The Double V Campaign and déjà vu all over again

President* Trump,

I’m reading Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi’s book Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning. I got through about 45% of Kendi’s How to Be An Antiracist before the library loan expired so I thought it would be a good idea to go with something pitched at a YA audience and to purchase, rather than borrow, it. I’m about halfway through and I’ve learned a ton. I’m probably going to buy a physical copy of Kendi’s original book so I can dig into more of the details and be able to go back and reference earlier bits (much) more easily than I can on the Kindle. Our daughter recently loaned me a hard copy of Angela Davis’s Women, Race, & Class, which I also highly recommend, and being able to move around in it and to dog ear pages with crucial information was super helpful.

Interesting (or not) as the choice of book format may be, the real reason for bringing up the Reynolds/Kendi book is that I learned for the first time last night about the WWII Double V Campaign. In the book they give it a super brief mention, explaining that the idea was to win victory over fascism abroad and racism at home. I’m going to tell you what I learned about the campaign from Wikipedia this morning, but first I think it will be instructive for you to see the Merriam-Webster definition of fascism:

“a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition”

It’s rather stunningly familiar, isn’t it? There are still a few democratic guardrails intact and you are still in the Wannabe domain on everything but “forcible suppression of opposition,” but you all must be feeling good about where things are heading.

The backstory on the real Double V Campaign (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_V_campaign), according to Wikipedia, reveals that it had somewhat dubious origins. The gist is that the Black community was reluctant to sign up to fight “aggression, slavery, and tyranny” overseas when they were facing such overwhelmingly oppressive treatment here in the US so FDR asked publishers of prominent Black-owned newspapers to reduce their negative, apathetic stance toward the war. The result was this campaign, which as a campaign was a pretty great twist on the FDR request since it bluntly named the core issue of systemic racism and got the overarching goal of dismantling systemic racism out there, front and center. A national poll indicates that 91% of Black Americans supported the DVC, but so far I can’t find any information on whether it helped boost enlistment rates among Blacks (Wikipedia doesn’t say and the other websites I found are also silent on that issue).

Not at all surprising, however, is that the White Southern press freaked out and said the campaign was fomenting a dangerous revolution and needed to stop. Sound familiar? It’s like déjà vu all over again with the flap you all are raising about Black Lives Matter and the Democratic party’s big, huge tent approach to campaigning (and hopefully, governing). Like those bigoted White Southerners of the 1940’s who didn’t want their profit or their privilege compromised, you all are doing your damnedest to quash voter enfranchisement because you know you can’t compete on a level playing field.

Personally, I’m thinking maybe the Double V Campaign needs to be resurrected for the 21st Century, though I’d like to pump it up to something like the Quadruple V Campaign – winning victory over fascism, racism, sexism, and classism (I know there are lots more ‘isms, but if we got a handle on these, the hope is that the others would be swept up as the arc of history bent more decisively towards justice).

May we be safe from all the ‘isms.
May those of us who need to re-educate ourselves on our history do so forthwith.
May we have the strength to see who we were and how we’ve gotten where we are.
May we accept that there is a very long, very dangerous cord stretching from 1619 to now and we ignore or deny it at our collective peril.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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