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Rachel Jeantel  gives her testimony to the prosecution during George Zimmerman’s trial in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Fla. Wednesday, June 26, 2013. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Jacob Langston, Pool)  (Credit: AP)

Just before Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, an established fact by Zimmerman himself, Rachel Jeantel and Trayvon were talking on the phone. It would be his last conversation with a friend and Rachel, destined to be a reluctant witness to his final thoughts.

For two grueling days (26 and 27 of June) Miss Rachel dutifully appears in court strong and well-groomed, ready to endure our country’s adversarial system. And ultimately surprises a whole bunch of people, mostly those white folks who were taken aback by a black-woman’s basic honesty and relentless courage in the face of adversity, which, of course, is our forte.

But wait; aren’t we suppose to be strong and confident on the witness stand regardless of our cultural background? Is that not what the law requires of us in court?

And aren’t the rest of us suppose to view all witnesses with objectivity and respect? But some didn’t. And herein lies the purpose of this little post.

Instead, wild accusations and debasing judgments abound on the media soon  thereafter, focusing on Rachel’s speech, her physicality, her seemingly lack of social skills and even her choice of dress (a pair of jeans…pleaze!).  And these very bad judgments were spoken by guest commentators no less, usually trial attorneys or journalists who are highly trained to be truthful and objective, thus presumed professionals.  But these weren’t.

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“Nothing remains great without a capacity to change and to accommodate the conditions of a changing world.”  ~John Ashcroft, 79th U. S. Attorney General

Immigrants from distant lands longing for freedom, prosperity and human rights found the United States of America and established a mandate of freedom and justice for all. Thus, guaranteeing, among others things, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Yet, at the same time, America would deny freedom and justice to a certain race of people unintentionally brought here as captives. By permitting the buying and selling of such people as human slaves, America soon betrayed its original mandate. 

Where was the love, the humanity?  Yet America can change.

While, in many ways, America has become a great country despite its history of racial abuses in the extreme, America has yet to fully repent for these past grievous mistakes. 

Thus, America has failed to change in a changing world, which today has seemly put all Americans in harm’s way.  Do we really want fear to remain an American way of life?

Before 9-11, such fear was unthinkable on American soil.  Yet, we do not have to live in fear. In fact, choosing to live in fear is a big mistake, a sin in Christian terms. So, there must be another way, a way in which peace and justice for all is realized in daily life.

Exactly What Is Racism

Racism, according to Webster’s New World Dictionary, is a doctrine or teaching, without scientific support, that asserts the superiority of one race over another or others, and that seeks to maintain the supposed purity of a race or the races; as well as, any program or practice of racial discrimination, segregation, etc., based on such beliefs.

God did not create racism, humankind created racism! Therefore, it is humankind’s responsibility to undo this perpetual wrong done to itself. And we can do this immediately, because God gave us the power to change our mind immediately. Such is the true meaning of freedom.

The Seeds of American Racism

In April 1607, about 120 colonists arrive on the shores of “the New World” in search of material wealth and establish the first permanent English settlement in America, named Jamestown, Virginia. During the next three years, nine hundred settlers arrive. Unable to live off the land, war with the Indians, famine, disease, and fatalities nearly wipe out the entire settlement.

By the spring of 1610, only sixty settlers are left alive. These survivors determine to find a cash crop in the new land. Around this time, Sir Francis Bacon writes that tobacco use is increasing and that it is a custom hard to quit. And so, the remaining settlers strive to meet the demand for this new commodity. By 1617, the first shipment of tobacco arrives in England from Jamestown.

In August 1619, twenty African captives arrive in Jamestown, eventually becoming the first African slaves to arrive in America. Sadly, with their arrival, the seeds of American Racism also arrive on its virgin shores. As the historic practice of human slavery will sink to its lowest level in America’s effort to mass-produce tobacco, cotton and sugar cane, the bedrock of its emerging economy built on the backs of slaves.

In 1620, nearly 55,000 pounds of Virginian tobacco arrive in England. Tobacco becomes America’s first cash crop. Throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries, tobacco is a monetary standard, lasting twice as long as the gold standard. In 1776, tobacco helps finance the American Revolutionary War, also known as “The Tobacco War.”

Beginning in the 1950s, the truth about tobacco use emerges, and tobacco is ultimately deemed addictive and harmful to human health.

Today, the world uses cotton more than any other fiber, and it is still one of the leading cash crops in the United States. Thankfully, human slavery has been replaced by modern technology truly advancement for all humankind.

The Birth of American Racism

Three significant rulings of law fertilized the seeds of American racism, which would impregnate the unsuspecting mind of Americans for generations to come.  Where was the love, where was the humanity?  Sadly, it can be said that American Racism was born right here in America and is, therefore, a homegrown institution:

1.) In the mid 1600s, the Maryland Colony passed a law that mandated the Africans “slaves for life.”  Other colonies would later pass such laws.

2.) In 1789, the United States Constitution is ratified and indirectly declares the African slave as three fifths of a person, thus not a whole person.

3.) The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 virtually involves all whites in the perpetuation of slavery. Under this law, any person could be deputized to capture and return runaway slaves; thus, in effect, giving whites authority over most blacks.

