“Clearly this will not be redemption redux, and one would hope that the rule of law would hold, but it is also true that, notwithstanding the horrors of the 20th century, we don’t really understand what persuades ordinary people to butcher their neighbours and co-citizens. Americans are just as human as Rwandans, Germans and Serbians; no more, no less.
The first reconstruction opened, for an exhilarating moment, a window through which former slave communities could envision a new political life. The post-reconstruction counter-revolutions suggest that such instants of transformation can be quickly subverted, and that the challenge of recapturing what was lost is arduous and protracted.
The myth that racism is dead has been variously styled “separate but equal”, “colourblindness” and “post-racialism”. Whatever the term, it is the duty of all of us who fear for the US to remember that though racial attitudes are not unalterable or homogeneous, race will always register and resistance will always resurface. Revolutionaries holding alternative understandings of what ails America as a nation – “it’s the ‘class struggle’, stupid” – who want to win elections, or transform power relations more fundamentally, would do well to examine the politics of the redemption – and that 95-year gap in North Carolina.”