“You know who I am”, Joe Biden shouted to the American voters in his televised duel against Donald Trump, “and you know who he is.” Should anyone have forgotten, then the debate provided enough illustrative material, especially during the most important topic of 2020, the pandemic.
When asked about the more than 220,000 corona deaths in his country, the President did not wrest a word of sympathy this time either, but boasted: for the millions of deaths that he had prevented; for the vaccine, which in Trump’s imagination is “ready” for immediate mass vaccinations; even for his own contagion, because: “I am immune!” It was left to the democratic challenger to point out the currently devastating development of the number of cases in several states as well as to the gloomy prognoses of the experts and to spell out the often unpopular measures that are not a panacea , but until further notice the best medicine: mask requirement, plexiglass, rapid tests and so on.
Et was exactly 57 years ago that her grandfather led the “March for Jobs and Freedom” and spoke of his dream for the following generations: The 12-year-old granddaughter of Martin Luther King, Yolanda Renee King, spoke at the on Friday “Commitment March” in the capital. “My generation is already on the street, peaceful, with masks and distance to one another to protest against racism,” she said, and called on “that we become the generation that comes from ‘I’ to ‘we’.” The son of the murdered civil rights activist, Martin Luther King III, attacked Donald Trump for his attacks on postal voting and compared them to the voter suppression of the 1960s.
Philonise Floyd, who is mourning his brother George, spoke as well as the sister of Jacob Blake, who was shot and seriously wounded by the Kenosha police. Thousands had come to Washington to demonstrate against racism. Nobody tried to overshadow the quarter of a million people who stood around the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 – this was not possible because of the quarantine requirements that apply to travelers from dozens of states in the capital. Nevertheless, the march, which culminated in the virtual “National Black Convention”, was to represent a high point of the protests of the last few months.
The march was organized by several civil rights organizations such as the NAACP, the virtual “convention” by the “Movement for Black Lives”. Black Lives Matter groups from across the country also mobilized for the event. Political differences seemed to play a lesser role for a day. You don’t fight against each other, said the Reverend Al Sharpton from New York, one of the organizers and keynote speaker. According to many experts, the protest movement initiated by “Black Lives Matter” in recent months is now the largest in numbers in the history of the United States. According to a calculation by the “New York Times”, half a million people took part in demonstrations in 550 locations on June 6th, and between 15 and 26 million people were said to have attended protests.
The local Black Lives Matter groups were able to organize the protests so effectively after the killing of George Floyd at the end of May because the movement had disappeared from the headlines but continued to work locally after the 2014 protests. “Black Lives Matter” has been around since 2013, when the teenager Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmermann. After the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014, the protests continued for months but lost media attention.
The actions of individuals rub off on everyone
The black civil rights movement always had in common with all other social movements that there are also internal conflicts and currents here, as well as self-promoters and theoretical excursions that prove to be unsustainable. More than with any other social movement, however, the same applies to “Black Lives Matter”, which also applies to black crime in America: The actions of individuals always stand for the whole, and all members of the group are responsible for them in the public debate made. Nowhere is this as clear as in the discussion about violent clashes with the police and looting, whose participants make up only a very small part of the protests. This is what the Republicans focused on last week at their party conference when they warned of “chaos” and “mobs”.
WIf the presidential election had turned out four years ago, the US Treasury would have unveiled the design of a new $ 20 bill these days. A banknote that no longer shows Andrew Jackson’s portrait, but the picture of Harriet Tubman.
But Donald Trump idolizes Andrew Jackson and considers him a role model. Jackson, the seventh American president, was a populist and racist: a slave owner who ordered the relentless displacement of, among other things, the Cherokee into the “Indian Territory” west of the Mississippi (today’s Oklahoma).
The change in the design of the $ 20 bill had been decided by Jack Lew, who served as Treasury Secretary under Barack Obama. Trump personally ensured that the plan was postponed indefinitely. Harriet Tubman would have been the first woman and the first black on an American banknote.
The fact that the bills continue to flutter with the face of Andrew Jackson over American counters shows how unerringly the Trump administration knows how to use symbols. But who was actually Harriet Tubman, about whom a film is currently being shown in the cinema, “Harriet” with Cynthia Erivo in the leading role?
With the North Star
In the United States, every child knows her story – at least when that child reads the books of a popular series of biographies that features American heroes: Abraham Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, Bob Dylan, Helen Keller. Harriet Tubman has of course long belonged to this gallery (“Who was Harriet Tubman?” By Yonah Zeldis McDonogh, Grosset & Dunlap, 102 pages, four dollars).
So many American children know that Harriet Tubman was born in Maryland in 1820 or 1821 – nobody knows the exact year – a black baby, a slave among slaves. That she was torn away by her parents at the age of six. That she was rented to a strange white woman, from whom she learned to weave, that she almost died of a fever, that she had to look after a white baby at the age of seven – all night long – and that she was beaten when the baby cried. That she helped a slave escape as a rebellious teenager.
