Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, June 19, 2017


Today is June 19 and while this day may be just another day on the calendar for some of us. June 19 carries a special meaning for Black Americans. For it is on this day that slavery truly ended in America. Yet, what does that have to do with William James and his philosophical theory of pluralism? So much more than we know.

The History of June 19

I can make an argument that Black people in America have always been pluralists. How else do you describe the level of faith that our ancestors, had to believe that their current state of slavery would not be the current state for generations to come? From their faith in God to their belief in negro spirituals, Black people in America believed that the universe was an unfinished manuscript and we still had the chance to write our own verse. It is a belief that is still passed on to young people and children of color today.

Yet, the connection between pluralism and Black people is summed up in one word...hope. It is an idea that manifests itself in the physical forms of Martin, Obama and our youth, for example. Our belief in hope guides our belief in God and the universe that he has created. It is how we move forward. It is how we transcend. It is how we survive.

So while James speaks of pluralism in philosophical overtures, my elders were teaching me the same ideas under a different name. They were teaching me hope and it is an idea that I will pass on to my children...mixed with the teachings of James, of course.


  1. Hi Chap,
    I'm just finishing watching the documentary, "I Am Not Your Negro" written by James Baldwin and directed by Raoul Peck. It is a painful reminder of how Black Americans were treated in the past and while I am hopeful that things will improve, I am realistic enough to know that much of the overt racism of the 50s-60s is latent today and in our politics not so latent, recently. Two Black American security personnel saved members of Congress by their actions last week, being wounded in the process, but many of those same members who praised their heroism, will vote for legislation that will adversely affect Black Americans. As pointed out in the documentary, the reality is that white people don't know what it's like to live as a black person and vice versa. I hope that someday that will change.

  2. Anonymous11:57 PM CDT

    It is a wonderful thing that Black Americans did have the hope and the belief that things would eventually get better. I have to admit they are not perfect , but we as a nation have grown and racism of any race should not be welcome in today's American society. O yes Chap on another note I think my wife left our umbrella in your office , did by any chance find it? Josh.

  3. Did you know that W.E.B. DuBois, author of "Souls of Black Folk," was James's student? Du Bois admired James, who I don't doubt was a product of his day, and thus harbored a level of race prejudice that most of us now would find unacceptable. But he was relatively progressive in the context of his era. He was also an outspoken critic of the racist attitude reflected in the way Teddy Roosevelt and others condescended to "our little brown brothers" in the Phillipines. You're right: pluralism in principle rejects racism and looks to a better day.

    1. I have some research to do...after this course of course.