Slavery

The Importance of Studying History

Black Readers

While there are conspicuous benefits to studying history formally at a higher education institution, an individual is not limited to gaining historical knowledge inside a higher education institution.  A person has a few economical options available to learn more about history: (1) checkout and read history books at public libraries, (2) purchase used copies of history books online, especially on Amazon, and (3) read free online historical material, including websites devoted to history, e-books, and scholarly articles available through Google Scholar.  Understanding the past is crucial to comprehending the present and future.  Too often many are flabbergasted about national and international developments.  If they closely follow history, many national and international incidences will not astound them.

Whether one is a Marxist or not, reading the works of Karl Marx, especially Capital, The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, The German Ideology, and The Communist Manifesto, will enable a person to see connections between economic and social evolutions.  By reading Marx, one gains an apposite understanding of capitalism and knowing the history of capitalism is requisite to a keen awareness of the history of the modern and postmodern world.

It would be wonderful to have a majority of elected leaders who are students of history.  Just imagine how much better our lives would be if they actually had a robust knowledge of history.  Through a firm awareness of history, our elected officials are able to be more informed about the likelihood of their policies experiencing success.  At the local and national level, too many failed policies of the past are being employed.  What’s frustrating is many elected officials believe they’re offering new policies—when, in reality, those policies have been used in the past and have been miserable failures.

A passion for studying history must birth throughout the nation.  American citizens cannot simply rely on their elected representatives to have a commitment to learning from history—they must be the ones who change their representatives’ relationship (or lack thereof) with history.  Although you may be a student of history, the mistakes of those around you who aren’t students of history can have a deleterious impact on you.  Any transformative changes in economic and social policy will necessitate that a firm historical understanding be evinced.  No matter how brilliant an idea may sound, if the idea is detached from the lessons of history, it will prove to not be so “brilliant” after all.  When we don’t demand our leaders to be led by history, we unintentionally encourage their ineptitude.

An excellent example of how many Americans lack serious historical knowledge is reflected in numerous reactions to Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.  Too many individuals are attempting to make claims about the film’s treatment of slavery when their responses don’t reveal they’re truly competent about slavery.  Before you proceed to compare the film’s depiction of slavery with the realities of American slavery, you actually have to know the history of American slavery.  Is this too much to ask?  Too many would rather just pontificate about the film and slavery than do the work necessary to have a credible appraisal of the film.  Spike Lee was foolish enough to admit that he was negatively criticizing the film without viewing it.  He expressed that he refuses to watch the film but he was unwilling to forego commenting about a film he has not viewed.  Does this make sense?     

You will find that when you engage more with reading history books, you will develop a greater appreciation for history and will have a more enriched understanding of yourself and the world in which you reside.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Mixed Feelings about Senator Robert Byrd’s Death

For some reason, I am having a difficult time feeling much sorrow about the recent passing of Senator Robert Byrd, the longest serving United States senator in American history. I know that many people from West Virginia will not like the fact that I am struggling with my sorrow about Senator Byrd’s death. I would, however, just like to remind them that this man was a former member of the KKK and a man who repeatedly used the word “nigger” in an interview to refer to Black people. Although he has apologized for being a member of the KKK and for carelessly using the word nigger, his apologies never took the pain away for me. It is not that I do not forgive Senator Byrd for his past wrongs, but I have to be honest that I cannot forget what he has done in his past that has had negative consequences for Black people.

Although he had a vexing past, one of the great aspects about him that I deeply respect is his commitment to the U.S. Constitution. No politician in Washington, D.C. has had a greater commitment to the Constitution, since the Founders, than Senator Byrd. He was such a lover and protector of the U.S. Senate traditions. I love Senator Byrd the historian, but I struggle with my affection for Senator Byrd the man.

When people die, we cannot simply get all emotional and forget about the full history of the people. Yes, Senator Byrd has done some great things but he has also done some terrible things that have had a negative impact on Black people that may last a lifetime. I do want God to take care of his family, relatives, and friends during this tough time for them. I am sure that my article is not what they need right now or at anytime, but the American people need to lose any romantic notion about Senator Byrd and explore the full range of his life.

One thing that I will not miss about Senator Byrd is those long speeches that he would deliver on the floor of the United States Senate. His speeches were so boring and consumed so much time. He would go on and on talking about random things. Again, I have to be honest because I will not miss those speeches as I watch the proceedings of the U.S. Senate on C-SPAN.

