An African American writer once wrote a parody of the Bible and in it he included proposed letters or epistles, as the apostle Paul wrote his letters to the Romans and to the Corinthians. One letter he wrote and called it, Get Thee Understanding. "Get thee understanding the scriptures will read without saying what understanding is. ... So I will tell you. Understanding is simply 'Individual Ability' to recognize the power, purpose, energy and results which lie behind everything that you see, hear smell and touch. If you seek to find exactly what lies behind all ideas, objects and inventions, past and present, expressed or unexpressed, then you will be seeking understanding. After all has been done and said taught, preached and written, the understanding which you have been seeking is nothing more than yourself..." The prayer around many tables this Thanksgiving Day will be for President Obama to gain understanding about what the Republicans and Tea Partiers are doing to him and this country.
Dear President Obama,
You may be the first Black man in America with the position and the power of the Presidency but you are not the first Black man with the power to change things. What you must understand is what white racists and racism will do to Black men with that kind of power.
Following the Civil War there was a struggle in the United States of America. The issue then was now that the anti-slavery side won the war and slavery was outlawed, what to do with the newly freed Blacks. Some Southern politicians attempted to return the land and the slaves to their prewar positions. There was a freedman's bureau and they petitioned the government for redistributing the land of former slave owners and distributing some of it to Blacks as a matter of justice. After all hadn't they worked the land free for over 250 years? Weren't the former slaves entitled to a little back pay as compensation for their labor?
The position for back pay and retributive compensation was argued by Charles Sumner, Frederick Douglass and Thaddeus Stevens. Stevens was a Congressman from Pennsylvania who coined the phrase "Forty Acres and A Mule." He demanded that the plantations be broken up and distributed in forty acre parcels to the freed men. Of course Congress would not approve such justice. They were more concerned about the profits of the white businessmen of the day. Cotton and tobacco farmers needed the land and they needed the cheap labor.
President Obama, that is the understanding you need as you attempt to seek approval and compromise with today's Republicans and Tea Partiers. They are concerned not with justice for the masses but the profits of the insurance companies, corporate health care providers, and oil companies.
Some of today's Insurance companies made profits from insuring the lives of slaves while paying off the slave owners as the beneficiaries of those slaves. Aetna is but one example. The same oil companies that contribute to the election of today's Republicans and Tea Partiers probably contributed to the election campaigns of the Democratic slave owners then. The interests then and now are the same, i.e., a contest between profits versus justice. As a note: currently, all are watching as the makers of the airport x-ray machines are being sold to the government for millions. There are two associated facts with these machines: (1) They don't protect us; and, (2) The owners of these x-ray machine companies include former Bush administration officials in charge of Homeland Security. Profits are still king. Weren't Bush and Chaney in the oil business and didn't thousands die to protect the oil interests of the middle east in and around Iraq? Profit still rules.
Mr. President while there was a Reconstruction Period following the Civil War. The War ended in 1865 and the Klan was formed in 1866. You were elected in 2008 and the Tea Party came into prominence in 2009. Black Governors of states like Louisiana were elected such as, P.B.S. Pinchback, and Senators like Blanche K. Bruce and congressmen Robert Brown Elliot from South Carolina. All were elected and all served only one term. That is what they have in mind for you.
That, my beloved President, is the background of America's history towards Blacks in America. Let that be your understanding as you seek cooperation from congressmen and senators headed by men and women, some who still believe in their hearts what was expressed by a Governor Benjamin Perry and others during the Reconstruction period who proclaimed, "This is a white man's government." The Tea Partiers still believe it today. They feel you are an intruder. They would destroy America rather than see a Black man in that seat.
Yes, we as Black Americans have much to be thankful for but we also are aware that though we've come this far, we still have a long way to go! The schools are failing us, the corporate world is punishing us with massive unemployment and lack of opportunity, the health care system denies us equality of health care, and there are movements afoot to privatize everything and take away the benefits of Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, and free public and quality education, police and fire protection that we have paid for through our taxes.
Our Thanksgiving Day prayer will acknowledge that help is needed. We are not begging. We are entitled just as we were when slavery ended and we never received the back-pay for the injustice and inequality that we still experience. If you are the one we have been waiting for, act like it! The Bible demands that we seek justice. Since King is dead, Rosa Parks is gone and Thurgood Marshall has opened the door and moved on to glory, for such a time as this, we seek justice through you.
Therefore "my Brother" you must do as much as you can while it is day, for as the Bible says, because when it is dark, nothing can be done. Some are saying you need to grow some gonads and backbone and stand up. I simply say you need to remember Reverend Wright's teachings and take your Black back and give us something to be thankful for!