Today's breathless discussions of race and racism are shrill and exhausting. The 'R' word has become a slur, a moniker overused, that dishonors the poignant significance of the institutional perpetration of racism in US history. In reality, Racism is a plausible, natural consequence of "e pluribus unum" -- one People, many tribes -- And that we forge a free and democratic country is a testament to the primary importance of American values, and our pursuit of a more perfect Union.
But our stories are complicated.
Does any one doubt that President Lyndon Johnson was a racist? Of course he was. And yet, as President, Johnson inherited and passed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, using all of his political capital and that of his Democrat Party. And, a year later, he did the same for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These were the landmark re-affirmations of American values since the drafting of the Constitution.
Thomas Jefferson was, among his many accomplishments, a slave-owner and a paedophile. Sally Hemings, his house-slave, was fourteen when she gave birth to the first of TJ's children. Worse, Sally Hemings was TJ's half-sister-in-law because TJ's father-in-law was also an enthusiast of captive miscegenation. Yet, does anyone doubt Jefferson's profound associative genius and sage stewardship in bringing about the birth of this Nation?
Margaret Sanger and Walt Disney were avowed eugenecists. Sanger despised ‘blacks’ and promoted abortion as a means of reducing black population growth. But should that keep women from engaging the benefits of Planned Parenthood? Or should parents prohibit their children from the wonderful Walt Disney cartoons? Of course not.
And so on. Let us accept, by definition that we Americans are racists, all.
"Race is the classification of humans into groups based on physical traits, ancestry, genetics or social relations, or the relations between them. First used to refer to speakers of a common language and then to denote national affiliations, by the 17th century race began to refer to physical (i.e. phenotypical) traits. The term was often used in a general biological taxonomic sense, starting from the 19th century, to denote genetically differentiated human populations defined by phenotype."
I thus find it useful that racial beliefs and their prejudices bubble into the open, like earthworms after a deep rain -- even when those views are ignoble. Because, in the open, racism stands a greater chance of scrutiny, crushed by Americans' collective commitment to be 'good' and thus it has less chance to sustain. I would rather know of one's misguided enmity towards ethnicity or pigmentation, than to be unaware of it with no chance to confront it. We all condemned the casual racism of Donald Sterling, for example, in synchronous voices, from hip hopsters to the Hoover Institution.
We must accept that there are varied voices, contrary voices, to be heard in this country. And that acceptance is a fidelity to the American Race. I am not generally concerned that an Appalachian white blue-collar male harbors enmity towards people of a darker pigment. It is wrong-headed and long-term unsustainable. What I do care about is our collective commitment to the American Experiment: A melting pot of different peoples and cultures and that by committing to resolve our differences and, yes, our prejudices, it makes us the greatest country ever conceived. And I also care enough about that fidelity that -- despite one's apparent racism -- I would fight just as hard for that Appalachian to have the inalienable right to express his voice as well.
I have offered a shoulder to many cohorts who are concerned about the supposed racism of Donald Trump. But one could say the same of just about every former US President. And yet we have historically achieved the birth of the women's suffragette movement; the liberation and emergence of colored peoples; the equal rights to pursue Love, Liberty and non-gender public 'evacuation' for the LGBTQ community; the election of the first and second Black Presidents, and so on. Private prejudices have not thwarted the People's public progress.
The divisions stoked by the news-as-entertainment posse, masquerading as sober news media, however, are real. The otherwise understandable business-model to capture as many eyeballs as possible corrupts fact-based reporting and it tears at the American cycle of problem solving. By the media's reporting, for example, Blacks would believe that there is a secret-mission by the Establishment police to assassinate black men, yet the FBI's statistics show that the numbers of morbid consequence -- however tragic -- have greatly declined. It is only the reporting that has changed. Or that the good folks from Red States are too stupid to know how to vote their future let alone that of their country. Or, for example, media's scouring old footage to reveal "what dumb thing did Donald say" is cynical when one considers the -- private -- dalliances of the late great Americans such as John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King or Eleanor Roosevelt. Or when the media promulgates personal biases as hard journalism.
What we need from our Leadership is an unapologetic commitment to the American Race -- which means every color, creed, gender, religion or sexual orientation included. We must stop the specious and cynical compartmentalization of the American electorate, honed to an art by at least one of the political parties. Had I been Trump when asked about David Duke, my answer would have been that "I abhor every hateful notion for which David Duke stands, but I want his vote. Just as I do want the vote of Americans with Mexican heritage, devoted members of Black Lives Matter, third-wave feminists, and queers." Only by including everyone under the tent do we continue to advance the American agenda, the American Race -- the non-exclusive "everyone-is-welcome" Race whose membership credentials are the embrace of an immutable set of founding principles.
Thus is the spirit of the "pursuit of Happiness" in order to form a more "Perfect Union." Such spirit of unity advances the American Race, defined by the principle of an unfettered, full-throated, policy of inclusion. It is not fascist: the democratic Government serves at the will of the People, the collective good of the multi-faceted 'pluribus.' Yes, it is Nationalist, but of a different sort: our collective national dignity would not allow that we refer to each other by skin hue, or measure one's patriotism by the continent from whence came our forebears.