Newark Op-Ed: ‘Governor Ron DeSantis Knock It Off’

Local Voices

“Many Black people in Newark are still struggling to liberate ourselves from the legacies of white supremacy and systematic racism.”

Posted Fri, Jan 28, 2022 at 8:02 am ET

(Patch Graphics)

NEWARK, NJ — The following op-ed comes courtesy of Bashir Akinyele, a high school history teacher in the Newark Public School District. Learn more about posting announcements or events to your local Patch site.

Pent-up frustrations boiled over in many poor African-American neighborhoods from U.S. slavery to the end to the late 1960s due to failed Republican and Democratic policies. This set off the Newark Rebellion of 1967. African Americans rose up against decades of bad policy practices, a flawed justice system, unscrupulous consumer credit practices, poor or inadequate housing, redlining, high unemployment, voter suppression, and other culturally embedded forms of racial discrimination. At the root of the racial conditions plaguing cities, like Newark, were white supremacy and institutional racism in the 1960s. According to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Kerner commission, a panel of experts investigating the origins of the Newark Rebellion, said that racism and poverty were at the origin of the problem. The commission went on to say that the racial and economic conditions that divided the United States were poised to fracture into two radically unequal societies–one black, one white. The Kerner Commission was organized by Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Unfortunately, many of the conditions of yesterday have not been solved today by both the Democratic and Republican Parties. Many Black people in Newark are still struggling to liberate ourselves from the legacies of white supremacy and systematic racism. However, the Republicans have been the leading political party completely ignoring the conditions of long-lasting inequalities in the African American community in Newark due to white supremacy and systematic racism.

Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has truly lost his mind. He is proposing legislation in the state of Florida to prohibit white people from feeling any guilt from the factual education of white supremacy, systematic racism, slavery, and segregation in America. He calls his bill “Individual Freedom.” But Governor DeSantis’ efforts are just the tip of the iceberg. He reflects the Republican establishment’s long history of distorting the facts about white supremacy and systematic racism before rise of Donald Trump in America.

But before I give a deep analysis on the Republican Party’s track record of dogmatic racial intellectual biases, let’s take look at what sparked the controversy around Governor DeSantis from the state of Florida.

Brenden Farrington reported to AP News about the Governor’s disgusting bill on January 18, 2022. He writes, “A bill pushed by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that would prohibit public schools and private businesses from making white people feel “discomfort” when they teach students or train employees about discrimination in the nation’s past received its first approval Tuesday.” (https://apnews.com/article/business-florida-lawsuits-ron-desantis-racial-injustice-3ec10492b7421543315acf4491813c1b?fbclid=IwAR0TQmsuF35jIneSh8KNapV2we0rMyFX7XpkLtqd2qA1sr_KNA-Bxakr1T4)

Unfortunately, Governor DeSantis has been severely miseducated on history. His knowledge of the U.S. has been completely narrowed by white supremacy and systematic racism.

But Governor DeSantis is not alone. He is like many people in America (i.e., Black people, white people, Latino people, Gay people, straight people, Asian people, Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, Jews, Christians, Muslims, atheists, etc.) living under the myths of white supremacy and systematic racism. They want to suppress parts of American history that teaches on white supremacy and systematic racism; and their roles in the justification of U.S. slavery, segregation, racial oppression, and the enduring inequalities in the African American community.

Let’s be lucidly clear on the facts on white supremacy and systematic racism in America.

White supremacy and systematic racism have been in existence since the founding of America and Western Europe from 1400s to the present. And Black people have been the most victimized by their warped systems of racial exploitation, racial discrimination, and racial terrorism.

White supremacy and systematic racism have reduced Black people down to the lowest realms of the world’s societies, especially in the United States.

To protect itself from any fundamental changes to the contemporary African American community, the United States’ racial caste system has created an illusion of Black progress in America. White supremacy and systematic racism have made Black people a permanent underclass.

Black people faced inhuman conditions under U.S. slavery and segregation for centuries. But America has refused to give Black people any form of reparations for the damages done to the African American community due to US slavery and segregation under the auspices of white supremacy and systematic racism.

