A lot of African Americans think that economic independence will solve black people’s main problems. Black people don’t need to seek more money. In fact, the buying power of African Americans is approximately 1.1 trillion dollars.
We need to do more politics.
I hear over and over, "black people should support black businesses only." This gospel of economic racial uplift has its roots in the freedom-fighting strategies of Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, the Nation of Islam, and others who understandably uphold economic independence as the engine of social progress and the guarantor of political power (even if it's bought) in America. And the romanticized Black Wall Street, in Greenwood, Oklahoma is a reminder of the kingdom that awaits those who commit to black economic independence.
I don't deny the importance and the advantages of incorporating and supporting black-owned businesses in order to put more money in people’s pockets, in divested black communities for housing and educational and health resources. Nor do I oppose a black political community.
My point is that black politics is the means to these ends. Black politics produces economic opportunities, independence and security.
Washington and Garvey understood that.
They knew that they were doing politics when they preached and organized their economic initiatives. Their political strategy was separatism. It was a "we have to do our own thing by ourselves" ideology. We should understand their reasoning. Living in the ripe years of Jim Crow, Washington and Garvey were convinced that it was fruitless to attempt to integrate and look for opportunities in a white supremacist society. The way white supremacists treated blacks during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries proved them right—violently obstructing political participation, flagrantly insisting on segregation, sabotaging access to quality education and job opportunities.
Washington reported, "like the 'patrollers' the 'Ku Klux' operated almost wholly at night. They were, however, more cruel than the 'patrollers.' Their objects, in the main, were to crush out the political aspirations of the Negroes, but they did not confine themselves to this, because schoolhouses as well as churches were burned by them, and many innocent persons were made to suffer. During this period not a few coloured people lost their lives." (Up from Slavery)
As a disciple of Washington's politics, Garvey said, "so for us to encourage the idea that one day Negroes will rise to the highest in the administration of this white government, is only encouraging a vain hope." (The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey)
In response to his political and economic predicament, Washington decided to direct African Americans to labor opportunities within reach. He educated people for the industries that were accessible to blacks, with the idea of gaining a foothold in those industries to build a stairwell to wealth, slowly but surely. Garvey resolved to get every black person to pool their money, buy a ship, and head back home—Africa—and create their own nation. Both men wanted the same thing: to fulfill the needs of their black community.
That is my concern as well. How exactly do we meet the economic needs of the black community?
Black politics is the answer.
We need more political action because politics is the means of organizing individuals for a singular purpose: to secure the well-being of their communities.
Black politics consists of the actions that bring people together in order to improve the well-being of people politically classified as black and affected by the effects of systemic racism. For this reason, black politics matters to integrationists and separatists.
Black politics is what we use to transform disadvantage individuals into an organize, educated and thriving community. Black politics is an agenda and a catalyst. It consists of the matters with which black people are concerned. Our suffering, fears, dreams and ideals. It is also the conviction that fuels our self-respect and dignity, driving us out of political and economic despair to a jubilee of empowerment.
When we tap into our black politics we tap into an enlightened way of thinking, speaking, eating, buying and selling—living. Money can help us do these things better, but politics generates the mindset to do these things.
In the next post, I will talk more about the particular elements and kinds of black politics. I will also point out the integral role of education in black politics. And most important, I will share ways to do black politics.
The next time people tell you, "money makes the world go around," tell them I said, "politics creates money."
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