ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Within the last two months, it seems to me that Obama has slain the last vestiges
of Jim Crow politics as represented in the electoral politics by MLK’s old captains and boosters,
such as Andrew Young, Jesse Jackson, John Lewis, Al Sharpton, and a host of others
Barack Obama: Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. (Crown 2007)
Barack Obama: The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. Random House/ Hardcover, 608 pages $27.95
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Books by Floyd W. Hayes, III
Book by Lloyd D. McCarthy
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Barack Obama: The Death of White Supremacy?
A Discussion with Amiri Baraka, Chinweizu, Floyd Hayes. Lloyd McCarthy, Jonathan Scott, and others
Michelle Obama thesis on racial divide
Amiri: About the Grand Old racist Party’s advertised coming assault on Obama as to “whether he’s patriotic or not.” In the 18th century, the renowned English author, Samuel Johnson said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of Scoundrels” We see it’s very true.
Rudy: Amiri, as you know, these paid hit men have to justify their paychecks and their worthiness to the party machines. For Obama’s armor seems undentable. And he seemingly is the most intelligent politician this country ever had. Who was able to see as he has seen, to organize as he has organized, to speak a vision as he has spoken, in a time in which it was crucial?
He has proven already that he can move the country forward. Who has seen the likes of what we have experienced in the last two months? So they go after his woman. Oh, how wonderful it is to have your woman on the battleground with you, side by side! The Obamas are blessed, and they seem ready for every contingency. These dogs of war are barking up the wrong tree when it comes to Michele. I think she is quite charming, though I have yet to hear her speak. My mother, aunt, sister, and other women I know think that she is quite wonderful. I got a chance to look at her Princeton thesis, Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community, today. (See the article Michelle Obama thesis was on racial divide.) It’s nothing we didn’t know, and nothing we find shocking.
What I found of great surprise was Iowa, and Iowa has been reaffirmed numerous times since. What did we discover? We found out that the white people in our heads were not the same white people that existed in America. We found it pleasing! Jim Crow is dead and securely buried in America. How could this not spur a different sentiment in our hearts, among us, about America.
Man, I tell you the truth, I ain’t a bit worried about the GOP and their operatives. I am developing a great faith in Obama to deal with the barriers, mountains, and the dogs of war he will have to confront before November. Thank you for the essay you wrote Baraka: Act Like We Know. I had tried to dissuade some of our more political brothers that they were doing themselves more harm than Obama, that their radical-speak was an insult to the black people that they want to lead, that they must learn how to ride the wave, use it for their secret and long-term ends. I am hoping very much that what you said in that piece will cause them to rethink their rhetoric. It is a new day and they need to go back to school. Chinweizu: Hi Rudy. Isn’t that too hasty a judgment? And Obama hasn’t even won the nomination, let alone the election in Nov.!!! May I point out that the peach blossom is not the fruit, only the harbinger of the fruit! And as my landlady in Boston used to say, there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip.
We need to learn not to overestimate what has been accomplished. That was part of the trouble with our celebration of Independence in Black Africa in the 1960s, while what we actually achieved fell far short of independence. Over estimation of our achievement is one of the traits that contributed to the failure of our liberation movements all through the last two centuries. “Black liberation movements are the global champions in the strange game of winner-lose-all. After all, Black Africans are consistently stupid about power; always too quick to concede too much to the white enemy! In two centuries of liberation struggles, from Haiti to South Africa, blacks grabbed the empty hole in the doughnut and celebrated “victory” while the “defeated” whites held on to the dough!” (Chinweizu, 2006).
Just as we mistook local self-government within the imperialist structures for independence from imperialism, we are now prone to mistake the promise of the Obama phenomenon for the death of Jim Crow and colorism.
Besides, even if Obama becomes president, ever heard of backsliding? After we had overestimated the Civil Rights achievements of the 1960s, didn’t we see Bakke, and then Jena?
Well indeed, three steps forward, two steps backward is progress. But permit me to point out that, as a people, we have a habit of reading too much into a promising but still developing situation. We read our hopes into an evolving and ephemeral reality and celebrate our fantasy. Only later do we realize the falsity of our fantasy, and then get disillusioned.
It is too optimistic to think that Colorism, a habit of five centuries can be given up in just one generation. Jim Crow is, maybe, in the coffin. Just maybe. Let’s wait till it is six feet under and overgrown with grass, before we proclaim that it is dead and securely buried.
This is not to belittle what Obama has achieved and represents, an important milestone on the road to racial equality in America. The snake of colorism may have had its spine broken, that doesn’t mean its lost its venom, or that it can’t still bite.
If Obama attains the Presidency, and if he is allowed to serve out his full term, it would be prudent to watch warily and to strive to secure and consolidate the gains. Maybe a few generations from now, if the achievement has been entrenched beyond backsliding, it would be time enough to declare Jim Crow dead and securely buried.
Lets not count our chickens even before the eggs are laid.
On this issue of our self-crippling traits, may I recommend to you [read] Self-reparation for Afrikan Power: Pan Africanism and Black Consciousness.
Rudy: I agree, Chinweizu: The snake of colorism may have had its spine broken, that doesn’t mean its lost its venom, or that it can’t still bite. We have no argument on this point. An Obama presidency will not mean the end of colorism or racism. It will be, however, the end of a certain stage of racism in American politics. As with the death of colonialism, there was an end to a certain stage of imperialism. Foreign intrusion continues in Africa, and probably more thoroughly than before the 1960s, but in a more abstract form. Foreign agents now exploit thousand year old differences and prejudices. A lack of an overview by the masses and a minority of leaders who are out for individual power will cause the situation to further worsen. The fast-pace developing new technologies will continue to facilitate these intrusions. The same will be the case among ethnic communities in relation to a larger white America. As you say this new stage will require a certain “self-reparation.” Africa’s lack of literacy on many levels will cause continual racial frustrations and confusions. The old form of racism is no longer a necessity. Africans because of their inepitude to keep up with the more serious literate and skilled sectors of nations and of the globe in the immediate future will cause them to continue to suffer numerous failures and setbacks because of the stupid choices they make in dealing with one another. Here’s an interesting video that makes the point of how technologies have changed the power game: Shift Happens by Karl Fisch, Albino Black Sheep.
The thing we must ask is can we out-organize our enemies in just day to day tasks of living. Do we even know who our enemies are? Much too often they are us. All these efforts (struggles) require an emphasis on quality of life rather than materialistic escapism. to which we are much inclined. I do not think we can accomplish what we must with worn-out 19th century intellectual rhetoric and technologies. Much self-criticism and self-evaluation are required.
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New Era Needs New Terms
Floyd: I am not quite sure what an Obama presidency might mean regarding the continuation or termination of white supremacy in America. Former Governor Wilder of Virginia has not been followed by another Black. Was his just a one-shot deal, as many of us thought back when he was elected? What is the significance of that event and process to the present situation? Of course, our concern is not just with Black managerial elites; we continue to be concerned about folks at the bottom of the social order. I do know that I will be teaching a course on power and racism next fall. Please see the attached syllabus.
Rudy: I am always wary of analogies. We could go all the way back to Edward Brooke in Massachusetts. I had no great social expectation of change with either Brooke as senator or Wilder as governor of VA or as mayor of Richmond. I understood my home state better than that, even though such political progress had historical significance. An Obama presidency will however be of a different magnitude (off the charts) on the national, if not, on the global scene.
If such a presidency miraculously appears, I am uncertain we can speak in the old racial categories, like “white supremacy.” It would make Obama as President a farce and ourselves as farcical. In such a new regime, we will have to better or more precisely define our words, or find other terms altogether to describe the new reality or state of the State.
Within the last two months, it seems to me that Obama has slain the last vestiges of Jim Crow politics as represented in the electoral politics by MLK’s old captains and boosters, such as Andrew Young, Jesse Jackson, John Lewis, Al Sharpton, and a host of others associated with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Democratic Party. That is, when the majority of white people elect a “black president” how can we reasonably speak in such terms as “white supremacy.” Isn’t that the point of their vote?
At least we must say that “white supremacy” does not appear as it did in pre-King days of Jim Crow, as a social and political policy. And, of course, it will be difficult to speak of it in light of black billionaires, tens of thousands (if not more) of black multi-millionaires and those persons who work in the White House as advisors and counselors and those who hold such offices as Secretary of State or Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Such terms as “white supremacy” becomes rather meaningless or a misrepresentation of the actual facts. That is not to deny that race, class, gender, etc. continue to play negative and divisive roles socially, culturally and politically in American society, especially for the under and lower working classes.
I am uncertain that such an Obama era can be characterized in such terms as the global rule of “white supremacy” as an ideological perspective of the West. And if it does not represent the actual facts on the ground what is the point of the continued use of it in describing the political rule or oppression that continues to exist. I suspect that the term “white supremacy” will fall into the dustbin much like the Marxian category of “wage slavery.”
What might be of a more fruitful exploration at this juncture is what will his “Yes, We Can” mean within an Obama presidency. For it seems to suggest that his organizers and devotees or we in general will be required to perform certain political acts in order to reform Washington and the rest of the American society. That is, Obama seems to want to set up a model for societal transformation.
One field in which he desires to accomplish this change is in public education. I wonder indeed what changes can be accomplished in this field. For instance, how does one get the children of the poor to cease their rebellion against schools and their teachers so that a higher kind of education can take place. Chinweizu says we need “self-reparation.” How indeed would that transformation take place when in many school districts we have 50% drop out rates. That is, we have black children in and out of school who refuse to take education seriously, say, as in immigrant children.
How would Obama’s Yes, We Can slogan operate as a program of education transformation in an Obama administration? What would he call on us to do individually to change such impoverished educational situations in our urban centers and rural areas?
Chuck: An Obama presidency would be a small dent in the national and global racist attitudes.
Lloyd: Rudy and Dr. Hayes, Greetings and best wishes! I am very much interested in the question that you have introduced on what would be the real meaning and legacy of an Obama’s presidency.
Wilder, I remember very well. I was a student at UVA when he made his bid for the Governor’s Mansion.
As black students we expected his tenure to result in a mighty tsunami, eroding VA’s legacy of white supremacy in white power politics. That was about 20 years ago. I have not seen another person of color in the governor’s mansion–a descendant of slaves passing as white may well have been there but we don’t know that as yet.
In fact during the first year of Wilder’s governorship VA, I recall many students being welcomed to UVA with a big sign, mounted by White students showing their will to defend the privileges of power and status derived from White supremacy. Their big and bold sign read:
“WELCOME TO VIRGINIA WHERE OUR PEANUTS ARE BIGGER AND OUR GOVERNOR IS A NIGGER”
I am sure that there are some people in this country who would be tempted to mount such a sign at the country’s ports of entry should Obama succeed in his bid for the White House.
I am just returning from a trip to central Jamaica, where I went to wish my mother her final farewell. Central Jamaica is a place where the descendants of African slaves and East Indian indentured laborers, collectively, have used traditional (African-Indian) values for centuries to fight, vigorously, European values and their economic system.
From Jamaica, I returned more dismayed having observed that the people with a militant cultural and political history are now flying the heavy flag of Americanismcapitalism higher than it has ever been flown in that part of the country. It made me sad, recognizing that the country was led by a “socialist” government of Jamaican-Africans from 1989 to 2007. They have paved the way for the greatest capitalist transformation of the country with little resistance, because they were the most trusted by the people. Well Jamaica is now firmly back into the hands of its most conservative elements.
Obama is important in American politics. The business and ruling elites need someone with his color and profile to restore America’s international prestige which was severely injured by President Bush and his cabal. As you know a well armed country with little or no prestige abroad is weak and at risk in the international system.
An Obama’s presidency may well be able to reduce some level of white racism here, but he will be more important in America’s foreign relations than in our domestic affairs.
Chenweizu: 1) Are white supremacy and anti-black racism permanent features of US political culture, or is racial reform possible and probable? 2) Such terms as white supremacy become rather meaningless or a misrepresentation of the actual facts (Rudy).
1) So long as the system needs an underclass, and color is available as the visual identity badge of the underclass, for so long will anti-black colorism be utilized by white power. Just look at the caste system in India. There too, color is taken advantage of to mark the underclass. Brazil is another example. For all the 35 colors recognized in the Brazilian census forms, the bottom of the lot remains the unmixed or jet black, and the top is unmixed white.
Racial reform is possible and only probable within the limits exemplified by India and Brazil. There is too much white power and white advantage vested in the colorarchy for it ever to be abolished by whites, unless there is enough Black power to make it counterproductive for its white beneficiaries.
2) White supremacy is not made meaningless by the emergence of a plethora of Black office holders. The forms necessary to maintain white supremacy are constantly changing with situations. Chattel slavery, Jim Crow, and even integration have sustained white supremacy in the USA at different times. I can bet that new forms will be invented in the near future.
White expatriate colonialism in Africa had its indirect rule through indigenous black structures, and in this era of Black Comprador colonialism, White power controls Black Africa today through country presidents, generals, company directors and Board chairmen who are all black. White supremacy, as a matter of historical record, does not disappear with the emergence of even a complete phalanx of black office holders. For example, Nigeria is under the thumb of white supremacy, though it has been ruled for some 50 years by black Heads of State, all-black legislatures, all-black armies, etc.
Ghana, the same; yet Ghana under the Black colonialists, from Nkrumah till today, is under white power. In fact 60% of Ghana’s budget is funded by the white donor agencies under the new imperialism. And that control of the purse strings enables white power to control Ghana without having whites as local officials.
This is just to indicate that even with Obama as President and a plethora of elected and appointed officials in the USA, it would not be meaningless or a misrepresentation to speak of “white supremacy”. In this white power game, as things appear to change, the basic center, white power and white supremacy, remains the same.
In fact, the changes implemented at each point are precisely the minimum calculated to preserve white power and supremacy. We are not about to see the end of an era, only the change to a new phase in the era of imperialism and white supremacy. The ending of the era of white supremacy will require the construction of the Black power that can hold white power in check around the world, but that’s a project that isn’t yet in our daydreams, let alone on the cards.
Floyd: For whites to elect a Black person (state governor or US president, etc.) is not a signal that anti-Black racism or white supremacy have ended, especially in the case of impoverished urban Black folks. The end of imperialism and colonialism in African didn’t end similar European attitudes and practices toward Africans. Observe the various forms of cultural racism in European countries today where so many Africans now reside. Indeed, in their book, NOIR ET FRANCAIS, Geraldine Faes and Stephen Smith deal with this issue in France. Whites/Europeans may very well seek to destroy a great proportion of humanity (including themselves) rather than to relinquish their global power–political, economic, cultural, and social. What will be the significance of the rise of China and India? Will the increasing multicultural transformation of the USA result in the termination all vestiges of racism or will racist categories merely change? Can the USA get beyond some form of racism? What about the integral relationship among racism, capitalism, and sexism? Can increasing multiculturalism in each of these categories erase structures of domination in the USA and on the global scene?
Oh, by the way, please check out some of the older and newer comments at Nigger Obama. Racism is alive and well, believe me.
Glen: Dear Rudy, I believe you are in fact making our (non-Obamists) point: that it can and will be argued that Obama’s ascendance makes use of terms such as “white supremacy” obsolete. That’s precisely Obama’s message, which is why he’s getting phenomenal white male support – and it’s utter, dangerous nonsense. Racism is systemic. A Black face at the “top” does not change the system. On the contrary, it can serve to mask the unchanged nature of the system. The enemy understands this. That’s why the GOP chose Condoleezza and Colin to be the faces of U.S. imperialism, which became more savage in the process. Those who think racism is a cosmetic thing don’t understand the nature of the beast, the nature of power.
