Updated: Aug 16, 2019
"If you must lie, lie to others. They will find you out
and know you for the fool that you are.... If you lie
to yourself, you are a lost fool."
The headline said, "The country is at war with itself." Is America lying to itself, or, is it simply rooted in obstinate denial? In the face of the tragic mass shootings in California, Texas and Ohio, this nation is, once again, in a state of shock. The nation has been turned on its collective head and people being labeled as "white supremacy extremists" are the focus of a national discussion. Because we are also caught up in Presidential politricks, we are being told that this is a fight "for the soul of the nation." Unfortunately, this much needed discourse is taking place in a virtual historical vacuum. If the soul of the nation is truly at stake, this malignant dis-ease is much deeper than the lunacy of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States.
The philosophy of white supremacy is not new in America. Four of this nation's first six Presidents were owners of slaves. When Thomas Jefferson wrote, "All men are created equal....," in 1776, he was a slave owner. In his Notes on the State of Virginia (1782, 1783,1785), he essentially articulated and codified what can only be described as the American version of white supremacy. He wrote, "I advance it, therefore, as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstance, are inferior to the whites in the endowment both of body and of mind." This is the Thomas Jefferson that is rarely, if ever, studied in most American middle and high school history or social studies curriculums.
As early as 1751, in his, "Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind," Benjamin Franklin wrote, "I could wish their numbers were increased. And while we are, as I call it, scouring our planet, by clearing America of woods, and so making this side of our globe reflect a brighter light to the eyes of inhabitants from Mars or Venus, why should we ... darken its people? Why increase the Sons of Africa, by planting them in America, where we have so fair an opportunity, by excluding all blacks and tawneys, of increasing the lovely white and red?" So, it is undeniable, discussions debating the place of African peoples, as well as other peoples of color in this society took place between the Founding Fathers.
It is more than ironic, many of the people now considered "illegal aliens" in El Paso are descended from people who lived there when what is now Texas belonged to Mexico. Think about it. In real terms, the people didn't move. The border was moved. Most Americans are loathe to admit the fact, this nation exists as it does today, because people emigrated from England and other European countries and hijacked this continent by ruthlessly deploying the weapons of mass destruction of that time. The indigenous peoples were virtually exterminated and driven onto reservations. African peoples were enslaved to provide the labor and the currency that "made America great." I can empathize with the Latino community in El Paso because, as African-Americans, we have never really been "safe" in America.
At the same time, my experiences performing around the country for predominantly white audiences with the Cavani String Quartet over the past twenty-five years have taught me, there are many kind hearted and sensitive white Americans. If this country is truly at war with itself, it means those "decent, law abiding" white people are once again being challenged to stand up and be counted. The Trump Presidency is their generational test. I sincerely believe that there can be no serious challenge to white supremacy in this nation until White-Americans genuinely confront and engage each other about it. I think we can all agree that systemic racism has had, and, continues to have a devastating affect on its victims. It is now time for white people to enter into serious deliberations with each other to acknowledge the negative impact living in a white supremacy behavioral system has had on them.
To only focus attention on the extreme expressions of white supremacy is too convenient. It allows mainstream White-Americans, that continue to benefit from occupying a willfully ignorant white-privilege centered bubble way of life, to throw their hands up in shock. The African experience in America, is rife with stories that chronicle the inhumanities Americans will tolerate to maintain their American Dream "standard of living." Martin Luther King, Jr. warned, "There is such a time as too late."
A final thought from Thomas Jefferson reveals the struggle he had with his troubled conscience, "Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever..."