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2016: How Far Back Will the Dial Go?

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2016: How Far Back Will the Dial Go?

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The 2016 US Elections has brought a lot of things into perspective, especially the subject of race.  One would imagine that the stigma of racial inequality in America would have become a thing of the past with the election [and re-election] of the first African American President.  2016 clearly demonstrated through the political campaigns that it is still threaded in the fabric of American society.  Fears inflated after the Republican Candidate, Donald Trump won the election, mainly due to the racial rhetoric throughout his campaign, with countless numbers of race-driven vandalism during and post-election.  Many of these concerns are quite valid, despite the fact that many others have tried to downplay these fears as mere paranoia, insisting that a Trump presidency won’t be race-driven, instead it would foster the campaign’s promise to “Make America Great Again”.

African Americans and other minorities are rightly concerned however, witnessing a startling increase of measures taken by some to reignite the old order of the civil rights era, where segregation and racial prejudice were not foreign concepts but social norms.  With a bit of perspective and context to the degree of progress that black Americans have made in America throughout and since slavery, fears and concerns are justified, when it seems as if the moral safeguards of the human and civil rights of blacks in the US are threatened as if this isn’t the 21st Century, and we all haven’t yet come to our senses.

One of the reasons racial stigma was so embedded in the American society, is that many of the old race-driven norms were woven into the culture by law.  In 2016, it is difficult to imagine a time when the moral code of Americans [and many other parts of the world] was so damaged, that the intelligentsia of the day actually framed well articulated laws and policies that justified and embodied the idea that blacks were less equal and at some times, property, to be used, bought, sold, ruled, oppressed, and exploited.

Taking a journey through the many laws and policies against blacks in America over the years, one can easily justify the current dynamics of the vast protests and denunciation going in America, by those who fear that what we imagined would be a thing of the past, only seem all but resurrected, not just by a small group, but to the extent that they may very well become legit governing principles all over again.

1668: New Jersey passes Fugitive Slave Law

1680: Virginia forbids slaves from bearing arms

1682: Virginia declares all black servants imported are slaves for life

1684: New York makes it illegal for slaves from selling goods

1691: South Carolina passes first comprehensive slave codes

Laws, Policies, and Acts such as these were designed to place complete control over the mobility, liberty, and civil pursuits of blacks in America.  They weren’t necessarily considered part of the civic community then, some having been uprooted directly from West Africa, others born in the American colonies, yet all were considered being in the same boat as foreign commodities useful solely for the purpose of labor rather than life.

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Akindele Decker is a Sierra Leonean poet and writer with ancestral links across West Africa and the other side of the Atlantic. He resides in Maryland, USA with his family. www.akindeletmdecker.com

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