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African Americans Teach us to Maintain or Hope

To be an Afro-American, or an American black, is to be in the situation, intolerably exaggerated, of all those who have ever found themselves part of a civilization which in no wise honorably defend–which they were compelled, indeed, endlessly to attack and condemn–and who yet spoke out of the most passionate love, hoping to make the kingdom new, to make it honorably and worthy of life. (James Baldwin, No Name In The Street, (1972)

James Baldwin, wrote these words in 1972. They are profoundly prophetic and apropos. I’m reminded of the political revolution led by an African American, President Obama, whose treatment by many ignorant people, including the current president, was abhorrent, slanderous, and racist.

Yet Obama did not allow racial division and hate to give way to hating; he did not allow hatred and condemnation to nix his capacity to love; he inspired unity among blacks, Hispanics, educated whites, and even among the demographic Democrats find so elusive, working class whites. We were, in the words of James Baldwin, “hoping to name the kingdom new, to make it honorably and worthy of life.”

And I am forever grateful to President Obama for renewing my hope in politics–in how it can bring about positive changes in people’s lives.

Despite the years of enslavement and persecution, African Americans have faced over the years, black people have refused to relinquish their hope. Despite the “sweltering heat of oppression” America’s black leaders have spoken and written far more eloquently than any other demographic  about maintaining hope in the face of injustice–in the face of tragedy: Martin Luther King Jr., President Obama, James Baldwin, Cornell West.

I emulate the black community–a community I admire just as much as my own communinity–and I will not let the tragedy of the 2016 Election disengage me from the politics of hope bequeathed to me by the African American Prophets who, despite the many reasons to relinquish hope, including threats on their lives, continued to propagate the message that inspired a generation of Asians, Hispanics, Blacks, Whites, and all people of color to elect a president who embodied the message of unity, hope, and love in the face of injustice.

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