Race and the American Presidency

Some of you may know that is 2007, I worked on a film, Presidential Race, which was going to explain why the USA would never elect a Black president. Oops.

In this election, I have been dismayed that the issues of race and racial bias have not been raised by either candidate and plan to write an article about this fact after the election called “God doesn’t like ugly.”

While driving home from work last night, I heard a fascinating review of a book on Thomas Jefferson called Master of the Mountain.

The book explored how the author of “all men are created equal” could enslave other human beings including his own children! At one point, I was shouting in my car when the phrase ” he was a progressive master” was used. “You cannot be progressive and own other people,” I shouted. Luckily the CHP was nowhere in sight.

Listening to the book review reinforced in me why this country is so messed up about race. The elegant architect of the Declaration of Independence grew increasingly more hateful about Black people as he aged. This inequality and hypocrisy and cruelty are baked into the fabric (love those mixed metaphors) like chocolate chips in vanilla ice cream (more mixed metaphors!) This is a frustrating and ever present reality.

Earlier in the week, I was reading this great article in The New York Times, “The Self Destruction of the 1%,” a detailed description of economic history in various parts of the world including our own country. Just as I was about to email it to all of you, I came upon the following startling passage. Here is how the 1800s were described.

In the early 19th century, the United States was one of the most egalitarian societies on the planet. [emphasis mine] “We have no paupers,” Thomas Jefferson boasted in an 1814 letter. “The great mass of our population is of laborers; our rich, who can live without labor, either manual or professional, being few, and of moderate wealth. Most of the laboring class possess property, cultivate their own lands, have families, and from the demand for their labor are enabled to exact from the rich and the competent such prices as enable them to be fed abundantly, clothed above mere decency, to labor moderately and raise their families.

My anger was profound. The author of the article along with Jefferson just forgot about my people who were living lives of misery-misery that helped make the USA the most prosperous country on the planet.

This willful myopia and avoidance of history evidences itself in the current moment-this “post-racial” moment. Two men running for the highest office in the land are able to talk about everything except race. This avoidance has real life consequences for real people.


One thought on “Race and the American Presidency

  1. Couldn’t agree more! I find it really hard to take that terms such as post-racial was being used by very educated people, and often enough that one wonders what world they are describing because no place in the U.S. fits what the word implies. Police brutality, and the open hunt to young people of color, even right here in the Bay area continues without accountability. I am tired of having to visit young people of color in jails and prisons, or attending their funerals. Those comments would be laughable if weren’t so tragic. Thanks for the work you do.

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