Cotton

Cotton: (n) a plant with soft, white, downy hairs

It’s not cotton’s fault.

Cotton is not to blame.

But honestly, I can’t hear the word “cotton” without thinking about slavery.

I know—I’m weird.

It doesn’t keep me from wearing a cotton t-shirt or cotton socks. But cotton was a crop that was so difficult to pick, and grew in such a hot climate, that a funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
bunch of white people who couldn’t withstand the process, decided to abandon their entire moral code and respect for humanity and bring in black folks from Africa, convincing themselves that these souls were little more than apes—so that the damn stuff could be gathered and turned into a profit.

The world wanted cotton and the South didn’t want to pick it. So rather than finding a better way to do it or creating a living wage for those unemployed white Southerners who might be willing to consider pursuing the occupation, it seemed logical in the minds of those from that era to enslave a race of people to promote a crop.

Black people picking cotton.

The activity was the origin the racist statement, “You must be out of your cotton-pickin’ mind.”

That would have been considered a double insult: first, that you were relegated to picking cotton, and second, that you were as hapless as they insisted Africans were.

Even in the South today, when driving along, seeing these strange fields full of the white blooms, it crosses my mind: who’s picking this stuff now?

And then, to my horror, I drive a little piece up the road and see black brothers and sisters wearing loose-fitting clothes and head scarves, still plucking the crop from the field. Even though they now receive a wage for doing so, the sight is almost too frightening to perceive.

Like it or not, certain things become tainted.

I’ll never be able to see an old movie that shows the Twin Towers of New York in the background without tearing up.

I’ll never be able to view a Confederate flag without remembering the arrogance and ignorance that punished a race of people and imprisoned them into forced labor.

And I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at a cotton field without being reminded of the atrocity that was brought about in our country by white people picking a white crop to undergird their white privilege while subjugating black hands to do so.


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Confederacy

Confederacy: (n) the Confederate states

As I sit quietly, my mind sometimes conjures the memory of something really dumb I have done. I am most comfortable when that piece of idiocy is well in my past.

But it is important, when that nasty memory comes to the forefront, that I own it, regret it and establish how ridiculous it was and how it mustfunny wisdom on words that begin with a C
never be done again.

It’s part of being human.

Rationalizing all of our activities and granting them license immediately turns us into assholes.

Assholes, in this instance, are people who think they do not have elements in their past that need to be remembered with shame.

There was a time in this great nation when we denied our creed of the equality of all mankind and decided it was all right to own people as long as their skin was black. So intensely were we deceived that we were willing to go to the battlefield, bleed and die as feuding brothers.

A Confederacy challenged our Union.

It was shameful–a frightening part of our past.Yet it is a chapter of the book we call America.

We have two responsibilities:

  1. Don’t deny it happened
  2. Offer the necessary regret and shame required to eradicate it from happening again by eliminating all the prejudice that brought about such foolishness.

 

 

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Compensation

Compensation: (n) the action or process of awarding someone money as a recompense for loss

I am a white man.

What compensation do I owe my black brothers and sisters because I share a color with abusing sons-of-bitches who kept them in bondagefunny wisdom on words that begin with a C for over three hundred years?

I am a man.

What compensation should I present to my sisters who continue to struggle for permission to have 98% of the physical attributes of their brothers while receiving less than half of the respect?

I am a bald man.

What compensation should I provide my head for abandonment?

I am very fat.

Is there a compensation due my cardiovascular system for being asked to work overtime without any pay increase?

I am a father.

What compensation am I due from my children for biologically extending myself into relationships which continue to need attention and growth?

I am a Christian.

What compensation do I owe the ancestors of the Moors, who had to endure the Crusades of those misguided souls of my faith?

I am not political.

What compensation do I owe to the Republicans and Democrats for selecting to ignore their foolishness?

Who should I write a check to for my ineptness?

Who owes me compensation for defiling my individuality and besmirching my reputation?

It is why we have mercy.

Sometimes compensation just doesn’t cut it.

 

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Civil War

Civil war: (n) a war between citizens of the same country.

If you know something is right, the best way to live is to go ahead and do it. Putting things off that we know are inevitable just makes us look stupid in the long run.

When the politicians involved in the American Revolution got together to form a Constitution, all of them, in their own ways, knew that slavery was wrong.

Some didn’t care.

Some believed it was more right than wrong.

