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The politics of putting on a new face representing the United States


More and more, the edge of the cliff keeps drawing near. As much as the United States means to us now, in spite of the whirlwind of nastiness and bad attitudes toward us and about us that is American history, sure we, most of us, still want to stay here. To be frank, it is the latest home we’ve known and gotten used to. It is, however, not our first digs and we do not intend for it to be our last. But, really, the United States is at a major crossroads in its adult life currently, and a whole lot of the craziness inside its body that never got properly healed or reconciled, is, like the proverbial bad penny, showing back up, ugly and oozing through the pores.

Without major legislation such as H.R. 1 and H.R. 4 passing and getting signed into law in the very near future, this place—all 50 parts of it plus the island possessions– may in fact become basically intolerable for most of us.

This column will present itself in 10 parts during the coming weeks to assess just where we are, and what we may have to do in response to this real-life revelation of America on the brink.

Part I this week starts with the attempts to change at least some of the facial features. Not seeing enough of us reflected in the visuals about what the U.S. is, is caustically problematic.

Former POTUS Trump tried his darndest to interfere with, if not downright kill, the Obama-era decision to have slave-holder and Native American anti-hero Andrew Jackson’s picture removed from the popular $20 bill, and having the pleasant visage of heroine Harriet Tubman replace it. Though he failed to kill the project, he certainly delayed it with the help of federal government employees.

Current POTUS Joe Biden promised to resuscitate that project and get it done in a reasonable time. However, for a variety of reasons, that has not happened. The Department of the Treasury, particularly the Department of Printing and Engraving, where the money must be printed, currently has the switch of faces on the money scheduled for 2030. That means more time to drop or kill the project completely. Mr. Biden certainly won’t be in office by then.

It should be mentioned that historically, there have been no Black faces on America’s currency or coins for regular circulation. There was, however, a beautiful $100 gold coin depicting a Black Lady Liberty’s face that was produced in 2017 and sold to collectors for a few years, but never for general circulation. It is still available, but very expensive, like $2,500. It would have been and still would be a significant sign of respect to have a Black face on a regular American coin or currency note.

What can be positively reported right now is that the U.S. Treasury Department is just about to drop a brand new American silver quarter for general circulation in 2022. The face on the coin will be poet, actress, teacher and lecturer, Maya Angelou.

That’s not the Academy Award of coinage or circulating currency, but it is notable and significant. Most often, it is not just the big things we do to show we care; sometimes it is the little, significant things that matter the most.

We can flip for Maya. But we have to let it be known that while we appreciate the gesture, we are not satisfied. It just ain’t enough. Word !!

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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