And that at the age of maybe 23, she tore out and left everything behind: her husband (who threatened to betray her to the whites), her parents, her siblings. She followed the North Star northwards, to freedom – along the escape route that became known as the “Underground Railroad”.
But the story doesn’t end here. Because the daredevil Harriet Tubman returned several times to the slave-holding states in the south. The first time, she used a trick in broad daylight to free her sister’s family, which was to be sold south. But it also helped many other blacks to escape. After 1850 that meant: to Canada, because the northern states had committed to delivering runaway blacks.
The slave owners, of course, hated them. Fact sheets were circulating, $ 40,000 was exposed on her head. A special feature: a deep scar on the forehead – a stone had hit Harriet Tubman there when she was maybe 13 years old. It soon became clear that the white gentlemen wanted to kill them. Her friends convinced Harriet Tubman that she was too important for the anti-slavery movement and that she shouldn’t risk her life.
But then the civil war broke out in 1861. And so Harriet Tubman’s next career began: as a war hero, nurse, agitator, spy. She healed black soldiers who served in the American army. She commanded nine white scouts spying on an area from South Carolina to Florida.
In June 1863, the Union troops on the Combahee River led to a bloodless victory over the rebels – 756 slaves were freed who immediately joined the Union Army. It was nicknamed “Moses” because it had led its people to freedom. As an old woman, she told – who could neither read nor write – her life to a white woman, Sarah Bradwell, who made it two bestsellers. Harriet Tubman died in 1913, very old. What a fabric!
Harriet Tubman had the advantage that almost everyone could rely on them. The black civil rights activists around Martin Luther King because they had paved the way for them. The black nationalists to succeed Malcolm X because they were by no means always non-violent. (That would have been suicidal too.)
The women’s movement because Tubman’s lifelong campaigning for women’s right to vote. (It was introduced in the United States seven years after her death.) Even the gunmen from the NRA sometimes referred to Harriet Tubman, after all, since escaping slavery, she had been running around with a revolver in her belt. (However, that says nothing about what stance she would take in today’s discussions about arms law restrictions.)
Wishes for election year 2020
Of course she would demonstrate for “Black Lives Matter” today. Of course, she would be amazed at what became of the Republican Party – Abraham Lincoln’s party – in the 20th century. Otherwise, one can only guess what a resurrected Harriet Tubman would do, say, or think today.
Would she be amazed at how many black Americans are now committed to one of the many varieties of Islam. (She herself was a devout Christian, her autobiographical narratives were interspersed with biblical allusions, references to Jesus, the prophets, the psalms.) Harriet Tubman was entirely a person of the 19th century, actually it is impossible to extract them from their historical Context.
OneUnited Bank learned in February of this year how much it can go wrong if you try anyway. It is one of the largest black-operated banks in the United States. OneUnited Bank issued its own visa card with the picture of Harriet Tubman – perhaps as a consolation because Trump prevented the $ 20 bill that was supposed to honor it.
So far, so wonderful. But because OneUnited Bank meant it very well, she showed Harriet Tubman how she is offering the “Wakanda salute”: two upper arms crossed in front of her chest. This greeting comes from the film “Black Panther”, in which a fictional African kingdom is portrayed, which exists in secret and gives birth to superheroes because it has an element with magical abilities: the so-called Vibranium.
The black community was outraged. Why not show Harriet Tubman with a shotgun? Why not when saluting? Where’s the historical accuracy? The critics were right. Because Harriet Tubman was a real person, not a cartoon character. And it has led the black slaves to freedom with all their problems and contradictions – not to a cloud cuckoo home called Wakanda.
Aggressive campaign advertising is not uncommon in the United States. Recently, however, there has been a group of Republicans who want to prevent Trump from being re-elected, and their TV spots have one main goal: the president himself.
Toxic, brutal, played on men: This is how Donald Trump pursues politics. And at least until recently, he did it fairly successfully.
Donald Trump puts everything on one card. As the United States enters the worst phase of the corona pandemic, the president is fueling the flames of the cultural war. On the eve of Independence Day, Trump could have tried a course correction at the foot of Mount Rushmore. In the shadow of his great predecessors George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, hewn out of the rock, he could have given a sign that he understood the concerns of the population and that he too wanted to be president of all Americans. Instead, he warned of a “new left-wing fascism” to demonize the Black Lives Matter movement.
It remains to be seen whether the White House narcissist is simply incapable of the empathy that would be required in an unprecedented scale in a national health crisis, or whether he is following a coolly calculated campaign strategy that distraction would be his last chance to win in November. In any case, the despair in the Trump team must be great. In April, when Trump began to stage himself as the top crisis manager, the supporters and opponents of his work almost once balanced each other. Now, however, almost 56 percent of Americans attest Trump according to the average of the survey calculated by the portal “Real Clear Politics” that he is in bad office, less than 42 percent believe him. National polls see Democrat Joe Biden, who runs a minimal election campaign because of Corona, almost ten percentage points ahead of Trump. It will be extremely tight for Trump in key states.