According to the Brooking Institute’s April 15, 2020 article titled, Why We Need Reparations for Black Americans, “Reparations–a system of redress for egregious injustices–are not foreign to the United States. Native Americans have received land and billions of dollars for various benefits and programs for being forcibly exiled from their native lands. For Japanese Americans, $1.5 billion was paid to those who were interned during World War II. Additionally, the United States, via the Marshall Plan, helped to ensure that Jews received reparations for the Holocaust, including making various investments over time. In 1952, West Germany agreed to pay 3.45 billion Deutsche Marks to Holocaust survivors. Black Americans are the only group that has not received reparations for state-sanctioned racial discrimination, while slavery afforded some white families the ability to accrue tremendous wealth. And, we must note that American slavery was particularly brutal. About 15 percent of the enslaved shipped from Western Africa died during transport. The enslaved were regularly beaten and lynched for frivolous infractions. Slavery also disrupted families as one in three marriages were split up and one in five children were separated from their parents. The case for reparations can be made on economic, social, and moral grounds. The United States had multiple opportunities to atone for slavery–each a missed chance to make the American Dream a reality–but has yet to undertake significant action.” (https://www.brookings.edu/policy2020/bigideas/why-we-need-reparations-for-black-americans/)

To keep Black people racially subjugated, white hegemony created an American legal system that established laws to protect the racial discrimination of Black people.

Andrew Cohen, a journalist at Berkeley News, writes in a September 17, 2019 article titled-Constitution’s biggest flaw? Protecting Slavery, the American origins of racial inequalities from its root origin. Cohen writes, “there is one key value not mentioned in the preamble: equality. This omission should not be surprising for a Constitution that protected and institutionalized slavery and that protected only the rights of white men.” (https://news.berkeley.edu/2019/09/17/constitutions-biggest-flaw-protecting-slavery/?fbclid=IwAR33okT547DgHD3sTO7LaB_E-YLmnEV-2B_uO7Zwq_HivYdmBuOfH-C-EBc)

As a consequence of an American racist legal system, Black people experienced hundreds of years of legal slavery; the legal outlawing of Black marriages; the legal outlawing of Black people speaking, reading, and writing in our own African languages; the legal outlawing of Black womanhood; the legal outlawing of Black manhood; the legal outlawing of Black youth-hood; the legal outlawing of possessing African names; the legal outlawing of reading; the legal outlawing of African cultural traditions; the legal outlawing of Black people practicing African spirituality; the legal outlawing of Black people practicing any religions; the legal creation of Black codes;; the legal separation of the Black family; the legal outlawing of the Black family; the legal outlawing of Black parenthood; the legal criminalization of Black leaders; the legal denial of education; the legal denial of Black people’s right to own property; the legal denying of Black people receiving business loans; the legal denying of Black people’s fight for justice in the courts; the legal support of white racial violence towards Black people; the legal justification for police brutality; the legal justification of the annihilation of Black towns in America by racist whites; and the legal establishment of segregation.

But Governor DeSantis’ movement against the facts on American history reflects the Republican establishment’s agenda against critical race theory, or anything that examines and exposes the role white supremacy and systematic racism played, and plays, in our society, especially as it relates to the inequalities in the African American community.

For some of us, we need an explanation about Critical Race Theory (CRT). This is what it means:

Critical Race Theory, or CRT, is an academic and legal framework that denotes that white supremacy and systemic racism are part of American society — from education and housing to employment and healthcare. Critical Race Theory recognizes that white supremacy and systematic racism are more than the result of individual bias and prejudice. It is embedded in laws, policies and institutions that uphold and reproduce racial inequalities. According to CRT, societal issues like African Americans’ higher mortality rate, outsized exposure to police violence, the school-to-prison pipeline, denial of affordable housing, and the rates of the death of Black women in childbirth are not unrelated anomalies.

For decades, the cover up of white supremacy and systematic racism has been directed by the Republican Party.

