Drudge Retort: The Other Side of the News
Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The land was wrested first from Native Americans, by force. It was then cleared, watered, and made productive for intensive agriculture by the labor of enslaved Africans, who after Emancipation would come to own a portion of it. Later, through a variety of means"sometimes legal, often coercive, in many cases legal and coercive, occasionally violent"farmland owned by black people came into the hands of white people. It was aggregated into larger holdings, then aggregated again, eventually attracting the interest of Wall Street.

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Mass dispossession did not require a central organizing force or a grand conspiracy. Thousands of individual decisions by white people, enabled or motivated by greed, racism, existing laws, and market forces, all pushed in a single direction. But some white people undeniably would have organized it this way if they could have. The civil-rights leader Bayard Rustin reported in 1956 that documents taken from the office of Robert Patterson, one of the founding fathers of the White Citizens' Councils, proposed a "master plan" to force hundreds of thousands of black people from Mississippi in order to reduce their potential voting power. Patterson envisioned, in Rustin's words, "the decline of the small independent farmer" and ample doses of "economic pressure."

An upheaval of this scale and speed"the destruction of black farming, an occupation that had defined the African American experience"might in any other context be described as a revolution, or seen as a historical fulcrum. But it came and went with little remark.
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According to the researchers Francis and Hamilton, "The dispossession of black agricultural land resulted in the loss of hundreds of billions of dollars of black wealth. We must emphasize this estimate is conservative ... Depending on multiplier effects, rates of returns, and other factors, it could reach into the trillions." The large wealth gap between white and black families today exists in part because of this historic loss.

But money does not define every dimension of land theft. Were it not for dispossession, Mississippi today might well be a majority-black state, with a radically different political destiny. Imagine the difference in our national politics if the center of gravity of black electoral strength had remained in the South after the Voting Rights Act was passed.

Incredibly tragic American story which help explains why things are the way they are today. Theft and discrimination are indeed among American values and always have been.

#1 | Posted by tonyroma at 2019-08-14 06:33 AM | Reply

The present owners of all that land should owe reparations. All of the Southern states should.

#2 | Posted by danni at 2019-08-15 04:17 AM | Reply

It's difficult Danni because there isn't just a handful of groups/owners that have profited from dispossession through the years who are readily identifiable. As the article notes, TIAA (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association - a teachers' pension group) owns 80,000 acres in MS and 130,000 acres total along the Mississippi River including Arkansas. They had nothing to do with the dispossession process in the 20th Century, but they now benefit from it.

As noted, trillions of dollars of wealth has been systematically taken from black home/land owners through the years, and most in the latter 20th Century, far removed from the days of slavery. In Chicago black families were blocked from home ownership by covenant laws put in place to segregate black neighborhoods from white neighborhoods and banks would not loan blacks money even if they otherwise qualified - redlining - as unscrupulous white opportunists would buy up the homes of suburban-fleeing whites and "sell" them to blacks on contracts. Those contracts allowed repossession of the property for missed payments in the same manner the rent-to-own business works today. Even up to the last payment, the owner could repossess the property and resell it to another buyer and start the process again. And all of this was completely legal at the time.

Policies such as these are one of the chief drivers in the tremendous gulf between white wealth and black wealth in the erstwhile middle class. And it also is one of the reasons calls for conversations about reparations are tied to contemporary issues, not just those from slavery and Jim Crow. Discriminatory practices that suck black wealth away into the coffers of undeserving white coffers has not stopped to this day. It just happens in the dark places most people don't ever see because it doesn't affect their lives or livelihoods.

#3 | Posted by tonyroma at 2019-08-15 07:10 AM | Reply

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