The battle to “Restore America’s Soul’’ is Joe Biden’s presidential campaign slogan. After
an over-congested Democratic primary, Biden is now the 2020 presumptive nominee.
It appears that for Biden soul is neither homage to his Roman Catholic upbringing nor a nod to having enjoyed a Chicago Southside Sunday dinner prepared by Marian Robinson (Michelle Obama’s mother). Instead, Biden asserts that his presidency will create policies that reflect our shared values.
It is also a commitment to return integrity to the office of the president of the United States. While some, and a majority of people color, feel President Donald Trump has sullied the office, there are others, most of whom are White, who feel former President Barack Obama created an environment in which they needed to try to take the country back.
No ‘Soul Train’ line
Over a decade ago, the leadership of the GOP erupted in fear over Obama ascending to the presidency. There seemed to be concern that a soul fest would break out at the White House. The South Lawn would host picnics with fried chicken and watermelon.
The helicopter landing would transform to a dance floor with the “Electric Slide’’ and a “Soul Train’’ line.
The Queen of Soul would have an impromptu concert from the Truman Balcony belting out R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Oh, and maybe even, over in the Rose Garden there’d be a scramble board revealing the week’s notable African American history.
And, of course, over in the Jackie Kennedy Garden several card-tables for spades and dominos.
The nation’s soul
For eight years the country, love it or hate it, got to experience the soul of Barack Obama and his family. June 2020 will make five years since Trump announced his candidacy for president and under that context the country and the world have gotten to know his soul.
The meaning of soul differs depending on dynamics. Some psychologists have identified it as the immaterial essence and totality of who you are at a core level–your true nature. Mateo Sol suggests that the soul either gravitates toward light or darkness depending on how one’s ego is developed.
An ego is usually constructed from a collection of memories and beliefs about who you are, where you came from, and identity of what good and bad, all connecting to the meaning of core value – soul.
President Trump’s ego led to his mantra of ‘Make America Great Again’ is, arguably, a call of America’s restoration. Trump emerged to champion the hatred and racism that ensued after Mitch McConnell’s failed attempt to make Obama a one term president.
The blatant disrespect of Congressman Joe Wilson’s shouting “You lie!” during Obama’s 2009 joint session of Congress was too seeded with core values brewing within some in the Republican party.
Black men vote
It was not until 1965 Voting Rights Act, led by Black men – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev.Ralph Abernathy and Andrew Young, who went on to serve in Congress, as U.N. ambassador and mayor of Atlanta, and others – including women, that Blacks would legally gain the right to vote.
An estimated 30 million Black Americans are eligible to vote in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center. While Black women are rightfully celebrated as anchors of the Democratic Party, Black men have a long history of voting Democrat as well.
According to the 2019 the Center for American Progress States of Change report, 78 percent of Black men with a college degree voted for Clinton (16 percent voted for Trump) and 82 percent without a college degree voted Democrat (11 percent voted for Trump).
Black man’s focus
In August 2015, I was in Cleveland, Ohio attending the memorial services of a mentor and fraternity brother, Congressman Louis Stokes. After the services, I took an Uber to a dinner with members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The driver was a married 54-year-old Black male, father of three, and native of Cleveland. And he was a Trump supporter.
He had lost his construction job during Obama’s administration. He felt that with Trump as president, having built hotels all over the world, trusted that Trump would put Black men back to work. And, of course, Trump had reputation as the celebrity boss from The Apprentice, having given every day people chances.
After sitting in his car for 90 minutes, with a $100 bill (that would have been $12), and missing the dinner, getting out of the car, shaking my head in disbelief, I said to myself, “if these are barbershop conversations, Donald Trump is going to win.”
During the 2018 midterm election, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of American’s vote. There was only a 2-percentage differential in comparison with non-Hispanic Black, voting at 47 percent.
Black men are focused on survival and making it happen for themselves. For some, the immediate results of neither Obama nor Trump has delivered a crumb, let alone a slice of the American pie.
‘Masters and man’
In W.E.B. Dubois’ seminal collection of essays, “The Souls of Black Folks,’’ written in 1903, he pens “Of the Sons of Master and Man.” In it he discusses physical proximity, economic strategy, and politics—the power of the ballot in every state. He reveals the police system as designed to control slaves and how courts can be the means of re-enslaving Blacks.
Equally important, he addresses social contact stating that “there is almost no community of intellectual life or point of transference where the thoughts and feelings of one race can come into direct contact and sympathy with thoughts and feelings of the other.”
He concludes that “the future of the South depends on the ability of the representatives of these opposing views to see and appreciate and sympathize with each other’s position.” Dubois was speaking to the soul of a nation. He was not completely heard then, but we should really listen and take action to restore or even discover the true soul of America now.
For Biden’s clarion “soul” call to resonate with Black men it has to be about accountability than the political rhetoric and empty promises portrayed by man public officials.
Time for ownership
Black men are more interested in the answer to Plato’s Republic than more questions. And, rather than taking Socrates’ a long way around to define justice as the virtues of human beings in a city, it is time for America to create scales of economic, political and social justice that are leaning toward the uplift Black men, instead of structural racism that works to their detriment.
No longer are Black men satisfied being fishermen; it’s time to own oceans. No longer is being the vast majority of the NFL’s athletic talent sufficient, it’s for ownership. Black men want access to flowing veins and arteries to create fulfilling lives, which woven together comprise a nation with rhythm and balance.
With eyes on that type of future, I certainly believe that Black men will head to the poll for Biden and leave borrowing from the departing words of Soul Train’s host Don Cornelius, “We wish you love, peace and soul, Joe.”
Dr. Keith Magee is a Londonbased public intellectual with a focus on social justice and public theology. He writes and speak, globally, on issues of race, religion and politics. For more information, visit www.4justicesake.org or follow him on social media @keithlmagee.