaim O gah Po’geh, which is the actual name of what we now know as ‘Santa Fe.’ Settled and exploited first by the Spanish, and later by white American settlers, O gah Po’geh is sacred to our Tewa relatives.

The August 17thmarch will be an educational tour about the history of liberation, and conquest, that has transpired in O gah Po’geh. Through a series of stops along the route, the Red Nation hopes to remind Santa Fe that it sits atop stolen Pueblo land. They will offer prayers for the land and water of this sacred place to re-establish their roles as caretakers and relatives.

More Actions and Events. For details about Wednesday night’s dance benefit for Somos Un Pueblo Unido, Santa Fe Dreamers and the Democratic Party of Santa Fe, as well as a host of other events, click here.

Four Hundred Years of Black Slavery & Oppression: Time For All of Us to Examine This

Of course, all of us are aware of US oppression of black people. But in, 1619, a tremendous NY Times project, we have no less than eleven feature length pieces on African American oppression. I have read several and will continue going through them for a Reading for the Weekend on a future Saturday.

I know that the NY Times limits the number of online articles that non-subscribers can view to 10 a month. Due to the extraordinary importance of the pieces I’ve read thus far, I sincerely hope they open this to everyone without limitations. If not, I’d make today’s selection part of your NYT quota.

Both articles that follow begin by describing the current situation in relation to capitalism (first article) and then in relation to undemocratic, elitist political practices (second article) with the remainder of each article devoted to outlining how these modern practices had their roots in slavery. The threads of political and economic theories and practices that are revealed are eye-opening, to say the least.

In Order to Understand the Brutality of Capitalism, You Must Start on the Plantation

I can’t say enough about this article. I don’t care how much you feel you may know about the American slave trade, this article will illuminate you.

Most everyone grasps the horrific brutality of slavery, but I had never considered the degree to which slavery discovered and developed so many of the core elements of the capitalist system: mortgages, depreciation, inventory, accounting and with the invention of the cotton gin, a huge jumpstart to the industrial revolution.

I had no idea how many of the most brutal aspects of capitalism have their seeds in slavery. And just as Wall St. built a Ponzi-like credit scheme with the 2008 banking crisis, so too did the cotton industry collapse from greedy loan schemes very similar to what transpired in 2008. From the NY Times:

That [slave] culture would drive cotton production up to the Civil War, and it has been a defining characteristic of American capitalism ever since. It is the culture of acquiring wealth without work, growing at all costs and abusing the powerless. It is the culture that brought us the Panic of 1837, the stock-market crash of 1929 and the recession of 2008. It is the culture that has produced staggering inequality and undignified working conditions. If today America promotes a particular kind of low-road capitalism — a union-busting capitalism of poverty wages, gig jobs and normalized insecurity; a winner-take-all capitalism of stunning disparities not only permitting but awarding financial rule-bending; a racist capitalism that ignores the fact that slavery didn’t just deny black freedom but built white fortunes, originating the black-white wealth gap that annually grows wider — one reason is that American capitalism was founded on the lowest road there is.

Matthew Desmond, NY Times August 14

Toward the end of the article, The Times includes a brief side bar article by Tiya Miles, How Slavery Made Wall St. She points to a profound irony and a historical fact that roots slavery into Wall St from its very first days. The original wall that resulted in the name Wall St. was constructed by slaves in the early 1700s. And as Matthew Desmond’s excellent article makes clear, the fingerprints of slavery are everywhere in our current capitalist system. A must read. Click here to review the full article.

The Undemocratic Impulses of American Democracy

The second NY Times selection, penned by Jamelle Bouie, focuses on the roots of today’s very undemocratic power politics. Most recognize that the roots of the Electoral College and the bicameral Congress were designed to protect the slave industry, but this article outlines so many other ways in which we can find the roots of current undemocratic political practices in the age of slavery.

The article draws striking parallels between the 1840’s when southern states recognized the westward expansion as a threat to their slave sovereignty, much as today the changing demographics in the country pose threats to the long-term viability of the GOP. It is fascinating to see how the fear of an ascending majority of more democratic voters and states and the resulting dispossession among the elite of the antebellum south and the elite of the nation today, has created an array of undemocratic practices designed explicitly to protect the sovereignty of the elite. Mitch McConnell and his tyrannical reign over the Senate did not just erupt in this century. As this article describes there are clear links to the antebellum south. From the NY Times citing John C. Calhoun, VP under Jackson and Tyler and South Carolina Senator

Liberty, Calhoun stated, was “a reward to be earned, not a blessing to be gratuitously lavished on all alike — a reward reserved for the intelligent, the patriotic, the virtuous and deserving — and not a boon to be bestowed on a people too ignorant, degraded and vicious, to be capable either of appreciating or of enjoying it.” It is striking how much this echoes contemporary arguments against the expansion of democracy. In 2012, for example, a Tea Party congressional candidate from Florida said that voting is a “privilege” and seemed to endorse property requirements for participation.

Jamelle Bouie, NY Times, August 14

And if that statement fails to alarm you, the even more brazen quote from William F. Buckley surely will.

The article outlines the varied undemocratic strategies deployed by the elite of the south and how those strategies inform current undemocratic political maneuverings in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan and other conservative states, as well as at the national level. It should make us very wary about how the GOP and its conservative base react if and when polls in 2020 project a landslide loss by Trump and what the GOP may do to protect their reign. Read on. Click here to read the full article.

In solidarity,

Paul and Roxanne

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1 reply

  1. Thank you for posting links to these articles. I never knew the roots of capitalism were in slavery.

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