Thomas Jefferson once wrote that black people are inferior to whites. Here's my response.

In my American history class, I heard lots of stories about the men who founded this country.

I was taught that men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison personified the best of what our country had to offer. They saved us from imperialistic rule in order to build a country predicated on freedom.


Our Founding Fathers. Photo via iStock.

They made America what it is today.

But what I didn't know: 12 presidents of the United States owned slaves, eight of those while they were in office.

Those eight included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, John Tyler, James K. Polk, and Zachary Taylor.

This poem is my letter to the first five of them:

History Reconsidered

Letter to five of the presidents who owned slaves while they were in office.

George Washington—when you won the revolution how many of your soldiers did you send from the battlefield to the cotton field? How many had to trade in their rifles for plows? Can you blame the slaves who ran away to fight for the British because at least the Redcoats were honest about their oppression?

Thomas Jefferson—when you told Sally Hemings that you would free her children if she remained your mistress did you think there was honor in your ultimatum? Did you think that we wouldn’t be able to recognize the assault in your signature? Does raping your slave when you disguise it as bribery make it less of a crime? When you wrote the Declaration of Independence did you ever intend for black people to have freedom over their bodies?

James Madison—when you wrote to Congress that black people count as three-fifths of a person how long did you have to look at your slaves to figure out the math? Was it easy to chop them? Did you think they’d be happy being more than half human?

James Monroe—when you proposed sending slaves back to Africa, did black bodies feel like rented tools? When you branded them did the scars on their chest include an expiration date? When you named the country Liberia, were you trying to be ironic? Does this really count as liberation?

Andrew Jackson—was the Trail of Tears not enough for you? Was killing Cherokee, Choctaw, Creeks, and Seminoles not enough to quench your imperialism? How many brown bodies do you have to bulldoze before you can call it “progress”?

Mr. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson—when you put your hand on the bible and swore to protect this country let’s be honest in who you were talking about. When the first Independence Day fireworks set the sky aflame, don’t forget where we were watching from.

So when you remember Jefferson’s genius, don’t forget the slaves who built the bookshelves in his library. When you remember Jackson’s victories in war, don’t forget what he was fighting to preserve. When you sing that this country was founded on freedom don’t forget the duet of shackles dragging against the ground.

My entire life I have been taught how perfect this country was. But no one ever told me about the pages torn out of my textbooks. How black and brown bodies have been bludgeoned for three centuries, but find no place in the curriculum.

Oppression doesn’t disappear just because you decided not to teach us that chapter. If you only hear one side of the story, at some point you have to question who the writer is.

What we learn in our history classes doesn’t tell us the full story of our country’s relationship with race.

Take Jefferson, for example. In his book, "Notes on the State of Virginia," our third president wrote that black people were "inferior to the whites in the endowment both of body and mind" and "that in imagination, they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous."

Yes, Jefferson was an American leader ... but he was also a slave owner. Photo via iStock.

He wrote that black men did not have the capacity to sustain complex emotions. And he also believed that black people did not possess the creative or intellectual acumen to create art, writing that Phyllis Wheatley (who is considered to be the first published black American poet) produced work that was "below the dignity of criticism."

Jefferson, in large part, serves as a microcosm for how American history is often taught — myopic, one-dimensional, and not illuminative of the whole truth of our nation’s past. We need to more seriously grapple with the complicated, and often contradictory, parts of our history if we want to be more honest about how we can effectively move forward.

We are in the midst of a moment where the conversation around race in this country has been brought to the forefront of our political discourse — as it should be.

The problem, however, is that if we don’t understand the historical context that has shaped our contemporary racial dynamics, then we can’t fully understand the totality of the problem, and thus we risk misdiagnosing the solution.

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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