Almost 6 years ago, I was blessed with a wonderful inquisitive and thoughtful grandson. Kameron has recently embarked on his formal educational journey. He began kindergarten about 9 weeks ago. As he works his way through this thing we call “schooling” it will be important to provide real world context and examples to help him make sense of concepts many consider to be at the core of the American creed.
Already interested in sports, particularly basketball, I will use the world of sports to elucidate ideas that will not be adequately covered under the “approved” curriculum. One such concept is that of the “free press.” The Founding Fathers eloquently put forth the notion that a free and independent press is a prerequisite for a functioning democratic society. From the moment of the nation’s founding, my grandson and his classmates will be taught, Americans have had access to a wide range of competing news sources.
The complex, complicated and brutish truth will not be covered in his classroom. He’s gonna have to get those lessons in car rides and at the kitchen table. There have always been vastly different and distinct rules in place for Blacks and wealthy whites in America.
In school, Kam will learn that “The First Amendment provides that Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
He will also learn that Delaware was the first State to ratify, on December 7, 1787. The teacher will tell him that after New Hampshire became the ninth State to ratify, on June 22, 1788, the Confederation Congress established March 9, 1789 as the date to begin operating under the Constitution.
As a result, Many of Kamron’s non-white peers across the country will mistakenly assume that their ancestors had freedom of, speech, press and assembly beginning in 1789.
I will explain that the United States was founded as an explicitly racist/white supremacist nation. As such, the overwhelming majority of Blacks in America had no such rights when the nation was founded. I will share the history of anti-black, anti-literacy laws. Yo Kam… in 1829, 40 years after the Founding Fathers recognized the inalienable rights of white males to freedom of speech and press, Georgia formally prohibited teaching blacks to read. Those caught teaching Blacks to read were subjected to fines and imprisoned.
Real shit Kam…
The following year in 1830, Louisiana and North Carolina passed law punishing anyone teaching blacks to read with fines, imprisonment or brutal whippings. Two years later in 1832, Alabama and Virginia also prohibited whites from teaching blacks to read or write, punishing those daring to impart literacy to Blacks with stiff fines and whippings.
The next year, in 1833, Georgia implemented a law against Blacks from working in reading or writing jobs (via an employment law), and prohibited teaching blacks, punished by fines and whippings (via an anti-literacy law). In 1847, Missouri said fuck it, we don’t want our Blacks assembling, reading or writing. In Mississippi, if a white person was caught teaching Blacks to read they had to serve up to a year in prison.
Virginia law from this era stated: “[E]very assemblage of negroes for the purpose of instruction in reading or writing, or in the night time for any purpose, shall be an unlawful assembly. Any justice may issue his warrant to any office or other person, requiring him to enter any place where such assemblage may be, and seize any negro therein; and he, or any other justice, may order such negro to be punished with stripes.” Kam if they caught me and you reading, any white person could legally whoop our asses. Same thing in North Carolina where Black people who disobeyed the law were sentenced to whipping while whites received a fine and/or jail time.
Kam… a persuasive political or social analyses must grapple with the fact that there are at least two Americas. Your school and most public schools across the country treat these differing and distinct Americas in relative isolation. Anyone daring to teach the actual Black experience could be summarily fired in many states. In doing so… these schools confuse and mis-educate Black and Brown children. Any lesson on “free speech” and “free press” must deal with these autonomous and clashing developmental dynamics simultaneously.
A free speech lesson absent the formal and systematic state efforts to keep Blacks illiterate is a fairy tale. Kam, don’t get me wrong, fairly tales have their place.
It’s just not in a history class.
Kam… there have always been and continue to be multiple orders in the United States. Let me demonstrate how these multiple order come into play with regard to the so-called “free press.” Today, October 3, 2022, NBA superstar Kyrie Irving was suspended five (5) games by the NBA and the Brooklyn Nets franchise.
The Nets issued a statement that read in part that “we are of the view that [Kyrie Irving] is currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets.” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement that “Kyrie Irving made a reckless decision to post a link to a film containing deeply offensive antisemitic material.”
Kam… for now, let’s assume the film is antisemitic… That’s a discussion for a different day and time…
For present purposes, it’s important to note that the mass media (newspapers, magazines, radio, films and television) are controlled by just a few powerful wealthy individuals. How we perceive the political, social and economic world is largely determined by these few individuals.
The issues they cover, like Kyrie posting a link to the video are the one’s that win the public’s attention. Those that are ignored, like Jeff Bezos renting and selling (profiting from) the same video, are deprived of visibility and credibility.
Kam… look at dis shit…
A Jeff Bezos owned newspaper, the Washington Post, reported that Irving was suspended for tweeting a link to a Bezos owned website where the video is rented and sold. At the same time Irving was being publicly dragged for tweeting the link to Bezos’ website. Bezos was also broadcasting an NFL game on his steaming network. Earlier in the day, his name was bandied about as a potential buyer along with Sean “Jay Z” Carter of the Washington football franchise. Moreover, a month ago Bezos was named as potential buyer for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns franchise. He also widely expected to bid for NBA broadcast rights.
Seriously Kam… look at dis shit…
Our “free and independent press” offers very little variety in their approach to this story. Kyrie is a bad man and must be punished financially for posting a link to this antisemitic film. The mainstream media, Nets team ownership and the NBA brass are demanding that he explicitly apologize for tweeting a link to the film.
Meanwhile, Bezos who is charging $12.00 to rent and $50.00 to purchase the film has not been subjected to any significant scrutiny. If we accept the media’s premise, Bezos is actually distributing and profiting from an antisemitic film. Kam, a reasonable person may hold that selling and profiting is indicative of “supporting” the film.
Bezos is getting a pass here… An issue of such magnitude that Irving was suspended has generated absolutely no heat for the man putting it out there for all to consume… for a fee…
On one hand, Kyrie Irving is “unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets”… On the other hand, Bezos – the actual purveyor of the antisemitic film – may soon become the owner of an NBA franchise or a broadcast partner.
Kam… I can’t allow them to inculcate you… A free press has existed for a select few since they founded this nation… As you can see, that’s still the case.
The mainstream media is full of shit Kam…