American Exceptionalism

American Exceptionalism Made Possible by Exceptional Africans

President Donald Trump

(Photo Credit: USA Today)

When President Donald J. Trump favors lily-white Norwegian immigrants over those abject, wretched, in his view, black African and Haitian immigrants, he exposes his historical amnesia and attempts at black historical erasure. When white invaders arrived in America to rob Native Americans of their land, and, unfortunately, were successful in this theft, they soon captured and forced many Africans to come to America as slaves.

Most foundational phenomena crucial to the evolution of American exceptionalism were developed by these Africans, including the White House, however. Essentially, most celebrated historical buildings were built by Africans. Africans built America, and the nation flourished through a slave economy, an economy based on the free or cheap labor of exceptional African slaves. White folks didn’t build America; exceptional Africans did.

Africans Gave Real Meaning to the Declaration of Independence and Constitution

Even the cherished Declaration of Independence and Constitution, penned and conceived by white men, failed to achieve their true power, beauty, and significance while Africans were enslaved—and even while official Jim Crow existed. It was African humanity, African resistance, African rebellion that gave authentic meaning to the eloquent words expressed in those aforementioned founding national documents.

Through African “fightback,” to quote one of the greatest minds in world history and leading public intellectual Dr. Cornel West, whites were compelled to begin putting those words into action, action for all people—regardless of race, regardless of skin color, regardless of national origin—although all the content of those documents have not fully materialized for all. Without Africans, though, the descendants of these white men who authored these documents likely would have never completely understood the beloved documents’ real power, import, and possibilities.

Africanizing American Exceptionalism

Yes, America is exceptional. What really makes America exceptional, though? Despite every effort to efface blackness, to deny the value of blackness, to discredit the beauty and brilliance of blackness, blackness still reigned and reigns supreme. Blackness will not and cannot be defeated. Blackness speaks to what’s possible: anything. Anything for those willing to believe in and fight for possibilities, for the Blochian Not-Yet, for the principle of hope. This is what makes America exceptional. This is the real essence of American exceptionalism.  

Conservative Republicans love to promote American exceptionalism, but the centrality of Africans to the genesis of this exceptionalism is almost never mentioned. If American exceptionalism is to continue to have any power, any allure, any gravity, then the Africanness of it, the real (and not imagined) “Africanist presence” in it, to quote the incomparable Nobel Prize Laureate Toni Morrison, must figure prominently in any discourse involving the concept.

President Trump’s racist comments about African nations and Haiti can cause conservative Republicans to lose any political efficacy in employing American exceptionalism in the future if they fail to resist him and fail to muster the moral and political courage to categorically denounce these abominable comments.

And, just a quick note on Haiti, it was the Haitian Revolution that demonstrated for blacks in America that liberation was possible. If you are a racist, a white supremacist, though, like President Trump, a pivotal historical moment in the black freedom struggle isn’t something you desire to know and remember.   

Conclusion

Instead of focusing on “Make America Great Again,” which her constant commitment to sin, to moral, social, economic, and political depravity has never permitted her to experience unadulterated greatness, let’s work on dismantling the vicious legacies of racism, white supremacy, discrimination, and injustice that persist to plague our nation.

“Make America Great Again” is coded language expressing nostalgia for the days when racism and white supremacy ruled, which, as one of the foremost cultural theorists Fredric Jameson contends, is, ironically, “nostalgia for the present.” We’ve never witnessed a day in America where “Make America Great Again” was not the ruling order, the ruling ideology.     

In short, American exceptionalism is the story of Africans ushering in the possibility of a nation and democracy as good as their promised.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Championing the Concept of American Exceptionalism

American Exceptionalism

America is an exceptional nation.  In world history, there’s no nation that was founded in the way in which America was.  America is an idea.  This nation originated on the ideas of individual responsibility, civil liberties, equality, limited government, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the respect of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, a strong determination to always defend America against enemies foreign and domestic, and etc.  Unfortunately, there are far too many people, mainly in the Democratic Party, who want Americans to apologize for how exceptional America is.  The purpose of this piece is to offer an understanding of American exceptionalism and defend the support of American exceptionalism.

Those who support American exceptionalism contend that America was founded on a set of republican (“rule by the people and law”) ideals and not on a common heritage, ethnicity, and etc.  Because of the unique nature of America’s founding and its position in the world, America has a responsibility to empower other nations in the world to enjoy the benefits of freedom and the revolutionary spirit freedom engenders.  When people of countries across the world are trapped in dictatorial and tyrannical regimes, and they express a desire to seek solutions to these regimes, America’s uniqueness as the only superpower mandates that she helps those people find the solutions they need to gain the freedom they deserve.  The concept of American exceptionalism asserts that humankind’s rights come from God and not from the state or government.  The most innate right American exceptionalism argues is essential is the right of all human beings to be free.

America is in a position to aid those across the world to obtain the freedom they deserve to have that has been guaranteed by God.  Americans love their freedom.  They love the benefits and opportunities liberty enables them to enjoy.  Without question, America is an exceptional nation in terms of its founding, military, economy, education, and much more.

I have become troubled with how many in the Democratic Party do not want to acknowledge that America is an exceptional nation and the responsibilities and opportunities that accompany this reality.  American exceptionalism is not a malevolent concept—it’s reality.  Although some proponents of American exceptionalism concatenate it with the concept of Manifest Destiny, the majority of the proponents do not fuse this concept with American exceptionalism.  Based on some of the misinformation I have heard and read from Democrats about American exceptionalism, I thought it was important to draft a piece that would begin to counter the misinformation about American exceptionalism.

Let’s never deny that America is an exceptional nation!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison