As this year’s presidential election rolls through the country like a car in reverse with the parking brake still on; I am less interested in talking about the final 4-5 candidates for the job, and I am more interested in posing a few questions to the American people about what exactly we’re trying to do here.
Let me begin, as we all should when we are about to seek and speak the truth, with an admission of my limitations. I acknowledge that I have had a very specific set of experiences:
I have lived in this country in a Black body, as a child of immigrant parents, as a male, as a product of large Northern U.S. cities, as a product of a safe neighborhood, as a college graduate, as a practitioner of the Christian faith, as someone who has been gainfully employed my entire adult life, as someone who has had to work in order to eat, as someone who has never been incarcerated, and as someone who has never worn an officer/soldier’s uniform.
These experiences frame my identity, my life perspective, my sense of right and wrong, my biases, my opinions…and my questions. My hope for this series of posts – and for our nation’s increasingly fragile social compact – is in our questions. I like to think the questions I will pose over the coming weeks are the right ones to ask, and that this is the right time to ask them. Yet I acknowledge that I could be wrong on both counts.
To Black folks, African-Americans, Americans of the African Diaspora:
- Does our primary access to power, influence, and capital rest on other people’s sympathy for our suffering? How much of the national conversation about our communities depends on televised tragedies? What does this mean for our path to full freedom and self-determination in the future?
- How do we weave the many threads of the Black experience into a garment that fits our collective body in this country?
To my Hispanic/Latino brothers and sisters:
- How does a more full representation of the Spanish-speaking diaspora from all the Americas get included in the our nation’s picture of who America is?
- How does the resistance and protest work of the Dreamer generation intersect with the striving and assimilation goals of other members within your communities?
To my brothers and sisters of Central, South, and East Asian Heritage:
- What does representation for your communities look like going forward? How does the striving, success, and achievement among members of your communities intersect with the model minority narrative used by some to differentiate Asian Americans from other non-White Americans?
- For those who are successfully climbing the ladder of American society, what are the responsibilities that come with access to elite spaces in our nation’s institutions?
To my brothers and sisters who identify as White:
There is so much, and we have so little time. I explored some of my questions back in the fall, but a few more questions have arisen in light of the past six months of this presidential campaign season:
- By now, we’re all familiar with the numbers about how America’s racial makeup is rapidly changing. In light of this math, what are the conversations around moving away from a world where Whiteness is the definition of American (the way Kleenex was once synonymous with tissue and the way Google is now synonymous with web search)…and to a world where White is just one more of America’s proud ethnic/racial brands?
- For Americans whose family lineage in this country is only a few generations old, how do you reconcile the “my family wasn’t here when X oppression of Y group took place” approach to conversations about race with the “marriage/corporate merger” perspective, which argues that if you decided to hitch your life narrative to the narrative and promise of the American Dream, then you also agreed to reckon with the consequences of the life America lived before you two met?
Okay, that was a lot. Let’s take a break. I’ll continue next week.
– Day G.
Host, Class of Hope & Change