Michelle Alexander | Learning to Walk

Is America possible?

Professor Michelle Alexander. (photo: Clutch Magazine)
Professor Michelle Alexander. (photo: Clutch Magazine)

By Michelle Alexander, Michelle Alexander’s Facebook Page  November 16, 2016

ike millions of people, I am still struggling to wrap my mind around what the election means for our collective future. I won’t try to sort it out here, in a Facebook post.

What I will say is that what happened can’t be explained simply as a failure of the political establishment — though it has failed spectacularly. Nor is it simply a problem of racism or sexism — though both are alive and well and flourishing in this moment. Nor is this election simply a matter of economics, though global capitalism and neoliberalism have created a world in which people of all colors are suffering greatly as factories close, work disappears, wages stagnate, and human beings are treated as disposable — like plastic bottles tossed in a landfill — as political and media elites (not just Trump) spew propaganda that encourages us to view “the others” as the enemy.

The problem runs deeper than all of that. The truth is we are stumbling badly in large part because we are just beginning to learn to walk. Roughly 50 years ago, we still had an explicitly racist system of laws and government: a racial caste system. It was not a true democracy by any stretch. We still don’t have a real democracy. And we’ve managed to rebirth a new caste-like system in recent years, a new Jim Crow. In the words of William Faulkner, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

What many of us have been attempting to do — build a thriving multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-faith, egalitarian democracy out of the rubble of slavery and genocide — has never been achieved in the history of the world. Some say it can never be done.

Is America Possible?

That’s the question we face right now. And it’s the question Dr. Vincent Harding posed before he died and joined the many ancestors who are whispering to us, urging us not to falter now.

Posted here is an interview with Dr. Harding that aired a few years ago. NPR has been rebroadcasting it this weekend, rightly believing it is more relevant now than it was then. Dr. Harding was a friend and mentor to me and I miss him, especially now. How I would love to hear what he has say about this moment. I can’t ask him, but I am grateful that I can listen to the wisdom he shared before he passed on.

Vincent Harding – Is America Possible?


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