Words are powerful. Words we use to define a moment in time write the history of that moment. Will the words pandemic, black lives matter, white supremacy, white privilege, sedition, insurrection, nativism, Fascism, traitor, racism, or classism help explain this moment in our history as a country?
America’s moment is NOW. It is time for America to stand up for what it stands for. America uses the ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence as a beacon of hope for all people. We cling to the words, “..their creator endows them with certain unalienable Rights. Among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The Declaration of Independence — A Beacon of Hope or Hypocrisy
The Declaration of Independence took form at a different time in history for reasons other than we have chosen to interpret it literally. Thomas Jefferson was from a family of slaveowners. During his adult life, he owned over 600 slaves. Yet, he was able to write about all men being created equal and the inalienable rights of all people. Black people were not on his mind as slaves were considered property. He also was not thinking about women as women had few rights at the time. Life for Thomas Jefferson at his home, Monticello, is enlightening.
The Declaration of Independence might be considered a document of hypocrisy. It was written by and about white men, the only ones who could form a government, own property, vote, and otherwise rule. Others, including white women, were not members of this exclusive club.
Yet, because of its aspirational ideals, The Declaration of Independence remains a beacon of hope for marginalized citizens. Since its inception, people have fought, organized, protested, and died for human rights therein stated.
Nevertheless, the hopes and aspirations of many, particularly Black people, are still thwarted today. These men who control the Federal Government, State Governments, and the Judiciary are not defined by Party, but by their determination to elevate White status over Black.
After the Civil War, the Democratic Party identified itself as the “White Man’s Party.” They opposed the Republican Party’s support of black civil and political rights. Democrats fought to control the South and eventually did, often through violence. If they could not have slavery, they would have the next best thing, Jim Crow Laws.
These laws stripped blacks of all rights after The Declaration of Independence was signed. Southern Democrats even filibustered anti-lynching legislation, effectively killing it. The subjugation, killing, and lynching of blacks in the South have a long history under Democratic Party rule. It was the Democratic Party waving the banner of white supremacy.
It is almost inconceivable now to think that when the Republican Party was formed, its founders were opposed to slavery. The founders rejected the Southern Democrat’s position that Congress had the right to recognize slavery in Southern territories.
Changing The Law Does Not Change Hearts or Minds
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring freedom for black men and women within the Confederacy. This document did not free men, women, or children slaves loyal to The Union. This gesture was more about winning a war than about empathy for enslaved people. Black people were allowed to serve in the Union Army for the first time. The economic nature of slavery made it a complicated issue for white people. Slavery fueled the economy and created wealth for many. It was not going to be easily abolished, despite being made illegal by the 13th Amendment in 1865.
After President Lincoln’s assassination, his Southern Democratic Vice President, Andrew Johnson, and other Southern Democrats fought against Republicans fighting for black rights.
Republicans passed the 14th and 15th amendments, guaranteeing some rights to women and black men. It was the 14th Amendment that gave black men the right to vote. Southern Democrats would have none of it. They were the Party of white supremacy and got around the 14th and 15th amendments in any way they could, using Jim Crow Laws and violence against black people. As most people do, black people voted for what was in their best interest. They voted Republican.
It was Barry Goldwater, a Republican, who changed the directionality of the Republican Party. He was an unapologetic segregationist who supported states’ rights. He opposed the Civil Rights Act and sought to elevate white supremacy. Consequently, he made tremendous inroads into the deep South. He won 5 Southern states when he ran for President, appealing to those constituents who agreed with his anti-black, anti-civil rights positions.
Although Goldwater lost by a landslide to Lyndon Johnson, he provided a roadmap to how Republicans could win in the deep South. Later, Richard Nixon more effectively used the “Southern Strategy” to win elections in the South.
Words like “dog-whistle” politics was coined and became part of election vernacular. For example, the terms “states rights,” “law and order,” “war on drugs” were considered ways of tapping into white people’s fears about black people. The Civil Rights Act, The Civil Rights Movement, and black crime talk were all used as fear-mongering tactics.
