On Wednesday, January 13th, the African American Policy Forum rang in the new year by hosting a very special 21th episode of our hit series Under the Blacklight titled, “If Hindsight is 2020, Why Are We Still Not Saved?
The morning of January 6th began with startling contrasts in America — in one moment, we celebrated the historic electoral wins in Georgia, and in the next, we braced for the existential threat to democracy coming from the Capitol. And as the Peach State delivered a previously unimagined victory, America witnessed a sitting President, the commander in chief, urge an angry crowd to “walk down to the Capitol, and...show strength." How could such a whiplash of events exist within the same week -- let alone the same 24 hours? What prism of understanding must we refine to see these competing events clearly?
President-elect Biden called for unity and reconciliation, urging that “[A]merica is about honor. Decency, respect, tolerance — that's who we are, that's who we've always been." As images of insurrectionists beating a Capitol policeman with the pole of an American flag flooded the airways, Republicans and Democrats alike have insisted that our country is “better than this.”
For students of history and those who have inherited the ugliest chapters of our past, this refrain reflects a most worrisome choice in response to this crisis. Our country’s greatest conflagration and loss of life in the American Civil War came from the actions of elected representatives who set out to destroy the union rather than risk losing their peculiar form of property. Thus, the choice to confront the intentional weaponization of the resentments, mythologies, and deceptions with homilies and kumbaya is nearly as troubling as the mob actions that shocked the world. America wants to be better than this, but is “better” possible so long as we deny our past?
With our panel of powerhouse guests, Carol Anderson, Joe Lowndes, David Blight and Anoa Changa, we asked the question, if hindsight is 2020, why are we still not saved? Together, they made legible how the politics of resentment, of white supremacy, of misogyny and xenophobia, along with Lost Cause politics and political repression, were weaponized across the country, and we carefully examined how this election was an inflection point in the intersection of these dynamics, and how democracy itself was under siege.