Why America Stays Stuck

Ever since the end of the Civil War, America has remained stuck in her white supremacy.

So many people groan when the subject of race is brought up, but the fact is, America was born in racism, via the provisions made in the United States Constitution. She began as a racist country, she has lived as a racist child, young adult, mature adult, and is continuing her life as a racist country as she moves past middle age into old age.

Yes, America is a middle aged, almost old, racist bastion, but she has never come face to face with her reality. Mention "race" and there is sure to be a swift backlash, protest and rebellion against the mere mention of the word. America has never owned her racism and refuses to talk about it; she has chosen to sweep it under the carpet and treat it as an inconvenient and uncomfortable family secret.

But secrets never stay hidden forever. And secrets have been known to damage families. The "secret" of racism is continuing to damage America, tearing away at her so-called moral fiber. No matter how hotly and consistently Americans deny there is a race problem, the proof of the pudding is in the way America has lived and treated people of color, most especially but not limited to, black people.

On a CNN program not long ago, one white man, who proudly claimed his belief in white supremacy, had the audacity to say, "I wish we had picked our own cotton."

So do we. African Americans, I mean. We wish you had picked your own cotton, nursed your own babies, tilled your own fields, built your own roads, and done the scut work in factories that made the Industrial Revolution the "success" that it was.

You didn't, though. African Americans made this country with their hard labor, as slaves and later as individuals caught up and used in the Convict Leasing programs in this country. While so many people say, unabashedly, that the Civil War was not about slavery, it was in fact precisely about slavery. The South wanted the right to own black people and continue to use them to build its economy. When the South lost the war, a big part of the bitterness was that the "Southern way of life," made largely possible by the work of African slaves, had been compromised. The whole backlash against Reconstruction came largely because white Southerners (and white Northerners as well) "wanted their country back again." They wanted things to be as they had always been, with black people knowing and staying in their place, and white society benefitting from black labor.

The South, it seems, has never gotten over that loss. Throughout the South, there are monuments to heroic Confederate soldiers, with hardly a mention about the atrocities, the cruelty, the domestic terrorism that came from the Ku Klux Klan and other white terrorist organizations, which resulted in the deaths of countless black people, now one or two generations removed from Africa. Americans by birth, the South, and much of the United States, would rather glorify the Confederate heroes and not mention a word about the institution that started the whole war in the first place.

America stays stuck because it will not acknowledge her wrongdoing when it comes to the way it has treated people of African descent. Germany has acknowledged her racism; South Africa has done the same, but not America. She stays stuck because she refuses to bring the rotted core of America out of hiding so that it can be dealt with. America stays stuck because too many truly believe that just being quiet will make the sordid history of racial hatred, born of white supremacy, go away. It will not happen that way.

The racism, the xenophobia, the sexism that is coming more and more to the surface in this current political season, is no new thing. It has been there, festering. The economy is so bad, so many people don't have jobs, that familiar cries of racial hatred and bigotry are sprouting up all over again. Those words and feelings have never been eliminated from America's narrative; they are all a part of America's narrative which she has tried to ignore.

It is not going to work, and the question is, when will America "get it"? When will America stop living in denial that the phenomenon of white supremacy has eroded the moral core of this nation and that the rusted center cannot hold out much longer? No matter what white supremacists believe, people of color are human, too. They too, as poet Langston Hughes wrote, "sing America." People of color will keep on singing, keep on pushing to be regarded as human beings. The fact that too many white Americans refuse to acknowledge this fact can only mean more trouble for this, the so-called "land of the free and home of the brave."

The poet William Cullen Bryant, in his work, "The Battle-Field," wrote, Truth, crushed to the ground, will rise again; The eternal years of God are hers. But Error, wounded, writhes in pain, And dies among His worshippers."

Error, wounded, is writhing, America. The pain is great; it cannot remain America's "secret" much longer if this nation is to realize her full power and potential.