A Movement in the Face of Whitelash
“The work will be harder, but the work is the same.“–Black Lives Matter
Now that’s a serious reality check. When we view Donald Trump’s election through the long lens of history, we realize that we’ve been here before. Trump isn’t even the first successful presidential candidate to be endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan; Ronald Reagan was, although he, unlike Trump, rejected their support in no uncertain terms.
But history shows that every advance towards racial equality in America has been met with an accompanying whitelash (thank you Van Jones). After the Civil War and passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, violent resistance towards Black citizenship derailed Reconstruction through lynching, terror and intimidation.
The Civil Rights Movement ushered in sweeping legislative changes that ended the Jim Crow laws of “separate but equal” and provided Black voting rights enforcement—only to be countered by the massive resistance movement, which closed public schools in southern states to avoid integration, while terrorists in northern cities burned and bombed school busses to stop desegregation. White flight hollowed out urban centers rather than admit Blacks as neighbors, or accept newly elected Black officials as political leaders.
And now, America’s first Black president, Barack Obama, the candidate of hope and change, who some hoped would usher in a post-racial America has been upended, by Donald Trump, the candidate of racial anger and resentment who promises to undo Obama’s legacy.
But we’ve been here before and yes, the work will be harder. But throughout the long, hard slog in our fight for freedom we always had to make our own case. Whether it was fleeing from slavery, escaping the Jim Crow south, or proclaiming the right to vote, we have always been the change we sought.
There have been a few brief periods when the federal government aided our struggle. And it has always been in response to a broad social movement that demanded they do so. Barack Obama didn’t create the movement, the movement made his presidency possible. We have done this work–the work of liberation– since we were dragged to these shores. This moment is no different.