Biden and Harris

President elect, Joe Biden and Vice President elect, Kamala Harris

America, do not despair at the rising tide of elitism, incivility, racial, national and religious intolerance, and good old-fashioned racism and white supremacist thinking that has taken hold of our country at this political moment. We've endured worse and still we rose.

America, do not despair, because for my 2017 New Year’s Resolution, I resolve, and ask every person reading this to do the same, to be filled with Hope and Optimism and the certainty that we will, through the Power of the People, forge a better, civil and more inclusive America for ALL of us in the present and in the future. Happy New Year.

1/2/2017 (http://irmamcclaurin.com/2020-remix-do-not-despair-america-2017-new-years-resolution/ )

Four years ago, to the day (January 2, 2017), I wrote the above resolute words. Now, as we face a pandemic death surge that shows no signs of abating and a faltering economy, a sitting sociopath President, and better than ever profits for Big Business in the midst of economic turmoil for the average citizen, now more than ever, I must reiterate that this new year of 2021 cannot be a time for despair.

America dodged a bullet when its citizen of all political persuasions voted with undeniable resolve to change this country’s leadership.

American dodged a race war when the majority of voting citizens, representing the broadest political spectrum, and invigorated by the political leadership of Black women, chose to disentangle themselves from the narcissistic, revengeful, hate-filled and hateful vision of Donald Trump.

He does not get a second term to further dismantle the pillars of democracy, imperfect though they are. Yet, in this transition period, Trump is doing all he can to leave the proverbial Rome (e.g., the Presidential apparatus of federal agencies) in ruin.  He is pardoning his political cronies on an unprecedented scale. And no Republican will speak up and speak out about the damaging he is doing.  Donald Trump is not just a sore loser, he is that bully who disrupts the game, then runs off with the ball and the trophy that he is convinced (in his personal paranoia delusions) should have been his.

This new year of 2021 cannot be an ordinary year in which we rest on the laurels of having made the correct political decision to overturn the current presidential lunacy and voted in President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. We see them as America’s Obi-Wan Kenobi’s and expect great things; they are our only hope at a time when it might seem easier to give into despair.

While this Biden-Harris duo will do their best to return this country to some semblance of normalcy—whatever that means in a world racked with a pandemic and an immeasurable and unprecedented death toll—we all must recognize that this country in the throes of a scorched earth campaign by a very sore loser, President Donald Trump.

Donald Trump has used the American presidency as his personal and private slush fund and rewards grab bag. He has positioned his children such that these no-nothing spoiled brats might have political careers—I pray not—beyond his presidency. He has imbued them with political capital of the magnitude that no previous president has ever attempted.

He has weakened the operations of the federal government by firing anyone who disagreed with maniacal decision-making, and placing the threat of losing their pension in the minds of 160,000 people who are career civil servants. Many government employees have had to go along to get along.

The characteristics described above—the threat of losing a job, inability to disagree with the person who has power, and revengeful behavior, are all the signs that define an abusive relationship.

America has been in an abusive relationship with Donald Trump for four years! There is no other way to describe it. He has emotionally belittled this country and manipulated its resources and power such that only those whom he anoints or chooses come out on top. 

Let the Healing Begin

But the domination, the denigration, and the intentional racial pitting of one group against another has come to an end; but let us be very conscious that the aftermath of Trump’s narcissistic and power-driven leadership will reverberate long after the man’s departure. This country is emotionally broken. We must rebuild the spiritual esteem of democracy.

To heal from abuse, first America must acknowledge that what occurred was real. We must also be wary of Trump’s co-conspirators—the MAGA segment of our society who will remain in perpetual denial that he did anything wrong. The reason is clear: for Trump’s MAGA supporters to admit that they embraced an abusive leader would pitch them in a moral crisis that they are unwilling to face—like the Germans and others who are Holocaust deniers, insisting that the documented atrocities are fabrications. They will deny, deny, deny that Trump did any damage at all.  But the proof is visible to anyone who is interested in the truth and facts.

Second, we as a country must launch a campaign of healing like nothing ever ventured. We must not erase the history, but make the events that led to Minneapolis Burning (and all the other examples of police-sanctioned violence against Black people) visible—so that we never forget.

We can take a lesson from Germany where the total history is taught. As Lizzie Widdicombe discussed in her article, “What Can We Learn From the Germans About Confronting Our History?”, whatever we do should be, like the Germans, “deeply informed” by our history. We must engage in acts of Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung (working off the past).  She also notes that “…the country pauses to perform… ‘public rites of repentance.” (https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/what-can-we-learn-from-the-germans-about-confronting-our-history )

Owning Our Stuff—the Past

America must embark on a similar path of dealing with our past and recognizing the resurgence of racism and white supremacy activities in our present. We must fashion and teach to the children radical American history that tells the entire truth--the good, the bad, the ugly, the contradictions, the resistance, and the resilience.

Both slavery and slave resistance must be taught. Both police killings of unarmed Black people using the lame excuse, “I feared for my life,” and the protests and civil unrests of 1919, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the urban disruptions in 1960 and 70s, and most recent #BlackLivesMatter social justice challenges in the streets of Minneapolis and Rochester (as well as other cities and other countries) in 2020 must be taught.

If we are to heal as a country, there is no room for partial histories. So, I do not side with anyone who seeks to remove information from textbooks or school curriculum—acts of violence and repression must be discussed and analyzed, not buried or erased.

We need to know how the Daughters of the American Revolution launched one of the best PR campaigns in America’s history with their array of Confederate statutes that turned the Southern states’ defeat into hero worship with these statutes. And we need or know about the protests to tear down and/or reframe those Confederate statutes, as well as the movement to democratize our hero worship with statutes that are representative of women, Blacks, and others.

