Southie Progressive Magazine

Our Common Values: Unity, Hope, Love, and Empathy

African Americans Teach us to Maintain Hope in the Face of Tragedy

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 to our current political and sociological conditions. An African American led this country’s latest progressive political revolution, was treated abhorrently by racist philistines who questioned his presidential legitimacy because of the color of his skin. The leader of these philistines happens to be the current occupier of the Oval Office.

Yet Obama did not allow racial division and hate to give way to hating; he did not allow hatred and condemnation to affect his capacity to love; he inspired unity among blacks, Hispanics, educated whites, and even among the demographic Democrats find so elusive: working class white people. 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 proving that good governance is one of the most effective ways 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. MLK spoke of the “the sweltering heat of oppression.”–this phrase Martin Luther King Jr uttered over 50 years ago, resonates to this day with both black folks and white folks. Martin Luther King’s picture and speech hangs in my office next to photographs of John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy. Every time I experience the symptoms of the disease of apathy—a disease so rampant nowadays amongst progressives—I look up at those photos and that speech to remind myself of the progressive principles that these men, whom I consider heroes, gave their lives fighting for. And it inspires me to never surrender to the disease of apathy; to continue to the fight for progressive values.

These men died defending love and peace. MLK Jr is a hero to me—a white Irish Catholic from South Boston. If one fails to maintain hope that we have the ability to unite as one people—a people who dutifully protect the rights of their fellow citizens despite ethnicity, despite skin color—then they are incapable of understanding the most important phrase in the Constitution, which states unequivocally that “all men are created equal.”

Our Founders did not say “all white men are created equal”; therefore, the philistines who voted for Trump because he was overtly racist—or anyone who voted for someone according to racial identity—then they are ignorant of our Founding Creed.

We have the ability to unite as one people and America’s black leaders have spoken and written far more eloquently than any other demographic about maintaining unity and hope in the face of injustice—the face of tragedy. One only needs to read the words of Martin Luther King Jr., President Obama, James Baldwin, Cornell West, etc., to become aware that the race that has given us the most hope—the race that has inspired us to unite as one people—is the race that has faced the most injustice. That being said, anyone unable to overcome identity politics should look to these great African-American intellectuals for the inspiration to overcome their perceived racial injustice. These men had ancestors that were slaves, yet they still call for us to unite as one people and live up to the creed, “all men are created equal…”

I emulate the black community—a community I admire just as much as my own community—and I will not let the tragedy of the 2016 Election disengage from espousing my progressives beliefs.

To this day we are battling to keep America faithful to the liberal beliefs espoused by our Founding Fathers. African Americans in Alabama recently did battle with the Trump faction who actually voted for a pedophile. 95% of African Americans voted according to their liberal beliefs and for the sake of moral decency. It is vexing that 73% of white people voted for a child molester. The high turnout of black people in Alabama and the statewide legislative elections in Virginia does not bode well for Trump and the Republican Party. The Black People of Alabama saved the country from another national embarrassment—the election of Trump being the other—and I commend them for their sense of civic responsibility.

Recent elections held in Virginia mirrored the results of Alabama. Once again, my fellow Black liberals have blessed me with hope after a long period of despair and cynicism.

And the hope bequeathed to me by the African American leaders who, despite the many reasons to relinquish hope, including suffering threats to their lives, continued to propagate the message that inspired a generation of Asians, Hispanics, Blacks, Whites, and other people of color to elect President Obama, who embodies the message of hope, unity, and love, in the face of injustice.

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