Yesterday I got a phone call from a well known and popular internet site that focuses on Hollywood celebrities. They called to see whether I’d be interested in doing an interview about Kanye West’s expression of support for Candace Owens. Miss Owens is becoming a celebrity, in her own right, among Trump supporters. She’s a young black woman who says that candidate Trump’s frank assault on CNN and other “fake” media, opened her eyes to the fact that “the media are hired hitmen.”
I became a conservative overnight. I realized that liberals were actually the racists; that liberals were actually the trolls. And then, at the very same time—you have to remember this is April 2016—Trump is on the screen saying that the media’s lying, that CNN is fake…it all began to resonate with me because I realized that everything he was saying is true. (Candace Owens on her journey from Left to Right, a live interview with David Rubin)
Of course, at the time of her conversion, Miss Owens was being “mugged by reality.” She was being assaulted by her leftist buddies for seeking support for a project called “Social Autopsy,” a website “meant to catalogue hate speech from individuals in a searchable online ‘morgue.’” Though she apparently acted with good intentions, critics of the project (mostly from the left) lambasted her, claiming that the site would inevitably be used for “doxxing”—a term of art for a practice that assembles and publicizes an individual’s personally identifiable internet documents for use as a weapon of personal destruction.
Learning from experience what it feels like to be the target of the leftist media mobocracy Miss Owens empathized with candidate Donald Trump’s campaign against them. By the time of her interview with David Rubin, quoted above, she had made the transition from self-presumed left-leaning millennial to convinced, Trump supporting Republican. As part of that awakening she has rebelled against the politics of victimization ruthlessly promoted by the Democratic Party to target Black folks for political exploitation. Miss Owens presses Black Americans to reject the victim role the left’s ideological agenda imposes on them. She wants us “to embrace a victor mentality.”
I’ve never understood why we have ever failed to do so. I suppose it has something to do with leftist propagandists who assumed that Black Americans should flee from the fact that our heritage includes centuries-long enslavement. Black people susceptible to that propaganda therefore think it makes sense to erase from America’s consciousness everything reminiscent of that fact. Yet, during our history many Black Americans identified with the saga of the Israelites in the Bible. Through four centuries of enslavement they kept faith with the moral identity that transcended their enslaved condition.
In their dealings with one another, many of them remembered and observed the standards of right, justice, and compassion their enslavers systematically disrespected. Though treated like animals, they remembered what it means to be men and women who never cease to care for their offspring, even as the slave system physically ripped families apart. Though systematically deprived of any property, even in themselves, they remembered the goodwill that can still be shared with others when the world thinks we have nothing left.
Leftist Blacks helped turn “Uncle Tom” into a label of opprobrium. But Harriet Beecher Stowe’s saga by that name portrayed a man of good faith and courageous compassion. Precisely because it was drawn from the widely known traits of people among the enslaved who displayed that character, it shamed the conscience of many Americans into reacting against the evident lie slavery told about humanity itself. Without that sense of shame, imbuing moral purpose, Lincoln’s effort to build a statesmanship of emancipation might well have failed. It drew on premises of human right and justice (articulated in the Declaration’s statement of America’s founding creed) that relied on a positive conviction about the proven humanity of the enslaved.
This means that, in every act of justice, loyalty, right and loving compassion my enslaved ancestors were seen to perform, they every day refuted the devilish lie that reproached the evil done by those enslaving them. This was the burden of good conscience that made Jefferson tremble for his country whenever he remembered God’s justice.
Since the premises of the United States explicitly acknowledged and relied upon God’s justice, Jefferson must have trembled more often than not. Thus, my enslaved ancestors won, by their own actions, the prerequisite victory over slavery without which the battle to end it would probably never have been fought. So, Candace Owens is right to demand that Black Americans see themselves as victors, especially as they remember the ancestors who won the battle to preserve humanity’s decent heart and conscience. It is a battle that, tragically for humankind, is all too often lost in the spirit before it even begins.
Of course, those inner victories kept alive the spirit that would eventually fuel Harriet Tubman’s dauntless career as an emancipator. It would lend fire to Frederick Douglass’s insistence that the Declaration’s premise of right and justice for all humanity extended to the enslaved. It would move across the generations to uphold Susan B. Anthony’s demand that woman be accorded respect for their equal citizenship, and Martin Luther King’s powerful prayer that all the people of the United States be confirmed in their right of self-government, by enforcing that right unequivocally in respect of all Americans.
Thanks to the candor of young people like Candace Owens, oncoming generations may begin to wake up to the blinders ideological propagandists, left and right, so often seek to impose upon the vision of the American people. They want us to believe that physical and material factors are, above all, the determining factors of human destiny. They want us to accept the notion that money and material concerns are therefore the keys to victory in human terms.
But how can humanity triumph if we mistake ourselves for material things, no different than the others found in nature? We cannot be self-confident victors when we consent to lose the spiritual eyes and mind and understanding that let us know both what we are, and what we’re meant to be. Ordinary Americans—black and white, native and immigrant, slave and free—did not score victories, time after time, for liberty and justice because we controlled the levers of wealth and power.
We triumphed at first and in the end, because we held fast to our faith in God and our obedience to His will. We triumphed because of our sense that the most humanly awesome power of God’s Word is the power to move the human heart to do right, even though lust and greed and fear stand adamantly against it. I pray that Candace Owens and all the well-intentioned idealists of our oncoming posterity will deeply ponder the priority that must be given, today as when our nation began, to the authority of God and His Truth. So that now, and for all generations to come, Americans may stand fast in the liberty wherewith, in Truth, He still sets and keeps us free.