Regardless of the outcome of this year's national elections, we can always expect the great majority of African-Americans to vote for Democrats. We can also expect many of them to continue to see themselves as victims, an oppressed minority.
C. L. Bryant, former president of an NAACP chapter, former pastor of a black church, has made a film to question why this should be. "Why aren't these Americans [black] united with these other Americans [whites]?" he asks. "Why are black folks still mad?"
"We've had 500 years of oppression!" replies a woman in a protest march. "We got a right to be angry!"
In an age of political correctness, hate speech codes, and people walking around with very large chips on their shoulders, it took courage for Bryant to make this film. We wonder what responses to his questions had to be left on the cutting-room floor.
"I wanted to find out where these so-called tribal chiefs are taking their followers," he says, showing scant deference to the likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and the other "black leaders" generally held sacrosanct by the media.
By the time we're done watching this movie, we'll know the answers to that question and others.
What's Keeping Us Down?
Much of the Runaway Slave footage was shot at mass public gatherings-TEA Party rallies, anti-TEA Party rallies, street protests, etc. But there are plenty of quieter, more thoughtful moments. Bryant deftly avoids presenting us with a parade of talking heads.
"I was a true believer in the liberal cause," he recalls. "If I could've led any conservatives to the gallows, I would have." But now he is asking, "What ideas are keeping us down?"
Chief among those bad ideas-discussed by thinkers like Thomas Sowell, public officials like Congressman Allen West, and activists like Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson-are:
*The Great Society
*The creation of a permanent under-class, for left-wing political purposes
Altogether, says a visitor from Africa observing a protest rally, these ideas have tricked American blacks into being "enslaved in your mind when there's freedom all around you."
Progressivism, says Thomas Sowell, is ultimately about "taking decisions out of our hands." It's just another word for socialism.
The Great Society, says Allen West, quickly led to "the creation of an entitlement class." The government took responsibility for personal welfare and "single-handedly destroyed the black family," says Bryant. The black family survived slavery and Jim Crow, Sowell adds, "but can't survive the welfare state."
The perpetual poor, Bryant explains, are kept poor, deliberately, by public policy, to serve as "the hammer of the Left," progressivism's most reliable weapon of class warfare.
"The government plantation is the new plantation," explains Herman Cain, business magnate and sometime presidential candidate: one based on "a slavery of the mind, and of the will," adds Allen West.
Where Are Their Solutions?
Among the more bizarre exhibits in this film is a protest by the NAACP in Raleigh, NC, against a proposal by the school board to end busing-characterized by the NAACP as a scheme to "resegregate the schools." The NAACP fills the streets with angry demonstrators, stirred up by even angrier speakers.
And then Bryant probes a little deeper, and we find out two surprising things.
First, the board intended to replace the busing with a school choice plan. Parents, black and white alike, would be allowed to send their children to whatever school they chose. As usual, school choice had the support of a wide majority of parents, black and white.
Second, we meet the members of the Raleigh school board and discover that at least half of them are black! Are these the racist fiends who are plotting to resegregate the schools? "They [the NAACP] are attacking anybody that has a solution," objects a board member, a young black woman. "Where are their solutions?"
But the NAACP cares nothing for facts. "They use the issue of race to divide us," Bryant says.
He then reveals that he, personally, was forced out of his NAACP leadership position because he refused to speak in favor of abortion. The NAACP supports abortion, despite the fact that black babies (about ten-percent of babies conceived) account for some forty-percent of all abortions in America.
"The government came in," says Jesse Lee Peterson, "and said to blacks, ‘We're gonna take care of you and your family-but you can't have a man in the house!'" Now almost seven out of ten African-American babies are born out of wedlock-a statistic that Peterson blames on "racist black leaders."
"We must restore black fatherhood!" he adds.
"There is nothing today that my skin color would hinder me from doing," Bryant says, more than once. Indeed, he rephrases it as a question which he asks, several times, of participants in various protest marches. "What, in this country, does my skin color hinder me from doing?" Not surprisingly, he never gets an answer.
The answer is "Nothing." But what holds so many people back from seeing that?
First we are taken on a visit to Rev. Bryant's own home in Louisiana. A descendant of slaves, he now owns and lives on property which his great-great-grandfather, a slave, bought from his master. He shows us archival photos of slave markets, and asks, "Is there something in our past that can help us?"
A history lesson: the Underground Railroad delivered many slaves to freedom-an arduous procedure fraught with danger. Cut to archival footage of the Selma civil rights march, one hundred years later: the clubs, the gas, the dogs.
"Will the wounds of our past be our undoing," asks Bryant, "or will they be the scars of lessons learned?"
We visit activist K. Carl Smith, who advocates "using our history to create new ideas." His group, the Frederick Douglass Republicans, stands for "limited government and individual responsibility."
"Black people have allowed their anger to be used against themselves," he says. "Progressivism is a massive, centralized government which has power when we have no rights. Government is the great enslaver now-and it enslaves everybody."
Bryant marvels that black people in slavery dared the perils of the Underground Railroad, that black people in the segregated Jim Crow states exposed themselves to violence-all for freedom: "My country, my freedom, bought with blood. No man can take it away."
But what we see in Runaway Slave-I should say, what he shows us-are people whose minds are enslaved to a culture of permanent victimhood. Rev. Bryant looks at the past and sees black people's triumphs. The protesters look back and see only defeat-in which they have been coached, assiduously, by "progressive" politicians who need them for foot soldiers in their program of class warfare, and by "black leaders" feeding at the same trough. Addicted to failure, these black Americans mire themselves in welfare, free phones, families without fathers, gangs, flash mobs, and self-pity.
How to Break the Chains?
Ultimately the message of Runaway Slave is not for black people only, but for all of us.
"If we start to dim that light [of freedom] in America," says Allen West, "there's going to be darkness all across the world."
Is he exaggerating? We don't think so. Huge chunks of the earth's surface today are ruled by tyrants. The Muslim world sinks under the darkness of shari'a. A single political party holds two billion Chinese in thrall. In Europe the socialist experiment is being submerged in a rising tide of national bankruptcies, with increased restrictions on the basic freedoms of speech, conscience, and religion. English and Canadian jurists and law professors write confidently about the need for governments to abridge free speech for the sake of such chimerical ends as "to abolish hate."
The only hole in Rev. Bryant's presentation-and it's a big one-is exposed by one verse from the Bible: "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain" (Psalm 127:1).
It was Christians, and no one else, who abolished slavery in the Western world. It was the freed slaves' own churches that helped black families to endure the tribulations of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But Runaway Slave hasn't much to say about the role of Christianity in breaking the psychological chains that bind the slaves' descendants.
Is it because the black church has bound itself to the Democrat Party and progressive politics? Is this the same church that campaigns against same-sex "marriage" while continually supporting the party that promotes it? The church of "Reverend" Jesse Jackson and "Reverend" Al Sharpton?
But the basis of freedom-anybody's freedom-is that we are all the creatures of a sovereign God: highly-valued creatures for whom the Son of God shed holy blood. We are, as it were, God's property. Who murders, enslaves, or abuses us has committed an offense against Him. The statists' claim on us is a usurpation of God's right.
We are heartened to meet and see and hear so many people who are working so hard to inspire the slaves to run away from the government plantation-where not only blacks are enslaved, but also whites and everyone else who falls under progressivism's shadow. We are grateful to C. L. Bryant for having the nerve to make this film.
But if the quest for freedom is not blessed by God, it will fail. Seek freedom, yes. But at the same time, seek the face of God. Only God can make Pharaoh let His people go.
(Runaway Slave opened in July and is still playing in theaters nationally. For listings, movie trailers, etc., visit the website, http://www.runawayslavemovie.c... )