The woman who can allow America to move on
PUBLISHED: 10:53 27 August 2020 | UPDATED: 17:48 27 August 2020
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The Democrats could have made a more radical or progressive choice then Kamala Harris as their vice presidential nomination. But what she brings to the country is an opportunity, says BONNIE GREER.
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The genius of the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ is that it makes you an offer you can’t refuse. Like a benign Don Corleone, BLM makes it virtually impossible to choose to go in any opposite direction.
Because if you do, you not only appear to be an out-and-out racist but also just a plain nincompoop. Donald Trump is the premier example of how you can go badly wrong by misunderstanding or ignoring this moment.
Black Lives Matter – born after the 2012 death of African American teen Trayvon Martin at the hands of a self-appointed neighbourhood vigilante – captures the truth. That truth is: that to be African American is too often to experience the police as an occupying force, at best. And as judge, jury and executioner, at worst.
Being an African American man puts you at higher risk in everything. This is partly because there is an assumption that an African American man (and a woman, for that matter) has a higher pain threshold than other ethnic groups. In every sense of that word.
So a knee on the neck of an African American man, turns into a public lynching in full view and no big deal. He can take it. We can take it.
And I call what happened to George Floyd murder, just as Joe Biden did in his acceptance address as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States.
That was the second bravest thing that Biden has done so far in his run for the White House.
Because the unspoken in regard to the marches and statue-toppling, and all of it, is that this thing called racism boils down to a mano-a-mano between men. This is not conscious, not stated. But if you stand back, you can see.
Racism, colonialism are a male project, a white male project aimed at command and control of all men of colour and all women regardless of colour.
Therefore in light of that, the only legitimate response, in this worldview, is male.
Donald Trump, one of nature’s con men and shills, recognises and exploits it. He backs men. He supports women who back men. He painted Hillary Clinton – former secretary of state, former United States senator; former first lady and arguably the most technically qualified individual to ever run for the White House – as a threat to men everywhere.
Several African American men I know, including a relative – intelligent and committed guys all – refrained from voting in 2016. Because they agreed with Trump on Hillary.
Part of what enslavement did was to take manhood away from the enslaved. In a patriarchal society, which America was and is, that amounted to a form of murder. The right to be a man was handed to enslaved women. Men had no rights or say over their children or much else. The effects of this still exist today.
These effects are brilliantly exemplified by Kanye West, a troubled genius, who displays in full view the sorrow and the pity of being an African American male.
Unless you are one, or the sibling/relative of one; or a close friend or associate of one; or the spouse or the lover of one, it is impossible to fully comprehend this.
I will state this again: racism is in large part directed at the destruction of coloured manhood. Even if we can see looting and all of that in this light, we still should not accept it. But we can begin to understand it.
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Therefore Black Lives Matter gives the African American man and other men of African descent some breathing space. But it will not go down as the greatest movement in American history.
It will be seen as the harbinger; the table-setter for what will arguably be one of the greatest moments in the history of racial justice; a real reparation; much better than any amount of money can address: the nomination for vice president of the United States, by the Democratic Party, of Kamala Devi Harris, the junior senator from California.
She is almost the perfect American trope for now: Harris is the daughter of two immigrants: a Brahmin, from Tamil Nadhu; a woman who became a biologist; and an eminent economist, a man born in Jamaica.
She was raised a member of a Christian church and a Hindu temple, a graduate from what is called an ‘historic black university’ i.e., one created especially for African American students. That university is Howard University. Plus, she is a member of the powerful 100-year-old African American sorority: Alpha Kappa Alpha. But above all, she is a woman.
Stay tuned for Trump and his enablers to use her gender as a rallying cry for African American men and all men of colour as yet another attempt by the left to cut their balls off. The tragedy is, as in 2016, some guys will buy it.
Sojourner Truth, a 19th century African American woman who emancipated her own self and was the first African American woman to successfully sue a white man, asked the question of white women and white men on behalf of all women of colour and men, too: in the famous speech which became known for the question “Ain’t I a Woman?”
This extemporaneous cri de coeur, delivered on a lecture tour in 1851, is answered by the elevation of senator Harris.
Now, I am not talking about a saint here or even a solution. I am talking about an opportunity – a door. The opportunity is to go beyond righteous grievance; righteous slogans; righteous complaint; and necessary demands to what I call ‘shoreline thinking.’
This is the transmutation that I use to describe that moment; that experience when enslaved Africans understood, on the shore of their new world, that there was no turning back. That they could not return to the mother continent.
As my late sharecropper father used to say: “Time to put your plough down where you stand and plough your furrow straight.”
Kamala Harris represents the fact that there is really nowhere to go but here. Nowhere really to exist but now. “The fierce urgency of now,” as the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama has said.
A more radical, progressive choice could have been made for VP. But the fact is that 2020 is an election for the very definition of the Republic. This election is the moment of truth for the United States of America: “One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Will the Republic be able to deliver on the promise exemplified by that statue of a goddess erected in New York harbour, donated by the people of France. The Statue of Liberty is about not only an open door to all who want to be a part of the brave and crazy experiment that is America: it is also a challenge.
The challenge is: can we be something new? Can we both remember and also set aside as we become that something new. Can we take the highest and noblest ideas and translate them into practical, lasting and just reality?
To achieve that takes a long road: beginning with addressing the theft of the lands of sovereign nations on the soil of what became the United States. And the enslavement, transportation and sale of millions of people of African descent, whose debasement was a large part of the GDP that made American great.
If those two facts alone can be faced and addressed, not with grievance and revenge, but in practical ways that address right now, then America begins. A free world begins.
A woman of colour as the Second Person under the Constitution truly begins to fulfil the demand inherent in Black Lives Matter and extends it.
Because whether senator Kamala Devi Harris wins or loses, there is no turning back now.
What we are really in is the Era of Woman. And the Era of the Woman of Colour. Many already know this. Most will know it soon.
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