⚡ Essay On Good Country People

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Essay On Good Country People



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An Analysis of Good Country People by Paige Mack

So how dumb am I? I just left this mess. I just left no laws. And no regard. And then I come here and get cheated wide open. You could fall through the cracks easy fighting these white people. And no law. But fight Clyde Ross did. Contract sellers used every tool at their disposal to pilfer from their clients. They scared white residents into selling low. They presented themselves as real-estate brokers, when in fact they were the owners. They guided their clients to lawyers who were in on the scheme. The Contract Buyers League fought back. They refused to pay their installments, instead holding monthly payments in an escrow account.

Ross and the Contract Buyers League were no longer appealing to the government simply for equality. They were no longer fleeing in hopes of a better deal elsewhere. They were charging society with a crime against their community. They wanted the crime publicly ruled as such. And they wanted restitution for the great injury brought upon them by said offenders. In , Clyde Ross and the Contract Buyers League were no longer simply seeking the protection of the law. They were seeking reparations. A ccording to the most-recent statistics , North Lawndale is now on the wrong end of virtually every socioeconomic indicator. In its population was , Today it is 36, The neighborhood is 92 percent black. Its homicide rate is 45 per ,—triple the rate of the city as a whole.

The infant-mortality rate is 14 per 1,—more than twice the national average. Forty-five percent of all households are on food stamps—nearly three times the rate of the city at large. Sears, Roebuck left the neighborhood in , taking 1, jobs with it. North Lawndale is an extreme portrait of the trends that ail black Chicago. Such is the magnitude of these ailments that it can be said that blacks and whites do not inhabit the same city.

When the Harvard sociologist Robert J. Sampson examined incarceration rates in Chicago in his book, Great American City , he found that a black neighborhood with one of the highest incarceration rates West Garfield Park had a rate more than 40 times as high as the white neighborhood with the highest rate Clearing. The lives of black Americans are better than they were half a century ago.

The humiliation of Whites Only signs are gone. Rates of black poverty have decreased. Black teen-pregnancy rates are at record lows—and the gap between black and white teen-pregnancy rates has shrunk significantly. But such progress rests on a shaky foundation, and fault lines are everywhere. The income gap between black and white households is roughly the same today as it was in Patrick Sharkey, a sociologist at New York University, studied children born from through and found that 4 percent of whites and 62 percent of blacks across America had been raised in poor neighborhoods. A generation later, the same study showed, virtually nothing had changed. And whereas whites born into affluent neighborhoods tended to remain in affluent neighborhoods, blacks tended to fall out of them.

This is not surprising. Black families, regardless of income, are significantly less wealthy than white families. The Pew Research Center estimates that white households are worth roughly 20 times as much as black households, and that whereas only 15 percent of whites have zero or negative wealth, more than a third of blacks do. Effectively, the black family in America is working without a safety net. When financial calamity strikes—a medical emergency, divorce, job loss—the fall is precipitous. And just as black families of all incomes remain handicapped by a lack of wealth, so too do they remain handicapped by their restricted choice of neighborhood.

Black people with upper-middle-class incomes do not generally live in upper-middle-class neighborhoods. The implications are chilling. As a rule, poor black people do not work their way out of the ghetto—and those who do often face the horror of watching their children and grandchildren tumble back. Even seeming evidence of progress withers under harsh light. In , the Manhattan Institute cheerily noted that segregation had declined since the s. And yet African Americans still remained—by far—the most segregated ethnic group in the country.

With segregation, with the isolation of the injured and the robbed, comes the concentration of disadvantage. An unsegregated America might see poverty, and all its effects, spread across the country with no particular bias toward skin color. Instead, the concentration of poverty has been paired with a concentration of melanin. The resulting conflagration has been devastating.

One thread of thinking in the African American community holds that these depressing numbers partially stem from cultural pathologies that can be altered through individual grit and exceptionally good behavior. It is also wrong. The kind of trenchant racism to which black people have persistently been subjected can never be defeated by making its victims more respectable. The essence of American racism is disrespect.

And in the wake of the grim numbers, we see the grim inheritance. The suit dragged on until , when the league lost a jury trial. Securing the equal protection of the law proved hard; securing reparations proved impossible. Board of Education and all that nonsense. The Supreme Court seems to share that sentiment. The past two decades have witnessed a rollback of the progressive legislation of the s. Liberals have found themselves on the defensive. In , when Barack Obama was a candidate for president, he was asked whether his daughters—Malia and Sasha—should benefit from affirmative action.

