Most analysis of Donald Trump’s election to the U.S. presidency in 2016 focuses on immediate causes and, of course, its effects. In a recent speech, NYU history professor Nikhil Pal Singh took a longer historical view, sketching three arcs of U.S. history that have yielded the durable commitments to racism, militarism, and unequal class power that have sharpened over the past two decades.
Considering the historical development of the United States as an empire-state, rather than as a nation-state, he argues, is essential to understanding what it has meant, and what it might mean going forward, to bend the future toward greater equality and justice – both in the United States and in its relationship to the wider world. He argues that the election of Trump and the failure of Hillary Clinton may be the clearest signals yet, of the decline of U.S. empire. Rather than a cause for pessimism, he says, this moment is an opportunity to enliven a new politics and begin a new story — but only if we are honest about our past.
Singh is the author of "Black is a Country" and "Race and America’s Long War." He is also the founding co-director of NYU’s Prison Education Project. This speech was delivered on September 26th at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The event was sponsored by the Lannan Foundation, which granted Intercepted permission to share it with our audience.