Black Success Makes The Right (More) Insane
Oh No, An Educated Negro
The image of a Black woman walking across a stage in a cap and gown to receive a diploma is the sort of thing that makes normal people smile. A graduation ceremony is the culmination of years and years of hard work, both from the person receiving the diploma, but also from the family, friends, and others in their circle. It is a recognition of accumulating and processing knowledge, and a launching pad for future success.
Conservatives hate this.
The right has a very narrow view of what everyone who isn’t a straight white male should be doing with their lives. Everyone who doesn’t look like them should be in a position of subservience, inhabiting second class citizenship without the wild notion of equality or achievement in mind. As wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson famously said, they should “know their role and shut their mouth.”
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We’ve seen this sort of freakout time and time again from the right. The most recent example started more than 17 years ago, when Barack Obama decided he should be the next president of the United States. Almost immediately, Michelle Obama became one of the right’s most frequent targets, eventually exceeding the historic volumes of vitriol directed towards Hillary Clinton. Because for the right, as bad as a white woman not knowing her place may be, its way worse when a Black woman won’t bow.
So we were told that Mrs. Obama was a Black radical, a Black nationalist, a socialist, a fascist who demanded that children exercise and eat vegetables. When she went to a DC gym to exercise, they explained that this was a scandal. The right even drafted Mrs. Obama into their anti-trans bigotry, with years of debased conspiracy theories asserting that she is male and President Obama’s same-sex lover.
Of course, it isn’t just Michelle Obama. It’s Vice President Kamala Harris, it’s Rep. Ilhan Omar, it’s Rep. Maxine Waters, it’s former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, its Harvard President Claudine Gay.
The right has transitioned from its days of standing in the schoolhouse door in the 1960s south to prevent Ruby Bridges from attending elementary school to making up false charges about First Ladies, members of Congress, and University presidents. Instead of yelling “n**ger,” they now argue like white supremacist Elon Musk, and say things like “DEI must DIE. The point was to end discrimination, not replace it with different discrimination.”
It’s six of one, half dozen of the other.
Black women have been at the forefront of American liberty, even when this nation collectively placed them underneath Black men in esteem when Black men were classified as subhuman property. At every point in this country’s history, a Black woman has been there to do what was necessary to make the country greater.
They have consistently been among the most tenacious fighters challenging the system that artificially placed the straight white men revered as gods by conservatism at the top of the food chain. Their tenacity is interpreted by the right as a direct threat.
It isn’t just the leaders and barrier breakers who are in the crosshairs. It is everyday women who are merely trying to make it to the next morning. Most Black women getting an education aren’t going to be president or CEO or a Supreme Court justice. But they all are deserving of a fair shot at whatever endgame their hearts desire.
When Black women get a decent chance at advancement, it makes the country, built on the backs of their forced labor and subjugation, a little bit better. The forces desperately trying to stem the tide of Black achievement are in direct opposition to one of the purest forms of good we can encounter in our daily living.
This is a cause that doesn’t have two equally worthy sides with something decent to contribute. There is morality and immorality, good and evil, right and wrong. Those who have positioned themselves in opposition to increased American diversity at every level are in the wrong.
Like so many other fights, there will be advances and retreat, and the moral arc of the universe won’t simply bend to justice on its own. It has to be seized and molded and bent to the will of the people to find its way. Just because it appears that Black women continue to crack the glass ceiling doesn’t mean there is time for collective rest and rounds of self-satisfaction.
Yes, we should celebrate those victories. Titles like “Vice President Harris” and “Justice Jackson” and “Senator Carol Moseley Braun” weren’t just handed out to the unworthy. But after the victory party, it’s back to the frontlines, relentlessly combating the forces of ignorance and regression, whether that is in the form of a loutish ex-president, a bigoted billionaire, or the regressive fool at your local supermarket.
They have to lose the wider war, and when they win a battle, those victories have to be fleeting and ephemeral and stamped out by the collective forces of justice.
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