I would remind you that the vast bulk of “British” soldiers in the African colonies, were Black Africans. (Idi Amin was one of them, a top sergeant. The same modus operandi obtained in British India.) Black soldiers did not change the essential nature of colonialism. Indeed, for a time it strengthened the evil system, by enlisting the oppressed in the machine of oppression. The Black troops were proud of their role, and admired by lots of other Africans. They suppressed their rebellious brethren, as did the “colored” militias in Louisiana under the French and Spanish, who repeatedly saved the slaveholders from Black insurrection.
I’d be interested to hear the new terms you come up with to describe U.S. institutional racism by some other name. You can announce the new vocabulary to the non-white majority in American prisons, and the half of Black men in New York who are out of work. It will have to be you that tells them, of course, since Obama doesn’t give a damn about such FACTS. He’s got a “movement” rushing to the ballot box – and which will go no further than election day, since his coronation “changes” everything, even as it changes nothing.
Please excuse my sarcastic tone, but I am often inadequate when confronting unreality.
Rudy: Glen, you keep suggesting that we are in absolute, total disagreement or that we do not want the same things. . . . On the other hand I might be suggesting that your tone and your anti-Obama emphasis is not the right politic strategy or tactic to take. It does not win you friends for you among the larger voting black population, for which you seem to want to speak. “New terms” may indeed involve tone. Your rhetorical response to Obama’s candidacy seemingly has been totally ineffective as far as voters supporting his candidacy. It seems terms like “institutional racism” and “systemic racism” are those that Obama might use himself, or even Clinton or even other senators, with say respect to drug laws. Such terms are of a different order than “white supremacy.”
I cannot agree “nothing” changes. We are aware of numerous changes that have taken place, that is, emotionally and psychologically. The entire mood of the country has been altered, if not hearts. Millions of young people have begun participating in the electoral process. Whether that will lay the ground for other transformations in society we will not know until the Obama administration is sworn in and he begins his first 100 days. Glen, I do not think you are as “inadequate” as you claim. I think you indeed have to be more flexible and subtle in your opposition.
Glen: We at BAR never had any illusions about holding back the Obama tide. In the summer of 2003, when few outside Chicago (and many inside Chicago) had never heard of Obama, Bruce Dixon and I concluded that he would be a force to reckon with – and bad news for any hopes of rekindling a real “movement.” Our job is to keep a record.
I don’t want to fight with you, or offend you. History – in the very short term – will tell the tale. Illusions cannot trump facts. We’ve cited the facts; the consequences will follow.
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Obama, Illusions, and Trumping Facts
Rudy: Glen, I am not offended by your criticism of Obama. What I am concerned about is the nature of the Obama criticism and the overall benefit of BAR’s criticism, as in the passage written below by Margaret Kimberly:
Black voters are overwhelmingly pro-Obama. Now supposedly anti-war and progressive organizations have also thrown in the towel. Race pride, however misguided in this case, explains Obama’s appeal to black Americans. White progressives have no such excuse. Nevertheless they have chosen to suspend disbelief and jump on the winning bandwagon. The stampede to Obama reveals the emptiness of the Democratic left. They are every bit as cynical as the man they support. They want a seat at the table. They don’t really care what is decided at that table as long as they are included. Pro-war, anti-war, who cares? Just spell the name right on the White House invitation and let the triangulation begin (Black Agenda Report).
For instance, Margaret says that “race pride” explains Obama’s support from blacks. That’s a cheap assessment of the intelligence of blacks. If Condi Rice had run for the Republicans, I am certain we would not have had the same voter turn out or black political response. Nor have we seen a positive ethnic response with regard to Alan Keyes. So Ms. Kimberley has a lot of loaded, elitist language throughout this passage that might be cast as innuendo and denigration of those who do not possess BAR’s position. Personally, I am not concerned about it. Politically I do not not see how it is helpful being a left wing Lone Ranger shooting cynical bullets at potential allies and black voters in general. I too am keeping a record, probably a more diverse record of views and opinions, actions and facts of the Obama campaign. Obama 2008 Table. I think that is important. You are, I assume, keeping a record of Black Agenda Report‘s opposition to Obama’s nomination. I am sure a I-told-you-so kind of record is just one approach, which I conclude is not the best kind of historical record keeping. Support for Obama’s nomination, or any candidate’s nomination, is not a rubber stamp of every policy, every action, every word spoken. We have several choices. Many have concluded that Obama is the best of the three. These voters prefer Obama over Clinton or McCain. That seems rather reasonable. I do not see how such aggressively negative rhetoric as “caving in” or the “emptiness of the Democratic left” makes a fair case or a balance record. Let me be clear. I’m not for a no-criticism policy of Obama. I’m for a fair, balanced criticism. If your point is that an Obama administration will not end corporate exploitation and America’s imperial concerns (the defense of its “interests”), you are probably on solid grounds. If Obama supporters have faith that these “interests” can be obtained without the extremes of a Clinton or a Bush administration, they too are on solid ground. So when I call for a “new rhetoric,” it is these kind of perspectives I have in mind. Lloyd McCarthy has made this criticism:
An Obama’s presidency may well be able to reduce some level of white racism here, but he will be more important in America’s foreign relations than in our domestic affairs.
I consider that criticism fair and balanced, a reserve which waits on the facts. Most blacks and other minorities will probably find Obama’s domestic policy as fair as a Democratic Congress can make it under opposition. The problems will come with Obama’s foreign policies. That is where he will probably receive the most opposition from the Right and the Left. The toughest of these will come with his Middle East policies.
If there is outrage it will be with policies concerning Israel and the continuing threat that Iran poses. Under economic pressures, the Iraq War will be brought to a close. Even there, I suspect that an Obama’s approach will be much more improved than what we have gotten from Clinton and Bush.
Chuck: Rudy, One thing that is a plus for those who have begun the lean toward Obama is his consistency. He has managed to stay on point and use his calm demeanor as a plus against the stridency of his opponent. This whole scene is interesting and is going to be cause for a whole new analysis of this nation and it’s political history. I want to know if Hillary is going to openly reject Bill Cunningham after pressuring Obama about the Farrakhan endorsement. I would like to believe that there are some dialogues that could be developed around who endorse and how that impacts things.We were wondering about what the conversation would really be like if Malcolm and Martin were still around.
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The Audacity of Data
Jean: I’m still trying to figure out who the folks at Black Agenda Report are supporting. Billary, McCain, Nader, McKinney? What’s the point of continually offering up criticisms (and I don’t necessarily disagree with their criticisms) but who are they supporting? Did I miss this part of the debate?
Rudy: I asked Glenn directly was he supporting Hillary and he didn’t respond. So I am not sure what’s going on over there. I do not think they are doing themselves any favors. . . . Keep in mind I do not dislike Glen. He’s done some hip things in creating community on the internet. But he has tunnel vision on Obama’s candidacy. . . . I have problems with ideological stances and he has taken a difficult one. Black Commentator with Pinckney’s pieces has gone totally whack. I do not think that it is good politics, good business, or even good sense for them to attack the black community in this fashion. That aside, I’d like for you to check out this piece from The New Republic and tell me what you think it says about Obama: The Audacity of Data: Barack Obama’s surprisingly non-ideological policy shop (Noam Scheiber, The New Republic, March 12, 2008).
Jean: Dear Rudy, That’s about as nuanced an interpretation of Barack’s policy management systems that I’ve read. I can’t knowledgeably and therefore meaningfully comment on the economic side.
I’m on firmer ground in regards to foreign policy. Lee Hamilton, in my mind, represents much of the foreign policy thinking that was dominant during the Carter years; a willingness to engage the “others” as long as the “others” weren’t a threat to Israel.
