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The Reactionary Nature of Black Politics

May 13, 2013
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In 1619, the first 19 Africans brought to the shores of the United States landed in Jamestown, Virginia starting the tortured history of what would be the centuries long relationship between Black people and the United States. The nature of the relationship was innately economic and political from the start. Sadly, the organizing mechanisms of the Black American social enterprise since that time have been poorly grounded in sound application of either economics or politics, barring rare exceptions.

 
 
What has caused Black people, after almost 400 years in North America, and after 150 years of emancipation from slavery, to be mired in a social condition that is becoming more debilitating by the day? One need not sound off the various statistics available illustrating the evisceration of whatever illusory semblance of progress Blacks have made, particularly since the post movement era after the 1960s.

 

Contrary to the inclinations of racists and many self hating Blacks to deem this failure as some innate shortcoming in the Black American psyche, the social and political condition of Black America is a direct consequence of the level of political sophistication and sheer brutality of the tactics that have been used to deny them clarity of vision and planning as a means of rectifying this pervasive cavern they have found themselves in for generations.

 
 
The main vehicle allowing this constant social and political demobilization of the Black community stems from the problematic reality that Black politics has traditionally been grounded in a purely reactionary response to the phenomenon of racism–particularly without a clear understanding of the purpose of racism in its application to Blacks.

 

This stems from a failure to understand basic key aspects of the relationship of Blacks to America and racism, mostly because the sheer terror used under the guise of racism to maintain the prevailing order has been so atrocious that the political focus by Blacks has been to concentrate on that terror and attempts to neutralize it without truly addressing its root cause.

 

From the beginning, Europeans did not bring Africans to the Americas because they were racist. They brought Africans to the Americas to expropriate labor from them as workers in an economic system that denied compensation for that labor to maximize return on investment for the presence of those Africans. The function of Black people in America was an innately economic one from the start rooted in a politics that was based on protecting the sanctity of that economic relationship. All the terror and brutality used to maintain that system was purely ancillary to the goal of protecting that economic system of exploiting free Black labor. Yet many Blacks, even educated ones, will say that Europeans brought Africans to the Americas because of racism and White Supremacy. Racism is merely the rationale and tactic used to justify that exploitative economic relationship, and White Supremacy is the subsequent accrued benefit of the successful maintenance of that relationship–in varying degrees–over time.

A perfect example of how these realities are confused can easily be shown by attempting to ascertain from most people what the actual purpose and function of Jim Crow Segregation, which started with the consummation of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, and lasted to the end of the Civil Rights Era in 1968, actually was. Many would say things like: keeping Blacks subjugated, or denying blacks the ability to compete with Whites, or racism/White Supremacy, or fear of Black male sexual potency via White women. In reality, Jim Crow was a purely intentional reaction by White Southern agricultural interests meshed with Northern industrialists to combat the rising political and economic militancy and mutual co-operation of Blacks and poor Whites during the progressive era of the 1890’s with the combined efforts of the Farmer’s Alliance and the Colored Farmers Alliance in order to maintain economic hegemony and cheap exploited labor for capitalist interests in the South, primarily Agricultural but also industrial, with the slow but new development of Southern industrialization. Jim Crow was rooted in economic control, not simply racism and brutality. Those were the tools used to keep the system intact.

Moreover, few people will admit that the main reason for the collapse of Jim Crow starting in the 1930’s, and expanding rapidly into the post World War II era, had more to do with three key factors as opposed to the romanticized notions of how the valiant fight of the ancestors during the Civil Rights Movement brought us freedom: First, the new methods of mechanized agricultural farming technology started to make the need for Black farm labor in the South obsolete, hence the need for the disenfranchisement and related oppression became more about form rather than substance; Second, the rise of Hitler and Nazism made the notion of race based exclusion in the United Stated unpalatable, particularly in the face of Hitler’s ant-semitism; Thirdly, the Cold War era and the fear of American racism being an obstacle to competitive advantage over the Soviet Union in winning the hearts and minds of the newly independent Black, Brown, and Yellow third world would rapidly assure desegregation and ending Jim Crow being an American primary domestic agenda.

As African American political science professor Adolph Reed, Jr. states in his essay “The Color Line Then and Now” found in the anthology, “Renewing Black Intellectual History,” when discussing some of the egalitarian social science and legal strategies to end Jim crow:

 

“This intellectual enterprise was no more responsible for defeating early-twentieth-century race theory than Charles Hamilton Houston’s and Thurgood Marshall’s legal arguments were for defeating codified racial segregation, probably much less so. Factors like the leftward shift in the domestic political climate in the 1930s and 1940s, the embarrassment that Nazi extremism presented for racialist ideology, and cold war concerns with the United States’ international image were undoubtedly more important.”

An excellent treatise that explains the relationship between the Cold War and the Civil Rights victories we often wrongly think were a result of these romanticized protest activities is, “Cold Civil Rights: Race and the Imagery of American Democracy,”  by professor of law and political science, Mary L. Dudziak, in which she states about Brown v. Board of Education: “According to the Justice Department, the interest of the United States in school segregation was that race discrimination harmed American foreign relations.”

This is not to diminish the efforts of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who waged moral protest to the brutal and racist treatment of our nations Black citizens. To diminish in such a fashion could have the effect of discouraging the belief in the human capacity to make social or political change. The point is to show that our desires to romanticize certain periods of history, especially dealing with African Americans, lead to a limited and pedestrian understanding of the factors that truly shape events.  

 

In the face of the reactionary nature of Black politics, we can better understand the post Civil Rights dilemma that has plagued the Black political scene. If the illusion of racial equality is touted as one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century American democratic experiment via these Civil Rights victories, how do you create a Black politics in a post Civil Rights era when the political traditions of this group has been rooted in combating or reacting to the racism that society now forces them to accept as no more, when in fact that is not the case?  

 

Now we understand the root of the past 45 years of increasing Black political demobilization–meaning Black politics being unable to actually achieve lasting policy that succeeds at remedying the true root of Black suffering: economic inequality.

The ultimate sign of that demobilization is the over 97% support of Black America for a president whose agenda is to introduce neoliberal privatization of government resources at rates never seen before that will ultimately demolish those same communities that supported him. i.e. Barack Obama.

This is why Black America is in a crisis, because Black politics is in a crisis. That crisis is a product of the place from which Black politics was born and grew. We now need a new politics, if we shall even call it Black politics, that is not rooted in reactionary response to racism, but seeks to foster cross racial coalitions with those similarly situated to crush the barriers to economic equality while allowing Blacks to maintain social autonomy and ideological integrity in recognition of the need for nuance in neutralizing the tool of racism that has been used to distract them from the ultimate problem of economic injustice. This is the work that must be done, but the question is: Who is up to the task?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2013 1:13 pm

    Hi! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so I came to look it over.
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  2. August 5, 2013 1:54 am

    I share the basic premise of the author. I do agree with him that Jim Grow was ended because of image rather then substance. But I hold that the abandonment of Jim Crow for the theory of racial equality through integration is the greatest of betrayal. Jim Crow demanded separation of the races is social settings. But following the supreme courts decision in Ferguson, and later visited in Brown, Jim Crow was expanded to all levels of a socioeconomic society of separate but equal status, thereby placing a demand on the United States Treasury. It was a form of reparation. If the supreme court in Brown had upheld the separate but equal status, as they should have as a matter of law, rather then using social science, that in fact declared the Negro as inferiors, then we would see a difference in the Black community to date. Our communities do not suffer from racism of skin but rather economic, social, and political racism and less then equality of law. Provided that the African American community had had similar investments of the white community as declared under Ferguson, rather then what was argued in Brown: that the White community was receiving $150.00 per student and that the Black schools were receiving 50.00 per student and did not meet the standards of Ferguson. As an alternative, those in Brown choose integration as a mean to achieve equality, reasoning is that they believed in and supported by those of the social science agenda. This is why integration is called the Social Experiment rather then law. We now see the social theory as adopted is being repealed rather then strength.

  3. November 7, 2013 9:54 am

    We have seen what happens when modern black people get a bunch of money – sports stars,rappers and lottery winners. THey simply squander the money. They don’t know how to practice stewardship over a pot of money, and they don’t have a future time orientation.

    When someone gets a bunch of money, he should use it to purchase working assets such as a profitable and well run business and rental properties. Of course, the success of both of these require civilization — it requires workers and tenants who are conscientious and create a positive return on investment. Modern black people are overall a negative ROI, and largely this is because of the romantic “civil rights” based politics. Liberalism has been a hugely corrupting influence on black people, and the rot is spreading to whites these days too. Plenty of whites these days are a negative ROI too.

    So rich blacks don’t invest their income well, and non-rich blacks are a negative return on investment and require government subsidies. The government isn’t always going to be able to subsidize this, so it’s going to be a huge day of reckoning.

    Are you aware of the problems of the growth economy? There are lots of critical and non-renewable resources that are depleting quickly — water in the aquifers that irrigate huge fields of corn in Kansas. THe shale oil boom has a very sharp arc of depletion. Malthus was right, he just wasn’t timely. The time is coming when we won’t be able to take abundant and cheap fuel and food for granted. And when that happens, no more government subsidies for anybody, except maybe a tiny oligarchy living in gated communities and/or bunkers.

  4. MTC permalink
    March 29, 2017 11:21 am

    Great blog. Totally agree with the premise which applies not only to “black politics” but a lot of other political movements as well. Lots of reactionary stuff, much of it never the less good in my opinion, and not a lot of understanding of why societies behave the way they do. I am particularly disturbed to see this enter the university where I see lots of very unscientific and non-reality based “scholarship” and materials used in the service of social justice. It makes me sad because I support the goals but often think that we are selling ourselves short plus making ourselves easy targets for our enemies. No reason to fight racism with mere opinion or romanticism there are plenty of real tools at our disposal. I also strongly believe that it won’t help our cause to look make social justice a sort of deeply personal story telling, not that there’s not room for that, but injustice is economic at its base and leads to very concrete repercussions which need to be addressed in the real world; right now. We can have the discussion of why I am still really a racist and not a true ally after, or during, the work needed to bring clean water to Flint and make sure child care is available in our community. Lots of people I know, some rednecks included, would assist in the hands on part getting them to bare their souls my take a few lifetimes.

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