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The vision of America boosted by Donald Trump, and brought firmly into the White House in the person of top advisor Stephen Bannon, is one that places white men at its core. By appointing Bannon as a top advisor, Trump has signaled his commitment to keeping a political strategist who has aided and abetted white nationalism in his inner circle. The next four years will be a battle for the soul of America. The vision of Bannon and Trump must not be allowed to become the new “normal.”

Though this country was founded on white supremacy, this not the only vision from which we can draw. Leading up the Civil War, a black-white abolitionist movement challenged the foundations of chattel slavery in the United States. The vision of abolitionists exploded in the years immediately following the Civil War as a new vision of an American nation emerged during the Reconstruction. For the first time in U.S. history, a vision of a multi-racial republic became a concrete feature on the American landscape.

During this period, a new America was possible. This brief moment of a new American national identity was undermined by racism in the northern industrial working class and ultimately defeated by an onslaught of Ku Klux Klan violence and a treacherous alliance between northern industrial capital and the remnants the southern planter and emerging capitalist class in the south. In its wake, a fury of violence was unleased on blacks in the south, Jim Crow segregation became the law of the land, and the United States continued its never-stopped quest to extend a genocidal settler colonialism out west.

The dream of a new America did not die. It burst onto the scene again in the era of the Civil Rights movement, as a black rebellion in the south inspired the world by standing, organizing, and gaining allies in an uprising that toppled Jim Crow segregation. This Second Reconstruction, and the civil rights rebellions it inspired, expanded the circle to include a broader vision of liberation for people of color, immigrants, women, gay men and lesbians, and workers and a call to heal the Earth we all share. It inspired and learned from Native struggles that saw tribes across the United States fight for political sovereignty and the implementation of their long-violated treaty rights.

As during the First Reconstruction, the Second Reconstruction was met with a backlash of organized white supremacy, a Christian right movement that put religions bigotry and theocracy on the political table, and the politicization of big capital and attacks on labor.

With the fall of the Eastern bloc, the rise of transnational companies, and demographic change, a new middle American white nationalism movement emerged, bent on redefining who and what we are as a nation.

This racist movement has now gained allies in the White House. Steve Bannon and Donald Trump’s racist vision of America cannot be allowed to become the new normal. We must rise hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm in defense of all of the targets of these racists animus. We must articulate a new vision for the country. In that, however, we are blessed. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and we will not waiver.

Chuck Tanner

Author Chuck Tanner

Chuck Tanner is an Advisory Board member and researcher for the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. He lives in Washington State where he researches and works to counter white nationalism and the anti-Indian and other far right social movements.

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