Radicalized Political Ingratitude

In July 2018, Oumou Kanoute, a black student who’d grown up in Manhattan but whose parents came from Mali, promised to have undergone a near-“collapse” because a janitor and a campus police officer asked what she had been performing in a dormitory lounge as she lunched out there. She also viewed their interruption of her meal within an”outrageous” indication that some Smith staff contested her presence in the College, and her very”presence overall as a woman of color” She also disclosed her terror in the chance that the police officer might have been carrying”a deadly weapon.”
Not surprisingly, given the new political surroundings on American campuses,” Smith’s president Kathleen McCartney immediately issued an apology for the incident and put the janitor on paid leave, remarking–before any evaluation –that the episode served as a painful reminder of”the continuing legacy of racism and bias… in which people of color are targeted while simply going about their everyday business.”
As the Times recounts, a report issued several months later by a law firm hired by Smith to look into the episode drew little attention. This record found no evidence of bias, and instead decided that Ms. Kanoute was eating in a dorm that has been shut for the summer. The janitor was encouraged to inform campus security when he saw some unauthorized people there, along with also the security officer who followed up in the report had been (like all Smith College authorities ) unarmed.
Meanwhile, Jackie Blair, a veteran cafeteria worker who’d reminded Kanoute that pupils weren’t permitted to be eating in the vacant area, was targeted by Kanoute on Facebook as a”racist,” and a janitor who’d been employed in Smith for 21 decades and wasn’t even on campus in the time of this episode. Blair, who received threatening notes and telephone calls as a result of the accusation, needed to be hospitalized when the threats generated an outbreak of her deathbed.
The 2018 episode recently returned into the headlines due to a record of resignation issued by Jodi Shaw, also a former pupil service planner in Smith, in response to this lasting effect the College administration’s treatment of this Kanoute affair and its offshoots had about the Smith community, and on her job in particular. Having been informed in August of 2018, for example, that she needed to cancel a long-planned library orientation program since she had placed it in the form of a rap, along with her whiteness made case a kind of cultural appropriation, she finally had had to take her candidacy for a fulltime position in the library and then settle to a lower-paying role in Residence Life.
In that position, Shaw (a 1993 Smith grad ) found herself educated that she’d be asked to examine her thoughts and feelings concerning her skin color and endure racially hostile comments. By way of instance, Shaw commissioned a meeting where another team member banged a desk whilst denouncing Smith alumnae as”wealthy white women.” Though Smith definitely depends heavily for its sustenance on these alumnae, Shaw herself, a single mother of two young kids, was making $45,000 annually, substantially less than the expense of a year old space, board, and tuition in the school.
What’s particularly noteworthy is the comparison between Kanoute’s history and of the Smith workers whose careers she ruined. Each of the latter were individuals of modest economic (and except for Shaw, educational) status.
Nevertheless Kanoute, far from demonstrating gratitude, since the offspring of immigrants from an oppressive and black nation, for the blessings that American citizenship renders, instead has dedicated her energies into denouncing America for its racism. We should not be amazed that before her scheduled 2021 alliance, Kanoute has already obtained work as a”research assistant-intern” in Columbia University’s School of Social Work, in a”lab” that”focuses on advanced approaches to conceptualize and quantify racism.”
Kanoute’s narrative is just a single example of a broader phenomenon I am terming”racialized political ingratitude,” one that has lately been exhibited on a grander scale by the news that Eleanor Holmes Norton, currently serving her 15th word as nonvoting Representative into the U.S. Congress from the District of Columbia, has uttered her 2020 legislative proposal to tear down or otherwise remove Washington’s Freedmen’s Monument, whose manufacture has been entirely financed by former allies in 1876, and which was dedicated by the wonderful ex-slave, abolitionist, civil rights pioneer, and diplomat Frederick Douglass in one of the most renowned orations. Norton observes that Douglass himself, while applauding the ex-slaves’ demonstration of gratitude into the Great Emancipator within his address, not just avoided contradicted the statue, but then whined in a letter its layout”revealed the negro on his knee after a manly attitude could have been indicative of [his] liberty”
Douglass warned his fellow black citizens,”Tear the statue down and we have testified, in art and in society, we believe that we live just as animals of blood and impulse, slaves into the past, not liberated women and men.” Norton directly contradicts the primary importance that Douglass credited to the Freedmen’s Monument: by respecting the memory of the”friend and liberator” Lincoln, African-Americans had refuted eternally the”reproach of ingratitude” for the goodness they’d obtained from their benefactors. Douglass himself, as an escaped slave, had reproached his fellow absolutely free blacks before the Civil War for not performing as far as they should for the abolition cause and for self-improvement. He observed,”we hate a freedom and equality obtained for us by others, and for which we have been reluctant to labor.” But he was way too realistic a statesman to have thought that black Americans themselves might have destroyed the institution of slavery chiefly by their own attempts –and far too honest to not value and acknowledge just how much ex-slaves owed to Lincoln for the work of emancipation.
