On a hot summer day in Columbus, Georgia a flier circulated around the city. In two weeks, a big sale was taking place. Everyone was invited. The flier listed the items for sale—ordinary items that any farmer could use. Mills, mules, hogs, wagons, and carts were available to own for the highest bidder.
And so were Negroes.
Black men and women were listed alongside wood-crafted items wood and slop-covered animals. These men and women were presumably created in God’s image—except in Columbus, Georgia in 1860.1
One-hundred sixty years later some Black men and women find themselves, not on fliers, but murals and billboards. Today, organizations and corporations spend tens of thousands of dollars on larger than life portrayals of Black actors, models, and professional athletes. Who can forget the large banner in downtown Cleveland welcoming LeBron James back home after a brief stay in Miami?
Are these billboards palatial signs that we have long forgotten the dehumanizing efforts of racist men and women in America in the 19th Century? Can we point to these success stories and declare with confidence that we now live in a post-racial, colorblind society?
For some, talking about race has joined politics and religion on the Mount Rushmore of topics we should never discuss. Kelly Brown-Douglas notes, “…the only thing postracial about this time in this nation’s history is the refusal to talk about race. The subject has almost become taboo.”
Refusing to talk about race in America is dangerous.
It is impossible to discuss a color-blind culture when America hasn’t had a color-blind history.
- This story is adapted from Kelly Brown-Douglas’ book, Stand Your Ground; Black Bodies and the Justice of God. ↩