Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument commemorates the life of Charles Young (1864–1922), an escaped slave who rose to become a buffalo soldier in the U.S. Army and its first African American colonel. It is located on U.S. Route 42 in Wilberforce, Ohio. Charles Young was born into slavery in Kentucky in 1864. He was the third African American graduate of West Point, the first Black U.S. national park superintendent, the first African American military attaché and the highest ranking Black officer in the U.S. Army until his death in 1922. Escaped slaves, like Charles Young, created the Great Migration of Black Americans from the Deep South to the urban cities of New York, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis and even Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

What Is the Liberal Agenda?

When asked why the only Black conservative U.S senator voted not to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court, Senator Tim Scott (R–S.C.) said, “because she represents the liberal agenda.” This begs the question, “What is the liberal agenda?”

In a nutshell, the liberal agenda is the creation, development and refinement of the 1940s capitalist regulatory welfare state better known as the New Deal. It supported the working class via the new Social Security law and the right to unionize. Later was the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which led to Senator Scott’s successful career. The GOP attacked the New Deal as being socialist/communist.

Today’s liberal agenda had its antecedents in the northern wing of the Democratic Party pondering the lyrics of the party’s theme song at that time (1945), “The House I Live In, That’s America to Me.” This song has been made famous by the voices of Paul Robeson, Frank Sinatra, Neil Diamond and Mahalia Jackson.

The northern wing of the Democratic Party embraced the rapidly racial demographic changes with the massive number of Puerto Ricans immigrating to New York City (think play/film West Side Story); the massive immigration of Mexicans into the southwest; the massive migration of Black West Indians to the northeast quadrant; and earlier the “Great Migration” of Black Americans from the Deep South to the urban cities of New York, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis and even Los Angeles. These social groups, as well as Big Labor, became the voting base of the post–World War II party.

The lyrics represent this development:

“What is America to me…A certain word ‘democracy’…

the grocer and the butcher…The faces that I see… 

All races, all religions. That’s America to me.

The place I work in, The workers by my side… 

The dream that’s been a-growing for one hundred and fifty years.” 

The new Democratic Party not only embraced the changing multicultural America but also the class question and how public policy should be used to protect and serve working-class women and men or, to cite the U.S. Constitution, “promote the general welfare.” This embrace attained its clearest expression when President Harry S. Truman supported the Democratic platform of 1948, “to secure these rights” for America’s racial minorities.

In response, the southern wing of the Democratic Party bolted and formed its own party, the Dixiecrats, which was a synonym for the Ku Klux Klan. Upon the collapse of this party, its members moved to the White supremacist party of George Wallace and his American Independent Party in 1968, and eventually to today’s conservative and right-wing Republican Party.

After witnessing Confederate flags hoisted in the Capitol by the 2021 insurrectionist mob, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy said, in embracing this racist behavior, that his party is a “big tent” party and even the KKK of America is accepted within it.

There is a direct line from this history to what occurred on May 10 within Fresno-area high schools. Racist and dehumanizing images of Blacks were posted on social media by a few students at Bullard High School; as a result, in resistance and solidarity, more than 400 students from other schools such as Edison, Fresno High, Sunnyside and McLane, walked out in protest.

These horrific images were of slavery and racism within the Jim Crow era. Ironically, these images represent the thesis of the GOP-hated 1619 Project and critical race theory (CRT). One can legislate against the teaching of this pedagogy or ban or burn books with this literature in them, but all students know that with their personal computers, both the Project and CRT are merely a click away from their social consciousness.

The walkout is reminiscent of the counterculture generation of the 1960s, in which White and minority teenagers protested racism, poverty and war. Their adversaries were the youth appendage of the GOP, Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), who hated and fought against a changing America.

The YAF, in their confusion, embraced some facsimile of Wallace’s mantra, “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever!” In a twisted logic, this sentiment might have been what drove a few students to post racist images at Bullard High School.

Wallace’s comment on segregation was explained by his daughter, Peggy Wallace Kennedy, who was his presidential campaign manager, when she said, “My father ran a campaign based on the idea of ‘hate and fear.’” Kennedy said those words when asked about the similarities with her father’s presidential campaign of 1968 and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Trump began his August 2016 campaign on hate and fear when he referred to Mexicans as “drug dealers, criminals and rapists.” Like Wallace, if this was 1968, Trump would have referred those words toward African Americans. Similarly, hate and fear were the driving ideas of the big 2021 election lie by Trump, which led to the attack on the Capitol. 

Unbeknownst to the Bullard students involved in posting hateful racist images on social media, their fear of being replaced by racial minorities in their worldview of “White over Black” and all others was the basis of their actions. It is also the great replacement theory believed by Payton S. Gendron, the murderer of multiple Black people in Buffalo in May.

This concept was first put forth by Madison Grant in his 1916 work, The Passing of the Great Race, meaning White northern and western Europeans, but the fear was driven by his references to Italians, Greeks, Jews and other Southern and Eastern Europeans. The term replacement has become a synonym for the term passing.

This fiction is realized in the fact that those immigrants did not replace anyone, just as today’s feared immigrants will also not replace anyone, whether they are at the southern border, the northern border or flying in from the Caribbean, Africa or Russia.

The racial attitudes of the Bullard students, who were disciplined, like those of many Whites in the Trump era, will also pass into the dustbin of history. The demographic changes will not be stopped by senseless violence. The continued “multicultural browning” of America viewers see in television commercials is where the market reaches out to new buyers of commodities. Just think of American Bandstand and how White kids in the counterculture generation embraced Chuck Berry’s 1955 hit, “Maybellene.”

  • Dr. Malik Simba is professor emeritus of history and Africana studies at Fresno State and has taught at the University of Minnesota, Binghamton University and Clarion University. His book, Black Marxism and American Constitutionalism: From the Colonial Background through the Ascendancy of Barack Obama and the Dilemma of Black Lives Matter, is used widely. Dr. Simba serves on the board of Blackpast.org, the Google of the Africana experience.

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Homer Greene Jr
Homer Greene Jr
24 days ago

An excellent essay!!! I love the articulation of your historical review of the construct of American liberalism.

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