Third, to those colleges and universities that have embarked on renaming their buildings, I say keep both names. Change has to be visible to be transformative. Maintain the original name in small letters and the year it was put in place and then add the new name in larger letters and the date it replaced the old name, with some plaque that contextualizes the change. Maintaining the presence of the both versions of historical facts is educational.  Erasing one part and replacing it with something different does not encourage critical thinking.  Having both will force students to stop and ponder about the change. Complete erasure is NOT a viable option! Remember, those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. We need all sides of history known—otherwise progressives are just as complicit in creating partial truths and “fake news.”

We will need to forge a new civic ethos of resilience and acceptance that is inclusive. This country was founded on genocide, religious freedom, enslavement, and immigration, and we must find ways to accept and acknowledge all parts of our American history—I know. It’s complicated.

America must live up to its democratic principles by honoring treaties with Native people and restoring Native land.  We cannot place profit of corporations over the cultural and environmental preservation, especially after engaging in acts of genocide and cultural annihilation.  This incoming presidential administration must work vigorously to restore trust in the federal government, and become a system that is honest and transparent—and keeps its word.

What Time Is It? It’s Reparations Time

It is time for America to seriously discuss reparations for ADOS (African Descendants of Slaves), e.g., Native Born Black Americans, to whom America owes an enormous debt for our ancestors’ blood, sweat, tears, labor, and bodies that were used to build this democracy and its capitalist economic system.

America, you owe us ADOS your wealth. A way to fund Reparations might be to tax the 1% wealthiest in this country who have benefitted from Native Born Black Americans’ enslaved heritage.  Another way to establish a reparations fund is to tax the colleges and universities that sold slaves to keep their doors open and/or used slave labor to build their grand edifices of knowledge. How ironic that so many “great” academic institutions are in good financial health today because they engaged in the trafficking of human beings! 

The eligible ADOS are Native Born Blacks who are non-immigrants, and must have designated themselves as “Negro”, “colored”, “Afro-American”, or “Black” for at least two generations or more. For a deeper discussion of this distinction, read Black economist William (Sandy) Darity, Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullin’s book, From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the 21st Century (https://www.amazon.com/Here-Equality-Reparations-Americans-Twenty-First/dp/1469654970 ).  For anyone who wants a deeper dive into this discussion and the eligibility criteria, check out other resources:  https://reparations4slavery.com/william-sandy-darity-jr/ & https://reparations4slavery.com/partners/

Those people of African descent who “passed” or declared themselves “mixed” or “bi-racial” in order to escape the trauma of what it means to be Black in America are not eligible for Reparations. Anyone who is a Black immigrant or African immigrant is not eligible. To these groups, we say you have the right to make your claims to those governments that colonized your people. We ADOS (Native Born Blacks) support you in your own struggle for Reparations. But you cannot lay claim to what is not rightfully yours.

There must also be greater scrutiny as to why Native-born Blacks are seemingly excluded from key opportunities of late? Is there preferential treatment for non-Native Blacks? Such bias must be critically examined.

Fourth, there has to be a humane and just immigration policy. How ironic it is that those who push for inhumane immigrations standards are all descendants of immigrants themselves. Only Native people are indigenous to America. And only the descendants of enslaved Black people can claim a quasi-indigenous status—we didn’t ask to come to America, and we have no “home” to which we can return—EVER!

Finally, America must demonstrate resilience. We, as a united people, must challenge any politician who seeks to block Biden-Harris’ efforts to establish a new normalcy. The future is uncertain, and the political shenanigans that characterized the Republicans blockage of President Obama are simply not viable. There has to be a willingness on all sides to compromise and negotiate. And politicians who adhere to a Trump-like obstinance must be voted out!

We will NEVER return to things as they once were. There is no version of “Make America Great Again” that does not include a return to racial segregation, women’s inequality, non-acceptance of LGBTQ, to name a few of the problems embedded in that word “again.” The days of a white, male status quo are gone forever.

Call-to-Action for A Transformational Democracy

The major task at hand for this country is #Transformation. We have no choice but to fashion a revised vision of democracy that is not rooted in racism, bias of any form, exclusions, poverty, radical individualism, and radical wealth accumulation. We need a vision of democracy that is transformational—a major shift from how we have interpreted it in the past, which was not inclusive. That has to change.

Americans – all of us, from all walks of life, of all political persuasions, of all social and socioeconomic categories, representing the range of diversity in human variation, from Native-born to immigrant, we ALL must forge a renewed commitment to actually live and protect the American democratic principles of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, as well as equality and justice. But the actions we take must be for ALL people—not just a select few.

The Call-to-Action then is to roll up our sleeves and get ready—there is much work to be done in 2021. Biden and Harris cannot be abandoned, and we must hold them accountable for promises made during the campaign—especially to Black voters.

We, the American people, must disentangle ourselves from the madness of the last four years, and resolve to center resilience and hope as our weapons of choice to eradicate the health pandemic and the aftermath of what can only be described as a Trump-led “political pandemic.”

Both have left this country in a mess.

But we can do this. We can heal. Together.

© 2021 Irma McClaurin. All Rights Reserved.

Irma McClaurin, PhD (http://irmamcclaurin.com) is the Culture and Education Editor for Insight News; she is also an activist anthropologist, free-lance columnist, past president of Shaw University, a past Program Officer at the Ford Foundation, and former University of Minnesota Associate VP and founding executive director of UROC. She was selected “Best in the Nation Columnist” by the Black Press of America in 2015 and is the founder of the “Irma McClaurin Black Feminist Archive.” Forthcoming in 2021 is a collection of her columns: JUSTSPEAK: Reflections on Race, Culture, and Politics in America.  Contact: info@irmamcclaurin.com

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