There are too many cases to name. But for the interest of time, I will name a few examples.

Lynne Cheney, the wife of former Republican U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, and a member the ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute, worked to make sure any attacks on white hegemony remained neutralized. Before Bill Clinton became President of the United States of America, she was on the board of the US National Endowment for the Humanities (N.E.H). As the director of the N.E.H, she used her influence to protect White dominance in the world. Ms. Cheney targeted a 1980’s PBS film special called, The Africans: A Triple Heritage, to be cancelled. It was hosted by Ali Mazuri.

Professor Ali Al’amin Mazrui lived from February 24, 1933 to October 12, 2014. He was born in Mombasa, Kenya, but became an American academic professor. He was a political writer on African and Islamic studies and Afrikan North-South relations. Professor Mazuri’s positions included Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York and the Director of the Center for Afro-American and African Studies at the University of Michigan.

Ms. Cheney led a struggle to rid the television airways of a documentary on African history; which illustrated Europe’s racist colonial interests in Africa.

Lynne Cheney insisted that the N.E.H end the funding for The Africans. Although she was not successful at stopping the funding for the film, Ms. Cheney was able to remove the National Endowment for Humanities from the film’s credits.

https://www.nytimes.com/1986/09/05/movies/us-aide-assails-tv-series-on-africa.html

Back in the day, a book used by the Republican establishment to conceal the role white supremacy and systematic racism plays in the oppression of Black people is called-The Bell Curve.

It was published in 1994. The book’s authors, Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, argue, in some many words, that white people possess higher IQs than Black people. Unfortunately, Herrnstein and Murray manipulated statistics. They negated the impact of racist social and economic conditions playing out in American society, particularly in the African American community. But Hernstein and Murry did this to argue that Black people, and poor people, are inherently born with low IQs. But what’s equally frightening is that they argue that the U.S. government system should do absolutely nothing to help remove the roadblocks keeping Black and poor people in a permanent existence in the underclass.

Vox journalist, Matthew Yglesias, wrote in an updated review of The Bell Curve dated on April 10, 2018 titled The Bell Curve is about policy. And it’s wrong, “The Bell Curve — co-authored with Richard Herrnstein — is, after all, not a work of scientific research but rather a political book written by one of the most prominent conservative policy entrepreneurs in America as part of a larger ideological project. Like several of Murray’s other books, including Losing Ground, In Our Hands, and Coming Apart, the basic subject of The Bell Curve is what should be done to help the disadvantaged in America. And the four books all reach the conclusion that, roughly speaking, we should do as little as is politically possible.”

Interestingly is the background information on Charles Murray.

He gets paid well from ultra-Republican conservative groups, like the American Enterprises Institute, to finance his “scholarship” to build a movement to attack Black people. But what is more fighting is that his “scholarship” is being used by U.S. elected officials to justify doing absolutely nothing to remedy the inequalities in the African American community due to the effects of white supremacy and systematic racism.

Vox journalist Matthew Yglesias continues with this, “What’s more, despite the mythmaking around Murray, nobody has silenced or stymied him. He is one of the most successful authors of policy-relevant nonfiction working in America today. He’s ensconced at the center of the conservative policy establishment as an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. In 2016, he won the Bradley Prize, a prestigious conservative award that carries a $250,000 stipend. He regularly publishes op-eds in the Wall Street Journal. The New York Times reviewed Coming Apart twice. Tom Edsall featured it in a column (he says it raises “issues that are rarely examined with the rigor necessary to affirm or deny their legitimacy”), and David Brooks recommended it twice, lauding the “incredible data,” along with the analysis. PBS built an interactive around it.” (ibid)

(https://www.vox.com/2018/4/10/)

Afrocentrism was also problematic for many Republicans in the 1990s.

The Republican establishment backed a book called-Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became An Excuse to Teach Myth As History. It was published in 1996. The book’s author is Professor Mary Lefkowitz. Not Out of Africa was produced in response to the popular and massive Afrocentric movement taking place amongst Black people in America and in the world in the late 1980s and in the early 1990s. Afrocentricity challenged white supremacist notions on world and American history, particularly the belief that white or Arabs are the progenitors of humanity, civilization, religions, Kemet (Egypt), and Nile Valley cultures. Lefkowitz argues that Kemet (Egypt) did not play any role in the development of Greek culture and civilization.

The late Cornell University scholar and professor Dr. Martin Bernal, an internationally respected writer of European classics, wrote Black Athena. His important anti-racist work was published back in 1987. His book argues that Kemet (Egypt) played a major role in helping to create Greek philosophical, scientific, religious, and liturgical cultural traditions.

The word Kemet is the original ancient African name for Egypt. It means land of Black people or the Black land. But when European invaders (ie: the Greeks, Romans, the French, etc.) came to Kemet, they changed the name from Kemet to Egypt.

Now back to Dr. Bernal. He once participated in a huge debate in New York City with Professor Lefkowitz. The debate also included, Professors Guy Maclean Rogers (Black Athena Revisited), and Dr. John Henrick Clark (Africana Studies / Hunter College-NY). It was moderated by legendary journalist Utrice Leid (W.B.A.I ) in 1996. At the debate, Dr. Bernal said, “Not Out of Africa is an extremely provocative book.”

Dr. Bernal, who was white, wrote a review of the book Not Out of Africa, in the London Review of Books dated on December 12, 1996 titled, “Whose Greece.”

He wrote, “Mary Lefkowitz’s concern, or obsession, with Afrocentrism emerged suddenly in 1991, when she wrote a review of my book Black Athena for the New Republic. As a professor of classics, she was appalled to discover that people were writing books and teaching that Greek civilization had derived – or even been ‘stolen’ – from Egypt, and claiming that the Ancient Egyptians were black, as were Socrates and Cleopatra. The Afrocentrists maintained that Greece had been invaded from Africa in the middle of the second millennium, that Greek religion and the mysteries were based on Egyptian prototypes, and that what was called ‘Greek’ philosophy was in fact the secret wisdom of Egyptian Masonry.”

Dr. Bernal went on to say, “For this reason, she has published a series of overlapping articles denouncing these Afrocentric ‘myths’. Not Out of Africa is a compilation of these pieces, along with some added material and new arguments. The blurb on the back of the book proclaims it to be ‘a thoughtful inquiry’, ‘detailed, carefully researched and fully documented’. In fact, this is not an argument conducted with the Afrocentrists, but an attempt to finish them off.” (https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-pape)

The background information on Professor Lefkowitz is very interesting. Mary Lefkowitz, a white Jewish professor, is financed and supported well by ultra right-wing conservative groups. He said, “She has found powerful helpers on the far right. In her preface she thanks the Bradley and John M. Olin Foundations for their grants. These bodies are among the most generous contributors to right-wing organisations such as the National Review, the Heritage Foundation and the National Association of Scholars. Lefkowitz sits on the advisory board of the last and plays an active role on its journal, Academic Questions. The concern of these organizations and journals is to turn back what their members and contributors see as the tides of liberalism that have engulfed not only American society but also education and the highbrow media.” (ibid)

In conclusion, I am not surprised by Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis efforts to prohibit feelings of white guilt from the education on white supremacy and systematic racism. He reflects the Republican establishment’s long commitment to the dissimulation of the facts on white supremacy and systematic racism to remove any policies from rectifying the current long standing problems of inequalities in the African America community.

Hotep (An Ancient African Egyptian Word for Peace)!!!

-Bashir Muhammad Ptah Akinyele is a high school history and Africana Studies teacher in the Newark, NJ’s public schools. He is also the co-coordinator for ASCAC’s (the Association for Study of Classical African Civilizations) Study Group Chapter in Newark, NJ (https://ascac.org/). Akinyele is currently an organizer for the National Black Political Convention (NBPC).

Don’t forget to visit the Patch Newark Facebook page. Send local news tips and correction requests to eric.kiefer@patch.com. Sign up for Patch email newsletters.

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