Most Blacks do not know what an American is. For most Blacks, being an American is a gift that they were born into. The irony is every day Blacks have to restate their claim to the illusive gifts under the Christmas tree. In May 2020 the fight was illustrated in protest events sparked by the murder of a Black man, George Floyd, by Minneapolis police. That a former athlete with some college education under his belt along with eight prior convictions would be a martyr for a social justice cause is not surprising if you look at it from a 30,000-foot level. Every cause has its Crispus Attucks; the fall guy who comes along at the right time to serve as a lightning rod for some hidden agenda.
And in the case of George Floyd, that hidden agenda, though discoverable with a little thought, boiled down to developing a campaign to buy votes based on the death of a black man. I have been part of “strategic communications” campaigns before and I can tell you that behind the green curtain there is always a wizard working the levers and pulleys of the show presented on stage. And the wizard never looks like me.
I was reminded of this fact one afternoon during the summer of 2020 while out with a friend for coffee. We decided to stay and observe a protest march along Piedmont Street in Midtown Atlanta. The protest appeared driven by members of the Black Lives Matter movement. The non-surprising irony was that a slight but obvious majority of the participants were white. To the untrained narrative finder, this would have been written off as a bunch of white college kids who wanted to make a difference by adding their voices to those of their black brethren and sistren. The gag.
The reality is that what we were observing was an occupation and re-administration of black political space; a colonization of black political thought with the ultimate goal to co-opt a black issue and roll it into another agenda in exchange for unfulfilled promises. We have seen this before on smaller and larger and brutal scales.
Any action you see on the part of a co-opting party is manifested thought; a vision carried out. The action generated from the thought of a co-opting party is not reactive. It does not stem from emotion. It is a tactical play stemming from well thought out, tried and true strategy. It is political gentrification of the mind.
Let’s go back to what an American is before fleshing out political gentrification. To understand what an American is, we need to understand what America is. In my opinion, the best description of what America is can be found in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson & Graham, Lessee v. McIntosh, (1823). These excerpts made an impression me:
“On the discovery of this immense continent, the great nations of Europe were eager to appropriate to themselves so much of it as they could respectively acquire. Its vast extent offered an ample field to the ambition and enterprise of all, and the character and religion of its inhabitants afforded an apology for considering them as a people over whom the superior genius of Europe might claim an ascendency. The potentates of the old world found no difficulty in convincing themselves that they made ample compensation to the inhabitants of the new by bestowing on them civilization and Christianity in exchange for unlimited independence. But as they were all in pursuit of nearly the same object, it was necessary, in order to avoid conflicting settlements and consequent war with each other, to establish a principle which all should acknowledge as the law by which the right of acquisition, which they all asserted should be regulated as between themselves. This principle was that discovery gave title to the government by whose subjects or by whose authority it was made against all other European governments, which title might be consummated by possession.”
“No one of the powers of Europe gave its full assent to this principle more unequivocally than England. The documents upon this subject are ample and complete. So early as the year 1496, her monarch granted a commission to the Cabots to discover countries then unknown to Christian people and to take possession of them in the name of the King of England. Two years afterwards, Cabot proceeded on this voyage and discovered the continent of North America, along which he sailed as far south as Virginia. To this discovery the English trace their title.”
“The United States, then, has unequivocally acceded to that great and broad rule by which its civilized inhabitants now hold this country. They hold and assert in themselves the title by which it was acquired. They maintain, as all others have maintained, that discovery gave an exclusive right to extinguish the Indian title of occupancy either by purchase or by conquest, and gave also a right to such a degree of sovereignty as the circumstances of the people would allow them to exercise.”
My three takeaways from these and other descriptions of the history of acquisition on the North American continent were, first, America is a vision. America was a vision where the opportunity to increase wealth was to be had, whether on the part of a merchant seeking new goods, a peasant seeking to own his own land, or a monarch seeking to increase his treasury with more taxes. European monarchs, merchants, explorers, and peasants had a vision of this new realm in mind, one that matched with their world view and value system, a system based on dividing up the natural world into time, property, and wealth.
Second, unlike the Native American tribes that negotiated land transfers as a group, the European view toward property transfer was based on individual property rights; the right of the individual or a group of consenting individuals to negotiate on their own behalf. Individualism, not communitarianism or collectivism, and the freedom to express individualism through the acquisition and disposal of personal property, is at the base of what allegedly makes America.
Last, nowhere to be found in the European vision for America was there any reference to “black” or African philosophy. Did King James I of England convey any views on the New World in terms of the African perception of time, personhood, or space? Of course not. This was a European venture.
There was no African at the side of John Cabot in 1497 egging on the Italian-born explorer of America’s Atlantic coast to view a person as a person through another person. This communitarian method of assessing world views was not a part of Caboto’s creed.
No African was whispering in the ear of George Calvert, 1st Baron of Baltimore, that he should apply a complimentary method for creating a philosophy that sees all variables impacting all other variables in reality. To be American, you need to be a descendant of the country’s vision creators. Blacks are not such descendants. Black Africans did not view the world through a philosophy that spawned a vision of America. Blacks are not American.