Republicans used so-called “Dog whistle” politics to undermine the Federal Civil Rights Laws that offered blacks their voting rights protection. Republicans learned to send messages without overtly campaigning against Civil Rights. The idea was to appeal to white segregationists to gain their vote. Ronald Reagan effectively used Dog Whistles to appeal to white voters, such as portraying blacks as “welfare queens” and “takers.”
The various maneuvers that Republicans use to position themselves as the Party of whites are overtly disingenuous. They are the Family Values Party, the Protestant Evangelical Christian Party, the Law and Order Party, and the Welcome Home White Supremacist Party. Now the Republican Party proudly stands for the Party of Trumpism that supports Fascism and insurrection against the United States! What next?
Politics in America have been fluid. The two major parties have volleyed back and forth to control the white vote and suppress the black vote for decades. Most of the volleying and jockeying has been around racism. However, sexism and religion have also played significant roles in strategies to win elections.
Black people have historically been the ping pong ball, invariably fighting to avoid being the target anymore. They want out of the game.
The Great Migration from the South to Northern and Western parts of the country, along with Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965 gave black people a reason to move from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party. Given the Democratic Party’s long history of supporting slavery, Jim Crow Laws, and fighting to maintain white supremacy and segregation, this was not an easy decision for blacks to make. Politically, blacks have always been between a rock and a hard place.
Now, 158 years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Declaration of Independence and 57 years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act, black people are still fighting for their human rights. Their fight for equality, equal justice under the law, the right to vote, and yes, even freedom of movement in some cases, without harassment is ongoing. Meanwhile, the Confederate Flag is still glorified by some Americans while reminding others of our dark history.
On January 6, 2021, a day we will all remember, supporters of President Trump carried the Confederate Flag into the United States Capitol. An angry mob of insurrectionists, incited by President Trump, attempted to change the outcome of an election based on lies about fraudulent votes they wanted to discount and throw out. The fiery rhetoric of Republican members of Congress contributed to the seditious act.
America’s Long History of Voter Suppression
America has a long history of suppressing the Black vote. Jim Crow laws, existing for about 100 years, from the post-Civil War era until 1968, marginalized all aspects of life for Black Americans, including the right to vote. The 15th Amendment barring voter rights discrimination based on race and other characteristics did little to change that. Southern legislatures became more devious and creative in finding ways to disenfranchise black people from voting.
After Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, a key provision upheld by the Supreme Court was federal oversight of states with histories of voter suppression. That only emboldened Voting Rights adversaries to become even more creative in finding ways to disenfranchise Black voters. Those efforts escalated after the election of President Barack Obama, the first Black man to be elected President of the United States, helped mightily by Black people voting.
The Black Vote Matters
In 2012, Black voter turnout exceeded that of white voters for the first time in US history. This historical turnout resulted in a second term for President Obama despite Mitch McConnell’s declaration that the primary goal of the Republican Party was to make Barack Obama a one-term President.
As it turned out, neither White Power nor dark money could compete with the VOTE! Sixty-six percent of eligible Black voters turned out to help reelect President Obama.
THAT WAS JUST TOO MUCH for the Birthers, The Tea Party, the White Supremacists, and Republicans in general. Even our highly political Supreme Court saw the writing on the wall. It struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.
Again, Republican-run legislatures had free rein to come up with ways to keep black people, mostly Democrats, from voting. As might have been expected, the Supreme Court’s decision to free states from federal oversight opened the floodgates to escalate voter suppression efforts.
Voter suppression was never more overtly evident than during the Biden and Trump-voting cycle. Despite taking place during a wide-spread, deadly coronavirus pandemic, states controlled by Republicans increased their voter suppression efforts. These included sabotaging the United States Post Office, removing ballot drop boxes, and shutting down voting sites in predominantly minority neighborhoods.
Many Americans saw this election between President Trump and Joe Biden as a fight for Democracy and the rights of all people within this diverse Country. It was probably the most crucial election in our Country’s history. Citizens voted in record numbers to have their voices heard, stopped neither by the pandemic nor the voter suppression efforts. Apathy was nonexistent. Consequently, more people voted in this election than in any prior Presidential election.
On election night, as results were coming in, it became clear that suppression efforts had failed. Thanks to black people’s desire and determination and the hard work by “Get-out-the-vote” organizations, black people came out in record numbers. They cast their votes and helped to elect Joe Biden, the 46th President of the United States.