He answered in the negative. The exchange rested upon an erroneous comparison of the average American white family and the exceptional first family. In the contest of upward mobility, Barack and Michelle Obama have won. But that comparison is incomplete. The more telling question is how they compare with Jenna and Barbara Bush—the products of many generations of privilege, not just one. In , the freedwoman Belinda Royall petitioned the commonwealth of Massachusetts for reparations. Belinda had been born in modern-day Ghana. She was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery. She endured the Middle Passage and 50 years of enslavement at the hands of Isaac Royall and his son. But the junior Royall, a British loyalist, fled the country during the Revolution.

Belinda, now free after half a century of labor, beseeched the nascent Massachusetts legislature:. Belinda Royall was granted a pension of 15 pounds and 12 shillings, to be paid out of the estate of Isaac Royall—one of the earliest successful attempts to petition for reparations. At the time, black people in America had endured more than years of enslavement, and the idea that they might be owed something in return was, if not the national consensus, at least not outrageous. As the historian Roy E. Finkenbine has documented, at the dawn of this country, black reparations were actively considered and often effected.

In his book Forever Free , Eric Foner recounts the story of a disgruntled planter reprimanding a freedman loafing on the job:. In the 20th century, the cause of reparations was taken up by a diverse cast that included the Confederate veteran Walter R. Charles J. Ogletree Jr. But while the people advocating reparations have changed over time, the response from the country has remained virtually the same. Not exactly. Having been enslaved for years, black people were not left to their own devices. They were terrorized. In the Deep South, a second slavery ruled. In the North, legislatures, mayors, civic associations, banks, and citizens all colluded to pin black people into ghettos, where they were overcrowded, overcharged, and undereducated.

Businesses discriminated against them, awarding them the worst jobs and the worst wages. Police brutalized them in the streets. And the notion that black lives, black bodies, and black wealth were rightful targets remained deeply rooted in the broader society. It is as though we have run up a credit-card bill and, having pledged to charge no more, remain befuddled that the balance does not disappear.

The effects of that balance, interest accruing daily, are all around us. Broach the topic of reparations today and a barrage of questions inevitably follows: Who will be paid? How much will they be paid? Who will pay? But if the practicalities, not the justice, of reparations are the true sticking point, there has for some time been the beginnings of a solution. For the past 25 years, Congressman John Conyers Jr. We would support this bill, submit the question to study, and then assess the possible solutions. But we are not interested. But all we are talking about is studying [reparations]. As John Conyers has said, we study everything. We study the water, the air. This bill does not authorize one red cent to anyone. That HR 40 has never—under either Democrats or Republicans—made it to the House floor suggests our concerns are rooted not in the impracticality of reparations but in something more existential.

The last slaveholder has been dead for a very long time. The last soldier to endure Valley Forge has been dead much longer. A nation outlives its generations. We were not there when Woodrow Wilson took us into World War I, but we are still paying out the pensions. If George Washington crossing the Delaware matters, so must his ruthless pursuit of the runagate Oney Judge. The high point of the lynching era has passed. But the memories of those robbed of their lives still live on in the lingering effects.

Indeed, in America there is a strange and powerful belief that if you stab a black person 10 times, the bleeding stops and the healing begins the moment the assailant drops the knife. There has always been another way. A merica begins in black plunder and white democracy , two features that are not contradictory but complementary. Morgan wrote. Most of them had inherited both their slaves and their attachment to freedom from an earlier generation, and they knew the two were not unconnected. When enslaved Africans, plundered of their bodies, plundered of their families, and plundered of their labor, were brought to the colony of Virginia in , they did not initially endure the naked racism that would engulf their progeny.

Some of them were freed. Some of them intermarried. Still others escaped with the white indentured servants who had suffered as they had. Some even rebelled together, allying under Nathaniel Bacon to torch Jamestown in One hundred years later, the idea of slaves and poor whites joining forces would shock the senses, but in the early days of the English colonies, the two groups had much in common. As life spans increased in the colony, the Virginia planters found in the enslaved Africans an even more efficient source of cheap labor. Whereas indentured servants were still legal subjects of the English crown and thus entitled to certain protections, African slaves entered the colonies as aliens. For the next years, American law worked to reduce black people to a class of untouchables and raise all white men to the level of citizens.

But at the beginning of the 18th century, two primary classes were enshrined in America. The state with the largest number of enslaved Americans was Virginia, where in certain counties some 70 percent of all people labored in chains. Nearly one-fourth of all white Southerners owned slaves, and upon their backs the economic basis of America—and much of the Atlantic world—was erected. In the seven cotton states, one-third of all white income was derived from slavery.

The web of this slave society extended north to the looms of New England, and across the Atlantic to Great Britain, where it powered a great economic transformation and altered the trajectory of world history. The wealth accorded America by slavery was not just in what the slaves pulled from the land but in the slaves themselves. Blight has noted. Loans were taken out for purchase, to be repaid with interest.

Insurance policies were drafted against the untimely death of a slave and the loss of potential profits. Slave sales were taxed and notarized. The vending of the black body and the sundering of the black family became an economy unto themselves, estimated to have brought in tens of millions of dollars to antebellum America. In there were more millionaires per capita in the Mississippi Valley than anywhere else in the country. Beneath the cold numbers lay lives divided.

Our affection for each was very strong, and this made us always apprehensive of a cruel parting. Forced partings were common in the antebellum South. A slave in some parts of the region stood a 30 percent chance of being sold in his or her lifetime. Twenty-five percent of interstate trades destroyed a first marriage and half of them destroyed a nuclear family. When the wife and children of Henry Brown, a slave in Richmond, Virginia, were to be sold away, Brown searched for a white master who might buy his wife and children to keep the family together.

He failed:. In a time when telecommunications were primitive and blacks lacked freedom of movement, the parting of black families was a kind of murder. Here we find the roots of American wealth and democracy—in the for-profit destruction of the most important asset available to any people, the family. By erecting a slave society, America created the economic foundation for its great experiment in democracy. The consequences of years of enslavement, of war upon black families and black people, were profound. Like homeownership today, slave ownership was aspirational, attracting not just those who owned slaves but those who wished to.

Much as homeowners today might discuss the addition of a patio or the painting of a living room, slaveholders traded tips on the best methods for breeding workers, exacting labor, and doling out punishment. By the dawn of the Civil War, the enslavement of black America was thought to be so foundational to the country that those who sought to end it were branded heretics worthy of death. Imagine what would happen if a president today came out in favor of taking all American homes from their owners: the reaction might well be violent. Terrorism carried the day. Federal troops withdrew from the South in The dream of Reconstruction died.

For the next century, political violence was visited upon blacks wantonly, with special treatment meted out toward black people of ambition. Black schools and churches were burned to the ground. Black voters and the political candidates who attempted to rally them were intimidated, and some were murdered. At the end of World War I, black veterans returning to their homes were assaulted for daring to wear the American uniform. The demobilization of soldiers after the war, which put white and black veterans into competition for scarce jobs, produced the Red Summer of a succession of racist pogroms against dozens of cities ranging from Longview, Texas, to Chicago to Washington, D. The work of mobs was a rabid and violent rendition of prejudices that extended even into the upper reaches of American government.

The New Deal is today remembered as a model for what progressive government should do—cast a broad social safety net that protects the poor and the afflicted while building the middle class. When progressives wish to express their disappointment with Barack Obama, they point to the accomplishments of Franklin Roosevelt. The omnibus programs passed under the Social Security Act in were crafted in such a way as to protect the southern way of life.

Old-age insurance Social Security proper and unemployment insurance excluded farmworkers and domestics—jobs heavily occupied by blacks. When President Roosevelt signed Social Security into law in , 65 percent of African Americans nationally and between 70 and 80 percent in the South were ineligible. The oft-celebrated G. Though ostensibly color-blind, Title III of the bill, which aimed to give veterans access to low-interest home loans, left black veterans to tangle with white officials at their local Veterans Administration as well as with the same banks that had, for years, refused to grant mortgages to blacks.

The historian Kathleen J. In Cold War America, homeownership was seen as a means of instilling patriotism, and as a civilizing and anti-radical force. Daisy and Bill Myers, the first black family to move into Levittown, Pennsylvania, were greeted with protests and a burning cross. The neighbor had good reason to be afraid. Bill and Daisy Myers were from the other side of John C. Sugrue, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania. Home ownership became an emblem of American citizenship.

That emblem was not to be awarded to blacks. The American real-estate industry believed segregation to be a moral principle. The federal government concurred. Millions of dollars flowed from tax coffers into segregated white neighborhoods. Jackson wrote in his book, Crabgrass Frontier , a history of suburbanization. Whole areas of cities were declared ineligible for loan guarantees. By then the damage was done—and reports of redlining by banks have continued. The federal government is premised on equal fealty from all its citizens, who in return are to receive equal treatment. But as late as the midth century, this bargain was not granted to black people, who repeatedly paid a higher price for citizenship and received less in return.

