Dr Jessica Johnson: The optimism of posterity for our country

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In the second session on Critical Race Theory that Bill Angel, a political science professor in Lima, Ohio, and I facilitated for the LifeLong Learning Institute, Bill began with a good old-fashioned revision of the Constitution. He asked everyone to go through the preamble in detail, and then asked us which specific principle stood out. Several people mentioned “the benefits of freedom” and some emphasized “domestic tranquility”. Bill then made us focus on “posterity,” which he called “the mission statement for our country,” explaining that posterity is what gave hope to our nation even though rights and Basic freedoms were not extended to black slaves, women, and Native Americans at this point. time.

I thought that was a profound statement to make since posterity means all future generations. The future certainly did not look bright for slaves on September 17, 1787, when the Constitution was signed, especially with the three-fifths compromise described in Article 1. As we discussed the three-fifths compromise with our audience LLI, Bill pointed out that this language of how slaves would be counted among the populations of the southern states to determine taxation and representation in the House of Representatives shamelessly justifies the movable property system.

Looking at this from the point of view of the CRT, it would be argued that the Constitution supported the institution of slavery, which was the basis of the systemic and racial disparities we have today. From this perspective, we can consider some of the other examples of institutions of power that benefited from slavery such as the financial sector. Bill explained that slaves gained more monetary value after the 1808 law banned their importation into the United States. The slave trade was driven underground, and slave owners often mortgaged their property to buy slaves. Often, northern banks would provide loans for these mortgages and then turn them into bonds to sell abroad. Slavery became an economy, as Bill put it, that was seen as “too big to fail.” However, while acknowledging the grave and miserable racial injustice of our country during this time, Bill kept tracing back to posterity in the preamble, saying there was still hope.

I moved on to my section of the conference expanding further on the theme of Bill’s posterity, explaining how I encourage the students in my TV Diversity course to examine the constructs of power. “Now let’s move quickly to 1971,” I told our audience, “and take a look at Archie Bunker. I explained how I ask my students to think about racial, social and economic progression by analyzing a character like Archie in the episodes of “All in the Family”, who believed that anyone could be successful in America. ‘he was working pretty hard, despite his own prejudices. .

Reflecting on posterity in the country in the 1970s, just over 100 years had passed since the end of slavery and the black middle class was growing. Under the Nixon administration, the civil rights enforcement budget was increased, resulting in more funds being sent to historically black colleges and universities. The Office of Minority Business Enterprise was created, allowing minority small businesses to access loans and black entrepreneurs greatly benefited as purchases increased by the millions.

The character of Archie was written as a Nixon supporter, and the show’s comedic genius comes into play in Archie’s arguments with George Jefferson, a black owner of successful cleaning shops who buys a house in the neighborhood. of Archie. George’s character was middle-aged, so he would have been at least two generations removed from slavery. Archie, who resents George and doesn’t see his own racial biases, supports a president whose civil rights policies have opened the door to success for black business owners like George. I shared with audiences that I was asking my students for their thoughts on America’s social and racial progress after watching “All in the Family” and criticizing Archie’s character. I ask them to do this from a generational perspective, which always boils down to the optimism of posterity for our country, even in the midst of our current insensitive divisions.

At the end of our presentation, Bill reminded our audience of a well-known quote from Thomas Jefferson that spoke of America’s promise of potential: “Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is righteous, that his righteousness cannot sleep forever. Trade between slave and master is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate that these people should be free. I truly believe that the righteousness of God has been revealed through the long, arduous road to freedom. This is something that we must consider, with posterity, when we approach the difficult discussions of the CRT.

Dr. Jessica A. Johnson is Senior Lecturer in the English Department at Ohio State University-Lima. Email him at [email protected] @JjSmojc


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