Race in America—The Great Paradox


The Liberty Monument in New Orleans, Louisiana was removed in April under cover of darkness. Not only that but armed guards were present for the event together with snipers on the surrounding buildings. The monument celebrates the killing of New Orleans policemen and state militiamen in an uprising by the Crescent City White League in 1874. The Crescent City White League was a paramilitary arm of the Democratic Party. They were former confederate soldiers. They were white supremacists. Their country, the Confederates States of America had lost the deadliest war in American history in 1865 and they didn’t like it.

But what does that have to do with today? Why are racial tensions so high today that moving a piece of stone would require guns and bullet proof vests to protect the White and Black movers from White people? The reason is that America has failed to deal with the issue of “race” at every point since the first Africans were imported for their labor. Worse than that America created the idea of race to “create” a class of non-people that had to be hated in order to be used as tools. The great paradox is that those same “non-people” became the indispensable factor in the United States of America (including the 11 states of the confederacy) the most successful nation in the world in modern history.

Another aspect of the great paradox is that the nation still has the opportunity to emerge from the trap of racial hatred that has kept it from reaching its real potential. It involves the same people. That is the opportunity to Honor the first 12 generations of African Americans, to acknowledge their contribution to the USA becoming the most successful nation in modern history, and to use the truth of that history help to heal race relations.

In a very real sense what the nation does to acknowledge the contribution of the first 12 generations holds the key to its future. Nothing has changed.

The opportunity was there for change in the right direction when African indentured servants were made slaves in the late 1600s. The opportunity was there for change in the right direction when the founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution in 1776 and 1789. The opportunity was there when the British abolished slavery in 1833. The opportunity was there when the American Civil War ended in 1865. Opportunity after opportunity after opportunity has been there for America to do the right thing regarding its history as a slave nation. The opportunity is the opportunity to do the right thing.

Let’s talk about it. Moving monuments may be good where appropriate. Changing the names of buildings on college campuses may be good where appropriate. But come on America. We can do better. The very ones you have hated made the contribution that made you great. What you do now with their legacy is the key to your future. After all Without Black there would be no Red, White and Blue and Without Acknowledgement there can be no Healing.