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Shark Feasts

by Ed Raymond | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Gadfly | July 12th, 2020

How Did Sharks Know The Middle Passage Route Of Slave Ships?
Because they ate a lot of living and dead naked Africans for 350 years who either jumped off slave ships or were dumped off dead. That’s not fake history, folks, but in a white supremacist country, that’s the kind of history we are not taught. During those years an estimated 12.5 million blacks from Africa were loaded on slave ships that used the “Middle Passage” trade winds of the Atlantic to bring them to slave markets in South America, the Caribbean islands, and dozens of ports in the United States.

On boarding the slave ship in chains, the cargo was stripped naked and examined by the captain and someone acting as “surgeon.” All of the naked men were taken below decks to cargo holds, sometimes only 3.5 feet high, and secured by leg irons. The naked women and children were often imprisoned in holds below the main deck or on deck because they were considered less valuable. In good weather the naked men were brought to the main deck to exercise. Naked men were often so packed in they had to rest between the legs of other captives where they ate, defecated, urinated, and vomited during storms.In many ships they could not lie down. Conditions were absolutely appalling, made worse by fevers, dysentery, sea sickness, and diseases such as smallpox, The average trip took six weeks.

The captives were fed molasses and mush combinations twice a day. They had a large swallow of water in the morning and one in the afternoon. They could drink all of the rainwater they were exposed to. In the early days of the slave trade one in five captives died aboard ship. The bodies of the dead each day were tossed over the side. The conditions were so terrible captives brought to the deck for exercise often chose to leap over the side to the sharks. The sharks quickly recognized the easy meals and often followed ships to ports. Some countries finally passed laws improving conditions aboard so that near the end of the slave trade the death rate was lowered to one out of 18. The English slave ship Brookes carried as many as 609 captives to the New World in one trip.. Later, it was limited by law to 454. Capacity was often figured by weight! Historians have estimated that over two million African captives died at sea. It’s estimated that 307,000 reached our shores alive. This is real history everyone should be taught in school.

As Of July 2, 54 Confederate Monuments Have Been Removed; Over 700 To Go
After the slave states were defeated on the battlefield, the South still dominated blacks and whites by passing hundreds of Jim Crow laws that even penetrated most Northern states. Corky and I lived in D.C., Virginia, and North Carolina for three years while I served in the Marine Corps over the years 1950-57. We experienced Jim Crow laws first-hand. During the Jim Crow century about 800 monuments and ten military bases “honored” Confederate Army officers. During our RVing days we visited hundreds of historic sites, including many battlefields, museums, and Civil War military prisons such as Andersonville. These sites of the defeated were everywhere.

After World War II the Allies, the winners, insisted on this order: “We declare illegal any monument, memorial, poster, statue, edifice, street or highway name marker, emblem, tablet, or insignia which tends to preserve and keep alive the German military tradition, to revive militarism or to commemorate the Nazi Party.”The denazification of Germany started immediately. A tweet by a historian reminds us that no statues of Hitler exist in Germany. Trying to imagine a version of WW II where the Nazis get pushed into Bavaria and surrender, but keep the swastika on the state flag, slap it on their carsand say stuff like “The Third Reich is my heritage” just doesn’t happen. Section 86a of the German criminal code is still in force. Of course, there are Nazis left in Germany, but they don’t dare carry torches and worship swastikas.

What Monuments And Statues Should Come Down?
I have changed my mind. I used to think that we would be revising too much history if we destroyed Confederate monuments. Blacks have convinced me that they will never feel equal to whites if they are constantly reminded by bridges, streets, markers, and statues of Klu Klux Klanners why they were slaves and subjugated for centuries. I agree with Bret Stephens of the New York Times who has come up with a good answer: If a person has also helped to make the country “a more perfect union” at times, even if he has said dumb, stupid, ignorant, and racist statements at times, let’s leave him on his pedestal—unless part of the monument shows him better than other human statues on the monument.

As an example, Theodore Roosevelt helped to form a more perfect American union by approving parks and designating federal lands, championing conservation, breaking up trusts and monopolies, and having Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House. That invite drove the white supremacists crazy. Memphis paper: “President Roosevelt has committed a blunder that is worse than any crime!” Alabama’s Geneva Reaper: “He might now just as well sleep with Booker T. Washington, for the scent of that coon will follow him to the grave as far as the South is concerned.” Bur he said a lot of stupid, racist things, and also signed the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Teddy’s comment on Indians: “I don’t go so far as to think the only good Indian is a dead Indian, but I believe nine out of every ten are. The most vicious cowboy has more moral principle than the average Indian.” That’s the problem with the Roosevelt statue at the American Museum of Natural History. Teddy is on a horse while an Indian on one side and a black on the other are walking along. Bad message. Ship the complete statue to Teddy’s library in North Dakota. In that the Roosevelt family funded the New York museum, put up another statue of just Teddy on his horse in the same spot.

I was convinced of this stand by a white woman who wrote as a 11-year-old white girl she went to a middle school across the street from the museum. She often went to the museum but the black principal she loved refused to cross the street to attend because of Teddy’s statue. She wrote: “That principled stance taught a little white 11-year-old girl something about seeing the symbols that teach racism. How monuments like this one, which quite literally elevates a white man over others, indoctrinates us and perpetuate the racist lies we’re taught about American history. Over the many decades since, I have never walked past that statue without thinking of Mr. Seabrook, and when it is gone, I will think of him still, and celebrate this small, yet meaningful victory.”

Caroline Randall Williams: “I Have Rape-Colored Skin”
Caroline is a writer in residence at Vanderbilt University. She published a fascinating article on June 20 in the New York Times called “You Want A Confederate Monument? My Body Is A Confederate Monument.” She writes: “It is an extraordinary truth of my life that I am biologically more than half-white, and yet I have no white people in my genealogy in living memory. No. Voluntary. Whiteness. I am more than half-white, and none of it was consensual. White Southern men—my ancestors—took what they wanted from women they did not love, over whom they had extraordinary power, and then failed to claim their children.”

She has traced the fact that she is the great-great-granddaughter of a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, Confederate General Edmund Pettus. You might remember a bridge in Selma, Alabama called the Bloody Sunday Bridge where civil rights protesters such as Representative John Lewis were beaten bloody. Lewis, a civil rights icon, suffered a skull fracturefrom clubs wielded by state troopers.

You see, Caroline’s great grandfather Will was an illegitimate son of Pettus who had raped his slave mother. Caroline has carefully studied her ancestry and proven through DNA testing she is the descendant of black women who were domestic servants and white men who raped their help.

She writes: “I am a black, Southern woman, and of my immediate white male ancestors, all of them were rapists. My very existence is a relic of slavery and Jim Crow. Either way, I say the monuments of stone and metal, the monuments of cloth and wood, all the man-made monuments, must come down. I defy any sentimental Southerner to defend our ancestors to me. I am quite literally made of the reasons to strip them of their laurels. I am proof that whatever else the South might have been, or might believe itself to be, it was and is a space whose prosperity and sense of romance and nostalgia were built on the grievous exploitation of black life.”The Selma bridge should be renamed the “John Lewis Bridge.” I’m with her.

The Confederate Flag’s Message To Blacks: “KNOW YOUR PLACE!”
Natasha Tretheway,the former poet laureate of Mississippi and the United States, is a native of Mississippi. She discusses life in a Confederate state in her article “My Life Under Mississippi’s Racist Flag.” Born in 1966 on the same day as Confederate Memorial Day, supposedly the year Jim Crow died and was buried, she outlines in passionate sentences her life in the most black state: “The onslaught began the day I was born. And the messages were everywhere. The landscape of my childhood was overwritten with monuments and symbols of the Confederacy: They were in the names of roads, bridges, buildings, schools, parks, other public works and counties. And the state flag of Mississippi, incorporating the Confederate battle flag in in top inner corner, was the most conspicuous. The inclusion of the battle flag within the state flag served as a visual reminder of white Mississippians’ allegiance to that white supremacist heritage and was indicative of the new ways the state would find to maintain the second-class status of Black Americans. It waved to us again and again: “KNOW YOUR PLACE!” (My bold face.)

(On June 30 Mississippi’s governor signed a measure into law that the flag would be replaced. Twenty years ago two-thirds of the voters elected to keep the battle flag part of the flag. It will be interesting to see the new design.)

Natasha’s mother was 11 years old when 14-year-old Emmett Till of Chicago was beaten and murdered in 1955 by lynching and his body was tossed into the Tallahatchi River. He allegedly had whistled at a white woman. Her husband and another resident committed the crime and were arrested. Of course, they were declared innocent by an all-white jury. At his funeral in Chicago attended by thousands, his mother agreed to allow an open casket so viewers could see his unrecognizable, battered face. The photograph of Till in the casket ran in hundreds of newspapers.

In the end, symbols of white power and supremacy must come down, be changed, or destroyed. It’s the only way to get rid of institutionalized white supremacy so the country can be whole. It has never been great because of racism.

P.S.: Besides virus and race, we have another pandemic: the National Rifle Association gun culture. Google “shootings on July 4th weekend”: 17 kills, 70 wounded in Chicago, 65 shootings in New York City—a total of 160 killed, 300 wounded in Tombstone City, USA. Firearm violence costs each American $700 a year for a total of $229 billion.

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