So, it’s really happening. “It”, of course, is the presidency of what Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson calls a “toddler president.” On Friday, January 20, 2017 around noon, it really happened.
A shock to many, still, young millennials like myself only truly know a loving, inclusive, progressive, black president. So, this was obviously a major upset. I have really been thinking about what the answer could possibly be to this one simple yet complicated question: How did we get here? For the anti-Trump voters who are a few decades older, like my parents, their main question since the dreadful night of November 8, 2016 has been, How did we get back here?
Well, I might suggest from my recollection of 2012 (because I’m a little too young to remember much of president Obama’s first term), and from readings, documentaries, and listening to who I consider black america leaders: Van Jones, Marc Lamont Hill, Angela Rye, Joy Reid and others, that all three – democrats, liberals, and most importantly black people, went to sleep in 2008, and woke up to Trump in 2016. And we slept peacefully knowing there was a black man sitting in the Oval Office.
Since we left all of the work up to him, we woke up with all the work left up to us. We were distracted from the fact that those heavily angered and disturbed by two terms of Barack Obama had been plotting from the very racist, misogynist foundation on which this stolen country was built.
Last month, chair of the African American studies department at Princeton University, Eddie S. Glaude Jr., was the MLK Day speaker for a Progressive National Baptist Convention annual conference. Dr. Glaude entered Morehouse College at the age of 15, like Dr. King. I was not at the event, but my dad brought me back a CD (yes, a CD). In his speech, Glaude analyzed one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most stirring sermons, Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.
Dr. King delivered this sermon at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C in March 1968, about a week before he was assassinated. His words spoken then – four decades ago – still ring true and resonate with what is happening in American society right now.
Here is an excerpt:
I am sure that most of you have read that arresting little story from the pen of Washington Irving entitled “Rip Van Winkle.” The one thing that we usually remember about the story is that Rip Van Winkle slept twenty years. But there is another point in that little story that is almost completely overlooked. It was the sign in the end, from which Rip went up in the mountain for his long sleep.
When Rip Van Winkle went up into the mountain, the sign had a picture of King George the Third of England. When he came down twenty years later the sign had a picture of George Washington, the first president of the United States. When Rip Van Winkle looked up at the picture of George Washington—and looking at the picture he was amazed—he was completely lost. He knew not who he was.
And this reveals to us that the most striking thing about the story of Rip Van Winkle is not merely that Rip slept twenty years, but that he slept through a revolution. While he was peacefully snoring up in the mountain a revolution was taking place that at points would change the course of history—and Rip knew nothing about it. He was asleep. Yes, he slept through a revolution. And one of the great liabilities of life is that all too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change, and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses, that the new situation demands. They end up sleeping through a revolution.
If you have about 15 minutes to spare, you can read the rest of his sermon here.
Let it marinate.
I want this post to be an educational and enlightening moment. King’s sermon forced me to pause and really think about how we got to where we are and how I can contribute to another revolution moving forward.
After reading, I hope you, too, come to this conclusion: