Strategies: Part III – Imaginary Americas (all white or diverse?)

And do you remember God’s reply?
He said, “No, I have 7,000 others who have never bowed down!”

At this point in history (Trump), we stand poised between two imaginary Americas. The first was built by the hard work and genius of white men who, with God’s blessing, tamed a savage and unpeopled continent. Along the way, they brought the blessings of civilization to darker peoples of the world, both native and imported, a selfless act for which they received nothing but grief. And though they have continued to labor to help the hopelessly backwards and inferior other races, they have received nothing but abuse to show for it. So, therefore, they have finally had enough, and are ready and willing to cast off the dark burden of a false and imposed equality with other races, and emancipate themselves as a new bright, white nation, now freed to soar once again, the deserved envy of the world.

Although most of us now know this above account is a complete and utter fabrication, it is difficult to disavow it as an un-American one. That myth is woven into our patriotic symbols, it’s present in our founding stories, as the backdrop to our movies, and as the subtext to our news stories. It’s even present in our school curricula and textbooks, more explicitly in some places, and more blatantly in others.

The other imaginary America is a place where everyone has a fair shot, and is treated equally, a place where people of all races, cultures and religions live together in harmony, where the poor can become rich, a place of unlimited brotherhood and sisterhood, a meritocracy where the best get ahead without regards to their accidents of birth, a place of creativity, and innovation, and progress.

Although most of us now know that this America also does not now, and has never actually existed, this is the America actually admired and envied by the world, the one that has attracted people from all around the planet for centuries.

At this point in history, these two Americas are facing off head-to-head, and the American people are being asked to decide which one they want to see transformed into truth. And although the white nationalist American has temporarily gained the upper hand, I believe it can be beaten. Here’s how we do it:

1. Take advantage of the fact that the other America is built on a lie: What ultimately defeated the white supremacist ideology in the Civil War and Civil Rights movement periods is that far from representing the easy and natural state of affairs portrayed in the myth, it was maintained solely through the application of incredible brutality that was morally damaging to the people who putatively benefited from it. Although it may be superficially appealing to some, it ultimately hurt everyone, and people know that in their hearts. If we can liberate people from the zero-sum race-war mentality, they won’t really want to go back.

However –tough medicine time –that also means we need to let go of black nationalist and other separatist ideologies that fit the race-war narrative. We simply can’t tell those on the other side we’re going to fight them and win, and expect them to lay down their arms. Our vision MUST be one where we all win together, not one where we win and they lose.

2. Be inclusive where they are exclusive: The weakness of any exclusionary movement is that eventually everyone ends up on the outside. Case in point, Ann Coulter’s “native grandparents” voting test, that excluded even Trump himself. We need to be welcoming to those on the margins of the Trump movement, and meet them where they are. That also means we need to quit applying our own purity tests to our allies. Chastising people who wear safety pins, or demonizing those who tweet “#AllLivesMatter” is just driving people off our team and onto the other one.

3. Go All In: With that said, those of us who are down for the cause need to be well and truly down. We can’t equivocate on our core goals. Equity, inclusion and a focus on the issues of the poor and the oppressed demand action, not empty promises. This election has shown that we cannot sit on the fence. We must be on one side or the other.

4. Understand our power: The Presidency is just an office. 52% of Americans did not vote for Trump, and if we declare with one voice that America is the place where everyone gets a fair shot, and not the one where some do and most don’t, then that is what America becomes.

Those of us who are racial minorities, or female, or immigrants, or otherwise different, need to understand that we are not outsiders here. We are not something to be tolerated at the peripheries. We are at the very center of what America actually is. Too often women, people of color, immigrants, and other minorities are made to feel that we’re allowed to squat in someone else’s house, as a matter of charity. No! We bought and paid for our birthrights with hard labor, with blood, sweat and tears. This is just as much our country as anyone else’s. The real aliens are the hatemongers.

That also means that when we criticize our nation we need to learn not to criticize it as outsiders, but as insiders, equally responsible and culpable for what it is and what it will become. We have to move past “God damn America” and kneeling for the anthem. America is a powerful resource, a resource that is partly ours by right, and there are many who would like nothing better than to see us alienated from it.

With that in mind, I propose as an immediate course of action, the production and embrace of big, visible symbols of the America we want to bring into life. Right now, in this month and a half remaining before Inauguration Day, we need to be as bold and as visible as we can be. We need to walk in the light, while the sun is still shining, and to build a bulwark of courage against the dark days ahead.

Continue to Strategies: Part IV to see how.

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