Do you know what black politics is? Is it reverse racism? Is it a conspiracy to take over the world? Or, is it just a hustle for black politicians, sellouts, and Uncle Toms?
The backlash from white and black Americans to the election of Barack Obama, the first black president of the USA, exposed an urgent need for white and black Americans to better understand what black politics is.
On the one hand, too many white people do not understand the agenda of the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) in the Age of Obama. Many believe the propaganda that frames the BLM as a racist hate group and a terrorist organization. In fact, the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and 1970s was portrayed as criminals wielding guns and plundering their own communities. Yes, this is a gross misconception of black politics. An outright lie. Pure nonsense.
On the other hand, many black people are blind to the black political significance of Barack Obama's election and cannot comprehend his actions as an African-American president of the USA. Not only do many black people charge Obama for doing nothing to help African Americans, they say he's not black enough. Meanwhile, we can’t even recognize or appreciate the artistic forms of black politics in Spike Lee's controversial film Chiraq, which calls attention to gun violence in poor black neighborhoods, or Beyonce's Super Bowl performance and "Formation" song and video, which boldly displays the plight and quandaries of our invisible black lives, concerns, and frustrations in America. Mr. Lee and Queen Bey are now being accused of exploiting the black community. Also, some black people have recently thrown notable civil rights gladiator John Lewis under the bus for endorsing Hillary Clinton instead of Bernie Sanders and for saying, “I never saw him [Bernie Sanders]. I never met him.” Yes, I'm afraid to say that this might be the fault of black-on-black player-hating, or the effects of the "post traumatic slave syndrome," or, I hope, a misunderstanding of black politics.
Whatever the case, we need to talk about black politics. Right now.
First, let me clear the record about what black politics is and is not. Black politics is a natural reaction to white supremacy. Black politics is a just response to a breach of political justice. As Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us: "Cries of Black Power and riots are not the causes of white resistance, they are consequences of it." (Where Do We Go from Here)
European imperialism, slavery, Jim Crow, racism—white supremacy—created black politics. Black politics exist because one group of people decided to chop up the world's resources for their own benefit. Black politics exists because one group of people restricted another group from enjoying their inalienable rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Somebody had a great idea and said, "hey, let's exploit those dark-skinned chaps on the African continent."
Black politics consists of the blueprints and actions black people make to improve their living conditions as an oppressed and disadvantage group. It is nothing more than a game plan to attain a fair chance to live a happy life. The plan consists of strategies and tactics to resolve a variety of concerns. That's all. One of the leading scholars on race and politics, Michael C. Dawson, provides an invaluable list of some of the main concerns that black political ideologies address:
Our answers to these questions design our program to attain liberty and, ultimately, define our vision of happiness. But black people, like individuals in any other community, understand happiness and pursue liberty in different ways. Therefore, it is not surprising that black people have answered these questions differently.
That is why black politics is not monolithic.
Even though there are copious black political ideologies, there are some major categories that embrace several approaches. I mentioned two of them in my post "Why black politics matters more than money!": separatism and integration. Both are legitimate.
Although I don't completely agree with separatism, I must defend it here. People accuse separatism of being reverse racism. Black American separatists believe that white culture is unable to completely overturn overt and systemic forms of institutional racism. For that reason, black people should not expect to achieve real political and economic equality. Furthermore, black people cannot get the necessary psychological, cultural, and historical nourishment they need from the society that enslaved and dragged them through Jim Crow.
Integrationists are no less adamant about their freedom and happiness. But they also believe that whites and blacks should tirelessly work together to improve race relations. More important, integrationists believe that there are entitled to the spoils of their forefathers' and foremothers' exploited hard work. As far as we're concerned, American is our home too, and we are here to stay.
Just in case I appear to be oversimplifying black politics, I'll share a few black political ideologies with Michael C. Dawson's help. Dawson points out six significant black political ideologies: "radical egalitarian, disillusioned liberal, black Marxist, black nationalist, black feminist, and black conservatives." (Black Visions) Without getting into too much detail, these different political ideologies are based on how people's preferences for certain political and economic ideals, such as liberalism, democracy, socialism, communism. In other words, black people mix those basic political and economic elements differently.
As you can see, black politics can be very intellectual and diverse.
But we are told that "There is a time for everything." (Ecclesiastes 3) And, unfortunately, there were times when black politics were violent, such as the Haitian Revolution, Nat Turner's Rebellion, and the Mau Mau Uprising.
Remember this. Black politics is an instrument for justice on behalf of a marginalized group of people called black. Black politics is a vision and set of actions. When black people, my people, discuss and do black politics, we are merely confirming that this world is not our hell but our birth right. Black politics is an expression of our commitment to seeing the USA and the world as a home for all human beings. Nothing more and nothing less.
I realize a lot of key questions remain. In the next two posts I will address: 1) What does it mean to be black? Or, rather what makes someone black? 2) How should black people do black politics in the USA today? How can black performers, scholars, ministers, and non-black citizens do black politics? (FYI, I will have more to say about Chiraq and “Formation” in the near future.)
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All Rights Reserved Copyright 2018 Kasaun E. Henry