The President Declares The Black Vote Fraudulent
And so, It was the Black Vote that had Donald Trump seething and ranting about voter fraud and a stolen election. Those words, “Voter fraud-stolen election,” became the repetitive drumbeat and battle cry of both Trump and his followers. Soon enough, Republicans in Congress and Republican leaders across the United States joined the choir of loud, strident voices, some I dare say, who knew better.
Republicans have known they cannot win a fair and free election because of their discriminatory policies. The changing demographics in the Country and a lack of diversity in the Party have resulted in increases in voter suppression. The White Power Structure knows that THE BLACK VOTE MATTERS, even if, in the eyes of some, Black Lives do not!
Soon the voices of Donald Trump supporters became louder and more strident. There was “wide-spread voter fraud” that had to be found and exposed. Interestingly, this wide-spread fraud seemed to occur only in states Trump lost, particularly in swing-state districts predominantly inhabited by Blacks.
This mindset culminated in frivolous, evidence-free lawsuits, laser-focused on black voters. These lawsuits did not go as Trump expected. Votes were counted and certified as legitimate in all 50 states, including those states challenging the vote legitimacy.
Facing coercion and threats, Republicans in swing states, responsible for overseeing, counting, and certifying the votes, stood firm, putting the Constitution and their oaths before Trump and party loyalty. The Supreme Court and Trump’s own Attorney General, Bill Barr, whose fealty to him bordered on illegality, could not, in the end, uphold his lies and ludicrous claims of voter fraud.
The Fact-Free Presidency
Throughout Donald Trump’s Presidency, he has led with fact-free and evidence-free claims. Yet, it is understandable that people, who saw Donald Trump as their savior, would believe him over all else, including lies with no supporting evidence. Trump supporters believed in his Make America Great Again (MAGA) rhetoric. He would save them from the inevitable changes taking place in America, believed to be a threat to them and their way of life.
Besides, his followers took pride in his embrace and non-apologetic public statements and positions on white supremacy. His speech, whether in public or on Twitter, was always fiery and inciteful. It reached a crescendo before, during, and after the election.
The First Amendment allows us to say pretty much whatever we want. However, it does not protect speech that incites imminent lawless action. Again, words are powerful. They reflect what we are thinking and influence what we do. A concoction of lies, repeated in an echo chamber and on a feedback loop, become very dangerous.
That certainly appears to have been the case with words such as “Election fraud/stolen election,” which resulted in the storming of our Nation’s Capitol to “Stop the Steal.”
What a disgrace and National tragedy that digesting a diet of lies and conspiracy theories can bring a great country to its knees and the brink of another Civil War. Many Americans seemed to prefer Fascism over Democracy. Trump and his supporters frequently speak the word, “Antifa. Does he or his followers even know that it is a word reflecting sentiments against Fascism and discrimination? If you are against Antifascism, does that mean you are for Fascism?
The New America or The Old America Showing Its True Face
Yet, this is what is happening in America. Donald Trump lied about winning this election by a landslide. The election was not stolen from him because of fraudulent votes. Trump’s lies led him and a portion of his base over the cliff into the abyss of Sedition and Insurrection against the Country he and they claim to love.
It is truly one of those tragic stories of lies, seduction, corruption, betrayal, and murder. Five people died on that deplorable day. And it was the Law and Order President’s people who stormed the Capitol, brutally attacking police officers on their way inside. This assault on the Capitol of the United States of America was seen and heard worldwide. From the President, we could only hear, “Good patriots.”
Can you even imagine the reaction from Donald Trump and his supporters if the people storming the Capitol had been Black Lives Matter protestors? Trump, the Justice Department, Fox News, and all the Republicans who suddenly want to “MOVE ON” would be screaming from the rafters. Black men or women scaling the Capitol walls would have been dead before they hit the ground!
America’s Ancestral Tree
I have been trying to think of a way to put all of what we’re living into perspective. An ancestral tree comes to mind.
Think of it as a living, breathing tree with hanging fruit that tells the story of its ancestry, its history. It is a tree that reminds me of the evergreens that characterized the forests around my home for many years. These healthy-looking trees gave the impression of strength. In reality, they had a shallow root structure. It never ceased to amaze me that mature, healthy-looking trees would topple over in a severe storm, their roots exposed for all to see.
When America had the idea of forming a government, the Founding Fathers thought a Republic was a good idea. The people would elect representatives who they believed would work for the welfare of all people. Of course, the only people who could serve in such positions, or vote, were white men who owned property.
From the beginning, The Founding Fathers clearly defined the racial separation of black and white people. Even when considering democratic principles of governance, racism, sexism, and classism were front and center in the organizational structure.
Race defined a person’s position in the hierarchy. Race determined who stood at the top and who was at the bottom. Race influenced who could participate in self-determination and governance. Separation, division, and clearly defined status between the groups were written into policy.
Black people have never been content or satisfied with their designated bottom level rung on the hierarchical ladder. We have fought and died for America and fought and died for human rights. The struggle is a part of every black person’s everyday life, whether a beggar in the streets or one who has reached the highest pinnacle of success.
Throughout the struggle for human rights, black people, indigenous people, and immigrants have experienced the heavy-handed policing and violence in containment efforts on the part of the State. It has always been a part of America’s history. Non-white people had to know and be kept in their place, whether they were slaves or free men, women, or children.
The Death of An Illusion
Miniscule assimilation and some Black people finding a foot up have lulled people into believing that the American form of government is a Democracy. We erroneously believe fairy tales about equality, civil rights, one person-one vote, fairness and justice under the law, and other pie-in-the-sky dreams.
Martin Luther King (MLK) was not the only one with a “Dream.” He dreamed of tearing down walls of division, as is the dream of all black people and people of color in general. All people dream of a rightful place in society, treated with the same respect and given the same educational and economic opportunities as the white ruling class.
Donald Trump had a dream that was different from MLK’s dream. Donald Trump believes in the greatness and superiority of the white race. He had lived that experience. His being white opened many doors, and he enjoyed privileges he did nothing to earn. He was bothered by the rise and elevation of one Black man, in particular, Barack Obama. Thus, his obsession with the Birther madness.
Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again (MAGA) was his dream. He wanted America to go back to a time when there was no grey area between Blacks and Whites, where the divide was crystal clear to everyone. His dream was about white people coming together, taking back America, and fighting for their place of superiority.
Donald Trump was not alone in this dream. The millions of MAGA supporters, the continued rise of white supremacist groups, and the proud ‘coming out’ of groups formerly operating under the radar, was a testament to this.
Trump’s policies also spoke to his problem with people of color, including the Muslim ban, obsession with building a border wall between the US and Mexico, his illegal and discriminatory separation of migrant families, caging children, his treatment of United States citizens in Puerto Rico, and his stated disdain for Black-run countries.
Trump’s racism was always on display. His use of derogatory name-calling and strong-armed policing of Black Lives Matter protestors, compared to praise and kid-glove handling of white supremacist groups, is illuminating.
Of all the “isms” we face every day, racism has led America to where it is today. The word “Black,” as used to characterize a race of people, carries a host of negative stereotypes based on centuries of being defined by the white ruling class. When black people try to look up, stand up, and speak their truth, white fear is palpable, and the strong arm of the law and American justice take over.
When I heard a young white woman say during the insurrection that she was there because “They are trying to take our stuff,” it truly gave me pause. What stuff? Is she talking about consumerism kind of “stuff? Or is she speaking of her privileged status to participate in an armed seditious act and walk away alive and smiling?
America’s Low Hanging Fruit On Its Ancestral Tree
All of the above brings me to the low hanging fruit on America’s ancestral tree: slavery, genocide, white supremacy, white privilege, racism, classism, apartheid, injustice, inequality. Not exactly a Christmas tree of shining lights topped by an angel.
We have now learned that elected leaders and representatives in Congress, law enforcement officers, and Military persons helped plan and participated in the insurrection. Some took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution on behalf of the American people.
The message is clear. The United States is a divided country. Millions of citizens are willing to overthrow a legitimate, democratic election if they disagree with the Election outcome. Is this America?