But the main authors of the Constitution, from Madison on down, were fully cognizant that it was absolutely ridiculous to think that one man could own another
man. Matter of fact, they constantly lamented to one another that they “wished there was more they could do.”

It was their habit to free all of their slaves upon their death. So from 1776 until 1860–a span of eighty-four years–there was an ongoing debate about whether anything of significance could be done to curtail slave trading in the United States of America.

Laws were passed and ridiculous compromises achieved, but in the final fifteen years leading up to the American Civil War, it was obvious to most deeper-thinking Americans that this issue was going to lead to a battlefield where blood was shed.

It doesn’t make any difference if you’re talking about conflicts between a man and a woman, arguments within a family, or in the case of the United States, an open, seething contradiction, stinking right under our noses.

The longer you put something off, the more intense the division and painful the solution.

The Civil War could have been stopped when we started the nation.

It’s just too bad that the forefathers were more concerned about the right to bear arms than about the eternal need to free the slaves.

 

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Chariot

Chariot: (n) a two-wheeled horse-drawn vehicle used in ancient warfare and racing.

“Negro spiritual. “

It’s not exactly an oxymoron, but within the two words there seems to be a contradiction of purpose.

After all, if you were a Negro, you might find it difficult to be spiritual to those who decided to know you only by that term.

Yet a race of people who were beaten, subjugated, raped and sometimes nearly starved managed to get around a fire late at night when their persecutors had retired to the Big House, and come up with songs which we now display in our religious catalogues today.

  • “Let My People Go”
  • “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”
  • And of course, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”

Even though the songs are melodic, harmonic and perhaps even rhythmic, they all carry a central theme: “Dear God, I hope they stop beating me and if they won’t, I hope you kill me soon.”

You can be sympathetic to their plight.

“Swing low, sweet chariot,

Comin’ for to carry me home…”

A pretty simple passage: “Since there’s no solution here on Earth, since the Massa has the whip and since my family can be sold at a moment’s notice, maybe it would be wise to begin Eternity really soon.”

Negro spiritual–a music that tells us where people find solace when other humans abandon and mistreat them.

It is soulful, it is seeking and it is sad.

I can’t listen to the song about the chariot without realizing that my ancestors made the singer want to die.

 

 

 

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Center

Center: (v) to place in the middle

It’s an old joke, but since there are so many young folks around, I will venture to share it, with the aspiration that it might fall on fresh ears.

The story is that a gentleman from Kentucky found himself in a quandary when the Civil War broke out. He did not want to choose sides. He
discovered that the Union Army was clad in blue and those from Dixie had selected gray. Thinking himself a genius and desiring to place himself in the center, free of conflict, he put on blue pants for the Union, and a gray jacket as a tribute to the South.

When the two armies converged at his doorstep to determine his allegiance, the Union Army shot him in the shoulder and the Confederates shot him in the leg.

There is a belief that a center–a compromise or moderation–can be found in everything. It is an interesting theory which over the years has proven to be flawed.

There are some issues that cannot be mollified. They’re just too important.

  • There can be no “Great Compromise” when it comes to slavery.
  • There cannot be a “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military for the gay servicemen and women.

Sometimes we have to come down on one side or another.

Because sometimes a center is not a solution, but rather, an attempt to avoid one.

 

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Boon

Boon: (n) a thing that is helpful or beneficial.

In the pursuit of progress, it is paramount that we learn what is so important to the human race that we dare not surrender it.Dictionary B

I completely agree that putting leeches on human skin to suck out the bad blood of disease was a horrible idea.

Turning Africans into slaves to work plantations without wages or a retirement plan was sinister.

But we must understand, there are certain attributes of virtue which cannot be compromised simply because they seem tedious.

In the past thirty years, love has been translated from an action into a sentiment.

This has been very subtle.

We have allowed our entertainers, our politicians and even our religionists to convince us that love is a high-sounding ideal, but most of the time beyond our grasp. Therefore, we are encouraged to settle for lesser representations, like friendliness, giving to the poor, or even lust.

There is only one boon to the human race.

There is only one condition that creates the oil of gladness that lubricates us for bumping up against one another.

It is love.

We cannot give up on it.

Matter of fact, our mission is to define it in such realistic ways that we just naturally pursue it.

Without this, we begin to believe that individuality is holy–instead of the communion of souls in gentle compromise.

 

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