World War I continues to haunt the world as the mistakes of the “peace” treaty in regions like Central Europe and the Balkans continue to plague us. Should the “peace” treaty have refused the Austrians the Hapsburg monarch (the saintly Karl) they almost surely wanted? What would have happened if Austria had produced a stable center-right government in Vienna? What of colonialism and the havoc weird borders drawn by the Great Powers and the great evils done (look up the Belgian Congo) have had on sub-Saharan Africa?
One hundred years is one long human lifetime.
If you cripple the father, then the son is hobbled. If you hobble the son, then the grandson faces an impediment.
So I was taught as a Christian and conservative: beware ignorance of history and the shallow thought that problems vanish.
What of race in America? We must be consistent. Race counted and so race counts. History does not end with emancipation or when we wish it would. The longer a problem festers the harder and longer the solution and restitution to end the repercussions.
I only get comments on this truism when dealing with race in America.
The Constitution of 1789 allowed slavery. Why? Slavery had existed in the English colony for many years before the revolution. This slavery was based on race and the longer that slavery existed, and the more peculiar it became to the rest of Christendom, the harder the slavers tried to justify the institution. Slavery became a matter of race and racial superiority and inferiority. Those colonies and states that were abandoned or never had slavery were tainted or became infected with white supremacy and “black” inferiority.
After the worst war, a civil war, in American history slavery ended, but many people opposed to slavery still accepted white supremacy. This was “science” at the time and (God help us!) was accepted by many religious people in the United States using spurious theological arguments. President US Grant had to fight a second civil war to bust the terrorist Klan, but lived just long enough to see “lily white” Republicans begin to take over his party and abandon the freedman. Reconstruction failed to deliver the promises white political leaders made to leaders like Ida Wells, Booker T. Washington, and Frederick Douglass.
The great city of Houston, Texas, was segregated in my lifetime. I heard a former police chief speak about being forced to eat his meals near the garbage cans as a boy, because of his race. The civil rights movements and laws were implemented early in my lifetime. Many police forces had no African-American officers until my teenage years.
All of this is bound to leave an impact. Were the systems in place that allowed this to continue destroyed or merely superficially fixed?
Given this history, why would any American be surprised that the work of equal rights for all Americans and in particular equality for all is not finished? Yet if I write on this topic, normally sane folk ask me to show that “correlation is causation” or point out that not every problem is based on race. Do some cry “racism” when race is not the problem?
But isn’t it overwhelmingly likely given a conservative Christian view of history that the bitter fruit of slavery, failed Reconstruction, legal enforced segregation (“Jim Crow”), voter suppression (literacy tests), red lining to keep African Americans out of neighborhoods, would have systemic sources?
Wouldn’t the burden of proof be on people to show that if racism is false (and racism is false) why America keeps on failing the African-American community in unique ways?
We need not know just what to do, the systems involved, to suspect something is wrong beyond getting the language right, having individuals with the proper piety, or instituted superficial fixes.
What must be done?
Would not the simple solution be to return to the Christian notion of restitution? What was the value of the work of enslaved people? What was the economic cost of segregation? What is the economic cost of redlining? Even if one limited our examination of the cost to American citizens to the lifetimes of workers under retirement age, then surely there are millions now alive who grew up with parents legally forbidden full human liberty in commerce. We rightly compensate businesses for forced pandemic shutdowns. What should be done for centuries of forced (government) enslavement and segregation that extended to the 1960’s?
I do not know. Shouldn’t we ask? And shouldn’t we listen to answers that come from the community that pays the price?