There was something said on night two at the convention that proved particularly troubling. The statement was not contained in one of the evening’s keynote speeches, but stated in the interviews conducted in between the event’s main attractions. The words came from a working-class woman that stated that being in America enables her to have opportunities that she would not have had being anywhere else. This statement followed the speaker’s proclamation that as a senior citizen, she understood racism. Her words seemed to reference a presence in both the contemporary moment and this country’s turbulent racial past in the early and mid 1900s. Her words appeared edited to depict her as a descended of Africans enslaved in America. To speak of having opportunities that one would not have elsewhere as an African in America speaks inconspicuously to the cultural disruption the black collective experienced over four-hundred years ago. So, what this woman expressed, without directly saying it, is gratitude for the disruption that engendered black people as a subjugated presence in America. To put it bluntly, her words posit slavery as a gift to black people.
Black correspondence to American ambiance of “opportunity” is not that we have them, but that our presence enables these favorable circumstances for every white individual and person of color in the western world. Our arrival birthed the opportunities that continue to manifest in the destiny of this white” settler” space.
The convention framed this comment in a revisionist history that painted former president Abraham Lincoln as a racial hero. This portrayal is, of course, nothing new to racists who seek to revise a racist history with a convenient oversight. Lincoln’s act to free the slaves was not out of sentiment; rather, Lincoln’s act was one of control. Specifically, Lincoln “freed the slaves” to maintain control over the union. Just as we see now with black people being used as props to anger the president or levy control, Lincoln illuminates an early example of black the collective as commodified for white gain. So, while the framing is incorrect, it is perfectly germane to compare Lincoln’s political control as an informant to the present administration. From police brutality to reproductive rights, the government masks their plight for control with claims of protection. The only “thing” being protected is the wrath of white supremacy at the expense of an essential page in the black narrative. In this racist framing, the white male is he who freed the slaves, not he who enslaved a race of people. This mutilated perception of the African disruption engenders a white savior narrative which propagates the Republican party as a white savior party.
This praxis is not original, as viewers witnessed something similar last week with the Democratic National Convention. The Democratic National Convention attempted to rewrite multiple pages in the black narrative to present the allusion of inclusion. The Democratic National Convention employed optics to mask the parties’ racist origins, origins that if acknowledged would betray the political figures as present forms of their forefathers.
Despite the extreme and stealth measures taken to distance the black collective from their past, it is essential that we as a people remain espoused to our enslaved ancestors who marked black entry into this country. We owe it to them to not only remember them, but to remember that we are them. We are those same people, commodified into objects, autonomous from citizenship and humanity as projected onto this white republic space. It is forgetting our ancestors in chains and seeing ourselves as advanced, denouncing oppression due to the illusion of opportunity that we remain destined to share their experience wearing the mental chains the white world guises as nuance, intellectualism, or freedom. It in forgetting our ancestors that we become like Daniel Cameron, a black face to implement white intention under the veil of prestige and guise of politics. A black face who stands on the soil that buries the past and present Breonna Taylors as if it is a stage, not quicksand bound to swallow them in the same supremacist space they vehemently defend.