Trump and “Charlottesville” have opened yet another history chapter, so to speak, for the education of the public to the radicalized foundations of the U.S. Contrary to his campaign promise, Trump didn’t “drain the swamp.” Instead, Trump and his minions liberated neo-Nazis and neo-Confederates from the muck and shadows of the swamp. Yet we have also witnessed countless progressive demonstrations against these nefarious political groups.
This past spring for a forthcoming book, I wrote an epilogue that seems relevant at our current historical moment. (Texas A&M’s Norvella Carter and I are editing Intersectionality of Race, Ethnicity, Class, and Gender in Teaching and Teacher Education: Movement Toward Equity in Education – coming late 2017/early 2018). The title of the epilogue is “Movement Toward a ‘Third Reconstruction’ and Educational Equity” — here are the opening paragraphs:
From the August 2014 police killing of an unarmed Black adolescent in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson and the June 2015 murders of 9 African Americans, including a state representative, in Charleston, South Carolina, to the 2016 presidential primaries and the eventual 2017 promotion of White nationalism within the governing circle of the president of the United States, the U.S. witnessed a countervailing rise of a new civil rights movement. As more deaths of unarmed Blacks at the hands of police surfaced, “Black Lives Matter” became a tagline for international protests as an expression of institutional racism experienced globally by historically marginalized populations. In this context Angela Davis reminds us that “the Black radical tradition is related not simply to Black people but to all people who are struggling for freedom.”
Framing these collective actions as a historical movement toward a “Third Reconstruction” facilitates “thinking about moments in the past where there has been a combination of grassroots radicalism and political leadership” (historian Eric Foner). Although grassroots activism was visible during the composition of this book, overt and consistent political leadership for completing the freedom goals of the Civil Rights Movement and self-determination efforts by Indigenous groups has been missing. In fact, the world has witnessed an uptake in xenophobia and nativist nationalism, according to the United Nations: “We still live in a world where we witness politicians and leaders using hateful and divisive rhetoric to divide instead of unite societies.” In light of the damning documentation within this book about inequities a disproportionate number of children and youth of color suffer daily in public schools, we first briefly review previous efforts at reconstruction for social justice and educational equity...
That last sentence is intended to reinforce the perspective that educators in particular need to understand the negative external forces that affect educational equity as well as the possibilities for engagement in a massive social justice movement. That is why I offer the following perspective.
As the 2020s approach, we hear a resonance with former slave Frederick Douglas’s (1881) description of a racialized “color line” of discrimination and Du Bois’s (1903) well-known observation that “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line.” In 2015 a Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial called for a national “truth and reconciliation commission” because “the color line persists” and “accounting has not occurred.” With little hope for such a national reconciliation, grassroots social justice activist Reverend Dr. William Barber II (2016) contends, “Nothing less than a Third Reconstruction holds the promise of healing our nation’s wounds and birthing a better future for all.” In his home state of North Carolina Barber helped to create a movement that fused various social justice movements: “Within the framework of a Third Reconstruction, we see how our movements are flowing together, recognizing that our intersectionality creates the opportunity to fundamentally redirect America.”
For a movement to a Third Reconstruction to be effective, fusion politics among social justice movements is what is needed to turn the tide against policies that continue to discriminate against people of color, the poor, religious orientations that are not Christian, and those with non-conforming gender and sexual identities.