I have to start this piece with a famous prediction, a lesser known quote, and an important question. Then I’ll answer the question and provide an example that will explain the title.
The 20th century opened with W.E.B. Dubois predicting that the paramount problem facing the 20th century will be the color line. Midway through that same century Frantz Fanon wrote, “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.” Now, it’s a new year in the 21st century. The century has turned 18. In human terms the century has officially grown up. But for the past 18 years, academics have attempted to predict “the problem” of the 21st century; each academic discipline has their suspicions, but there is no general consensus on the matter, so my question is, what has been the problem of the 21st century so far?
Back in 2017 comedian and HBO talk show host Bill Maher joked and referred to himself as a house N-word. Of course, some viewers were offended and demanded for Maher’s show to be removed from the air, but Maher apologized, it was accepted, and the critics found something else to be offended by. But the irony was when Maher made the controversial remark he was in the middle of an interview with Senator Ben Sasse, who wrote a book about what the senator believed was the biggest problem in the 21st century.
Senator Sasse’s book is called, The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-age-Crisis—And how to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance.
The book claims, “The coming-of-age rituals that have defined the American experience since the founding: Learning the value of working with your hands, leaving home to start a family, becoming economically self-reliant—are being delayed or skipped altogether. The statistics are daunting: 30 percent of college students drop out after the first year, and only 4 in 10 graduate. One in three 18-34 year-olds lives with their parents. Senator Sasse believes American democracy depends on responsible, contributing adults to function properly…Without them America falls prey to populist demagogues.”
Now, let’s factor Fanon’s quote into this 21st century extension of adolescence. This generation will remain in relative obscurity until they find their own mission, but so far they have betrayed their destiny by dragging the problems of the 20th century into the 21st.
Here’s a simple example, but first some history.
In 1964, Louisiana, a group of Black men formed a self-defense organization called The Deacons for Defense and Justice. They existed between 1964 and 1968. Between those dates 20 other chapters were formed in Alabama and Mississippi. Their sole purpose was to protect civil rights workers during daily activities, demonstrations, and marches. Their clashes with the Klu Klux Klan made the Klan re-evaluate their efforts to intimidate.
Recently, Newsweek asked this question in a headline: What is the Redneck Revolt? The answer was armed left-wing activists that protect minorities. Newsweek stated, “Similar to the grassroot vigilantes who attended the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past summer, members of the Redneck Revolt can often be found at protest armed to the teeth. But instead of protecting far-right White supremacists, members of the Redneck Revolt provide protection for minority groups such as Black Lives Matter and other groups fighting for equality and justice…Since the group was founded in 2016, around 45 branches of Redneck Revolt have emerged in more than 30 U.S. states. Their aim is to respond to the upsurge in extremist rhetoric and violence coming from White supremacist groups.”
If you’re wondering about the origin of the name Redneck Revolt, well, these left-wing activists stated they are reclaiming the word to put “the red back in redneck.” They are referring to the use of the color red that used to represent the communist party.
Now, how adolescent and 20th century is that?
(J. Pharoah Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier. He blogs at email@example.com)
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