Updated date:

A Case for African American Exceptionalism

John Dewar Gleissner is the author of the recent ebook, A Case Against Critical Race Theory, for sale at Amazon-Books.

Book Cover - A Case Against Critical Race Theory

Book Cover - A Case Against Critical Race Theory

The Case for African American Exceptionalism

A huge step towards even handling of race came with the leadership of Booker T. Washington, who took a positive and optimistic approach, and can be considered the embodiment of African American Exceptionalism:

"Then, when we rid ourselves of prejudice, or racial feeling, and look facts in the face, we must acknowledge that, notwithstanding the cruelty and moral wrong of slavery, the ten million Negroes inhabiting this country, who themselves or whose ancestors went through the school of American slavery, are in a stronger and more hopeful condition, materially, intellectually, morally, and religiously, than is true of an equal number of black people in any other portion of the globe."

His words of 120 years ago are still true today. British historian Arnold Toynbee held that persecution makes the persecuted strive harder and accomplish more. The wealth, lifestyles, education, Christian devotion, and social prominence of African Americans today stand far above the nations of West Africa from whence African slaves were kidnapped. One former slave wrote a poem about it:

On Being Brought from Africa to America

by Phillis Wheatley

Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,

Taught my benighted soul to understand

That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:

Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.

Some view our sable race with scornful eye,

“Their colour is a diabolic dye.”

Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,

May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.

The uplifting of Africans to Christianity and Western civilization must be considered in any discussion of reparations. The UN Human Development Index puts the USA within the Very High Human Development category and the nations from whence America’s slaves came in the Low Human Development classification. Very few African Americans choose to live in Africa rather than the USA. In the USA, African Americans are a pillar of American Exceptionalism, and it is about time we all realized it. The United States is the Promised Land for people of African descent, and more recent immigrants from Africa fully realize this.

Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois said American slavery was not the worst: “Then amid all crouched the freed slave . . . He had emerged from slavery, -- not the worst slavery in the world, not a slavery that made all life unbearable, rather a slavery that had here and there something of kindliness, fidelity, and happiness . . .” Du Bois observed also that the Spirit of 1776 softened relations between blacks and whites.

Being brought to what became the United States of America, rather than Brazil, the West Indies, other parts of Central and South America, or anywhere in the Islamic world, was a supreme stroke of good luck for the new slave and more particularly the slave’s descendants. Only 5.4% of all African slaves brought to the New World were brought to the United States or the 13 colonies. That 5.4% brought to North America would have offspring at prodigious rates, so that eventually, over one-third of New World slaves lived in the United States. The United States was a better place to have children in a healthier climate under the rule of law.

Viewing a map of the Atlantic slave trade is very enlightening when assessing America’s role. The relatively low number of slaves sent to North America proliferated and the descendants of those slaves are doing better than slave descendants in poorer countries who received more slaves or more slaves per capita. It was better to be sent to what is now the wealthiest nation on earth, where others would place you in a biological and then economic niche highly prized in the world to this day.

The subordination of minority races is a worldwide phenomenon. Racism exists all over the world and is by no means restricted to the USA. According to Ulric Neisser, a cognitive psychologist at Emory University, “All over the world, lower-caste children do less well in school than upper-caste children, have lower test scores, and don’t stay in school as long.” White supremacy as critical race theory posits is global, although most critical race theory focuses on “America.” Critical race theory started in the United States and has developed in the USA much more than in other countries. The higher attainments and greater wealth and status of African Americans compared to other regions of the African Diaspora and Africa support African American Exceptionalism. To the extent critical race theory is a valuable and progressive theory and practice, then the USA is once again leading the world in an important area.

Please look at the African Diaspora in the New World: The USA has 40,916,113 people of African descent and Brazil only 14,517,961, despite Brazil having received vastly more slaves than North America (4.9 million versus 600,000). Why the difference? North America has the rule of law and a temperate climate, and the rest of the New World for many years (and even today) did not have the rule of law (and has the same climate). Add Canada’s 1,198,540 people of African descent. We must acknowledge the fantastic genetic dividends provided to African Americans by antebellum slavery. Brazil’s African population increased by a factor of 3, and the USA’s African population went up by a factor of 68.

Millions of African Americans have succeeded in spite of white supremacy, due to their exertions, skills, abilities, obedience to the law, families, intelligence, sobriety, and persistence, aided by time, anti-discrimination legislation and implementation, court rulings, corporate policies, affirmative action, quotas, and various routes to greater equality. Of the Top 10 most famous people in the world today, by one list out of many, three are African Americans. African Americans dominate sports.

The Most Influential People of African Descent Under 40 are regularly featured in a GLOBAL TOP 100 LIST, as part of the UN’s International Decade for People of African Descent. “MIPAD is a unique global list that identifies, in total, 100 outstanding individuals under 40, pairing those based outside Africa in the Diaspora with their counterparts inside Africa across four categories: Politics & Governance, Business & Entrepreneurship, Media & Culture, and Humanitarian & Religious.” Among the nations that are part of the African Diaspora, the USA has more people of African descent in the GLOBAL TOP 100 LIST every year than any other nation, and generally in each of the four categories, too. The clearest comparison is between Brazil and the USA. Many more slaves were taken to Brazil than the USA, by far, and yet the USA has more on the GLOBAL TOP 100 LIST, by a wide margin.

A map of the world’s most and least racially tolerant countries puts the USA in the most tolerant category, while France, Middle Eastern countries, some African countries, India to the greatest degree, Russia, China, Vietnam, South Korea and Indonesia ranked the least tolerant. Part of our tolerance is subsidizing critical race theory at the university level.

Ask anyone in the world to name the people of African descent they admire most, and you will without question hear them recite (in addition to Nelson Mandela) some names from The Undefeated 44, a list of African Americans who shook up the world. There are many Top Ten Most Famous People in the World lists, and one lists Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Beyonce, and Dwayne Johnson. A 2021 list of the Top 10 Most Popular Celebrities in the World includes Dwayne Johnson at #1. Some celebrities of African descent become famous as they move to the USA. And here we have the exceptional dynamic repeating itself: It’s not the race that counts as much as being an American.

Critical race theory opposes the concept of African American Exceptionalism, just as they find fault with America as a whole. Being an African American is being an American, no matter how much the victimhood experts want to draw a line there. Compared to white Americans, who are among the wealthiest people in the world, African Americans suffer by comparison but compare them to African-descended people anywhere else in the world, and their progress and attainments are clearly exceptional.

John Dewar Gleissner is the author of the recent ebook, A Case Against Critical Race Theory.

Related Articles