Politics must accept the reality of multiracial America and disavow racial backlash
We have seen one flashpoint after another raises serious and legitimate concerns for racial justice in this country: A jury in Kenosha, Wisconsin acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse after he killed two people who were demonstrating against the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake. Another Black man, Ahmaud Arbery was murdered by three White men last year while he was jogging through a residential neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia. Meanwhile, parents are fighting local school boards that permit teachers to educate school children about the history of racism in American society.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. often said, “The arc of the universe is long but bends toward justice”. These events indicate that the arc is very long and there will be many ups and downs in the curve before it reaches justice.
For every advance in the movement for racial justice, there is a reaction to that progress and then action to move forward again.
For many Americans, Barack Obama’s election was perceived as the end of a struggle for racial justice. His triumph was another step on the long road to racial justice. But his presidency began a backlash based on fears among some older white Americans that their social, economic and political dominance was on its last legs.
The backlash to Obama’s presidency arguably culminated in the election of Donald Trump, who gained great fame and political fortune by questioning Obama’s citizenship, bashing Muslims and insulting Hispanic immigrants
After four years of race-baiting from the White House, the tide turned again with the election of Joe Biden and a vice president, Kamala Harris who is of Black and South Asian descent.
The Arbery case also demonstrates the uneven curve of the arc.
A Black man was murdered, followed by an attempt by local authorities to sweep the crime under the rug. The Arbery family finally received justice but only after a video of his death went viral prompting protests and the commitment of a new prosecutor to bring the murderers to justice.
The exclamation point on the case, following the verdict, was the indictment of the original district attorney for obstruction of justice for her failure to prosecute the case in the first place. The outcome was an advance for racial justice but there were too many twists and turns on the way.
The new ground zero in the resistance to a just multiracial society is the battle over critical race theory. The Republican Governor-elect of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin made opposition to the teaching of the history of systematic racism, the centerpiece of his successful campaign.
Racism flows through America like a river flooded with denial. Why is racism still such a big problem a decade after voters elected and reelected a Black president? Why do some Americans refuse to acknowledge our legacy of slavery and racial segregation?
Philosopher George Santayana could have been talking about the battle over critical race theory in America when he wrote “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The failure to educate young people about our history of racial justice is an obstacle to a peaceful transition to the new pluralistic structure that is nearly upon us.
Demography is destiny and racial division in America is driven by dramatic changes that threaten to rip apart the weave of our social fabric. Between 2010 and 2020, there was an actual decrease in the number of white people in the nation, while the nonwhite population increased significantly.
The election and reelection of Obama, a president with a Black father and a white mother, was a preview of a new multiracial America. The Census Bureau has estimated that the United States will be minority white by 2044, which is only 23 years away. Babies born this year will just be leaving college to live and work in a nation where nonwhites outnumber whites.
The advent of a multiracial society should be a cause for celebration — but older white Americans with the aid of their Republican allies have fought a rear-guard action to delay the inevitable decline of their long dominance.
The Trump slogan “Make America Great Again” actually, is subtext for “Make America White Again.” As this population growth translates into voting power, political discord will get even worse, unless we can find a way to reduce rancor in the body politic.
Government should ease the transition to a just multiracial society, but Republicans in Congress have blocked action to modernize immigration, reform policing and protect voting rights. Social change is coming like it or not. The GOP can prosper as part of the solution or suffer for being part of the problem.
Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. His podcast, “Deadline D.C. with Brad Bannon,” airs on Periscope TV and the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter: @BradBannon