Black History

Revolutionary Paideia Celebrates Black History Month 2018

Black History Month 2018

(Photo Credit: Central Michigan University)

America was built by the free and forced labor of enslaved blacks. The contributions black people have made to America are incomparable. Black history, therefore, should be celebrated every month, including the shortest month of the year designated for it, February. To showcase and appreciate black people and their contributions to America, Revolutionary Paideia will use each day of this month to highlight them and their exceptional work.

Visit the site each day this month, and enjoy the diversity of black excellence (#BlackExcellence).

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison  

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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

The Importance of Limited Government

Thomas Jefferson

(Photo Credit: biography.com)

As I have thoroughly studied African American history, I find that one of the most important concepts America’s Founding Fathers treasured that is central to the continued progression of Black people is limited government.  Limited government was one of the founding principles of our representative democracy and this concept is deeply woven in the fabric of America.  At the core of the Constitution is the fundamental principle of limited government.  In reference to the notion of limited government, Thomas Jefferson said, “That government is best which governs least, because its people discipline themselves.  If we are directed from Washington (heads of an organization) when to sow and when to reap, we will soon want for bread.”  When one support the concept of limited government, this does not mean he or she does not believe government does not have a vital role in the lives of Americans.  As Jefferson alludes to in the aforementioned quotation, a government that only surfaces when it’s needed is the best form of government.

When one considers the ingrained history of racial prejudice and discrimination Black people have experienced and the brutality atrocities Black bodies have endured at the hands of a too powerful American government, Black people should passionate supporters of limited government.  A too powerful American government had Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X under constant surveillance—knowing every move these two men made.  Black people, therefore, must be mindful of how dangerous it is for government to have too large of a role in our lives.

Unfortunately, too many Blacks have embraced a big government philosophy.  While there’s certainly nothing wrong with expecting some things from government, we cannot become too dependent on it.  When we become too dependent on government, this is when government capitalizes on this dependency and intrudes into every aspect of our lives possible.  Even though looking to government to help solve most problems might be alluring, this leads to government trampling on our individual liberties in the most egregious ways.  When we become too dependent on government, it feels that we owe it something: the right to reduce our personal liberties.

If any group in America has a sincere reason to be highly skeptical of governmental power, it’s African Americans.

Malcolm X was tremendously apprehensive about Black people looking to government for economic and political support.  In examining “The Ballot or the Bullet,” I disclosed how Malcolm X zealously advocated for Black people to seek economic self-sufficiency through racial solidarity—not through a reliance on government.  “The Ballot of the Bullet” can be read as a warning of the dangers of big government and how vital limited government is.

In a recent event hosted by Tavis Smiley, Dr. Cornel West, a prominent liberal/progressive scholar, professor, public intellectual, and racial, social, and economic justice activist, promulgated to former Speaker of U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, a leading conservative Republican, that he agrees with him and other conservatives in part about the advantages of limited government—noting how a too powerful American government in the past resulted in slavery and Jim Crow, causing Blacks to be victimized by governmental terrorism.

Government can play an essential role in aiding in engendering a milieu where individuals can thrive with little to no support from government.  For those who are poor in America, government should provide them with food stamps, childcare assistance, and etc.  Government should work to assist those individuals in finding gainful employment in the private sector to free them from governmental dependency.

Support of limited government does not have to be a partisan issue.  If people give the concept of limited government a fair assessment, they will see how it’s the proper role of government, and this role of government ensures that Americans will enjoy maximum individual liberties.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison