Inevitably, in conversations with friends, acquaintances or folks I meet here and there, when conversation turns to racism, someone will almost always say something along the lines of:

“I’m so sick and tired of hearing about how black people were put in slavery. That was 150 years ago. They’ve had plenty of time to get their things together. That can’t be blamed on today’s society.”

Recently, something similar was said by a friend. We were discussing black face and he asked if the reaction people have to black face would be the same as if someone dressed in “white face.”

“No, it wouldn’t be the same, because black people didn’t enslave, brutalize, rape and kill millions of white people for centuries,” I countered.

“That was 150 years ago,” my friend rebutted. “I’m so tired of hearing how black people were put in slavery.”

“Yeah,” I responded, “that was 150 years ago, topped by another 100 years of oppressive Jim Crow laws.”

For most people, 150 years does sound like a long time. The thing is, it’s not an accurate assessment of history. It’s been only about 50 years, less than one human lifetime, since black Americans were finally given full equality under the law. There are people still living today who can vividly remember segregated schoolhouses, buses, water fountains, theaters, restaurants and rail cars. Depending on age, some of these people are either my generation’s parents or grandparents.

Take my grandfather, for instance. Born in 1928, he’s still alive today. And, he was born early enough to be able, if he wanted, to hear recollections from his grandfather, born in 1879, the year Reconstruction ended, and whose father and uncles served in the Confederate Army. In 2013, I — at 27 years old and with my grandfather at 85 — have a near-direct, living connection to an event that took place a century-and-a-half ago. (Interestingly, my great-great grandfather died just 14 years before I was born.)

History, however distant it may feel now, is never really so far away or out of our touch.

And, the oppression of black Americans didn’t end in 1865. That oppressive history is one my grandfather was alive to witness — a history he’s imparted to me.

“Grandpa, when you were growing up, did you ever know anyone in the Ku Klux Klan?” I asked at one Christmas gathering.

He responded, saying nobody ever really knew who they were. They weren’t public, he said.

“I never really did care for them much,” Grandpa said. “They did a whole lot of hurt and caused a whole lot of pain to a lot people who didn’t deserve it.”

History, however distant it may feel now, is never really so far away or out of our touch.

In our fast-paced, modern world, perhaps it’s easy to forget that change, indeed, does often take quite a long time. Sometimes, that change is hampered by a history so completely outside of our human control that it creates deep, complex problems with very few easy or quick solutions.

Lisa Wade, Ph.D., is an associate professor and chair of the Sociology Department at Occidental College. Via her Sociological Images Tumblr, Wade recently pointed to images she originally shared back in 2008 from blogger Jeff Fecke at Alas A Blog.

They got me thinking about history and its affects on us today.

In 1860, this is what cotton production looked like in the U.S.:

This map of the “black belt” (I’ll leave it to you to pick up the obvious connection between “cotton” and “black belt”) is one I’ve seen plenty times before in my studies of southern history.

And, this, is that same map, overlayed on top of 2008 presidential election results by county:

History, however distant it may feel now, is never really so far away or out of our touch.

And, in this particular example, history goes much, much deeper — much, much further into the distant past.

Why, one might ask, did the black belt take this form? What first gave shape to it? What was the first cause that gave rise to a slave-based, agricultural society that left an indelible mark on American politics a century-and-a-half later?

The ancient North American coast line, 65 million years ago:

Fecke explains:

Along the ancient coastline, life thrived, as usually does. It especially thrived in the delta region, the Bay of Tennessee, if you will. Here life reproduced, ate, excreted, lived, and died. On the shallow ocean floor, organic debris settled, slowly building a rich layer of nutritious debris. Eventually, the debris would rise as the sea departed, becoming a thick, rich layer of soil that ran from Louisiana to South Carolina.

65 million years later, European settlers in America would discover this soil, which was perfect for growing cotton.

Shortly after that, Europeans would enslave an entire race. Hundreds of years after that, the Civil War ended that slavery. Many former slaves stayed right where they were born, where generations of their kin before them had lived and died, not always because of choice, but because of harsh Jim Crow laws, forced prison labor systems, restrictions on movement and voting and other laws that were as oppressive as possible, short of now-illegal enslavement. And, only mere decades after that, their children and children’s children would leave an impact in electoral politics, patterned in an eerily similar way as the black belt.

And, there we have it: modern U.S. politics, 65 million years in the making. Another reminder that history, however distant it may feel now, is never really so far away or out of our touch.

So, you’re tired of hearing about slavery? Too bad. The effects of slavery are ever-present, even today — in our politics, in our economy, in every aspect of our culture. We’ve got a long, long way to go before that stain on our history is made clean. Fortunately, for all of us, I don’t think it will take 65 million years.

Very grateful to have had the opportunity to travel from Charlotte up to Newton, N.C., for the protest of Providence Baptist Church (Maiden, N.C.) Pastor Charles Worley and to also report from the scene for QNotes

Over 1,000 gather in Newton to protest anti-gay preacher’s comments
Peaceful protest draws raucous counter protesters

Protesters and anti-LGBT counter protesters engaged in heated debate at Sunday’s event. Photo Credit: QNotes/Matt Comer.

Newton, N.C. — Over 1,000 people gathered in this small town about an hour outside Charlotte on Sunday to protest what they called messages of hate by Maiden, N.C. Pastor Charles Worley, whose comments at Providence Road Baptist Church during a sermon on May 13 made headlines last week.

Worley said he had “figured a way out – a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers.”

“Build a great big, large fence — 50 or a 100 miles long — and put all the lesbians in there,” Worley told his congregants. “Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals — and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out. Feed ‘em. And you know in a few years, they’ll die out. You know why? They can’t reproduce.”

Comments from a 1978 sermon by Worley also raised eyebrows. Posted by the church, the old sermon included comments from Worley that “Forty years ago they would’ve hung [homosexuals], bless God, from a white oak tree!”

Organizers had told media they were expecting 2,000-5,000 protesters, which prompted them to move from their original protest location at Worley’s church to the Catawba County Government and Justice Center. Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid told qnotes that he estimated attendance at anywhere from 1,400-1,600. He said every spot in the government center parking lot had at one time been filled. The lot holds 675 cars, Reid said, noting that many vehicles had come with at least two passengers.

Read the rest of the story and view photos and video at…

Yet another update on the Maiden, N.C., Providence Road Baptist Church, whose pastor, Charles “Concentration Camp” Worley, has come under scrutiny for his proposal to send LGBT people to Nazi-like concentration camps and his 1978 sermon blessing the hanging of gays.

A mutual friend on Facebook posted a screenshot of a review of the church he found on the church’s overview on Google. The review reads almost too outlandish to believe.

It it legit? Is it a satire? My first impression was the latter, but I’m concerned it could be real for several reasons.

I’ll explain. First, the review (my emphasis added):

TheRodofGod – today – 5 stars
I started attending this church a few months ago and believe me when I say it is absolutely a blessing. It is so nice to be among like minded individuals who praise the time honored traditions of racial and sexual purity. Pastor Worley speaks an abundance of truth and realizes the need for a final solution to our country’s troubled present. He preaches the truth that modern day Zionist media refuses to acknowledge. Providence isn’t some bobble-head ditto chamber either, we all agree that the good days are behind us and only torment await if we continue to travel the road we’re one. I will continue to pray for days when the racially impure do the menial tasks us deserving and god-chosen southerners are breaking our backs at. The dandies should stop choosing sin and the ladies would be much happier if they could just embrace their dependence on the masculine men in society.

Crazy, right? When I first read it, I thought so too. “There’s no way,” I told myself, “that anyone believes this.” And, the username — “TheRodofGod” — just has to be a joke. Plus, the user has only one activity on Google’s network — this one comment — according to the public profile.

Yet, stopping to consider the source, a church whose pastor has preached murder of LGBT people for at least 40 years, and one might be cautious before ignoring these new comments outright. 

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