In 1619, lovely gentlemen from America, a place they discovered that was already inhabited, went to Africa and took many of them back to America. Without any coercion or hesitation, the Africans left their homeland and shackled themselves in the bottom of a cruise ship called the White Lion.
The trip was glorious, and the Africans were delighted. For fun, many of them practiced diving off the side of the ship into the ocean. Others got sick, and many died, but people die on cruise ships every year, so it was not a big deal.
When the Africans arrived in America, they were met by wonderful people who decided to call them slaves, keep them in chains, and separate them from their families, just for fun. Massa, as these people were called, treated the slaves as three-fifths of a human being, but that was only because Massa did not want the slaves to get too uppity. “Pride goeth before destruction,” and Massa did not want the slaves to be destroyed.
The slaves had a life filled with wonder. They got to pick cotton until their fingers bled, and they were even whipped, which is not as bad as it sounds once you understand that most of the whippings rendered them unconscious because of the pain, so they couldn’t feel a thing. Later, some people wanted the slaves to be free, so they fought a Civil War. The Confederates (Massa and his people) allowed the Union to win the war. It doesn’t get more civil than that.
Years later, a wonderful Christian organization called the Ku Klux Klan was formed. Now, the KKK as they were called, were sharp dressers. They wore incredible white robes with hoods, and they were kind to the former slaves, who now called themselves Negroes. Whenever the KKK went to a Negro household, they would burn amazing crosses in their yards and bomb their homes. It was a beautiful light show that could be seen by all the neighbors.
And sometimes, the KKK would even take the Negroes out of their homes and expose them to nature by hanging them from trees. It was a family affair, and the crowds would even sing beautiful hymns during the hangings like Hang low, you Neeeegroes.
The Negroes had something called a Civil Rights Movement that focused on giving them the same rights as everyone else. Sure, they had to go to separate schools, restaurants, hospitals, bathrooms, etc., but that was for their own good. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the leaders who spent a lot of time dreaming and talking about voting rights for Negroes. He unfortunately got in the way of bullets and died, but Black people (that is what they call themselves now) are still fighting for voting rights.
However, their ancestors weren’t born here. Neither were the ancestors of those who brought them here, but that’s beside the point. After all, whoever steers the ship makes the rules.
Geveryl Robinson is an instructor of English at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg.