1619: “Progress,” by Ibram X. Kendi
“The popular construct of racial progress does more than conceal and obfuscate; it actually undermines the effort to achieve and maintain equality.”
Hi Book Clubbers! Hope your summer is going well. We’re making progress and nearing the end of the book. For your reference, here’s our schedule.
This week, let’s read “Progress,” by Ibram X. Kendi. The essay is an important one. President Obama said, “The long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all and not just some.” Prof. Kendi explains how this notion of our country’s inevitable progress is a myth, used by our leaders, both liberal and conservative, as propaganda. History demonstrates that times of racial progress (e.g., Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Movement, the election of Obama) are met with times of severe backlash. Even more insidious, opponents of equality use key advances (e.g., the Civil Rights Act) to argue against policies like affirmative action and voting protections (e.g., Shelby County).
Prof. Kendi writes:
Inequality lives, in part, because Americans of every generation have been misled into believing that racial progress is inevitable and ongoing. That racial progress is America’s manifest destiny. That racial progress defines the arc of American history since 1619. That “things have changed dramatically.” In fact, this has more often been rhetoric than reality, more often myth than history. Saying that the nation can progress racially is a necessary statement of hope. Saying that the nation has progressed racially is usually a statement of ideology, one that has been used all too often to obscure the opposite reality of racist progress.
Read “Progress,” by Ibram X. Kendi.
Clear your calendar for our last discussion on Sunday, August 14. It would be great to see you all there and for us to finish strong.
Thank you and have a great week!