It is one thing to attack what we have done; it is quite another to attack who we are. In remarks this week, America’s ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, conflated the two in a somewhat unusual way—particularly for someone who is meant to represent the United States on the world stage. “I have seen for myself how the original sin of slavery weaved white supremacy into our founding documents and principles,” she said. Yes, white supremacy was woven into our founding moments (and long thereafter), but it is not woven into the documents and principles themselves, as a cursory read of, say, the Declaration of Independence makes clear.
My point here is not to re-litigate what our founding documents say, but rather to ask whether a country that attacks its own founding in such a manner—publicly, deliberately, and at the highest levels of government—can summon the moral clarity and conviction to hold other countries to account for their considerably greater sins, sins that are much more in the present than in the past.