Plunder had been the essential feature of slavery, of the society described by Calhoun. But practically a full century after the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, the plunder—quiet, systemic, submerged—continued even amidst the aims and achievements of New Deal liberals. Today Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the country, a fact that reflects assiduous planning. In the effort to uphold white supremacy at every level down to the neighborhood, Chicago—a city founded by the black fur trader Jean Baptiste Point du Sable—has long been a pioneer. The efforts began in earnest in , when the Chicago Real Estate Board, horrified by the influx of southern blacks, lobbied to zone the entire city by race.

But after the Supreme Court ruled against explicit racial zoning that year, the city was forced to pursue its agenda by more-discreet means. By the s, Chicago led the nation in the use of these restrictive covenants, and about half of all residential neighborhoods in the city were effectively off-limits to blacks. It is common today to become misty-eyed about the old black ghetto, where doctors and lawyers lived next door to meatpackers and steelworkers, who themselves lived next door to prostitutes and the unemployed.

This segregationist nostalgia ignores the actual conditions endured by the people living there—vermin and arson, for instance—and ignores the fact that the old ghetto was premised on denying black people privileges enjoyed by white Americans. In , when the Supreme Court ruled that restrictive covenants, while permissible, were not enforceable by judicial action, Chicago had other weapons at the ready. This came in handy in , when a new federal housing act sent millions of tax dollars into Chicago and other cities around the country.

Beginning in , site selection for public housing proceeded entirely on the grounds of segregation. By the s, the city had created with its vast housing projects what the historian Arnold R. White neighborhoods vulnerable to black encroachment formed block associations for the sole purpose of enforcing segregation. They lobbied fellow whites not to sell. They lobbied those blacks who did manage to buy to sell back. And when civic engagement was not enough, when government failed, when private banks could no longer hold the line, Chicago turned to an old tool in the American repertoire—racial violence.

The mob pelted the house with rocks and set the garage on fire. The doctor moved away. In , after a few black veterans moved into the Fernwood section of Chicago, three nights of rioting broke out; gangs of whites yanked blacks off streetcars and beat them. In , thousands of whites in Cicero, 20 minutes or so west of downtown Chicago, attacked an apartment building that housed a single black family, throwing bricks and firebombs through the windows and setting the apartment on fire. Two years after that, whites picketed and planted explosives in South Deering, about 30 minutes from downtown Chicago, to force blacks out.

When terrorism ultimately failed, white homeowners simply fled the neighborhood. The traditional terminology, white flight , implies a kind of natural expression of preference. For should any nonracist white families decide that integration might not be so bad as a matter of principle or practicality, they still had to contend with the hard facts of American housing policy: When the midth-century white homeowner claimed that the presence of a Bill and Daisy Myers decreased his property value, he was not merely engaging in racist dogma—he was accurately observing the impact of federal policy on market prices.

Redlining destroyed the possibility of investment wherever black people lived. Speculators in North Lawndale , and at the edge of the black ghettos, knew there was money to be made off white panic. They would hire a black woman to walk up and down the street with a stroller. To keep up with his payments and keep his heat on, Clyde Ross took a second job at the post office and then a third job delivering pizza. His wife took a job working at Marshall Field. He had to take some of his children out of private school. He was not able to be at home to supervise his children or help them with their homework. Money and time that Ross wanted to give his children went instead to enrich white speculators.

They think this neighborhood is where they supposed to be. It changes their outlook. Instead she was hired by Western Electric, where she worked for 41 years. I met Lewis in the home of her neighbor Ethel Weatherspoon. Both had owned homes in North Lawndale for more than 50 years. Both had bought their houses on contract. Weatherspoon bought her home in The blacks are coming. Before moving to North Lawndale, Lewis and her husband tried moving to Cicero after seeing a house advertised for sale there. In , the couple bought a home in North Lawndale on contract. They were not blind to the unfairness.

But Lewis, born in the teeth of Jim Crow, considered American piracy—black people keep on making it, white people keep on taking it—a fact of nature. And that was the only way I could get it. If everybody else can have one, I want one too. I had worked for white people in the South. Whenever she visited white co-workers at their homes, she saw the difference. I asked Lewis and Weatherspoon how they kept up on payments. Lewis and Weatherspoon, like Ross, were able to keep their homes. The suit did not win them any remuneration.

