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  • Writer's pictureMwatabu S Okantah

"Reckoning, or, Black Sun in the Western Sky"

Updated: Nov 23, 2021

“Give advice, if people don’t

listen let adversity teach them.”

--Ethiopian proverb

45 is gone from the White House, but the same “good ole boy” America remains. A Joe Biden/Kamala Harris administration cannot heal this nation because open wounds are festering and too deep. A more insidious pandemic, a virulent white supremacy is still raging. Joe Biden, with Kamala Harris’ black presence, can begin the healing process, but is healing possible? Can a nation that has never fully acknowledged its original sins ever put itself on a path toward healing? The real question is, “Will white America—people of European descent—be willing to acknowledge and to atone for the near extermination of the indigenous peoples they claim to have “discovered” and for the kidnapping of the Africans who were fire burned into a new people inside the white hot furnace of enslavement?”

Donald Trump cannot be blamed for the consequences wrought by the Slave-ocracy the Founding Fathers created; the men who betrayed the natives that helped them and who enslaved the Africans, all in the name of a vengeful God and a Christianity that they debased. 45 was not the first President/leader to lie so successfully to the people. The real revelation is the fact so many mostly white people were and are ready to believe and to embrace the lies. What role did the way this nation sanitizes and projects its self-aggrandizing historical narrative, not only to Americans but to the world, play in the all too predictable attempted insurrection that played out "all the way live" in the US Capitol?

There is a reason that Trump’s MAGA call resonated so well with his base. Most mainstream influencers—commentators, politicians, religious, business, civic, educational, racial—are loathed to admit that America’s greatness was built on a foundation of white supremacy. Although Abraham Lincoln began the process of ending slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation, he also believed, “There is a physical difference between the white and black race which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be a position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

Being distracted by Trump and by the extremists that stormed the Capitol diminishes the true root causes of the problem. Similar sentiments from Thomas Jefferson, from George Washington, and others can be quoted by those extremists to justify their actions. Donald Trump’s attack on Barack Obama’s legacy was the signal to, “take our country back.” The people that assaulted the Capitol were not nefarious middle eastern “Islamic terrorists.” They were not Black Lives Matter “identity terrorists.” They were not brown caravans over-running the southern border. They were homegrown, Timothy McVay-like, mostly white Americans.

Trump did not create them. He has always been one with them. Like Mussolini or like Hitler before him, he was just wickedly shrewd enough to harness and to unleash their pathological fury. This threat has always been on the inside. Racists have always operated at all levels of the system. Racists have always been in the Congress, in the military, in the police, in the schools, in the churches, in the businesses, in healthcare. White supremacy is embedded in the very fabric of this society. But from the blackside, the recent and much needed probing exchange of ideas, although new to some, is not revealing anything new. For many of us, the current public talk is suspect precisely because of its coded and its reactionary quality.

The sweet irony in all of this is the location of the black presence in the middle of what is an unfolding drama. From Barack Obama as President and now Kamala Harris as Vice-President; from Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye and Whitney Houston transforming the national anthem or Ray Charles singing "God Bless America" with Soul; from Muhammad Ali, Tommy Smith, John Carlos and Colin Kaepernick taking a stand; from poet laureates Maya Angelou and Amanda Gorman black-poet-treeing inauguration truth to power, the black experience has always reflected this nation's unmasked face. The true measure of the American experiment in democracy has always been and continues to be told in the epic story of Africans in America.

We are not “identity terrorists,” but we are a people engaged in defining black identity on our own terms. Yes, we are black people, but we are more than the rainbow hues of our skin color. We are a people of African descent and our ethnic heritage cannot be dismissed, distorted or ignored. Yes, Kamala Harris is part South Asian [Indian], but her blackness also marks her as a person of African [Jamaican] descent. For a people still in search of a proper name, reducing her to simply being black is to obscure the real defining point. It is more than ironic, that at the same time the country is hailing its first female/Black/South Asian Vice-President, the NFL is once again embroiled in controversy over team owners' continued reluctance to hire black head coaches, despite slick public service video clips designed to placate a predominantly black workforce and to clean up the league's image.

History does not repeat itself. Once again, the nation has arrived at another critical historical moment. What kind of history will we choose to make? Martin Luther King, Jr. lamented, “… I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice … who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mystical concept of time and who constantly advised the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’”

As Americans of African descent, we must ask ourselves, “If black lives truly matter, what does that mean to us?” We cannot ask others to care about and to respect black people more than we care about and respect ourselves. Fela Sowande wrote, “Here in America, a new type of Human Consciousness is being formed and the elements that are going into [it] come from the distilled essences of the various types of Racial-Consciousness in the old world. In this context, the Black American does not merely represent Africa; he is Africa. What the cultured Black American is today, the cultured African must be tomorrow or else become a relic of History. Thus, the Black American is perhaps the most direct link Africa will have with the New World now on the horizon, already casting its shadow on the old.”

The Founding Fathers could not have known the degree to which they were truly creating a New World that would evolve far beyond the scope of their limited imaginations. In this historical moment, we are living in a time in this nation when all of the world’s racial groups are present in one society. The days of the United States of America being a “white man’s country” are coming to an end. The trending population demographics speak for themselves. Is atonement, healing and reconciliation possible? Will we learn to appreciate and to respect each other’s story and to appreciate each other’s contribution, or will we continue down a path toward blindness and perish in our foolishness?

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1 Comment

mary weems
mary weems
Jan 24, 2021

Teach! many don't know what Lincoln revealed in private for V.P. Harris I understand your point but, like Obama who wfs wanted to identify as bi-racial while he identifies as Black, most of us can claim other ethnicities 'yet' we should honor Harris by calling her what she she calls herself "Black." Race is a visual modifier and she looks like several Black women I know. Hmmmmm. Peace, Mary

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