Albert J. Raboteau explains how the American story continues to be one of both freedom and oppression.
We still live under the long shadow of the plantation. White supremacy is still alive and well in our society, and we’re seeing its recrudescence in some very serious ways currently in the political scene. The notion that this is a white country is one that is demographically doomed, but that won’t pass without some strong reactions on the part of white people who want to bring back America the Great.
Also, the whole experience of slavery and the history of slavery, as part of the national myth or the national narrative, is extremely important, because what it does is introduces a whole new set of characters to the national drama. And it introduces black characters who are no longer invisible. But it not only introduces more characters into the national story, it also challenges the national story. So that, as historian Edmund Morgan says, the story of American history has been a kind of counterpoise between American slavery and American freedom. Indeed, freedoms have been spread to a larger group of people over time. But that spread has been at the cost of ongoing oppression of black people in ways that have become very apparent, thanks to videocams and cell phones that betray the brutality of the police state that we sometimes live in as black people.