“Matter” isn’t enough. Cherish Black lives
Ways to say “Black lives matter”
Today, I amplify and promote a blog that has ended. Don’t be dismayed! The blog has morphed into a podcast. I first ran across Three Token Black Girls on Facebook. About a year ago, they posted this on Facebook and I shared it. When it came up as a memory, I reposted it on Facebook last week.
For those of you who don’t know me well, I hold an overlapping Master’s degree in Deaf education, Deaf-Blind education, and educational counseling. In the course of that study, I became conversant in American Sign Language (ASL).
Three Token Black Girls shared this graphic. To me, it read “Black lives are important” as what white interpreters were signing. “Black Lives are Precious” as what Black interpreters chose.
I love that Three Token Black Girls found Black and white people in the Deaf community to talk about their language. They also found the graphic (drawn by a not-BIPOC person). I have a lot to learn yet. So do my many of my white friends and allies.
Descendants of slaves: Why opportunity matters
Why was slavery in the Americas different than other human slavery?
Chattel: For hundreds of years, Africans and their descendants were legally considered things. I use the word chattel intentionally. It is a word that shows up in my day job as a real estate buyer’s agent. Chattel are the things that the house seller takes with them when they sell the house. Realty is the land, and everything attached to the land (or the house and everything attached to the house). In American slavery, the slave was chattel and so could be picked up and moved at will, and sold at will.
Indentured: Before slavery in the Americas, slavery was not a life-long servitude. In Europe, poor people could agree to work for someone for a specific amount of time, and then be freed. War prisoners who were taken as slaves had a path to eventual emancipation. Africa also has a war slave system; it also was not life-long.
Economic no-win structures: Exploitative labor practices replaced slavery in the lives of many Black Americans after the Civil War. Systems such as share cropping allowed Black people to farm their own land. The land was rented, and advances were granted by the landlord for feed or seed. This could be a way to work one’s way to purchasing your own land, outright, and becoming an independent farmer; however the landlord was doing the accounting, leading to many stories of how sharecroppers never seemed to get ahead. Funny, that.
Some formerly enslaved people and descendants of slaves went north to seek better employment in industry work. Some industrial jobs paid in scrip instead of American currency. Workers’ scrip could buy goods only at a company store. Here, too, the factory owners were in charge of setting the price of needed goods and setting the wages of the workers. (This form of employment also exploited many white workers).
Discrimination that restricts paths to growing wealth
Housing: Housing discrimination in America is a long story. If your family owned their own home after World War II, you know how much your family wealth was helped through that.
Owning stabilizes housing costs (except for taxes, insurance, and repair). This puts owners in a better financial position, since they have something they can sell that they have been using every day. Paying for housing as rent is generally cheaper than owning, but at the end of an adult’s working years, rent is still due every month. When a renter moves, they take no housing wealth with them.
A house that was built for a returning soldier sold for about $10,000 in 1950. Depending on where it is located, it is now worth hundreds of thousands, or even a million dollars. When the World War II generation sold those houses, much of that wealth went to their children. Those children bought houses that continue to appreciate in value.
Education: Public education is funded partially through local real estate taxes. More expensive towns have better schools (at least by reputation). Black people had no access to those “expensive towns” in the past, and still face discrimination in places like that. Education is a pathway to better employment.
That’s why “Black Lives Matter” is too low a bar. To make things right, American must cherish Black lives.
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