I think Scheiber is saying Barack is willing to be the pragmatist par excellence in exchange for the 1 1/2 -2 1/2 war policy first promoted by Reagan and proven by Bush II to be so unmanageable and unaffordable.
Again on the foreign policy side suppose Barack actually wins the election and suppose the children of Lee Hamilton wield power in State; what will be the response of the unelected portion of the foreign policy establishment – the Pentagon?
Who can forget the incident just a couple months ago when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated and Condoleeza Rice suggested the US might reassess its armament donations to Pakistan. Pentagon chief Gates said immediately, “No way. The US wasn’t about to diminish its influence in Pakistan by cutting back on weapons shipments.” Rice and the State Dept. were left looking silly.
How will Barack (or anyone else for that matter) bring the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex under control? Is the US already a fascist state? I honestly do not know.
Miriam: A fascinating description and analysis of the thinkers, particularly the economists, who are helping to shape Obama’s policies.
Rudy: In any case such understandings as represented in that New Republic article seem to be a more reasonable approach to criticism of an Obama administration than these pre-conceived, ideological (Marxist, Marxist-Leninist, socialist, Garveyite, Pan Africanist, etc.) criticisms of Obama’s candidacy and policy statements that we are getting from Obama opponents. That is, can Obama’s pragmatism make significant and progressive differences in how we represent the best interests of Americans and operate on the global stage, morally and ethically? I think we have to teach and learn how to teach our people and others how to see rather than denounce their purported ignorance. You might also want to check out this piece: Obama Blackness and Postethnic America: LIBERAL DREAMS OF THE AMERICAN NIGHTMARE…Misreading the morphing of racism in a thoroly globalized late capitalist world
Tananarive: GREAT piece on Obama’s policy advisors from The New Republic, and many thanks for posting it! I am going to point it out to members of the Writers For Obama group on his website, and any other groups I think would find it interesting.
As for the second piece . . . I couldn’t pull it up without a subscription. If you can mount it somehow, that would be great–but the first piece was a gem by itself!
Claire: You can find subtle evidence of this influence across numerous Obama proposals. For example, one key behavioral finding is that people often fail to set aside money for retirement even when their employers offer generous 401(k) plans. If, on the other hand, you automatically enroll workers in 401(k)s but allow them to opt out, most stick with it. Obama’s savings plan exploits this so-called “status quo” bias (The Audacity of Data). Good Morning Rudy, I am reading a book called Start Late and Finish Rich by David Bach. In it he states that budgets don’t work. We do not budget on a regular basis and the government knows that and that is why they take out our income tax before we see our pay cheques. He suggested that we apply the same principle and pay our self first by having our RRSP. investments deducted from our pay cheque before we see it. I set that up with my bank just last Friday. I am pleased to read these discourses on the policies of Barack Obama. It appears that he always consults and seeks out advisors as it also mentioned in his book Dreams from My Father. At the moment I am taking notes on his debating style as I know many of my students and myself can benefit from applying these strategies.
Wilson: Things are getting nasty and the radical Republicans are inadvertently helping Senator Clinton, by portraying Obama as a Muslim radical. The conservative pundits of mainstream radio are guaranteeing that Obama will lose in Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. . . . Did you hear that William F. Buckley died today? That marks the end of intellectually tenable conservatism, although Brookhiser still lives. I would not consider Rush Limbaugh a suitable replacement.
Rudy: I think Obama will win Texas. Ohio it will be closer. But that closeness will not help Hillary. Obama will probably also win Pennsylvania. I do not think the Muslim smear will help at all. The debate last night I think hurt Hillary. Her hysterics (aggressive petty style) did not help, though she tried to cast it as being a “fighter.” Have you read Gore Vidal’s Lincoln? Quite interesting! I’m a third way through it. In his earlier days, I liked Buckley’s style. There aren’t that many well-educated, scholarly commentators these days.
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Obama Era and a Need to Clarify Terms
Floyd: For whites to elect a Black person (state governor or US president, etc.) is not a signal that anti-Black racism or white supremacy have ended, especially in the case of impoverished urban Black folks. The end of imperialism and colonialism in African didn’t end similar European attitudes and practices toward Africans. Observe the variousforms of cultural racism in European countries today where so many Africans now reside. Indeed, in their book, Noir Et Francais, Geraldine Faes and Stephen Smith deal with this issue in France. Whites/Europeans may very well seek to destroy a great proportion of humanity (including themselves) rather than to relinquish their global power–political, economic, cultural, and social. What will be the significance of the rise of China and India? Will the increasing multicultural transformation of the USA result in the termination all vestiges of racism or will racist categories merely change? Can the USA get beyond some form of racism? What about the integral relationship among racism, capitalism, and sexism? Can increasing multiculturalism in each of these categories erase structures of domination in the USA and on the global scene?
Rudy: I agree that systemic or institutional racism will continue to exist during an Obama administration, though maybe not to the same degree as under the Clinton and Bush administration. For Obama claims he will fight racial discrimination. But in your statement you have equated systemic racism (“anti-black racism”) with white supremacy. But that’s fudging. That’s rhetorically unfair.
Additionally, merely because racial extremists continue to exist does not mean the past (“white supremacy”) rules. We still have fascists and Nazis, but no one says that Germany is a Nazi state or that Italy is a Fascist state. Merely because systemic racism or racist ideologies exist can we say that we have a White Supremacy state?
There seems to me a gulf between institutional racism and white supremacy. If American slavery with its whip and dogs and pattyrollers is white supremacy and Jim Crow with its lynch rope and colored signs is white supremacy, how then can the election of a black man to the presidency by tens of millions of white voters also be white supremacy?
Poverty in itself is not necessarily created by “white supremacy,” which is an ideological perspective on race supported fully by the state, its policies, and the majority of its citizens. That social and political state of white supremacy continued to decline after the 1964 and 1965 civil rights bills. We have far distanced ourselves emotionally, legally, politically from what existed pre-1965. Thus an Obama.
You have read Ron Walters. Matter of fact you teach his book White Nationalism Black Interests at Johns Hopkins, which probably could not have occurred in 1965. You know good and well poverty in Baltimore, which has been ruled by black politicians for over a decade, does not result from “white supremacy.” One indeed might say that Baltimore poverty has resulted from decisions and policies made by both blacks and whites, in and out of office. Whites did not put a gun to the head of Curt Schmoke and the present mayor to make anti-black racist socio-economic decisions and policies.
The extensiveness of Baltimore poverty can indeed be attributed to the Clinton administration, which Walters argues in his book. But those racist policies were endorsed by black politicians, to the point that blacks called Clinton the “black president.” Block grants, which cut off direct funding of cities, was one of those negative and racist policies. But many members of the Congressional Black Caucus endorsed that policy as well as black Democrats. The same is the case with policies related to crime.
The arrest of a 7-year-old in Baltimore was not the work of a Bull Connor or a Lester Maddox. For when the event occurred a black man headed up the police forces and a black mayor Sheila Dixon showed no outrage at what happened and made no apologies to the parents of the child.
So to use the word “white supremacy” with the existence of black urban regimes is rather a farce, for such labeling lets many black politicians and black citizens off the hook. As black intellectuals in search of truth I think we can do better than falling back into old, worn-out ideological statements that do not reveal the actual facts of our condition.
Floyd: Rudy, my argument was not that white votes for (and even the election of) Obama represent white supremacy. No, my argument was/is that such an eventuality would not represent the termination of anti-Black racism and white supremacy in the USA, especially for the large proportion of urban impoverished Blacks. Moreover, as Obama goes through the process of becoming the next US president, racist and other kinds of attacks on him will continue to mount at a feverish pitch. It is to his credit that, so far, he has been able remain cool under fire–racist and otherwise. Yes, he represents post-civil right, post-black power, or post-soul Black politics.
