At the risk of sounding crass (which is alright) and coming across; or being [deliberately] misconceived as insensitive (highly likely given the sensitivity of the matter, and therefore a bit concerned about the reactions) and ignorant [admittedly, I’m quite ignorant on this topic]; I will, nonetheless, primarily out of curiosity and therefore happy to be enlightened, say the following: the narrative that African-Americans or Americans of African descent “built the US of America with their free labour for nearly 400 years and therefore…”, importantly, “that gives them a legitimate claim to the US of America and its prosperity“, raises some basic questions that need to be candidly examined.
Because, if candidly examined, that might help explain the precariousness of the plight of the African-American life in the US of America.
Again, if examined candidly, it, in itself, may shade some light on the [real] value of African-American life in the pecking order of the American human [life] value system; in which, undeniably, African-Americans as a subset of the American society, have little to almost no control or say at all.
This is primarily because it’s also a system of power, that is, the acquisition, distribution and subsequent use and application of socioeconomic and sociopolitical power in the American society.
It also explains, and quite possibly because of it, why African-Americans are largely powerless – socioeconomically and socio-politically.
Who built the US of America?
There’s no doubt that Africans violently stolen out of Africa, taken and sold into the American system of human slavery, built the US of America, from the ground up, for free. They were the free human capital and provided forced free labour for many years.
The Africans stolen out of Africa, and sold into the American system of human slavery who built, beyond foundational levels, the US of America; are the ancestors of the many generations of African-Americans.
So, naturally, African-Americans are justifiably right to proudly contend that their ancestors built the US of America. Whether that contention alone, without necessarily denying its merits, justifies the claim that they’ve a legitimate claim on the US of America and its prosperity, is a complex subject of deep debate that can be explored separately.
But suffice to say, and acknowledge that [the] Africans who were stolen out of Africa and sold into the American system of human slavery, who are the ancestors of the African-Americans, and who built the US of America, were propertyless slaves, owned and treated like chattel by their white American owners. They had no rights whether on[to] their own lives or anything at all. Consequently, they had nothing of value and didn’t own valued property; instead, they were indeed property themselves whose only value to their owner was their free labour.
This could possibly be the root and historical background of the civil rights movements, which demanded for civil rights, to be treated as humans and not sub-humans.
But to examine the premise of the claim by African-Americans on the US of America and its prosperity; we must ask the following questions:
1. For whom did the enslaved Africans in the US of America, who are the ancestors of the African-Americans, build the US of America?
2. Under what capacity did the enslaved Africans in the US of America build the US of America?
3. If they built the US of America, which they undeniably did by, notably providing free labour; as slaves, that is, the property of their White American owners – who were the owners of American land: what claim did the slaves have on their masters’s property – land in this case?
4. What portion of the US of American land did slaves, of African descent, own?
5. How significant was it?
6. Was it passed on to their descendants?
7. What happened with/of it?
These questions are essentially about property ownership; and property ownership in the capitalist system is about and constitutes wealth and therefore economic power; economic power determines sociopolitical power.
African-Americans are woefully socio-politically powerless because they are equally woefully socioeconomically powerless. This is partly because they are too divided within themselves as a distinct sub-group of the collective US population; and majorly because of a compendium of other factors but mainly the way the socioeconomic and political system is structurally organised to disadvantage them severely; which is historically rooted in and therefore traced back to the political economy of the plantation and slavery.
It’s a vicious cycle of powerlessness, of an acute lack of the vital and foundational pillar of power in the capitalist system; that of wealth – economic power – and, consequently, lack of sociopolitical power.
The consistent gruesome brutality African-Americans suffer at the hands of the White American power structure, represented by the police on a federal and community level, is a direct result of their powerlessness as articulated above.
They have been historically and systematically made powerless to defend themselves from the brutality and injustices of the White American power structure deeply rooted in; and built by and on the enslavement of their ancestors.
The American slave system, which is the foundation and precursor of the White American power structure, views African-Americans in the same way it looked at their ancestors – stolen and taken out of Africa and sold into slavery in Americas. Consequently, the White American power structure still prefers to treat; and indeed treats them in the same manner.