It has become obvious that the current national demonstrations on behalf of racial equality and justice for Black Americans have a different “color” and feel to them. They feature more than the images previously associated with the notion of “Black Lives Matter.”
It is becoming clear that the movement seeking racial redress is as diverse as the country itself. African Americans still appear to be the prevailing group in communities like Atlanta where they have a significant population.
But young White Americans, specifically, are carrying the day in many parts of the country, urban and rural America. In some ways, it reminds me of the outpouring of White youth energy in their opposition to the Vietnam War.
Yet, it is more than that. The philosophic saying that “you are your brother’s keeper” has never been more true.
This is the work of the Millennial generation that is finding its way into the leadership of the country and undoing things that have been intractable since the post-reconstruction period and the advent of Jim Crow as an instrument of White supremacy. This generation in its own way is redoing the social contract and redefining America across ethnic, racial, language and color lines.
Our founding fathers saw the institutions they found as an experiment designed to build a nation based on democratic principles, freedom from political tyranny, individual achievement and free enterprise. The experiment is a working initiative that seeks to find ways to clear a path to those ideals.
Abraham Lincoln is important because he saved the experiment by leading a divided country back to a political whole. However, the Union won the war but not necessarily the hearts and minds of those in rebellion.
That requires a revolution, and this might also destroy the experiment. In a sense, the reinstatement of White supremacy in the South after the Civil War and reconstruction went well with Manifest Destiny and the movement westward at the expense of Latinos who lost their land and sense of place and Native Americans who lost everything and ended up in reservations.
The “Greatest Generation” is in part responsible for the rise of America out of a depression to become the world’s greatest power. As such, they took the post-Civil War model to its highest success.
It was left to the children of the Greatest Generation, the Boomers, to begin to question the status of race, ethnicity and gender in America. We are still trying to understand the legacy left by the Great Society landmark legislation and the Black Civil Rights, Chicano and Women Movements.
The 21st Century ushered in a new generation that is moving away from the social and political understandings of their parents and grandparents. They are the embodiment of the newest technologies, honed in the dangers of world-wide terrorism, victims of the Great Recession and now COVID-19 and its economic consequences.
They now are leading a new approach to the unity of American identity. Rather than to the divided pieces of their heritage, the Millennials’ loyalty is more to each other regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion and lifestyle.
Their vision includes taking the country to the next step of redefining the drive to the American Dream to include every one that has been left out due to discrimination, lack of opportunity and exploitation of short-sighted advantages. Millennials of all colors are taking to the streets in great numbers to enforce the notion of equality and fair play for members of their family that happen to be Black.