Ain’t I a Woman?

Black history month begins today in the USA.

Today’s google doodle features Sojourner Truth. It’s well worth learning about this great woman, this great black person, this great American. It’s women’s history. It’s black history. It’s American history. It’s my history too.

Black history month is important for us white folks, maybe now more than ever. We never heard about Sojourner Truth when we were growing up in school. They didn’t tell us about Ida B. Wells or the Massachussett’s 54th. We never heard about the first black fighter pilots to fly for America in WWII — who sacrificed lives but never lost an aircraft they were protecting. Besides Neil deGrasse Tyson and maybe George Washington Carver, can you name one black American scientist? There were lots. There are lots. Some of them are fighting tooth and nail to save the world — us white folks included — from the scourge of climate change.

This is our history, scarred with our sins. We forced a whole people to come to this land in chains, to work themselves literally to death, and then congratulated ourselves for building such an amazing land from the ground up, without thanking creation itself for the bounty of an unspoiled land, or shedding a tear for the blood and sweat of the slaves who built it or the people who preserved it so beautifully even before we arrived.

In return, those African people, those black people, have enriched our culture and our lives. Robbed of their dignity and their identity, in becoming African Americans they have blessed us. Slandered as too stupid even to be able to learn to read, let alone worthy of freedom itself, their genius has turned art and music and science and poetry upside down, forging new paths never before imagined but much imitated since. Their conscience has pushed the envelope of our society, never backing down, but testing the resolve of our morality. They have stepped up to the plate, swung the bat, competed in every endeavor humans explore, of the mind and body and spirit, and time after time they have hit a grand slam home run.

Every one of those home runs is for team America.

Most white folks don’t really understand how difficult it has been for black people and still is. The other thing I think we don’t get, is how magnificently black America has risen to this challenge. The accumulated accomplishments of black American artists, scientists, politicians, philosophers, poets, is so vast and at such a level that it is impressive, even without considering the conditions under which these great Americans had to live and work.

These days, it’s not so easy to be proud of America. Remembering our history rears the ugly head of shame. But remembering Sojourner Truth inspires pride. She was American. Her soul, her mind, forged here, among the people (including us white folks) of America. What is the best you can be?

It’s time to thank our lucky stars that the black people in this country have made America something to be proud of.

13 responses to “Ain’t I a Woman?

  1. Guardian article says european exploration of the “new world” led to death of 56 million indigenous residents of this part of the planet by 1600 That’s a big number and that happened before manifest destiny brought genocide into clear relief in North America.
    quite shameful imho

    • Shameful treatment of indigenes started with Columbus:

      On his first day in the New World, he ordered six of the natives to be seized, writing in his journal that he believed they would be good servants. Throughout his years in the New World, Columbus enacted policies of forced labor in which natives were put to work for the sake of profits. Later, Columbus sent thousands of peaceful Taino “Indians” from the island of Hispaniola to Spain to be sold. Many died en route.

      Those left behind were forced to search for gold in mines and work on plantations. Within 60 years after Columbus landed, only a few hundred of what may have been 250,000 Taino were left on their island.

      Genocide in effect, if not in intention. (Prudence might have dictated less abusive treatment, so as to preserve the ‘labor resource.’ But that didn’t happen, eventually necessitating the importation of African slaves.)

    • And I read recently that changes to land-use because of those mass deaths led to an increase in vegetation, with consequent reduction in CO2 levels, and measurable cooling. But not on a scale that would allow modern climate change to be anywhere near countered by changes to land-use alone.

  2. It’s even bigger when beeing put in relation to the population before. 90 % reduction is next to annihilation. I believe, apart from some exceptions, the dreadful effect of the germs have not been on purpose.
    And then you can add couple million africans…
    And all done by the invisible hand of the market. Yes I mean you, Adam Smith.

  3. “and that happened before manifest destiny brought genocide into clear relief in North America.” . . . BPL: The vast majority of the deaths were due to smallpox, not “genocide.”

    • Barton, while it is true that European diseases did most of the heavy lifting in exterminating the native American population, it was not for lack of effort by the colonizers. The Spaniards enslaved the natives and literally worked them to death. The Portuguese so thoroughly obliterated native cultures from Brazil that the only indigenous cultures in Brazil are found deep in the Amazon–in regions that avoided contact with settlers.
      And in the English colonies and states, natives were systematically driven off of their traditional lands and into the West, regardless of treaty obligations. From the mid-1800s, genocide was the official policy of the US government, as was shown by the effort to obliteration of the immense herds of buffalo on which Plains natives depended.

      • Moreover, there were bounties placed on various tribes in numerous jurisdictions over the years, as a cursory search will reveal, from Newfoundland to Mexico to the Dakotas to California. That was in fact the main motivation behind the practice of scalping, which in the movies was traditionally presented as an incomprehensible barbarism invented by First Nations. In fact, it was predominantly a grisly form of receipt taking; present the scalp, collect your blood money.

    • yes, that is right, Barton. It was mostly diseases on the deaths prior to 1600. That is why I used the term deaths instead of the term kill/killed/killings So, the 56 million prior to 1600 is really not that bad, right?

      I think it was mostly genocide and killings after 1800 when manifest destiny powered hunger for expansion and the indigenous people were in the way. The number of indigenous people who were killed in more classic genocide after 1800 is much smaller than the number who died from introduced diseases prior to 1600, so I don’t know if that is really all that terrible. It sounds bad, but I guess we can all sort these things out for ourselves.

  4. Germany here – heard (of course) of the martian Soujorner, but never of the real Sojourner Truth. Thank you!