The Case for the Black State
It’s not uncommon to hear about police mistreating and racially profiling African-Americans. It is uncommon to see it covered in the media, at least until more recently. Still though, much is left out in the discussion of race in America. It is not just about police brutality, it’s about mass incarceration, education, opportunity, and equality. How can all these issues between the white and black community come to a resolution? I give you the case for the Black State.
In order to understand the Black State, we have to first understand why we don’t have a Black State. And to give this context we can look at why we don’t have the State of Sequoyah.
Before Oklahoma became part of the Union, a group of American Indian tribes held a constitutional convention. The tribes met and drafted a constitution, established the government as three equal but separate branches, wrote a Bill of Rights, drew maps of the counties and elected delegates to petition the US for statehood. They wanted to create a state that behaved just as any other state in the Union, yet, this state would allow tribal leaders and their citizens to keep ownership of their land, and consequently, sustain their way of life. As expected, the U.S. Congress refused to consider this proposal. Instead, the Congress accepted the proposal for the state of Oklahoma, one that further divided and weakened tribal self-determination.
Why would the U.S. Congress not admit a Tribal-State into the Union? Was it a matter of their government? Not so, in this case, the tribes modeled their government after the US. Was it a matter of individual rights? No, in this case, the tribes wrote a Bill of Rights. Was it a matter of plenary power or the supremacy clause? It couldn’t in this case because tribal members sent delegates to the US to petition the Union, accepting the terms that the federal government has supreme power. This was a matter of race. The US government could not accept tribal communities not because of how they governed but because they couldn’t accept tribal people as being on the same level as them. Can you imagine a tribal representative in the US congress in 1905? This is five decades before the Civil Rights Act. That should give this a bit of context for non-minority sentiment at the time.
There is a precedent for the Black State, however, it’s called Liberia. In 1816, Robert Finley established the American Colonization Society. The goal of the society was to return freed African-American slaves from the Caribbean back to Africa. In 1821, the ACS founded the colony of Liberia south of Sierra Leone as a haven for former slaves. The government was modeled after the U.S. Constitution, with an Upper and Lower house, President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, and Chief Justice. In 1847, the US granted Liberia independence but did not receive formal diplomatic recognition until 1862.
The underlying reason for the founding of Liberia was not to give African-Americans self-determination in their ancestral homeland but to deal with the growing number of free slaves in the US. What better way to do this than to ship them 2000 miles away to a land they’ve never known and from the only people they ever cared for? Liberia is just another example of how the US uses symbolic gestures to appease racial tension as oppose to address past wrongs. Either way, minority groups should feel component enough to form their own State government regardless of whether or not it’s in the interest of the non-minority.
One could argue, how can we have a Black State, a Native State, an Asian State, or Latino State without there being some kind of conflict? Well, the questions I pose to this are: Is it necessary that each State have only non-minority leaders in order for minorities and non-minorities to get along? Current history is telling us this is not going so well. Secondly, are there component minority leaders that can lead a State without it going to war with the Union? I believe so and this is where I point towards the Iroquois Confederacy as a model for how a government can be formed while being comprised of different groups.
The Iroquois Confederacy is made up of six nations: Oneida, Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora. Around 1451 the Six Nations created the Great Law of Peace as the binding “document” for how the Confederacy is structured and run with each Nation having a separate but equal role. The Onondaga fill the role of the Presidency, the Mohawk and Seneca the role of the Senate, the Oneida and Cayuga the House of Representatives, and the Clan Mothers and Women’s Council the role of the Supreme Court. Clan mothers select the leaders and the Nations make decisons in consensus.
The Iroquois Confederacy is a great example of how different ethnic groups, that speak different languages, and that identify with a totally different worldview, can come together as one unified group under a common governmental structure. This is not just an ideal but a real-world example that demonstrates this is not only plausible but possible.
The ultimate reason behind such a radical change is to allow each minority group to govern its own citizenry. This will not only curb mistreatment, it will shift “the system” back into their favor. And this does not mean that citizens can only live in that State. Citizens are free to move about and live in any State, but still have the fall back of living in a place where they are treated more fairly.
I think that many people will not fully understand my perspective. What you may not know is that we already have quasi-states in the US. There are 562 of them to be exact. Semi-autonomous Tribal Nations that support and protect their way of life. It hasn’t been easy for them in the least, but all I am saying is this is not a new idea, just a new take on an unfamiliar concept.
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