Recall Harold Washington’s strategy and victory in becoming Chicago’s mayor. Perhaps Obama learned from that historic moment. He wants to unite America, etc. But in the process, he is going to catch serious hell. Again, check out the link: Obama Nigger.com One of the things that I have learned from reading Toni MorrisonI learned this lesson after having read The Bluest Eye about five timeswas how she demonstrates the manner in which anti-Black racism seems to predetermine Black behavior, even toward other Blacks. We need history! Just because Blacks now lead Baltimoreits government, its schools, etc.it does not mean that elite Blacks have a deep concern about the Black impoverished citizens and communities. In America, the principal rule among politicians is to secure the next electoral victory! This reality is part of my critique of the electoral politics system as decadent.
Check out Black political scientist Marion Orr’s book, Black Social Capital: The Politics of School Reform in Baltimore, 1968-1998.
I was not in Baltimore when former mayor Curt Schmoke decided to employ right-wing strategies for reforming Baltimore’s public schools. Of course, those policy reforms failed. Schools are worse off now than they were decades ago. For this, Schmoke was rewarded by becoming the dean of Howard University’s law school! To be sure, both liberal and conservative members of the Black managerial elites, along with white elites, have decided and implemented public policies that injure impoverished Blacks
Please check out again my paper, “Politics of Knowledge: Black Policy Professionals in the Managerial Age.”
The specialized policy elites, black or white, don’t necessarily work in the interests of impoverished Blacks and other members of working classes. Yes, there is collusion and complicity here! We should no longer be trying to pit analysis of racism against analysis of class, or both/either against analysis of sexism. Recall bell hooks’ term for the intersections of structures of domination: racist capitalist patriarchy. By the way, anti-Black racism is just one dimension of white supremacy. White supremacy may also include the manner in which powerful whites oppress, exclude, dominate, brutalize, injure, etc., other people of color.
Jonathan: Rudy and Floyd, White supremacy is the social partition of Americans into white and not-white. It is an ideological monolith, going back to the early 1700s when the first white race laws were passed in Virginia and Maryland. These laws, and the eventual system of white racial oppression, was aimed directly at African Americans. I agree with Floyd: anti-Black racism and white supremacy are of the same cloth.
I haven’t read many commentaries and analysis of this, but Latinos overwhelmingly favor Clinton.
To me, this is a classic case of white supremacy at work, where Latinos are voting “white” to show the ruling class where they stand in relation to African Americans, that they can be called on to oppress Blacks if and when the time comes. Remember that for a time the Irish were considered not-“white,” as were the Sicilians, the Jews, the Hungarians, and so on. Mayor Coleman Young writes about this in his autobiography: how the first “white” person to ever show him respect was a Hungarian co-worker at the plant. According to Young, this is what made him convert to Catholicism, because he was so stunned by the experience. It’s not that white supremacy is anti-Black only, rather it’s that for white supremacy to persist it has to have a criminalized, demonized African American population to organize itself around. With real and full African American equality, white supremacy is completely null and void. Obama has a great chance to teach these crucial lessons to all the Americans who will vote for him in November. It is truly a remarkable moment, one I’m damn glad to be around for.
Rudy: It is baffling in that we both seem to understand the context out of which “white supremacy” as an ideology of the state comes into being. That context suggests that every political act by a white person or a government run by white people committed against a black person is not an act of white supremacy. That is, for instance, the Middle Passage of Africans (before the early 1700s) was not in itself an act of white supremacy, but rather a mere act of “practical” economics. That is, black slavery in itself is not an act of white supremacy
According to your definition, and for the sake of your reasoning, let’s say I agree with it as set out by Theodore Allen in his book, Invention of the White Race. I restate your position: “White supremacy is the social partition of Americans into white and not-white. It is an ideological monolith, going back to the early 1700s when the first white race laws were passed in Virginia and Maryland.”
Let’s look at these “white race laws,” briefly, I read Allen and I referred to his view of these race laws in an essay I wrote last year, as follows:
The Virginian ruling elites thus instituted for the first time in the history of America (and possibly in the world) preferences based on “whiteness”: “no free African-American was to dare to lift his or her hand against a Christian, not being a negro, mulatto or Indian’; that African-American freeholders were no longer to be allowed to vote; that the provision of a previous enactment  was being reinforced against the mating of English and Negroes as producing abominable mixture’ and spurious’ issue; that, as provided in the 1723 law for preventing freedom plots by African-American bond-laborers, any white person . . . found in company with any [illegally congregated] slaves’ was to be fined (along with free African Americans or Indians so offending) with a fine of fifteen shillings, or to receive, on his, her, or their bare backs, for every such offense, twenty lashes well laid on’.” (Invention of the White Race, vol. 2, 251).
So if Allen has truly understood what the reign of white supremacy is, namely, 1) the banishment of black self defense, 2) absence of the black franchise (rights of citizenship); 3) restriction of marriage and other types of association. Such laws continued throughout legalized slavery and Jim Crow (ending in 1965 more or less), along with the one drop rule and myth of black inferiority. The federal and state governments of the United States no longer sustain such racist positions and relationships, nor do the majority of state legislatures, even in the South, nor do most white politicians uphold such doctrines.
I have no idea what this statement means: “anti-Black racism and white supremacy are of the same cloth.” What cloth is that? That “anti-Black racism” exists in America, aren’t there mechanisms by which those violations of existing laws and the spirit of these laws can be corrected by willing politicians and other leading societal figures, black, white, yellow, and red?
You can say that we have bad (or even negative race impacting) politics in America, but can we truly say that the ruling ideology is white supremacy. We can say a white elite dominates wealth and corporations in America. We can say that that white elite has a key influence in controlling the politics of the country, domestic and foreign. We can allow in the midst of all these political and socioeconomic situations there are racial inequities and that the white elite still find ways of creating racial antagonisms, and that moreover there are individual whites who hold racist views and support racist acts. But to call all these manifestations a state of “white supremacy” in the sense that it was originally used is sheer lexical folly.
To analyze as “a classic case of white supremacy at work, where Latinos are voting ‘white’ to show the ruling class where they stand in relation to African Americans, that they can be called on to oppress Blacks if and when the time comes” is a great abuse of the term “white supremacy,” and I think sheer nonsense. Moreover, it is an abuse in reading the local and national politics of Latinos, if we can even say such a state actually exists. I suggest a reading of David Hollinger’s “Obama Blackness and Postethnic America.”
Such analyses show there is indeed a need to clarify former racial indictments in an Obama era.
I am pleased indeed, nevertheless, in your support of Obama’s candidacy in your statement, “It is truly a remarkable moment, one I’m damn glad to be around for.” Of course, we have those who are fighting mad that such “a remarkable moment” has come to be. They see it as a political setback for their political agendas. There are folks, like at Black Commentator, who think that we who voted for Obama are “goose stepping.” I still cannot figure out how such crackpots think they are being responsible and accountable journalists.
Again, I think we should be more concrete and precise in our use of such words as “white supremacy.”
Jonathan: Rudy, white supremacy was born with the establishment in the early 1700s of racial slavery. Before that there was chattel slavery but it was not racial. The Irish came over on slave ships too. After the white race laws were passed, the Irish were freed. I realize it’s no longer sophisticated to speak of white supremacy.
Racial discrimination is fine with me. It captures everything you need to know about US society, the fact that whites make double the amount of money blacks do for the same work, and that the black unemployment rate is double the white rate. But white supremacy as a concept and a defining feature of US society is not lexical nonsense. Tell Amiri Baraka that using white supremacy in the way I have and Ted Allen does is lexical nonsense and see what he says. Do you think if Dr Du Bois were alive today he would still be using the term white supremacy in his criticisms of US society?
Rudy: No, I do not think that Du Bois would be using the term white supremacy with the inexactness that it is being used and if he did I think he would be wrong. Well, that The Irish came over on slave ships too is indeed news to me. This too is news to me. The fact that whites make double the amount of money blacks do for the same work. Of course, we have laws against that sort of thing. Have you experienced a white colleague making double your salary? I sent Amiri Baraka a copy of my statement on the use of white supremacy. He is free to comment. I doubt if he will. I sent Marvin X a copy as well. He has been more vocal than Amiri on the subject. But they are no more authority on the subject than I am. But, on the whole, Jonathan, you are uttering ideological statements and abusing statistical reports.
