White supremacists clash with police in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12, 2017. (Evan Nesterak via Wikimedia Commons)
White supremacists clash with police in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12, 2017. (Evan Nesterak via Wikimedia Commons)

In 2018, we are living through the Third American Reconstruction.

The First Reconstruction was during the period from 1865-1877, the years following the Civil War. An attempt was made at that time to emancipate the newly freedmen, reconcile the war-weary nation, and transform the 11 rebellious ex-Confederate states back into the Union. Only the White supremacists resisted every step of the way.

The Second Reconstruction was from 1954-1968, the civil rights movement. Segregation was outlawed, but restless Negroes demanded more, more! Militant Black leaders were jailed, murdered, ignored, silenced. White supremacists in politics resisted, adopting a “Southern Strategy” to appeal to the anti-Black sentiments of rural, uneducated White voters.

Now we have the Third Reconstruction. After the turn of the century, Black folks made great strides in every arena, including an African-American president of the United States. And just like twice before, in 2016 the White supremacists stormed back, winning the White House, and majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. In two years they have busily undone every single policy, or even semblance of a policy favoring Black folks that wasn’t permanently bolted to the ground.

Since this country’s founding, it’s been rooted in slavery and exploitation. The Electoral College favors rural, southern, small population states, as does the Senate. The continent, the territory itself was stolen from the Native inhabitants who were slaughtered. The nation’s wealth was built on 310 years of free labor by millions of enslaved Africans. That is the White supremacist narrative which goes unchallenged.

This 2018 election was about reigning in the most primitive, nativist tendencies of chest-thumping “nationalist,” President Donald J. Trump. If Trumpism is the backlash to the Millennial Reconstruction, voters refused to cosign the president’s worst instincts … this time.

The White, tribal response is to bask in the benefits of all the past wrongdoing by this country’s leadership, and then decline responsibility when the bill comes due. Each far-fetched solution commits more of the nation’s ill-gotten-treasure to schemes benefiting themselves only, never realizing that the behavior of this country toward “the least of these …” will measure the country’s ability to successfully respond to the variety of moral challenges ahead. That’s not the typical White voter response. It’s “Me first.”

Fix the system? Reconstruct the system, yet again? Now’s the time of the decline of this system built on suffering and exploitation, isn’t it? It’s certainly in decline if there’s a question as to whether the society should wallow in Trumpism, or mend its wicked ways and do right by all concerned.

Despite White retrenchment, “backlash,” now and in the past, we’ve seen progress, and there’s more progress ahead. “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us.

The choice is one which White folks must make. Black folks are already clear. They want progress. They want the New Jerusalem, now! The difficult decision which must be made is among Whites, who have yet to even admit having a problem that will require a painful and costly solution, and the other group of Whites who have to always be the bearers of the bad news to the remaining White folks.

During the First Reconstruction, those Whites were known, derisively, as “carpetbaggers.”

Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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