The necessity of an African American studies program at Alamo Colleges is crucial to building up our students of color
What does a mid-1840’s doctrine have to do with my belief in establishing an African American studies program at Alamo Colleges? Allow me to explain.
In 1845 while the United States was expanding west, the White House, led by President John Polk embraced a philosophy they called Manifest Destiny. The doctrine spread the belief that America was destined (by God) to expand the United States from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Anyone, whether it was an individual, a tribe, or a Country, that stepped in the way of this destiny would be destroyed.
Consequently, the doctrine spread slavery across the South and Midwest United States, it fueled countless atrocities on hundreds of thousands of Native Americans and manufactured a war with Mexico in order to acquire land in the path of this doctrine. However, one the greatest evils from this doctrine was in the eradication of cultural identities as the requirement of assimilation to the laws, the culture, and rituals of Anglo America was demanded by the U.S. Government.
Manifest Destiny birthed the prevailing notion of intolerance. The core of its doctrine spread the ideology that your culture and history no longer mattered, and the only story that mattered was the one of America and the Anglo centric view derived from its leaders. It was a moment when generations of people’s histories were systematically, and forcibly, erased.
When questions arise such as, “How did we get here? Why is there racism? and Why are there social and economic inequities in our Country?” I would dare say that the doctrine of Manifest Destiny planted the roots of intolerance and enabled the spread racism and division that plagues us today.
The importance of learning about our past cannot be understated. When people are held down and marginalized or treated as second class citizens, their road is dark, opportunity is limited, and the pride and identification in one’s existence is empty and lost. Until we begin to undo the damage of our Country’s forefathers, we will have a difficult time in eliminating inequities and building unity.
There is irony in the effort of mid 1840 America to build national unity by seeking to bridge the continental divide. In connecting a Country, they planted the seeds of discontent and division. Forcing many to assimilate into one Nation, while simultaneously denying those same people the rights to basic American liberties, marked the hypocrisy of inclusion and the distrust deeply seeded in African American communities. One would have to ask, were we truly ever a “United” States of America?”
Manifest Destiny is only a portion of how we arrived at this moment, but it played a significant early role on how we found ourselves here. The necessity of an African American studies program at Alamo Colleges is crucial to building up our students of color. The journey to reclaim our past, by undoing what has divided us, is exactly the recipe of what will finally bring us together. I pledge to continue working to make an African American studies program a reality. Whether it is COVID-19 or institutional racism, we are going to get the job done – together.