Though Congress amended the U.S. Constitution in 1865, thereby banning the existence of slavery in our country, American racism was virtually unaffected by this historical act and continues, though now losing its grip.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) and Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

Our founding fathers knew slavery was wrong, but many, being wealthy slaveholders, refused to give up their affluent lifestyle wrought by slaves. Likely driven by guilt, many deceived themselves into believing that blacks had no soul, were not whole persons, and therefore inferior to whites. Which did not always work for them. In his highly offensive book titled, Notes on Virginia, c. 1782, where he cruelly maligns his Negro slaves, the intellectually gifted Thomas Jefferson, our 3rd U.S. President, who allegedly owned over 600 slaves in his lifetime (mostly inherited), also wrote:

I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that justice cannot sleep forever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events, that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest.”

Yet, not all of our founding fathers acquired their fortunes on the backs of slaves. Some, like the edifying Benjamin Franklin, who sought only to elevate human life, allegedly owned a few slaves (or perhaps hired Philadelphia’s free blacks) as household or shop workers while ultimately earning fame and fortune via his prolific publications of the very popular, Poor Richards Almanac.

Though Dr. Franklin wrote of being “partial to the complexion of my country” and envisioned America populated with “the lovely White and Red” owing to the disparity of “purely” white people in the world (c. 1751), he was far too advanced for racism’s dark choices! In time, Ben joined the Abolitionist Movement and petitioned for the restoration of his freed “fellow-creatures” to his final days.  

An indisputable all-around genius, Benjamin Franklin was a great soul in Colonial America who channeled many of America’s high ideals. Therefore, we owe Dr. Franklin a debt of gratitude for his enormous contributions toward the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, the adoption of our U.S. Constitution, the founding of the public library, the post office, our knowledge of electricity, his invention of the Franklin Heating Stove and bifocals, just to name a few. Today, the Old Wizard would be quite pleased with the “lovely” multi-cultural society that America has become.

I Also Tremble For My Country

Much like President Thomas Jefferson over 200 years ago, today I also tremble for My Country. I tremble whenever I hear our esteemed leaders shouting from the hilltops that the “terrorists” are uncivilized, barbaric and a threat to “our” civilization. I tremble when our leaders condemn “terrorism” after retaliating with equal or greater violence (remember Iraq). I tremble because I know where this was and is coming from, and where it ultimately leads without definitive change in our hearts. 

I trembled during the 2000 Presidential Election Debates when both Al Gore and George W. Bush vowed that they stood for Israel, and Bush vowed to “build up the military.” I trembled when America walked out on the United Nations’ World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa.

And on September 11, 2001, I cried upon reflection.

The irony is, the tragic events of 9-11 occurred less than three days after the close of the UN’s World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), here and here. Today, my heart still grows heavy when I think of what might have been had America’s leaders been compassionate enough to stay, listen and negotiate.

Update 2009 and 2011, in protest of alleged anti-Semitism, yet again, the U.S. decides to boycott the UN’s subsequent WCAR, here, here and here.  Wow!  It’s like a slap in the face, which is beyond my understanding.  After all, we can’t properly listen, reason or negotiate with anyone if not present! Where was the love, where was the humanity?  Where was the sanity?  Are we missing something here? Go figure. 

While we may be partial to our American lifestyle, our race or our ethnicity, which is normal, we do not live in a vacuum.  Thus, we cannot continue to isolate our self, disrespect the world and expect to remain prosperous. We need the world as much as it needs us. Though America has many weapons of mass destruction, it cannot control natural law! 

Benjamin Franklin once said, “When you have finished changing, you’re finished.”

If America is to realize its true destiny, America must change its present course. It must summon the courage to confront and root out the disease of racism worldwide, which reflects the real war on terrorism.

So We Must Change

Much like Atlanta Georgia of the “New South” after the successful Civil Rights Movement of the 60s, together we must resolve to be a country “too busy to hate”.  Too much work is needed toward world peace and prosperity to continue wasting time on the destructive rhetoric of mass distraction by way too many of our current lawmakers.  So, we must change, post-haste!

First, we must rid our self of the oft-learned hatreds and bad manners within us.

Then we must seek to heal America’s legacy of racism, not extend it.

Finally, we must heal the disease of war, as war is no longer the way of honor, valor, and triumph.

Someday in America, war, like tobacco use, will be deemed addictive and harmful to human health. Why not today?

Originally written June 26, 2002 and updated June 23, 2013.

© 2002, 2012-2013 by Delores L Adams and The Aunt Jemimah Post. All rights reserved.

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If you are reading this, you woke up this morning

Your favorite café was open

A child’s innocent smile warmed your heart

The bus was on time

Someone picked up your trash

Your iPhone works

A friend told you the truth

The street lamps came on at day’s end

Someone is praying for you

Think on these things and be grateful!

© Delores L. Adams and The Aunt Jemimah Post 2012-2013. All rights reserved.

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Life is a circle,
Which has neither a beginning nor an end;
She (or he) who knows where she is going,
Knows where she has been.

©2012-2013 Delores L Adams and The Aunt Jemimah Post. All rights reserved.

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