What we experienced in the last few weeks defies understanding and cannot be easily grasped. The tragic death of one person resonated first through a neighborhood, then a city, then the Midwest, the nation and ultimately around the globe in an unprecedented fashion, the likes of which the world has not seen in all of modern times.
Vast numbers of peaceful demonstrators became mixed with all sort of elements, looters, white supremacists, left and right extremists and plenty of onlookers. It was as if the globe were populated with activists whose behavior evoked a modified memory of a medieval dancing mania gone destructive. Dramatic coverage of fierce fist pumping demands for justice and freedom and an end to racism were continually offered from around the globe by the media. It gave the impression as if a gargantuan psychocathartic discharge took place of long suppressed emotions mixed in with release of pent up opportunism for massive theft and vandalism.
New World slavery started in a typical historical fashion as an insignificant beginning. Ultimately, some 11 million slaves were brutally transported from Africa to the New World. If they survived a horrible voyage, most wound up in Brazil and the Caribbean. In 1619 the first ones arrived in what would become the U.S. Though we don’t want to admit it often, some of the Founding Fathers were slave owners. Yet, in 1808 the slave trade was outlawed but it continued illegally until 1860 when the last slave ship, the Clotilda, unloaded some 120 slaves.
Risking their lives, slaves periodically rebelled but were brutally and bloodily suppressed. In the Oregon Territory of the 1840s through the so-called “Lash Law” blacks were actually legally required to be lashed periodically to encourage them to leave, to keep them from coming or to subdue them. Some states had several slave rebellions in one year. The infamous Dred Scott Supreme Court decision of 1857 viewed slaves as private property and thus, protected by the Constitution, slavery became legal throughout the U.S.
Almost simultaneously with the emergence of slavery, an abolitionist movement evolved. It drew its inspiration from the Quakers, Mennonites and others. But it could not counteract racism and the brutal and nasty 19th century theory of survival of the fittest and natural selection and white superiority contained in the repulsive notion of the theory of Social Darwinism.
Even after Lincoln freed the slaves, blacks were maltreated and often forced into some new form of servitude and not just under the Jim Crow laws. Though Martin Luther King, Jr. achieved impressive results in terms of attaining equality, his non-violent principles were unfortunately violated too often in the current upheavals.
The question arises what could contribute to some reconciliation, some healing agreeable to those who are well-intentioned to serve the national interest from which all would benefit.
Perhaps a mega super fund, created through voluntary contributions so as not to burden the innocents, could be created to offer a final closure to a long historical dilemma. It may have the potential to achieve billions and if handled by a highly selective board of responsible black leaders, it could dispense funds for whatever the board would view as beneficial for the well-being of blacks. It’s possible that many of the current supporters of the demonstrators along with some foundations and billionaires would contribute to it. To prevent abuse, rules can be imposed to require legal penalties if severe fraud is proven.
In any case, such a fund would be worthy of a trial test and no doubt would be a fitting tribute to George Floyd and all peaceful demonstrators.