Douglass’s public celebration of Lincoln’s achievement and of the importance of the Freedmen’s Monument far outweighs the complaints he subsequently uttered about its layout. Moreover, as the distinguished historians Allen Guelzo and James Hankins observe within their argumentative composition”Of, by, and for the Freedmen,” a few years after, Douglass effectively articulates those complaints, as well as some reservations he had voiced about Lincoln’s leadership. He commented that”In my interviews with Mr. Lincoln I had been impressed with his complete freedom from popular prejudice against the colored race,” and Lincoln”was the first great man that I spoke with in the United States freely, who in no single instance reminded me of this distinction between myself and himself, of this difference of color.” He warned his fellow black citizens,”Tear the statue down and we have testified, in art and in society, we believe that we live just as animals of blood and impulse, slaves into the past, not liberated women and men.”
The narrative of the monument’s design itself is a lot more complex and nuanced than Rep. Norton could have it. As Guelzo and Hankins see, Even Though the sculptor, Thomas Ball, was whitened –there wasn’t any established black sculptors in the 1860s and’70s when the monument was constructed–not only did
The initial impulse for the work came out of a freedwoman, Charlotte Scott; the statue had been completely funded by the gifts of former allies; the layout of this statue was revised in reaction to African-American sentiment; and the celebrations for the unveiling of the statue in 1876 were almost completely the work of Washington D.C.’s African-American community. No work of American sculpture in the twentieth century, in actuality, was the product of collective African-American agency compared to the Freedman’s Memorial.
Guelzo and Hankins recount in generous detail the way the statue’s design evolved precisely to avoid giving any impression of servility on the emancipated servant’s part. Whereas the initial bronze model depicted a servant boy, not a person,”in a lively, almost dreamlike state, that made Lincoln seem to be casting some kind of charm over him” (within an adaptation of some well-known neoclassical statue), the commissioners who oversaw the job”insisted that Ball redesign the freedman as a older, more strong and independent figure”
In consequence,”the new bronze, nearly three times the size of their prior model,” shows”a muscular, semi-nude black man in the act of climbing to his feet,” not inactive, but rather acting on his “to split the series that had jumped him.” And instead of merely removing the servant’s bonds,”Lincoln’s left arm is held outside in a welcoming gesture, as though to clasp the young man by the shoulder as he climbs.” In addition, when the freed slave was fully erect, his height could have rivaled that of the 6’4″ Lincoln. As Guelzo and Hankins put it, although the ex-slave’s”wrists still wear the shackles that had but recently been attached to chains; his right fist is clenched, the abandoned drops by his side in a relaxed gesture.
In terms of Lincoln’s location in the Peninsula, as Guelzo and Hankins celebrate, although he”stands, he doesn’t rule. The young man is moving upwards on his own accord, and his gaze is directed somewhere far beyond Lincoln or some cues Lincoln might be considered to be giving. In another revision into the 1865 layout, Lincoln seems to return with one foot, as though in mingled amazement and appreciation of the new apparition, a free black man”
However, Representative Norton along with her fans evince no interest in any such evaluation, any more than Oumou Kanoute has shown in advancing understanding between the races at the America. Gratitude for those rights that American citizenship jelqing, and for individuals who created those rights as well as their expansion possible (such as the Founders, Lincoln, Douglass, along with numerous others whose figurines have recently been toppled, or names removed from public structures ) is in all too short supply now.
So is intellectual honesty, or Profession historical awareness, when it comes to this nation’s past. In addition they defaced the monument in Boston Common to Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the all-black Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry Regiment. This unit suffered heavy casualties in the siege of Fort Wagner (with Col. Shaw one of the dropped )–and motivated the enlistment of almost 200,000 African-Americans to the Union Army.
More than ever, America wants teachers, statesmen, and citizens who will endeavor to cure these intellectual and moral deficiencies.