The Divided States of America
Updated: Dec 21, 2020
Well over 100 years ago, the civil war was waged in part to decide forever whether we would be one United States or two. The burning issue of the day was chattel slavery, whether one human being had the right to own, control and subjugate another. While the outcome of the war determined that we would indeed continue on as one united nation, the war’s resolution did not in fact unite hearts and minds around the issue of racial equality. If history has shown us anything, it is that the US remains as divided on the issue of race as it ever has been. If this were not the case, then politicians would not be able to use issues of race and xenophobia to drive their political campaigns. Code words and phrases are utilized. Let’s make America great again. Labels and terminology are changed to sound politically correct, Alt Right instead of White Nationalists.
The desire to protect white privilege and white hegemony is so powerful that poor and even middle class whites will consistently vote against their economic interests in order to elect a president who sympathizes and espouses the Whites First or “America First” philosophy. This scenario has played itself out hundreds if not thousands of times over the years in elections at every level.
Racial politics is the go-to strategy when all others fail. I used to wonder how long poor and middle class whites would allow themselves to continue to be manipulated against their own economic interests. I have come to the conclusion that at least here in the US, racism and protection of white privilege is so ingrained in people’s ways of thinking that I may not live to see these attitudes erased.
I’m reminded how in the days and weeks preceding and immediately following Trump’s inauguration, there was a rush by many whites to sign up for Obamacare before it was too late. They had voted into office someone who vowed to dismantle Obama’s signature accomplishment. However, now that the reality of the consequences of their actions was beginning to set in, they realized that they needed to cash in on this program while it still existed. This was truly a “what have we done” moment.
I wish that I could report that the US has evolved into a post-racial society that lives up to its ideals of liberty and justice for all. Alas, I must end with the lamentable footnote that the more things change, the more some things remain the same.