Criticism of the slave trade from 200 years ago speaks to us today—and not just about race.
W. E. B. Du Bois
Some riots protest injustice. Others perpetuate it.
In 1900, W.E.B. Du Bois named the color line as the problem of the 20th century. The color line, which still persists, is on trial this presidential election. While Donald Trump polls low among black voters, these numbers have improved slightly.
The question of American identity has historically been both complex and contested. What’s more, it often yields mythic notions rooted in exceptionalist dogmas like election, commission, moral regeneracy, sacred land, and innocent past. Embedded in religious American exceptionalism is the American Dream: if an individual works hard, perseveres, and is a good citizen, there is no limit to how far she can advance.
The African American Intellectual History Society, founded in 2014, hosted its first annual conference last weekend at UNC Chapel Hill. Scholars from various disciplines delivered engaging papers around the theme “new perspectives on the black intellectual tradition.” The changing nature of black identity in today’s world is complex.
In American history, some lives have mattered; others have not. That difference fundamentally has been a racial one.
Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy shot in Cleveland by an officer in training, suffered death. According to an Ohio grand jury, the case is closed. Elsewhere in these United States, presidential candidates have and will continue to laud America as exceptional.
W. E. B. Du Bois wrote his prophetic words “the problem of the 20th century is the problem of color line” decades before the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling. Yet those words allowed blacks to note how the removal of Jim Crow from educational institutions was slow in many parts of the country. Often among those responsible were Christian segregationists in Christian schools and colleges.
Helpful articles addressing the terrorist attack at Emanuel AME Church last week have appeared in a number of outlets, some offering superb analysis. One question concerning the context of violence in church in particular, and persecution in general, is what commonalities exist between the experiences of persecuted groups.