Since the unprecedented assault on the U.S. Capitol, led by thousands of angry, frustrated, right-wing, pro-Trump enthusiasts on Jan. 6, Americans continue to ask, “How could this happen?” “Why did it happen?” and “Could this happen again?”

In attempting to provide possible answers to the first two questions, one of the more questionable beliefs that has long dominated the American psyche could provide great insight. Since the early 20th century, if not before, America has claimed to be “that great city on the hill,” that country whose borders are “open to all” people seeking a better life and a place where anyone can achieve the so-called “American Dream.”

But Blacks have known, certainly since 1619, that the opportunities for a better life, for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” have never been extended in equal measure to all people.

Gender, race, religion – even country of origin, sexual orientation, economic status and educational achievement – have often been used as measuring rods in determining who has the best chance for accessing “privilege, American style.”

However, with the nation’s economy still in an upheaval because of shutdowns and setbacks related to the COVID-19 health pandemic, and with jobs continuing to be lost in the U.S. and sent to countries most notably China, many Americans may feel overcome by a sense of desperation and inescapable decline.

Perhaps, those who claim membership with the right wing and who, at least on the surface, are predominantly white, are beginning to experience what Blacks have suffered for centuries: anger, frustration, injustice, disenfranchisement. If so, it seems that if things remain the same, what happened at the U.S. Capitol last week may be only the beginning of more outbursts of public unrest.

During the 20th century, countries like Germany fueled by the rise of the Weimar Republic, El Salvador, Chile and The Philippines each faced political, social and economic upheaval in which the right and left were pitted against one another. Some sociologists and economists believe that America now stands at a similar crossroads because of the current financial and political crises that threaten our nation. They have cause to be alarmed. In many ways, the conditions are now ripe in the U.S.

But America has somehow, always found a way to pick itself up, to shake off the dust and to secure a new, better path to follow.

We remain cautiously optimistic that America, despite the obstacles which stand before us, will once again rise to the occasion. But it won’t be without pain. It will require sacrifice. And it will not happen overnight. However, if the choices are meltdown or makeover, there’s only one way to go.

Blacks have long called it “making a way out of no way.”

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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