Interestingly, the Black vote was what Donald Trump determined to be fraudulent. When his frivolous lawsuits presented only hot air and no evidence, all ballots, legitimately cast, were counted and certified. Yet, a “stolen election” was accepted as truth by those who wanted to believe it, regardless of the facts.
Many Americans saw themselves in Donald Trump. When they looked in the mirror and asked, “Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” there occurred a symbiotic morphing. They saw in him what they saw in themselves, white and privileged.
Donald Trump was a savior to his followers. He would save them from the “others.” The others included Blacks, Latino immigrants, Muslims, the Democrats, the radical left, etc. He would save them from having to give up their superior and privileged status. He would stoke the fires of division, perfectly acceptable to them.
Most importantly, Trump would shout from the podium at every rally that being white and back in charge was worth fighting for and gave the impression that he would lead the way. Authoritarianism was acceptably on the table. Much too much of “their” America was being taken over by “others.”
There was the mutual, beneficial telling and spreading of lies. Permission to be overtly racist, with the exoneration of responsibility, or blame, for even criminal acts, was just part of the pact Donald Trump had with his followers. These included policemen he courted and praised as his people. MAGA was much more than a slogan on a red cap. His supporters, as well as the “others,” knew what he meant!
I, like many others, have lived a debilitating kind of fatigue over the past four years. The Trump Presidency has taken a toll on our minds, bodies, and spirits.
Trump’s lies and self-absorption at the expense of others showed no bounds. Additionally, his inability to show empathy or compassion, or simply that he cared for anyone outside of what he perceived as “his people,” left feelings of invisibility and loss.
The truth is, Trumpism” has taken a horrific toll on our lives. The Pandemic death toll, now approaching a half million of our families, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues, is incomprehensible. How many of these lost lives might have lived had Trump been a more competent, caring leader? We will never know.
The Coronavirus Pandemic is a meaningful metaphor for The Trump Presidency. Wherein the Virus attacks the respiratory system and negatively impact BREATHING, so did the Trump Presidency. We have spent four years gasping for air or holding our breath for the next outrageous thing he would say or do.
IT HAS BEEN A LONG FOUR YEARS! Trump’s Nativist Terror at home and abroad has come to a screeching end. We can all breathe again.
But make no mistake. Although I have full faith that our lives will be better under a Biden/Harris Administration, I am not naive. We have a Republican Party that supported Trump throughout his Presidency. They still do, despite his policies, his corruption, even his attempt to overthrow our government.
There are 211 Republicans in the House of Representatives. Only ten voted to impeach Donald Trump. Blind to their Constitutional oath, 201 Republicans refused to find Trump guilty of inciting an insurrection, which we all witnessed. Members of The Senate will undoubtedly also put Party and their self-interests before Democracy or the Constitution. I would hope not, but we’ve seen them at a similar juncture before.
Additionally, we have the millions of Americans who share Trump’s dream for America and proven themselves willing to fight for that dream. Although Donald Trump has reluctantly left the White House does not mean we should let our guard down when it comes to standing up and fighting for Democracy and its egalitarian principles.
Donald Trump and America
I am a 78-year-old Black woman who grew up in Virginia. I have lived in segregated America under Jim Crow Laws. I have been present and conscious during much of what I have talked about in this article.
Donald Trump is NOT AN ABERRATION. He is both a product of and a reflection of what America has always been. It is why the struggle for justice and human rights continue.
Despite the obstacles in our paths and the mountains to climb, it is human nature to want to be seen, accepted, and respected for who you are. It is also instinctively human to fight for survival, equality, and justice. The good news is THAT IS WHAT WE DO! And will continue to do.
The Statue Of Liberty — A Symbol of Hope
The Statue of Liberty stands tall on Liberty Island in New York, a symbol of Democracy and freedom. It represents an ideal we all strive for as human beings. It still gives us hope.
The Statue of Liberty was given to the United States by France in a gesture of friendship. Friendship is also an ideal we as humans should attempt to embody. The lawlessness, chaos, and outright anarchy we have recently witnessed against each other is horrifyingly sad and depressing. It exhausts the mind, body, and spirit. The Country can and must do better if we wish to survive as One Nation with Liberty and Justice for all.
This post was previously published on Medium.
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