Requiem for Human Dreams

“Today there can be no doubt that Americans know the facts; and yet they remain for the most part indifferent and unmoved.” This sentence from W. E. B. DuBois’s article “A Negro Nation Within the Nation,” Current History 42 (1935 ): 265-270 has been quoted by Ibram X. Kendi in Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2016). Du Bois’s assertion sounds in 2016 like a lament from a person in ideological pain, and there can be no doubt that Kendi quoted Du Bois to remind us of the implacable and always changing conditions of human existence. There are indigenous nations still within the United States of America, but we who have no membership in those nations remain ignorant of them by choice. Perhaps, the ignorance is more a reflex action than a rational choice, an unconscious motion of marking the authenticity of being an American. Such ignorance and indifference, or selectivity in our commerce with facts, is not innately necessary or sufficient, a part of unadulterated biological functioning. It is a part of social and cultural engineering. No doubt we remain unmoved by knowing this fact, because the excruciating pain of being an American paralyzes common sense as well as the qualities of charity, hope, and faith which manifest themselves in most of the religions of this world.

Stamped from the Beginning, like any book, may only awaken a few dozen Americans and disturb the bliss of ignorance. Nevertheless, Kendi’s book may awaken a handful of Americans to recognize what such widely discussed books as Kevin Powell’s The Education of Kevin Powell, Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, and Ta’Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me and such infrequently discussed books as Dennis de Rougemont’s The Devil’s Share, Sam Greenlee’s Baghdad Blues, Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and Gustave Le Bon’s The Crowd work toward by indirection: the abject cognitive poverty of sentences in which the word “race” is the subject. There can be no doubt that Americans remain indifferent and unmoved by arguments in Charles W. Mills’s The Racial Contract, arguments that are as crucial as the fictions about terrorism which circulate internationally.

As an irreversible new ordering of the world descends upon us , cognitive poverty ascends. In 2016, Americans and other human beings know only two facts: (1) Nothing is neither true nor false, because it is nothing and (2) Everything is either true or false, because it is everything. Know that these magic propositions ordain a requiem for human dreams.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr. 
June 18, 2016