Black History at USD Project
Seek Your Horizon through Unity
May 13, 2022
The University of San Diego strives to help students find their horizons through collaboration and education. At first, the content in African American History was foreign to me as teachers did not expose me to this sensitive information about racial matters in high school or elementary school. This course and this project, in particular, have allowed me to delve further into the material presented in this course and outside resources that vocalize the struggles endured by African Americans. My commitment and attention to this court allowed me to sympathize with and understand the work of African Americans in history. The repulsive, inhumane exploitation of African Americans left me speechless and disappointed as I look back at the ‘magnificent’ achievements America claims to have achieved without the help of African Americans. “We Want Revolution,” a talk performed by Cathy J. Cohen at the University of San Diego, identified modern-day racial matters and proposed practical solutions with hopes of defusing the conflicts.
Cathy J. Cohen is the author of two award-winning books: “The Boundaries of Blackness AIDS” and “The Breakdown of Black Politics by the University of Chicago.” In addition to this, she is the recipient of numerous major research grants, including awards from the Ford Foundation, the Open Society Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Cohen’s articles have been outsourced to many journals and edited in volumes. “We Want Revolution” highlights critical racial matters in society and eliminates racial stereotypes by proposing alternative viewpoints. Cohen compares race in politics with Barack Obama and his election as the first black president of the United States. Politics continues to be a complex topic of discussion in public environments as individuals stand by their beliefs with passion. Cohen addresses, “Now we know from the work of scholars such as Michael Tesler and John Sides that for many white Americans, including, yes, young white Americans. The election of Barack Obama in 2008 had important symbolism” (Cohen, 11:58). This insight and its reference to other authors is vital to digest as we begin to draw parallels between topics in “We Want Revolution” and “Freedom on My Mind” by Deborah Gray White.
“Freedom on My Mind” by Deborah Gray White was the coursebook used for the course: African American History. This text introduced me to new terminology and expanded my knowledge of significant historical events correlated with African American culture. The content that resonated with me the most in this course were the ideology, culture, and global racism showcased in the film “Roots.” “Roots,” a movie based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Roots” by Alex Haley, told the story of Kunta Kinte, a courageous warrior in an African American family that faced racism for the first time. Furthermore, the film displays the transition for African Americans from colonialism to reconstruction and its effects on their families. This emotional masterpiece moved the families who watched the movie and inspired individuals to speak against racism by promoting a healthy, friendly society. Kunta Kinte had to be trained at a young age to defend himself from his enemies who intended to kidnap him and trade him for an enslaved person. Many of Kunta’s ‘brothers’ were abducting victims – this anger, frustration, and resentment pushed him to his edge. No human should be a victim of harassment or racial badgering; everyone is exceptional by design and creation made by the hands of God. In history, white Christians and Catholics alike fueled the growth of racism through their insensitive actions. Although, their religious backbone is the golden rule, “Treat others as you want to be treated.”
Religion and politics come hand in hand when viewing Barack Obama and his presidency. Cohen speaks about how his election symbolizes “the possibility of a post-racial colorblind America promising, if not an end, to at least an answer to the racial discourse and demands from people of color” (Cohen, 12:12). African Americans viewed his election as a win and progress towards an America without racism. However, as Cohen briefly remarks, on the other side of this temporary ‘victory’ lays a brutal barrage of unfaithful comradery directed by whites against African Americans. As whites ran most of the workforce, whites robbed African Americans of their jobs and culture and the last “domain of supremacy.” This resistance by the whites is often referred to as “whitelash” by historians. Cohen addresses how this ‘white lash’ ensues after the “expansion of rights and power for people of color.” In chapter seventeen, “African Americans in the Twenty-First Century,” of “Freedom on My Mind,” there are multiple occasions where Deborah Gray White writes about Obama and his administration.
For instance, in the section titled “Racism Confronts Obama in His First Term,” White writes, “When he spoke his mind about racial disparity, he was accused of being a black partisan, unrepresentative of all Americans. When he did not address racial issues…, he was criticized for being so transcendent as to have forgotten how hard it was to be black in America” (White, p. 1049). Barack Obama could not satisfy either audience, which led to tentative speeches, careful word choice, and public backlash. The audiences were not the only problem either; racial profiling by police had Henry Louis Gates Jr. outraged after he was accused of ‘burglary’ while trying to unjam his front door. White writes, “Gates was angry at what he took to be an incident of racial profiling – the use of race, rather than specific evidence, to determine how a person should be treated” (White, p. 1049). This idea, in particular, should not be a worry for any human. You should not wake up and be concerned about your every move because of your race. Your race does not identify you; your personality, status, or religion.
Cohen goes the extra mile to describe how Donald Trump’s successful election was because of his ability to ‘tap into the white working class’s economic fear, anger, and vulnerability. During this time, America was not at a financial peak, making the economic fear even more influential. Wealthy, affluent Americans did everything to promote Donald Trump and his ideals with hopes that Trump would be able to undo the country’s economic problems. Above is a prime example of how the white working class, as explained before, used their financial status to change the tide of the election. Moreover, Cohen explains that while white Americans struggled with the Obama presidency and their perceived vulnerability – the African Americans were reminded of their physical and political vulnerability. Their perspective on the police influenced this view on vulnerability. Cohen says, “through what seemed and seems like an endless stream of black people being killed by the police, being killed while in police custody…” (Cohen, 14:34). The article “Freedom is a Constant Struggle” by Thomas C. Holt relates his text to this point of how constant brutality inspired societal fear and anxiety. Thomas C. Holt is a professor of American and African American History at the University of Chicago and a scholar of black heritage and descendants of the African diaspora. In Thomas Holt’s analysis of the protect song “Freedom Is A Constant Struggle,” he writes, “And yet a deeper examination of the movement reveals a resistance less driven by heroic male leaders showing the way than simply the accumulated grievances of ordinary citizens…” (Holt, 1). Holt describes how even heroic male leaders experience burnout and frustration, and this is when ordinary citizens must persevere together to make a difference in the world.
African American History has not only expanded my knowledge of monumental historical events that involved African Americans but also uncovered racism’s unremovable stain on American history. The integration of outside disciplines has made this project more meaningful as I have been able to draw connections between foreign topics and familiar subjects. The insights I have gained through this project have allowed me to formulate a compelling argument that dismantles racism and displays the significance of freedom. Racism and political controversy will continue to be a problem if society fails to change; do your part and make a difference by treating others with respect.
Works Cited Page
Cohen Ph.D., Cathy, “We Want Revolution,” “African American Young Adults and the Politics of Vulnerability,” Illume Knapp, April 19th, 2022, Illume Knapp // We Want Revolution – Cathy J. Cohen, Ph.D. (panopto.com)
Deborah Gray White, et al. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents. Volume 2 since 1865. Boston, New York Bedford/St. Martins, 2017.
Holt, Thomas. “Freedom Is a Constant Struggle.” AMERICAN HERITAGE, American Heritage, 2021, www.americanheritage.com/freedom-constant-struggle. Accessed 13 May 2022.