But it forced contract sellers to the table, where they allowed some members of the Contract Buyers League to move into regular mortgages or simply take over their houses outright. But for all our exceptional ones, for every Barack and Michelle Obama, for every Ethel Weatherspoon or Clyde Ross, for every black survivor, there are so many thousands gone. I met him in his office at the Better Boys Foundation, a staple of North Lawndale whose mission is to direct local kids off the streets and into jobs and college. On June 14, , his year-old son, Billy Jr. Every day. Brooks was not raised in the streets, though in such a neighborhood it is impossible to avoid the influence. You got to go to school.

I lived here. I went to Marshall High School. Over here were the Egyptian Cobras. Over there were the Vice Lords. But he is still working in North Lawndale. When they tore down the projects here, they left the high-rises and came to the neighborhood with that gang mentality. We walked over to a window behind his desk. The name and face of the other man had been spray-painted over by a rival group. The men drank beer. Occasionally a car would cruise past, slow to a crawl, then stop. One of the men would approach the car and make an exchange, then the car would drive off. Brooks had known all of these young men as boys. We watched another car roll through, pause briefly, then drive off.

From that alley to that corner. See the big brother there? He almost died a couple of years ago. The one drinking the beer back there … I know all of them. And the reason they feel safe here is cause of this building, and because they too chickenshit to go anywhere. Brooks showed me a picture of a Little League team he had coached. He went down the row of kids, pointing out which ones were in jail, which ones were dead, and which ones were doing all right. Then he wondered aloud if keeping his son with him while working in North Lawndale had hastened his death.

From the White House on down, the myth holds that fatherhood is the great antidote to all that ails black people. But Billy Brooks Jr. Trayvon Martin had a father. Jordan Davis had a father. Adhering to middle-class norms has never shielded black people from plunder. Adhering to middle-class norms is what made Ethel Weatherspoon a lucrative target for rapacious speculators. Contract sellers did not target the very poor.

They targeted black people who had worked hard enough to save a down payment and dreamed of the emblem of American citizenship—homeownership. But they generally find white predation to be thrice as fast. Liberals today mostly view racism not as an active, distinct evil but as a relative of white poverty and inequality. They ignore the long tradition of this country actively punishing black success—and the elevation of that punishment, in the midth century, to federal policy. After his speech, Johnson convened a group of civil-rights leaders, including the esteemed A. The urge to use the moral force of the black struggle to address broader inequalities originates in both compassion and pragmatism.

The Color Me Country Artist Grant, which Palmer co-founded, has raised funds for dozens of marginalized artists and aspiring creative leaders in the genre. My story begins like so many. I dreamed of singing on big stages and hearing my music played on the radio. My family listened to Patsy Cline and Aretha Franklin with equal fervor. My first managers, also Black women, encouraged me to pursue my dreams of country music stardom in spite of not seeing myself reflected in the genre's artists.

And when I arrived in Nashville, no one was talking about race openly. I was told to keep my head down and let my work speak for itself, so I did. I smiled and brushed off microaggressions on a regular basis there was once a meeting at my record label about my hair being too much like an afro. My work paid off in , when I fulfilled a lifelong dream of playing the Grand Ole Opry. Unfortunately, disputes with my record label brought my career to a screeching halt. I left Nashville in I felt largely abandoned by the industry, like an experiment that failed. Yes, absolutely. I understood them forgetting me, but how could you forget Linda Martell?

DeFord Bailey? Lesley Riddle? Ruby Falls? Miko Marks? And the Black Country Music Association? I could go on and on. Last year marked five decades since the debut album of Martell — the first Black woman to play the Grand Ole Opry. I knew there were more stories that deserved to be told and preserved. With the encouragement of my friend Shellie R. It broke an already cracked dam of race relations, causing us to take an unflinching look at institutions and how they have been affecting people of color, especially Black people.

It lit a fire under me. It was time to tell these stories, including my own, no matter how painful or ugly. And it was time for country music to see itself — complicated, omitted history and all. In research for the show, I discovered so many artists with compelling stories. Artists like Sarge and Shirley West, who, as far as I know, were the first Black husband and wife country music duo. Contemporaries of Pride and Martell, they wrote with Tom T.

Hall and toured the South in the Civil Rights era with a white band, playing regional oprys. Their episode was the first time some of their music had been heard since the s. This year has shown me the power of just simply acknowledging someone. I also found inspiration in Cleve Francis, a Black cardiologist-turned-country singer signed for a time to Capitol Nashville; and Frankie Staton, a singer-songwriter with an unsinkable spirit.

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