Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009...2:35 pm

“The Preservation of Humanity”

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Reading my favorite blogger today, Ta-Nehisi Coates, I came across one of his trademark posts.  That is, a completely articulate and self-aware (yet always humble) evaluation of himself in the context of society.  This time it was about his racial identity.  He’s been reading a lot about the Civil War and Reconstruction, which happens to be one of my three favorite periods in American history (along with the Revolution and World War II).  Anyway, today he articulated better than I ever could what fascinates me so much about that era:

“I read those passages and got that old, stupid thrill again–Negroes with guns, Negroes fighting back. But more legitimately, I was, as I have been throughout all of this reading, simply stunned by the preservation of humanity–no, by the repeated assertions of humanity made by people who lived under a system specifically structured to destroy it.”

I haven’t ever really considered myself “African-American” mostly because I think there’s something very distinct about the development of racial identity when you’re half white.  But there is something about unfolding the utter tragedy of Reconstruction (which, you could argue, was much more tragic than slavery itself), then registering the breathtaking resilience of an entire group of people–your own ancestors–in the face of something close to attempted genocide, that inspires great pride.

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