I often hear my white conservatives counterparts say that blacks think that the “America owes them something” and that blacks only want entitlements. They make it sound as if America has given blacks everything that they currently have and that blacks have contributed nothing in return.
So What Did America Give Us?
A. Conservative whites who imply that America gave these ungrateful blacks everything, often boast that they gave blacks “freedom.” Freedom was what blacks had before they were enslaved in America and throughout the world. Their freedom was one of those “Unalienable Rights” that blacks enjoyed in Africa long before it became a part of the Declaration of Independence. So what did America give us?
B. Whites who complain about blacks say they gave blacks Welfare. Welfare was for those who were unemployed or unemployable. The records will show that blacks were always the last one hired and the first one fired. The records will also show that there were consistently more whites on welfare than blacks. So what did they America give us?
C. They say that they gave blacks Affirmative Action. Affirmative Action was a program designed to give whites 90% of the jobs and blacks 10% of the jobs. Blacks never reached the 10%. During the years of Affirmative Action black unemployment remained high (in double digits) and their median income was always lower than their white counterparts. Affirmative Action was merely a program that attempted to give blacks employment opportunities, opportunities that were denied for centuries, simply because of the color of their skin. So what did America give us?
D. They say that they gave blacks various government programs. However the records will show that poor whites benefitted from those programs as well. Whites have always been the equal opportunity benefactor of all government programs. Blacks are convinced that the government programs were merely a down payment for the years of free labor that blacks provided for America, free labor that made America one of the wealthiest nations in the world. So what did America give us?
E. They say that they gave the lazy, illiterate, ungrateful blacks “Justice.” Justice is something that should naturally be given to every law abiding human being regardless of color. But the justice for blacks came only after several landmark Supreme Court Cases were reversed and after various pieces of legislation were passed and this took over 200 years. So what did they give us?
F. They say that they gave us opportunities, and they are correct. But the opportunities came after slavery, after Fugitive Slave Laws, after the Ku Klux Klan Act, after the 13th, the 14th, and the 15th Amendments, after Jim Crow, after Plessy v Ferguson, after the landmark court decisions by the United States Supreme Court were overturned, after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, after the Voting Rights Act of 1965, after the 1972 Equal Employment Opportunity Act and long after millions of blacks gave their lives in defense of our country.
So those who claim that they gave the lazy, illiterate, ungrateful blacks so much - blacks ask: What did they give us? In reality, they gave us no more than they gave their white counterparts and it took centuries to do so. As a race, they really gave us very little, but a gracious God gave us much (James 1:17) and we took our God-given gifts and talents and blessed the rest of the world in medicine, in science, in technology, in entertainment, in war and in free labor.
The next time you hear an individual imply that America gave the lazy, illiterate, ungrateful black everything he has, ask them what did America give them? Before they answer, remind them that for years, in the south where 99% of African Americans resided, it was against the law to teach blacks how to read and write. Booker T. Washington and other blacks like him taught themselves how to read. And when blacks were finally allowed to go to school, blacks were relegated to inferior segregated schools. Most of the medical schools denied blacks access. In fact, when three black students enrolled in Harvard’s school of medicine in 1850, white students protested and the three were expelled. In the early years, most blacks received their medical degrees from black colleges like Howard University and Meharry Medical College, while others went to medical schools overseas. Additionally, it took some years before America would allow blacks to patent their inventions, so slave masters and other whites took credit for their work.
So now we ask, what did America give blacks? History reveals that the gifts and talents of blacks were evident long before there was an America.
1. America didn’t give Moses’ black father-in-law the knowledge to develop a multi-level judicial system for the Jewish nation (Exodus 18:17-23). The same model used for the United States’ multi-level court system.
2. America didn’t give Nimrod, the black father of ancient Babylon, the gifts and talents to establish one of the first and greatest nations on earth (Genesis 10:9).
3. America didn’t give the black rulers of Egypt [the nation of Ham] their advance civilization (Psalms 105:23].
4. America didn’t give Timbuktu (of Africa) their wealth and advance libraries as part of the Mali Empire.
5. America didn’t give Hannibal, one of the greatest military leaders of all times, the ability to conquer other nations with his mighty armies. Many believe that Hannibal of Northern Africa was black.
6. America didn’t give Pedro Alonso Nino, Christopher Columbus’ black navigator, the ability to navigate Spain’s ships to the New World. So what did America give blacks?
7. Did America give Dr. George Washington Carver, the black scientist the ability to develop advance farming techniques that change the agricultural industry throughout the world?
8. Did America give Elizabeth Keckley, the wealthy black dress designer the ability to design dresses for Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of Jefferson Davis and for other prominent women?
9. Did America give Booker T. Washington, the black educator, his leadership skills and his ability to read?
10. Did America give Frederick Douglass, the black abolitionist his orator skills and his boldness to speak on behalf of black slaves?
11. Did America give Ben Banneker a well-respected black scientist the ability to develop the Farmer’s Almanac and the expertise to help layout the campus for our nation’s capitol (Washington DC)?
12. Did America give Jan Matzeliger the black inventor the ability to revolutionize the shoe manufacturing industry worldwide?
13. Did America give Lloyd Augustus Hall, the black Chemist the ability to discover “curing salts” for preserving and processing meat?
14. Did America give Lewis Latimer, the black inventor the ability to produce and patent the first drawing of the telephone and the scientific ability to help Thomas Edison perfect the light bulb for residential use?
15. Did America give Elijah McCoy, the black inventor the ability to produce an automatic lubrication system for moving machinery?
16. Did America give Garrett Morgan, the black inventor the ability to produce the first automatic traffic signal, the ability to make improvements on the sewing machine and the invention of the gas inhalator?
17. Did America give Norbert Rillieux, the black inventor the ability to invent the “vacuum evaporation pan” which revolutionized the sugar processing industry?
18. Did America give Granville Woods, the black inventor the ability to invent an incubator that was capable of hatching 50,000 eggs at a time?
19. Did America give Frederick McKinley Jones, the black technician the ability to build the first automatic refrigeration system for long haul trucks?
20. Did America give Lewis Temple, the black inventor the ability to invent the “toggle harpoon” to improve whaling methods?
21. Did America give Alexander Miles the black inventor the skills that resulted in a patent for the elevator?
22. Did America give Frederick Jones the black inventor the skills that resulted in a patent for the air condition?
23. Did America give J. Standard, the black inventor the skills that resulted in a patent for the refrigerator?
24. Did America give John Burr the black inventor the skills that resulted in a patent for the lawn mower?
25. Did America give Elbert Robinson, the black inventor the skills that resulted in a patent for the electric railway trolley?
26. Did America give blacks a multitude of other inventions that they could not patent simply because they were black?
27. Did America give Dr. Louis Tompkins Wright, the black surgeon the ability to produce a vaccination for small pox?
28. Did America give the black doctor, Dr. Daniel Williams the ability to perform the first successful heart surgery and the ability to open up the first black-owned hospital in America and the first school of nursing for blacks?
29. Did America give Dr. Charles Drew, the black doctor the ability to perfect the use and preservation of blood Plasma which paved the way for all of the blood banks in the world?
30. Did America give Dr. Percy Julian, the black chemist the ability to create a drug for arthritis and the ability to synthesized the drug physostigmine, which is used for glaucoma?
31. Did America give the black doctor, Dr. Samuel L. Kountz, the ability to become an international leader in transplant surgery?
32. Did America give Dr. Theodore K. Lawless, the black doctor who made valuable contributions to the scientific treatment of syphilis and leprosy?
33. Did America give Dr. William A. Hinton, the black doctor the ability to develop the “Hinton Test” the most reliable method for detecting syphilis and the ability to start a training school for poor girls to become medical technicians?
34. Did America give Dr. Ben Carson, the black doctor the ability to perform one of the most amazing surgeries in medical history, the successful separation of Siamese twins in 1987?
35. Did America give David Crosthwait Jr. the black engineer the ability to produce the automobile indicator, the thermostat-setting apparatus and the vacuum pump?
36. Did America give Harvey Banks the black scientist, the ability to become one of the world’s top Astrophysicist?
37. Did America give Dr. Henry A. Hill the black chemist the knowledge to become the top researcher in the field of polymer chemistry and fabric flammability?
38. Did America give Dr. George E. Carruthers, the black physicist, the ability to develop the ultraviolet camera/spectrograph which was used on Apollo 16 lunar surface?
39. Did America give Dr. Meredith Courdine, the black physicist the ability to find a successful method to use the principles elecrogasdynamics (EGD) to convert gas to electricity for everyday use?
40. Did America give Dr. Mark Dean, black the computer scientist the ability to assist in developing a number of landmark technologies, including the color PC monitor and the first gigahertz chip? Dr. Dean holds three of IBM’s original nine patents in computer technology and is credited with helping to launch the personal computer age with work that made the machines more accessible and powerful.
41. Did America give Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, Sam Cooke, Lou Rawls and Barry White their unique voices to entertain the world?
42. Did America give blacks the ability to become superstars in football, basketball, baseball, tennis and golf?
43. Did America give blacks the ability to start their own banks, their own schools, their own insurance companies and their own savings and loan associations?
44. Did America give blacks the desire to volunteer to fight on behalf of America in every war and received the most prestigious military medals for their bravery, despite the fact that they were being oppressed and denied the same rights as their white counterparts at home?
Time will not permit me to list all of the contributions of the black soldiers, black physicists, black chemists, black doctors, black engineers, black scientists, and the black inventors who collectively helped to make this world a better place.
Historical records reveal that blacks are God-gifted contributors more than they are takers. And history clearly shows, that as a race, blacks have never been a group of lazy, illiterate, ungrateful people who were sitting around waiting for someone to give them a hand-out. Are there lazy, illiterate and ungrateful blacks who want hand-outs? Yes. There are lazy illiterate people of every race who want hand-outs. That’s why there are more whites on welfare and other government programs than there are blacks.
What has America given Blacks? When you take under consideration the racist systems that impeded their progress and the millions of blacks who gave their lives in defense of our country, one could say America gave blacks far less than it has given any other group and less than what Blacks have given her.
By Wayne Perryman
Reverend Wayne Perryman has served as Minister in Charge of Church Administration for Mt. Calvary Christian Center Church of God in Christ in Mercer Island, Washington. He also heads his own consulting firm specializing in conducting fact-finding investigations on behalf of inner city plaintiffs who are unsuccessful in obtaining representation through law firms and community agencies.
Culled from The African Executive Issue 533: