By SUSAN K. SMITH
Crazy Faith Ministries
The powers that be have worked hard to keep alive the myth of American exceptionalism. That idea set the United States on a moral plane that was envied by democracies all over the world. Which is fine … except that this country has never really been a democracy.
Historian Eric Foner wrote in The Second Founding that democracy in this country did not begin until after the Civil War. Before that time, the country was unashamed in its dedication to the perpetuation of white supremacy. The words of the Declaration of Independence notwithstanding, the White men who wrote the Declaration and the Constitution were clear: they were making a country for White men, preferably wealthy, White, and Protestant.
Africans, Native Americans, women, and later, Hispanics and other ethnicities, were not a part of the dream of America, what it was and what it was to be. The White people who traveled from England to America across the Atlantic Ocean would later declare that they were new Israelites, for whom the Atlantic Ocean had been their wilderness. They claimed that God was on their side, sanctioning their intentional extermination of the Native Americans whose land this was before they ever landed.
We had a government, but it was not a democracy, which dictates that there is one person, one vote. Even as we invaded other countries, forcing democracy on them, we were not there. Thomas Jefferson knew it, and so did many of the founders and their progeny. We enslaved whomever we could, beginning with Africans, but not limited to them. We were a capitalistic country, using people whom the powers that be considered to be “less than” to make our country an economic behemoth.
Black people were, as W.E.B. DuBois said, a problem, but only after Black people began to demand their rights as human beings, and a major right for which we fought was the right to vote. We were being used to enrich our oppressors, and denied the right to use the only tool we had to perhaps disengage and weaken their power by being denied the right to vote. James Baldwin wrote in “We Can Change the Country,” If we care about this country – and not only in the area of civil rights – it is time to serve notice on our representatives that they are under the obligation to represent us and that they cannot be said to represent us if they continually betray twenty million citizens. It is time to let the government know that we will no longer accept this peculiar, pathetic excuse, ‘We have no right to act.’”
It was our land. It is still our land. We built it; American wealth was built on the backs of Black people, with Black hands. We are still building it, working in minimum wage jobs, making barely enough to live while the owners of the corporations that hire us continue to realize record profits. The plantations still exist and we are still enslaved.
This land, though, is our land. We are the employers of the legislators who ignore us and pass laws and policies against us. The powers that be are trying desperately to keep America White. The report that says America will no longer be majority White by 2044 has those same powers worried, and intent on doing everything they can to maintain White America, reported The New York Times. They are working as hard as they can to snatch from people of color, poor people, elderly people, college students, Muslims and immigrants from Brown and Black countries from realizing their power – which comes primarily through the vote, as noted by CBS News.
But the powers that be do not realize, or will not accept the fact that this country is headed away from its Whiteness. This land is not just their land, as they claim. It is our land, the land of and for many. It is unclear as to what this president and his policies will mean for America in the short run, but in the long run, the truth will bear out; the land belongs to all of us, especially those of us who built it.
It can be disheartening to listen to and watch what is going on, but truth trumps evil every time. It might take a while, but truth, “forever on the scaffold,” will win out. It will win out because this land … is our land.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. Her latest book, Rest for the Justice-Seeking Soul, is now available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon. She is available for speaking. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.