Thoughts: If Black America Were a Country?
If Black America were a country in itself, it would almost certainly look nothing like this. The effort of distilling the statistical plights of the loose entity known as American Blackness into a sweet and potent aperitif of easily digestible infographics is a worthwhile endeavor, especially as a way to show just how disparate our reality is from the rest of America. However, the effectiveness falls flat in the gimmick: in presenting these isolated statistics as the measurements of a hypothetical country (let’s call it Blacktopia).
Why would Blacktopia have a higher incarceration rate per 100,000 than most of the developed world combined if it were a sovereign, absent of the historical oppression of the American justice system? Truth be told, violence against Blacks is part of the ontology of the American sense of “justice.” Blackness has always been criminalized (first de jure and now de facto), so the statistic makes sense without the gimmick. However, it is Black America’s status as a historically oppressed people without sovereignty and agency that makes the statistic true. It stands to reason that Blacktopia wouldn’t have the same issue and likely wouldn’t incarcerate large swaths of its population. We aren’t the ones imprisoning ourselves.
The same logic carries to the other statistics in the article, which center around poverty, lack of wealth, unemployment and development. Racial wealth gaps in the United States are closely tied to slavery and the subsequent history of racism. Black bodies built the foundation of much of White generational wealth while receiving none themselves. More modern times saw that system replaced with various forms of sharecropping, racial kleptocracy and appropriation. Although Conservatives would place blame for lack of generational wealth and employment at the feet of some Black cultural deficiency, it’s much easier (and more logical) to believe that the presence of outright codified racism for the vast majority of our nation’s history probably didn’t fade away with a few amendments and is a major contributor to the deficiencies in wealth. Blacktopia wouldn’t be able to recoup what was leeched away from unwilling investors, but it would probably have the one thing that accounts for most of the wealth disparity: property. And not just any property, property with real resources. It’s hard to imagine that Blacktopia would be worse off than the client state of American Blackness with such land and resources.
This isn’t to say that we’d know exactly what a hypothetical Blacktopia would look like. Things still might be bad if Blacks were suddenly given some good land and sovereignty. There’s no reason to believe Blacktopia would remain unbothered and unsubjugated by other state actors and there’s already a sort of example of an early Blacktopia in Liberia, which was beset from its genesis by profiteers and virulent colonialism. The resulting decades of destabilization and civil war have led to serious issues in the present-day. Blacktopia could possibly be a dystopia with staggering issues multiplying from our own in America (especially assuming America treats it like other Black & Brown majority countries), but Blacktopia could also end up a much better place than the statistics indicate if things broke right (word to Garvey). However, it is important to realize that the infographics were an introductory primer to the current Black plight, rather than a true exploration of what Blacktopia might just look like.