By Joaquín Roy
MIAMI, Sep 4 2020 (IPS)
Why, in the United States, where change is the most pronounced hallmark, do some aspects never change? Why do many bad habits resist giving way to novelties that prove to be the basis of the success of the most developed country on earth and still the leading power? Why is the explanation for that leadership due to a few factors? Why does Trump profess a visceral opposition to immigration, knowing that it is the key to the country’s success? Because millions of his compatriots interpret the sinew of American DNA as a threat to their comparative social advantage.
Meanwhile, in this drama, blacks continue to bear the brunt of it all. The explanation for their endemic discrimination is the contrast between their implantation in the United States and the way the rest of the public settled in the “American dream.” Almost everyone came to this idea that is the United States of free will.
No one can say that their grandparents were forced to change residence. Although it can be argued that hunger, religious persecution, and the desire for economic improvement were important factors in driving emigration from Europe, Africa, or Asia, it is also true that voluntary americanization is the key to the success of the United States.
This country is the most genuine example of national construction opposed to that based on ethnicity, religion, race. America is the most definite specimen of the nation of choice, based on personal conviction.
It is not by chance that theorists of nationalism call this alternative “liberal.” The “American dream” explains its survival. As long as millions of citizens of other continents answer Ernest Renan’s question with a negative vote every night in his imaginary “daily plebiscite”, and decide to opt for the residency trick, the United States will exist.
The day a majority of Americans vote negative for residency, the country would be deserted. There is nothing that unites Americans, except their desire to be. Their religion is summarized in the offer provided by the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He does not give them a guarantee, but a promise. And it is enough for them.
However, the absence of a residency obligation has two crucial exceptions: black and indigenous minorities. These two sectors contrast in their implementation in what for them is, more than a dream, an “American nightmare.”
Although it can be argued that hunger, religious persecution, and the desire for economic improvement were important factors in driving emigration from Europe, Africa, or Asia, it is also true that voluntary americanization is the key to the success of the United States.
The original owners of the immense territory, although their immemorial ancestors crossed the Straits of Alaska at the dawn of North America, have been reduced to their reservations, marginalized, eaten away by poverty and alcoholism. Even in the sporadic mythos in Hollywood movies, Sitting Bull and his imitators do not overcome the mystique of Buffalo Bill.
The blacks were unfortunately marked by the original sin of not having booked a ticket for the forced trip to the United States. Their implantation has been resisted from the beginning by themselves and by the descendants of the merchants who deposited them in America.
With their emancipation and its disastrous execution, the peculiarity of their residence became more apparent. When they were stripped of the benefits that they had given away to their owners for free, their value was lost in Wall Street.
The successive corrective measures of discrimination and segregation only made the division of society even more evident. Despite the actions of Martin Luther King, who paid for his daring with his life, legal advances supercharged racist resentment from a part of society that resisted reform. “Affirmative Action” and food stamps multiplied the opposition.
Simultaneously, the black community, which had ceased to call itself “colored,” to take a curious journey back to being classified as “African,” watched with amazement as other newcomers from other continents were climbing ranks.
Latin Americans began to outnumber blacks not only in economic resources, but in numbers. As a result of the new census parameters, while whites held 63%, Hispanics (15%) and Asians (10%) cornered blacks (13%).
Internally, the new “African-Americans” decided to opt for a peculiar nationalism: they defended themselves with their signs of “black is beautiful”, they enthroned their peculiar English inherited from their owners, and they monopolized some entertainment professions.
Some were more fortunate and co-opted the rosters of basketball teams. For their part, some managed to settle on the ladders of power as senators and congress people, thanks in part to the restructuring of electoral districts.
Then they even aimed, with the decisive support of white sectors, to opt for the incredible: the presidency of the United States. It was already too much and the opposition to this impudence did not forgive Obama or the rest of the community, and even less the Democrats and liberals.
The mirage of the election of the first black president bypassed the resistance of deep America and the withdrawal of the “silent majority” that Nixon tried to awaken. Now Trump has reinvented it.
It was forgotten that only about a third of the electorate voted for Obama, while another third chose the Republican candidates. Another third stayed home. Among those 60-70% of Americans who abstained from voting on the traditional electoral correction, crouched was the mostly white sector, both high-income and lower-middle-class that followed the sounds of the piper Trump.
Those who rejected the candidate Hillary Clinton believed, and still believe, that their faltering economies have been pierced by the rise of the historically vanquished. They now believe that their pristine suburbs, real or imagined, are threatened by the “socialist” hordes of predominantly Latino origin, and the “terrorists” who insist on protesting against what they consider dangerous interference by the security forces in daily life.
The only thing missing is that the statistical evidence of the black overpopulation of the prisons and the number of crime victims of the same origin is “enriched” with sad deaths of blacks at the hands of white policemen.
Joaquín Roy is Jean Monnet Professor and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami