The myth of American exceptionalism was created at the crossroads of exploitation and slavery. The early American economy was built on slave labor with both the White House and Capitol constructed by slaves. The history of Americas exploitation continued for hundreds of years thereafter and does little to flatter our democracy. And although important strides have been made, the recent tragedies in Dallas, Baton Rouge, Cleveland, Baltimore and Ferguson highlight the consequences of our social, political and economic policies. They remind us of the unfinished business of systemic racism that continues to cast a long shadow over American culture.
No-where has this been more evident than the election of Barack Obama. From repeated claims of false birth certificates and Muslims in the White House. To the rhetoric of hate radio jocks who stoke racial resentments with quiet whispers of a food stamp president. To the ideology of a billionaire presidential candidate who defined 47% of Americans as takers. Black Lives Matter is the consequence of an impoverished community subjected to predatory lending, police brutality, food deserts and a school to prison pipeline. A culture disenfranchised with the harsh reality of low wages, minimal opportunity and stagnant mobility. Marginalized by unemployment and incarceration rates at least twice that of other Americans.
However, in spite of the unpleasant realities of poverty and inequality, conservative America has somehow managed to nominate another billionaire candidate who peddles a not-so-subtle agenda of fear and racism. A message reinforced with the unconscious bias of “all lives matter.” What this uncomfortable truth reveals are that, star-spangled conservative principles have far less to do with fiscal policy, family values and the size of government than they do with racial resentment and distancing us from our historical truth and the healing that is necessary to see ourselves more clearly.