This is what an antiracist America would look like. How do we get there?Roundup
Ibram X Kendi is a best-selling author and a professor of history and international relations at the American University in Washington DC. His latest book is Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.
Congressman George H White opted not to seek re-election in 1900. North Carolina’s brand-new poll tax, literacy test and grandfather clause – the forebears of today’s voter ID law, voter purge and felon clause – ensured the defeat of the last black congressman.
When the all-white, male 57th Congress sat in 1901, America had been made great again after decades of dueling, after “all the forces that made for civilization were dominated by a [southern] mass of barbarous freedmen,” according to the nation’s leading Reconstruction historian, William Archibald Dunning. Racist progress seemingly overtook antiracist progress, like when Donald Trump overtook Barack Obama. Powerful white men were colonizing and disenfranchising, convict leasing and lynching, pillaging and selling land and labor, segregating public spaces and raising up Confederate statues. They were writing literature to “demonstrate to the world that the white man must and shall be supreme”, as attested by the bestselling novelist Thomas Dixon.
Serving up hope for an antiracist America seemed unhealthy in those days. Nearly all the fresh hope from the jubilant end of slavery in 1865 had seemingly molded over. Sound familiar?
All these years later, some historians consider the turn of the 20th century as the “nadir” of America’s racial story. Historians also remember the anti-lynching journalism of Ida B Wells, the organizing of black clubwomen and black colleges and black towns, the early decolonization stirrings, the early strivings of the civil rights movement, the spiritual stirrings and strivings of all these souls of black folk, as recorded by WEB Du Bois.
We do not see the early 20th century as the end, but the beginning. Likewise, we should not see our era of resurgent white nationalism as the racist end, but the antiracist beginning.
Look behind and beyond the daily news of voter suppression and voter fraud fables, the daily news of “invading” Latinx immigrants and Muslim bans, the daily news of mass deporting and incarcerating and impoverishing and enriching, the daily news of defending Confederate monuments like racist policies, the daily news of police shooting black bodies sitting in their apartments or doing their jobs, the daily news of the white president berating black women journalists, the daily news of the white president identifying as a nationalist, the daily news of white nationalists terrorizing Americans with their cop calls and guns, inspired by their president. ...
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