Former President Bill Clinton and Vice-President Joe Biden tried to suggest that his “fleeting association” with the KKK was not really significant. Well, it is quite important to many African-Americans who have been so traumatized and harmed by the legacy of racial discrimination that this group helped to engender. Even a “fleeting association” with the KKK is harmful to Black people. So you will just have to pardon me if I don’t shed one tear for this man, and you will have to just pardon me if I am not going to participate in this love fest for him just because he is now dead.

This man is a former member of the KKK! Many Black people have died because of this group of racist haters and he participated in it—no matter how long he did participate. He died—oh well! So did many of my Black people at the hands of American terrorists—the KKK.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Fear of Those Who Resist Social Cloning and Psychic Slavery

Mental Slavery

What I am often unsettled and unnerved by is the reality that many people always want me to be like them. Because I am willing to be myself, this unsettles, unnerves, and unhouses them in fundamental ways. I am a truly emancipated Black man. This means that I do not allow societal expectations and norms to limit me in any way. Even though I am tremendously happy with being a truly emancipated Black man, this does not stop people from attempting to change me and make me more like them. What I have learned is people want to change me because they do not want me to outshine them, and they do not want me to make them feel uncomfortable and embarrass them in front of their friends and colleagues. The purpose of this article is to explain the phenomenon of “social cloning,” explain the problems “social cloning” engenders, and elucidate why it is important to resist.

I know you have to be saying—what is “social cloning”? Just to make my definition clear to you, “social cloning” is the process by which people force others to be more like them or exactly like them. It seems that people do not want you to be “different.” For some reason, “difference” threatens the safety of their embracement of hegemony, the status quo, and societal expectations and norms. Fortunately, there are some people, like me, who find simply embracing hegemony, the status quo, and societal expectations and norms to be problematic. What seems to be the goal of those who try to force people to be just like them is to allow themselves to remain safe and comfortable in their limited world of possibilities. The reason why they have limited possibilities is they have self-imposed a life of slavery on themselves. They allow themselves to fall prey to psychic slavery. As we all know, this is the most damaging form of slavery because it has the potential to last forever.

Unfortunately, many Black people allow themselves to be victimized by self-imposed psychic slavery. They are not willing to live a free life—a life without limits. While I am certainly not advocating that people should not be law-abiding citizens, I am arguing for people to do the things that please them most. You should not live a life that is based on what other people think that you should be and what they think you should be doing. You also should not live a life that is not real. I see so many unhappy people because they are living lives and doing things that they do not want to do. For example, I know many people who get married, have babies, maintain heterosexual relationships, try to act like thugs, pretend to be straight, but these things are not really what they want to be and/or do. They just do these things so that they will not be considered “different.” For many people, being “different” is not something that they can handle. It is almost like being dirty: When one gets dirty, there is always this feeling that you need to be cleansed. Living a socially cloned life and life of self-imposed psychic slavery has to be a miserable life. Life is too short—one should live life with much more freedom and with much more concern for what he or she can uniquely contribute to the world.

I am often criticized for virtually everything that I do—simply because I am a truly emancipated Black man. Efforts to criticize my freedom-saturated actions are aimed at trying to make me stop doing things that are outside of the norm, and people want me to stop making them have to constantly live with the reality that they are unwilling to live a life of Truth, instead of a life of falsehoods. Because I am such a compassionate person, I want my readers to know that I am not attacking those who allow themselves to be socially cloned and be victimized by a self-imposed psychic slavery. I simply have to tell them the Truth. As I often say, justice is what love looks like in public. As a person who fights for justice, I have to tell people that living a lie is a self-denial of experiencing and enjoying the fullness of the Earth.

You can always identify those people who live a life of self-imposed psychic slavery and who have been socially cloned: These are the people who are always pointing out the harm in everything that you do that goes against the status quo. What people really would like for people who resist social cloning and psychic slavery to do is just sit down and shut up. Please do not succumb to this pressure. I know that it can often be hard to resist and can be tremendously unpopular. The world, however, needs people who are willing to be “different” and needs people who are willing to take “unpopular” positions and actions. Just think about it: When you take unpopular positions and actions and are willing to be different, you will be in the company of the greatest man you can ever know: Jesus. Jesus took unpopular positions and actions and was willing to be different.

People know the difference between real and fake, so please do not think that you are fooling anybody. When you work so hard to put on false images, the world knows that these are false images, so stop investing great time in maintaining these images. The people who really gain the real respect of people are the people who are authentic. In order to be authentic, you must be guided by transparency in nearly all that you do and say. I really hope that people will begin to improve the world dramatically by offering us your authenticity and not your socially cloned selves. I long for a day when real people will rise up and make this world a truly better place to live in, a place where true and pervasive freedom can blossom.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison