I spent quite a bit of time trying to find a piece of slam poetry that related to our content in class. While the title of this piece is “All Lives Matter: 1800s Edition” this piece focuses on the inherent white supremacy that existed during that time period.
The poet, Anthony McPherson, speaks as if he is a white slave owner during the 1800’s. I think that the fact that a lot of the claims McPherson makes are unbelievable parallels the ridiculousness of the claims “All Lives Matter” makes in today’s society. If you search “All Lives Matter” in the Facebook search box, some of the posts regarding the movement sound just as ludicrous. One article tells how a man posted the following in front of his store: “2000 Years Ago Jesus Ended the Debate of Which Lives Matter. He Died For All!” It is this same type of preposterous and uninformed claims that McPherson makes throughout his piece.
For the remainder of my post, I would like to offer interpretation and commentary to some of the lines of the piece:
“I didn’t ask to have all this cotton. […] Don’t act innocent, this is the cotton of all our lives.”
He implies that white men inherited land from those before them. He needs slaves to help him tend the land. By saying “this is the cotton of all our lives” he implies that since you (a slave) are wearing cotton, you must support being enslaved. If you weren’t a slave there wouldn’t be any clothes on your back.
“This is not the dream that Abraham Lincoln gave speeches for. Racism ended with the 3/5ths compromise.”
I’m sitting next to my suitemate and I simply look up from my laptop and ask her: “Do you think racism ended with the 3/5ths compromise?”
She replied “Why the f*** would I think that? Do you think racism doesn’t exist today?”
I just wanted to see her reaction to this “supposed claim” of a white male during the 1800’s. Of course I know racism exists today. Do I believe a white male during that time period would claim racism ended after the compromise? No. Racism was so deeply ingrained in society that even if the 3/5ths compromise tried to give the slaves some “equality,” the white man would still harbor an almost lawful hatred of non-white people.
“Slavery is a choice. If you didn’t want to get locked up, you should have kept running…”
This slave owner does not recognize how all black people were considered slaves BECAUSE they were black. Not because they couldn’t “get away,” but because of the color of their skin. I also want to note that I do not believe this claim. White people knew slavery was not a choice, but the law. Anyone who wasn’t white was a slave.
“Look at your brother’s body. Rope doesn’t make his neck any different than mine. My accountant hung himself so we’re all struggling with something.”
The slave owner is comparing a white man’s troubles to the struggles of slavery. While I don’t know what this accountant went through to feel the need to kill himself, I’m certain McPherson wanted to display how white people during the 1800’s did not believe what they were doing to their slaves was wrong or demeaning.
“My house is like 2 stories tops, the real masters live in mansions–I’m a slave like you.”
This line just blows my mind. I honestly don’t believe a white person during this time period would think this way; a slave owner would never put himself on the same level as a slave.
“Underground railroads only create racial divide”
No, you, the white man created racial divide.
I have a few questions about this video. What do you think of it? How accurate do you think McPherson’s embodiment of a white slave owner is? More often than not, I found myself unable to believe this act. Lastly, how can you relate this to today’s argument of “Black Lives Matter” vs “All Lives Matter”?