Do you long for the 1950s?

From “Fortune: How Race Broke My Family and the World–and How to Repair It All” by Lisa Sharon Harper

Politics is simple. It is the question and answer of how the people will live together. The founders of the religious right mounted their culture war to preserve their place at the top of the hierarchy of human belonging – the ruling tier reserved for Christian White men. The religious right’s culture war was a continuation of the Civil War, not Roe v. Wade. It was catalyzed by Lincoln’s Radical Republican shift in American hierarchy through amendments to the Constitution that leveled the legal playing field between former masters and the formerly enslaved for the first time since 1662. In response, southern White men pushed back. They found ways to redeem the hierarchy under new laws while northern Whites looked the other way. That was the compromise: preserve White peace by refusing to see what southern men do both at home and through national policy. Thus, both southern and northern White men waged war to maintain White dominance through peonage, employment discrimination, segregation and redlining, the normalization of the rape and control of Black women, stealing credit for Black inventions and music, and twisting the narrative of our national history such that all things good come from White men – including a White version of Jesus (who was actually Brown).

When ruling is equated with safety, dominance over the other is necessary. From Jonathan Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” and the Pequot Massacre, which was his idea, to Donald Trump’s grabbing of women’s private parts to his Muslim ban to his caging and separation of asylum-seeking families to his LGBTQIA+ military ban and alignment with White nationalist groups, the thematic plumb line of European presence on the soil we call America has been the domination of everybody and everything. 

In the days leading up to the 2020 election, we witnessed an escalation of the culture war, from battle cry to the bombs themselves. The Trump administration coordinated its institutional authority toward one goal: voter suppression and eventually blatant attempts to steal votes. In the midst of this mayhem, I had an epiphany. In 2020, people of European descent made up 59.7percent of the US population. Demographers widely project that by 2045, the White population within the US will drop below 50 percent. Sociologist Dudley L. Poston wrote in a 2020 report: “On the first day of 2020, whites under the age 18 were already in the minority. Among all the young people now in the US, there are more minority young people than there are white young people.”

Robert P. Jones, in White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity, explains that the perceived external threat of racial and cultural change primed White Christians to champion Trump. “In the course of a single political campaign,” Jones said, Trump converted White evangelical values voters into nostalgia voters. White evangelicals were not the only White Americans who longed for the good old days when White men ruled. A study conducted by Jones’s organization, the Public Religion Research Institute, asked 2,500 adults living in all fifty states, Do you long for the 1950s? The majority of White Americans said yes, while the vast majority of people of color and other minorities said no. 

The 1950s was the murder of Emmett Till.

The 1950s was the back of the bus and Whites-only water fountains and schools and jobs and lunch counters.

The 1950s was redlining for people of color while White families benefited from the G.I. BIll. 

The 1950s preceded the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting RIghts Act, the 1965 Immigration Act, and the 1970 Clean Air Act.

In the 1950s, 59 percent of Black people were living under the poverty line.

The 1950s was before the Stonewall uprising launched the LGBTQIA+ movement.

The 1950s was four decades before the Americans with Disabilities Act.