Jonathan: The National Urban League reports that the black unemployment rate is 10.8 percent and the white unemployment rate is 4.7 percent. In terms of income, on average a black person makes .57 cents for every dollar a white makes.
During the seventeenth century, the trans-Atlantic trade in English, Scottish, and Irish slaves was very lucrative. Slave merchants, called “Spirits,” worked the major cities of England for poor and homeless people. There were hundreds of thousands of desperately poor, many locked away in Bridewell and other maximum security prisons for stealing to feed themselves, due to the capitalist land enclosures and before that the colonization of Ireland and Scotland. This trade ended in the early 1700s with the establishment in the Virginia and Maryland colonies of “white race” laws which made it illegal to enslave a white person (See Theodore Allen, The Invention of the White Race, vol. 2, 1997, and Lerone Bennett, Jr., Before the Mayflower, 1984).
We have laws against racial discrimination, but they are rarely enforced. To stop racial discrimination at a particular workplace, it takes a multimillion dollar class-action lawsuit. I was assuming that these basic facts are well-known to the readers of ChickenBones, and especially to its editor and publisher. Outside of independent media sources like ChickenBones, these facts are hardly ever reported, and it takes a great deal of effort to keep explaining them to the majority of white Americans. But I thought ChickenBones was different, a place where we could talk strategy and tactics, and try to organize ourselves for the battles against white supremacy and corporate greed, where we don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel.
Perhaps I’ve been mistaken, since I’m now being told that white supremacy has ended. Glen: White supremacy and white “racism” (the same thing) is the ideological justification for European/EuroAmerican domination over “lesser peoples,” especially those enslaved or mass-murdered by said Europeans. White supremacy and white racism justify past, present and future crimes against non-whites by providing the ideological framework that equates the white world view as the norm, and celebrates white dominance as the highest stage of civilization. All particulars in the institutional structures of white dominance are made to seem organic and logical to human development, based on the ideological assumptions of white racism/supremacy that are embedded in and constantly reinforced by white-dominated political culture – which is often imbibed in-whole among non-whites as the basis for political discourse.
It’s about power. This has historically included facilitating the ability of white supremacists to pick and choose which non-whites will be allowed to exercise nominal power, within the ideological parameters of white supremacy.
That’s how we get Obama. The rich white folks ain’t worried, since they bankrolled him from the beginning (as is a matter of public record, if one chooses to look at the record), and he has deviated not one iota from their ideological paradigms. Do Black folks really think that he will pull a switch, after inauguration? He has already told us what he plans to do: govern essentially in the same way as Bill Clinton did and Senator Clinton promises, only with sweeter words. I repeat, he and she have already told us so. Everything else is wishful imagination, for which we can blame ourselves, not Obama. In fact, he never even bothered to “message” Black people – the central function of electoral campaigns – relying, successfully, on the assumption that we would conjure up a message in our own heads based on racial commonalities. All his messages have been directed to anxious white folks (especially males), the military-industrial complex, and Wall Street. These messages, especially to the foreign policy complex elite and Wall Street, have been detailed and quite specific: 92,000 additional soldiers and Marines, and principled defense of the sanctity of contracts (no moratoriums on foreclosures or freezes on mortgage rates, for example).
The Obamarama has placed Black America at the far, most marginal edges of foreign and domestic policy discussion; we have nothing to say at all except rah-rah Obama. We are at our most parochial state of political discourse in my lifetime (11/05/49). Malcolm’s term “bamboozled” is exponentially more relevant today than 40-plus years ago.
All this will pass, because the world turns regardless of whether Black folks are drunk on the potion or not. The only question and response, to borrow Dr. King’s words, is “How Long? Not Long.”
Chenweizu: Obama Era? Post-ethnic America? Death of White Supremacy? Blimey!!!
Obamamania is not an era! Its just a symptom of something we as yet can’t explain or name!! Whether or not it will be sustained till November is yet to be seen. It could prove ephemeral! Isn’t it wise to hold off on these naming sprees till we, at least, see what comes out at the end of this electoral process?
Post ethnic America? Despite the fashion in declaring “post this”” and “”post that””, let’s not get carried away by fantasies. Britain is still ethnic 1000 years after the Norman Conquest and seven centuries after the joining of Wales to England, and four centuries after the official unification of the kingship and parliaments of England and Scotland, and two centuries after the joining of Ireland to the United Kingdom. We still have Scots, Welsh, Irish and English in Britain. The ethnic groups which make up America have been together for about two centuries only. Declaring a “post-ethnic America” into existence today is like Canute commanding the waves. How can anyone is their sane minds be proclaiming a post ethnic America just because Obamamania is in the air? Whoever believes that can believe in anything at all, even in the flat earth or Santa Claus or that the moon is made of cheese!
And the death of White Supremacy? News of its death is as premature and grossly exaggerated as the defeat of Truman in the 1948 elections that was announced by the pundits.
White supremacy is not yet dead in South Africa, 15 years after blacks captured all the elective offices of the state. Nor is racism completely dead even in Cuba after half a century of dedicated state effort to kill it under Fidel. Of course much progress has been made, vide: some ten of the 31 persons elected to the new, post-Fidel Council of State look black.
Why then indulge in the delusion that a year’s Obamamania has killed White Supremacy/Racism in the USA? Could that be a by-product of black addiction to powerless moralizing?
Part of the problem stems from the misguided definitions of racism/White supremacy by some of their social symptoms such as: “1) the banishment of black self defense, 2) absence of the black franchise (rights of citizenship); 3) freedom of marriage and other types of association. Such laws continued throughout legalized slavery and Jim Crow (ending in 1965 more or less), along with the one drop rule and myth of black inferiority.”
Now, White supremacy/racism is actually a system of power, not its social manifestations: “contrary to prevailing confusions, racism is a system of domination, of one race by another, which combines the superstition of racial hierarchy with a racialised structure of socio-economic domination and exploitation, and which is instituted and maintained by the violent practices of conquest and suppression, including torture, terrorism and mass murder.
The colourarchy, or colour-hierarchy, is a sorting principle by which, even if all else could be made equal, a persons position, expectations, opportunities, rewards and punishments are determined by skin colour, with white skin privileged at the top, black skin dis-privileged at the bottom and other colours brown, yellow in between. Discrimination is merely the act of applying or enforcing the colorarchy.”
Read: Chenweizu “The colour of racism” [Index on Censorship, Vol. 36, No. 1, 2007, p. 12]
* * * * *
Obama, Pariahs, and Betrayers
Glen: Dear Rudy, life is a constant process of learning, or else we have become irrelevant and mentally impaired. You are neither. I tried to put my overall analysis into as concise as possible a package. I don’t expect any of you Obamanites to agree with it, but I am obligated to make the case to you, as brothers and sisters. Please be careful and responsible in how you edit me. I tried to make a long story short.
If you further shorten my abridged version, you will surely leave out essentials of the case. In other words, I already edited myself. I have written over 100,000 words on the subject in the past four years. Bruce Dixon has written a similar amount. The brilliant Margeret Kimberley has written less, but done it better and more effectively.
As I hope I conveyed, none of the BAR team expects that we will turn back the tide of Obamamania. We understood that back in 2003. But our duty is to tell the truth based on the FACTS of his statements and political/financial entanglements.
As I said, we do not expect our argument, based on facts, to reverse the Black tidewhich is all we care about; how Black people react and act in the face of this phenomenon. The absence of a “movement” over the last 40 years has led to mass confusion and capitulation among a people who no longer have a grounding outside the political culture of market capitalism in service of U.S. imperialism and the rule of the rich. All Black mass discussion is now centered around the chances of our Black Knight, who is in fact THEIR (Wall Street, military complex, status quo candidate) champion, and most of us are so happy for the attention.
I wrote our short response, which is not mine alone, in respect to your influence among a valuable cadre of people who will be of use to our future, if not present, rejuvenation of the “movement.” I know you would welcome such a movement, but I believe you and they settle for a symbol, artfully auditioned and financed by our worst enemies. That’s what scared Bruce and I and Margaret to the bone, years ago, and it has now come to pass.
I am certain that the response from your list will be full of talk about the “promise” of mass Black enthusiasm for the Obama electoral campaign, which is now nearly universal. That is the tragedy. Don’t take it personal (I know you won’t). My colleagues and I feel uncomfortably lonely in this environment of misguided euphoria, and impotent to reverse it. We are used to being popular, for succinctly expressing the Historical Black Political Consensus and demanding that Black “leaders” adhere to it.
The “mania” has made us pariahs in huge Black circles, and we do not enjoy it. But we have a duty to tell the truth, to cite facts, and to extrapolate them to obvious future behavior. That’s our job. Obama is your average imperialist, your usual market capitalist, and the most effective spokesman in history in blackface for the ruling class – our WHITE oppressors – that has ever appeared on the political scene.
But I don’t expect you or your list to buck the tide. That’s for later, and it may take a long time. You may be dead by then, and so may I. Our job is to keep an objective record, and to rescue those who can be saved from the whirlwind of non-information as the actual realities of world and domestic events descend upon us.
Obamaism is not a Movement. It is the opposite – a corporate construction that disarms us. Your celebration is a death-knell.
Rudy: Chinweizu, you may be right when you say: Isn’t it wise to hold off on these naming sprees till we, at least, see what comes out at the end of this electoral process? But I think, with some justification, one will be able to speak of a pre-Obama era and an Obama era, which began with the surprising white vote in Iowa. I expected Obama would come in at best third, behind Edwards and Clinton. But he won Iowa. That white Obama vote was groundbreaking. It startled me pleasantly. It changed how people (blacks especially) view white people in America. Those non-racial sentiments may indeed not run deep. So whether Obama wins or loses the presidency, the most significant of events have already occurred.
Very few as far as I know expected a black man to be this close to the presidency of the United States at this stage in the presidential primaries of 2008. Thinking indeed has been altered and has provoked considerable reevaluation of where we are in America. Some say that these kinds of sentiments can be turned back. I allow that indeed is possible in that at this stage it is all rather emotional, but they are emotions that are manifesting themselves into political expression and political realities.
Still I am trying to understand the term “white supremacy” as it was generally understood and used in America. Moreover, I do not see a great distinction between my definition and the one you have proffered: “racism is a system of domination, of one race by another, which combines the superstition of racial hierarchy with a racialised structure of socio-economic domination and exploitation, and which is instituted and maintained by the violent practices of conquest and suppression, including torture, terrorism and mass murder.” Even by your definition white supremacy is dead as state and social ideology in America.
But you may be correct about the UK. I am not familiar with UK politics so that I can speak authoritatively. Still I do not understand how one can have white supremacy in South Africa when blacks control the state apparatus and the white population is more or less a less powerful, though significant, political minority. In short, there was a revolution in South Africa that overturned white supremacy. The ANC won! And they are now more or less in full control of the state apparatus.
You can indeed say the ANC and the black population are not in full control of South African wealth and corporate power. That corporate wealth is represented indeed by a white elite, whose economic power can curtail what political policies that the ANC government can or dare to enact. . . . I would like to hear one ANC politician state categorically that white supremacy still exists as a state ideology in South Africa.
Nevertheless, this discussion has become so heated that we are now using or suggesting such words as pariah and betrayer in relation to what relation we have to Obama or how we define “white supremacy” in our Black Struggle for racial justice.
Jonathan put it this way: “But I thought ChickenBones was different, a place where we could talk strategy and tactics, and try to organize ourselves for the battles against white supremacy and corporate greed . . . . Perhaps I’ve been mistaken, since I’m now being told that white supremacy has ended.”
Glen has put it this way: “We are used to being popular, for succinctly expressing the Historical Black Political Consensus and demanding that Black leaders adhere to it. The mania has made us pariahs in huge Black circles, and we do not enjoy it. But we have a duty to tell the truth, to cite facts, and to extrapolate them to obvious future behavior.”
It was never my intent to raise these extremes in sentiments by raising questions different from the views those persons I view as friends and associates. The pages of ChickenBones remain open to a great variety of views from Robert Byrd‘s I Weep For My Country: The Arrogance of Power to Chinweizu’s Racism: Arab and European Compared to Fanon’s The Fact of Blackness and Castro’s Vilma’s Struggles to John le Carré: The United States of America Has Gone Mad.
I do not view Glen as a “pariah” and certainly I do not view myself (or even a Trotsky) as a betrayer of the “Revolution.” But an old friend warned me back in the late 60s that the Central Committee would one day have me standing up against the wall. So let me try to further defuse these sentiments.
A midway point between the death and the present existence of White Supremacy in the United States has been expressed by Floyd Hayes: “anti-Black racism is just one dimension of white supremacy. White supremacy may also include the manner in which powerful whites oppress, exclude, dominate, brutalize, injure, etc., other people of color.” I translate this definition as one that suggests that white supremacy is now only a shadow of its former self, rather than the more monstrous manifestation that some still think it maintains. If I am not mistaken in my interpretation, I ascribe to Floyds definition.
Chenweizu: I would like to hear one ANC politician state categorically that white supremacy still exists as a state ideology in South Africa (Rudy). Just to say that such a statement can’t be expected from the ANC. They wouldn’t say that, would they? After all, they have an interest in claiming that what they achieved was the end of White Supremacy. But, of course, I am a historian and have to take into account the interests behind positions that politicians articulate.
Furthermore, it may have ceased to be the articulated state ideology, but still continue in practice, as evidence of residual, but still enormous, white power indicates. A feather weight is still overmatched against a super heavyweight who has shed some pounds and become a heavyweight, no? White power can still be supreme, despite being slightly diminished.
Furthermore, I professionally take the long term view, given how often the journalistic, near term perspective fails to accord with the historical, longer term perspective when events have settled, e.g., from the journalistic perspective of the day, Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960; but with the hindsight now available to the historian, it is clear it didn’t. Hence all I am doing is cautioning my journalist colleagues, and I am also a journalist, to be more restrained.
If it indeed turns out that White Supremacy died this year, well and good. You guys will go down in history as having spotted the death before anyone else. But if this turns out to have been a flash-in-the-pan, not only will the egg will be on your faces, but our people may have been misled into irreparable errors.
As for people talking about Pariahs, Betrayers and all that, I don’t understand their point or where they are coming from. Let’s just be restrained and not canvass positions that could lead our people astray into false expectations, into abandoning the struggle before it is truly won. Thanks for the opportunity for this exchange.
Rudy: Let’s just be restrained and not canvass positions that could lead our people astray into false expectations, into abandoning the struggle before it is truly won (Chinweizu).
Your point is well taken. . . . A friend just sent me this piece:
Apartheid dead but racism enduresUnder apartheid, black education was purposely substandard and certain skilled jobs, notably in big corporations such as the railroad, were reserved for whites. Now white South Africans complain about government affirmative action programs that work against them. Yet despite these programs and a booming economy, more blacks are out of work than under white rule. Government statistics show that 10 percent of black households are in the top income bracket compared with 65 percent of white households. Blacks are 85 percent of the 48 million population. President Thabo Mbeki hoped business friendly policies would create a trickle-down effect, but they didn’t, and many blacks criticize Mbeki for leaving the reins of the economy in white hands. In 2004, in its most recent available figures, the Department of Trade and Industry said black ownership of businesses had gone from zero to 10 percent and blacks occupied 15 percent of skilled positions. Whites-only suburbs and restaurants have been desegregated, but few blacks can afford their prices. Most still live in black townships and work for whites as laborers, farm hands or domestic workers. Oakley-Smith says she can list scores of racist incidents segregated toilets in big companies, rude and racist remarks by white supervisors in the mines, whites posting pictures of monkeys under the names of black supervisors. Yahoo News
The title of the above article uses “Apartheid,” while I have used “White Supremacy” in my exposition. In both cases, there is the realization and understanding all is not well, either in South Africa, United States, or Nigeria. With regard to Nigeria, your fellow countryman, Emmanuel Franklyne Ogbunwezeh, living in Germany, has just sent me a piece titled, “Nigeria: A Failed State in the Making?”
I will not be surprised once and if Obama is elected president of the US to read a year into his presidency, Obama: A Failed Administration in the Making. So I am not so naive that I am unable to understand your point, “White power can still be supreme, despite being slightly diminished.” The only disagreement would be the degree to which it has lost its effectiveness as an organizing principle to heighten economic exploitation and political domination.
* * * * *
Whispering Black Women Super Delegates
Peggy: Rudy, all I know is that I like what is going on very much. What I do feel a bit amazed about are those black women politicians who are super delegates and who are staunch Hillary supporters who have been on CNN protesting the pressure put on them to change their vote. Their comments strongly indicate that they are being pressured by blacks to ditch Hillary. They in turn swear that they will not abandon Hillary “just because Obama is black.” And, that they will take any political heat that they have to because of their stance. That means to me that they do not see any redeeming qualities in Obama whether he is black or white. I guess I am reading that correctly. Further, I was struck by a black woman that I barely know who approached me at an affair last night where I received a black radio station award for contributions to my community. She was talking to me and my colleague. She walked up to us and placed her arms around us together and whispered. “Who are you voting for”? We both loudly chimed Obama, of course. She responded, still clinging to us. You are voting for him because he is black. I responded, “You must be out of your mind to say such a thing to me. I am voting for him because he is just as qualified and more than Hillary and he is a black man.” She responded saying, “Well you know he cannot win because he has fear in him and that is not good.” I responded, you must be crazy, he has been fearless in the face of all kinds of attacks and continues to be so.” She responded, “Well we just cannot let him get the White House because he would be fearful.” My response was, “You must be crazy.” I have a special feeling about that conversation. It made me think that there might be a kind of “underground network” in the Hillary campaign that sees black women as a secret weapon again Obama and hoping that this sort of “whispering campaign,” could have some legs with unsteady voters. I do not wish to give any more ‘legs” to this absurdity but there has always been a white strategy to divide black women and black men. Any comments?
Rudy: Yes, I think the Hillary campaign is playing the race game against Obama, ever since she lost in Iowa. Maybe her black female campaign manager has put the black female politicians and their organizers up to this kind of bullying and scare tactics. In that Hillary is more desperate, losing 11 primaries in a row, the more insidious the game becomes. These kind of tactics are more available than the ability to inspire. Let’s pray it’ll be all over by March 4 so that a more vital stage of this political contest can advance. Let’s hope too ill feelings are not left so that Obama cannot mount an effective campaign against McCain.
Wilson: I once met the daughter of St Clair Drake, who made some of the most hurtful remarks about black men that have ever been made since Thomas Jefferson’s orangutan statement.
Kola Boof: Rudy, after this coming Tuesday, I believe there will be Mass Defections from Hillary, as it finally becomes clear that she has no chance of winning the nomination.
There isn’t much left after Ohio and Texas, and I’m predicting that Obama will take
both. I think we’ll be seeing a lot of pressure on Hillary to drop out this week from the DNP, because even Hillary’s husband has made it clear that she must win these two states.
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Our Historical Position
Wilson: Dear Rudy, I don’t know what to make of the Obama phenomenon. I am one of those people who began to take him seriously, only after a young person told me she supported him. One of my “Angels” told me she supported him. As you know I have a number of Angelsyoung women of superior intellectual gifts, who have been enrolled in my courses, or whom I have otherwise come to know since 2004. I think the position of the African American is evolving from monkey to menace. In 1776 we were seen as little better than orangutans by Thomas Jefferson. Today we have become somewhat analogous to Viennese Jews. We were once the objects of ridicule and contempt; now we have emerged as people who are smart enough to rock the system. What will the result of this be? Will the coming generation of Baracks and Condoleezzas be accepted by the society at large, or will they become the object of pogroms and persecutions, precisely because they are so gifted?
Rudy: Clearly, we have not reached Nirvana where all is well and all will remain well. Yet these are extraordinary times. Now, we have more than a half year in which to survive before Bush sucks us dry at the gas pumps.
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Jean: Whew! A lot of people took a lot of time to express themselves on this issue. I was amazed at the number of things Chinweizu said I agreed with. But I still don’t know who the folks from Black Agenda Report support. In all honesty and I’m not being facetious in any way, I can see them saying everything they’ve said about Obama (and I think they’re right) and still vote for him.
But no where in the discussion, certainly not in my two cents worth, was there any reference to the reality and characteristics of the racial state, As long as the state is founded on the principle of race (as all the western hemispheric countries are and South Africa and Israel in the eastern hemisphere) the best that can be achieved is racial reform; white supremacy will exist in one configuration or another.
Recently a friend showed me a book in which another friend, Phil Hutchings, was quoted 40 years ago! Phil was the last national head of SNCC. Phil said, and I’m paraphrasing form memory, “Maybe Black folks have to go through a period when Black folks lead and are in charge before they realize the system is fundamentally corrupt and stacked against them.”
That’s how I remember the quote. He might have even referred to a Black president. It was an incredibly prescient statement. We were all blown away to read it.
Recently, last week I think, Charlayne Hunter-Gault posted an article written fro a French magazine titled (paraphrasing again) “Did the dream of Pan-Africanism die with apartheid?” An interesting posit.
She says that African Americans turned their backs on Africa as soon as apartheid ended. She’s absolutely right. We did. I can give you a direct quote that validates her thesis.
Leo Robinson led the movement among the longshore workers on the West Coast that for ten days shut all the West Coast ports to ships originating from South Africa. He was in the Free South Africa movement for years. He attended international conferences in Kenya, Benin and elsewhere as a respected and recognized leader in the movement.
I have heard him say repeatedly, without any sense of self reflection, “As soon as Mandela walked out of prison (and Mandela thanked the West Coast longshore workers while he stood in the doorway of the prison) I turned inward and began to pay attention to America.”
I was stunned when Leo first said this and was puzzled but soon I realized that Leo really didn’t understand imperialism-that the Africa issues were for him issues of race and that he didn’t really make the class connections despite his lifelong existence at the point of trade production-the shipping docks.
My position, however, is that Pan Africanism, as it was originally conceived and promoted through the first five Pan Africa Congresses died at the Sixth Pan Africa Congress, despite heroic efforts by Julius Nyerere, Sekou Toure, Walter Rodney and the ANC delegation to give it mouth to mouth resuscitation and to put it on life support.
May the spirit of Pan Africanism and the legacies of Sylvester Williams, W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, Alphaeus Hunton, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Sekou Toure, Duma Nokwe, Walter Rodney et al. RIP.
The rebirth awaits.
Wow!. Talk about wandering off the topic.
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Miriam: A fascinating discussion, Rudy, and you have done an excellent job (as usual!) in pulling it together, highlighting the important points, and even including visuals.
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Joyce: Excellent work, Rudy. Congratulations.
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By David Remnick
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For July 1st through August 31st 2011
#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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By H. W. Brands
In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar’s astonishing rise to become the world’s principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar’s changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America’s economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan’s bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt’s handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar’s dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power–and the enormous risks–of the dollar’s worldwide reign. The Economy
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This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”Lisa Adkins, University of London
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 1 March 2008