The Nation’s Moral Compass: A Hard Reset

By Kanu Iheukumere

According to Betty Ford, if the first step to recovery is admission then America screwed up.

In the face of the administration’s repudiation of radical Islamic terrorism, an Anglo-fascist form of caliphate policy has found sanctuary in the White House. Racism has been endorsed by the leader of the free world. Despite the warnings from Election 2016, the collision of racial protests in Charlottes ville,Virginia was a product of signs the country ignored.

The administration’s policies are clarion calls for a moral rebirth. An anatomy of President Trump’s policy platform reveals severe deficiencies, including but not limited to: voter suppression schemes; immigration bans and mass deportations; universal healthcare repeal efforts; police consent decree rollbacks; public education and affirmative action attacks; transgender bans; and Confederate statue allowances. Oppression doesn’t go down without a fight.

During a recent town hall meeting in his congressional district, Republican Speaker Paul Ryan, in response to a question about President Trump’s remarks during the fallout, said, “Trump messed up on his comments. When it sounded like a moral equivocation, we needed extreme moral clarity.”

The president’s attempt to equate self-defending with violently offending was “fake news.” Anti-racist activism is a response to the backlash of hate mongers. While Black Lives Matter is a moral response to oppression, “white lives matter” is an insulting surrebuttal in support of it.

“This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats. This shouldn’t be about some voting Congress, or some partisan issue” Ryan said. “This issue speaks to our humanity. Every single one of us needs to stand up against this repugnant, vile bigotry.”

On the contrary, anytime a political party’s policies are undergirded by racism and white supremacy, bigotry becomes a partisan issue. The coordinated GOP response has been to cover their keisters by rejecting xenophobic organizations. But it obscures a reality that their platform is just as repudiating to people of color as the actions of the Neo-Nazi groups they refute. It’s inconsistent to oppose Confederate statues of racism while endorsing statutes of white supremacy. To be sure, history is important, but can’t it be acknowledged without celebrating oppression? Ryan’s attempt to apply a non-partisan overlay gives his party cover as it goes about legislating racist policies and executing discriminatory orders. His assertion that bigotry is beyond partisanship is a diabolical “kumbaya” strategy intended to distract the electorate and provide the Republicans refuge.

The immoral outcomes of the administration’s propaganda, policies, and personnel are apparent. And to the extent it remains committed to bigoted policy and crass legislation, what we witnessed in Charlottesville is a mere sampling of more to come. As such, it is shortsighted to suggest a soundbite panacea will whisk this dilemma away. Fortunately, history is a great teacher, and in this case, a guide for level-setting the nation’s ethical character.

In 1965, Bloody Sunday catalyzed the nation’s social conscious as six hundred people started marching from Selma to Montgomery in protest of legal barriers preventing African Americans from voting. Like Charlottesville, televisions nationwide captured demonstrators being attacked. The country woke up from a slumber of racial complacency. Protesting social and political subjugation empowered justice to run its course, until elements were formally institutionalized, in the form of the Voting Rights Act, and their antithetical counterparts abolished.

Like Charlottesville, Selma put the exposed actors of oppression on notice. It stoked a renewed consciousness in former bystanders comparable to the membership of the president’s manufacturing and evangelical councils, who became inspired to engage. Bloody Sunday compelled the electorate to dissect policies that divided and destroyed and to come together under a platform of unity and community building.

Unfortunately, martyrdom is too often a prerequisite for justice. Be it civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was murdered by a state trooper and who inspired the Selma march; or Heather Heyer, Lt. Jay Cullen, and Trooper Berke Bates, who died in Charlottesville advocating, protecting and serving humanity.

In the absence of moral leadership from the oval office, the nation’s citizenry is left to its own principled-seeking devices. Past successes suggest relentlessly applying pressure on several fronts.


Acquiring an accurate lay of the political landscape requires a solid command of the issues and familiarity with the various actors. Groups and institutions will advance their own interest at the expense of an ignorant populace. The electorate must remain adequately equipped to fight.

    Non-violent protest

An affirmation of dignity, by objecting to systems of oppression, and calling out the missteps of those tasked with institutionalizing quality of life, is an ethical imperative.

    Civic Engagement

Abolishing suffrage-impeding mechanisms like voter suppression, and the outsized role of money in elections, while promoting the franchise through automatic voter registration and full restoration of the Voting Rights Act, will preserve the country’s most fundamental right. Fully understanding the ballot box as democratic freedom’s microphone renders voter abstention a political form of kneeling to injustice.

The administration’s display of moral ineptitude and this week’s full solar eclipse remind us less about history’s recurring spirit and more about its static and predictable legacy. Despite social and economic advancement, relative change has been minimal on America’s racial equity and equality front. Nevertheless, nearly 100 years later, Mother Nature, once again, reminds us that while the moon of oppression remains undeterred in blocking the sun of justice, the corona always renders a triumphant verdict for the light of righteousness over a wicked darkness.

Kanu Iheukumere is an expert in urban domestic affairs and public policy. He has more than 20 years of community development leadership experience, in the public and private sector, related to program development, ground-game capacity building, policy and research, speech-writing, and legislative advocacy. He has worked for and in collaboration with numerous not-for-profit and government bodies including but not limited to: the U.S. Department of State; various political campaigns; Rainbow PUSH; the State of Illinois; the City of Chicago; and the Chicago Urban League. Mr. Iheukumere has co-authored numerous economic development research studies, and is a contributing writer to various local and national publications.