Election Day Returns

Election Day Returns


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



 By the mid-70s, Baraka started to see “third worldism” and cultural nationalism

as a new ideology of the “nationalist national bourgeoisies”

of the newly created african and asian republics.



Election Day Returns

Dire Prospects in a Post-Democracy

By Lloyd Kam Williams


It is the government itself, the government of America, that is responsible for the oppression and exploitation and degradation of black people in this country… This government has failed the Negro.

Whether you’re educated or illiterate, whether you live on the boulevard or in the alley, you’re going to catch hell just like I am. We’re all in the same boat and we all are going to catch the same hell from the same man. He just happens to be a white man. All of us have suffered here, in this country, political oppression at the hands of the white man, economic exploitation at the hands of the white man, and social degradation at the hands of the white man.

Nowhere on this earth does the white man win in a guerrilla warfare. It’s not his speed. Just as guerrilla warfare is prevailing in Asia and in parts of Africa and in parts of Latin America, you’ve got to be mighty naive, or you’ve got to play the black man cheap, if you don’t think some day he’s going to wake up and find that it’s got to be the ballot or the bullet.” — Malcolm X, The Ballot or the Bullet speech, April 3, 1964

Could the sort of mass-scale insurgency borne of discrimination that’s breaking out all over France, another so-called democracy, occur here? Of course, it could. The only reason it hasn’t is that, as the descendants of ex-slaves, second-class status is so deeply ingrained in the sub-consciousness of African-Americans that they tend to accept the most inhumane of treatment. But that promises to change soon, given the fact that Islam is the fast-growing religion in America, particularly among blacks.

The straw that broke the camel’s back over in Europe was the French police causing a couple of Muslim juvenile delinquents’ electrocution under suspicious circumstances. Here, Hurricane Katrina pulled the trigger on a social grenade just about to explode.

It all started with the hateful way in which FEMA Director Mike Brown responded to urgent requests for immediate assistance. When challenged by an exasperated underling on location that “I don’t know who is ultimately running this government nightmare show but please get your acts together NOW!” Brown responded with vain, vapid comments about his preparation for his next, narcissistic photo-op like, “I am a fashion God” and “Tie or not tonight?”

Personally, I find it profoundly disturbing that the government bureaucrat in charge could behave so cavalierly about intervening on behalf of the suddenly-homeless, the neediest of souls, including the starving, the infirm, the old, and the sick. So, I ask you, does democracy work if a man like Brown is still on the government payroll instead of indicted after responding with flip quips to increasingly desperate emails informing him that the levees were failing? He couldn’t have cared less about the mass scale of human suffering which was unfolding while the world was watching.

And why not? Because he knew that they were mostly black and poor, and that, as an involuntary political minority, they would never be his constituents. More importantly, he trusted that the psychological sting of the lingering vestiges of the slave master’s whip would continue to keep generation after generation of African-Americans well-trained to adopt a non-threatening manner of interacting with the white-dominated power structure.

This also explains why black and white Americans have radically different reactions to the October 8th beating of a 64 year-old black man to within an inch of his life by three New Orleans policemen and an FBI Agent. The videotape clearly shows Robert Davis, a retired elementary schoolteacher, being punched in the head repeatedly, knocked to the ground, handcuffed, and then forcibly restrained with his arms twisted behind him at an awkward angle, even though he had offered no resistance, and was bleeding profusely.     

In a news conference, Davis explained that he hasn’t had a drink in over 25 years, and that all he had done was chastised an officer for responding rudely to his question about the newly implemented curfew. Whites were still willing to accept the official explanation that Davis was drunk and had resisted arrest, although nothing on the tape suggested that that was the case.

By contrast, it was easy for most people of color to recognize the cops’ behavior as routine, a racist attempt to intimidate an individual into “his place.” Why should black people even bother to vote when their civil rights and basic survival needs are considered totally irrelevant to the political process?

With one eye on France, the other on election results, the over 35 million African-Americans citizens of this nation are awakening to the self-evident truth that participating in the political process seems to play little or no part in alleviating their ongoing pariah status. Whether they opt for the ballot or the bullet is likely to be determined by the extent to which the system persists in negating their humanity and their fundamental freedoms. 

Lloyd Kamau Williams, a member of the NJ, NY, CT, PA, MA & US Supreme Court bars, is a syndicated writer whose movie and book reviews, celebrity interviews ,and other assorted articles appear in over 100 periodicals around the country

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Conversation: Third World, Fourth World, Cultural Nationalism, Revolutionary Nationalism

Rudy: Your essay is intriguing and provocative. But maybe unnecessarily so. First, I do not understand what Malcolm X’s quote on guerilla warfare has to do with the “insurgency” in Europe, specifically France. Nor do I see how it relates to the tragedy of New Orleans. Malcolm makes reference to “third world” anti-colonial struggle, people trying to recover their land and achieve power over their resources. It’s an inappropriate model. Also, Islam seemingly has nothing to do with the “insurgency” in France. (Insurgency implies organized struggle—guerilla war against a foreign oppressor.) Clearly, what we have in France is rioting, which implies a kind of mindless mob action.

In Europe and America we have non-white minorities suffering from discrimination and marginalization (ghettoization) within white societies. Malcolm and similar black militants over identified with methods of “Third World” struggles. The “Muslim” youths in France causing problems for the governments by violence (riots), I doubt, have any political consciousness that relate to the politics of Malcolm, Fanon, or any such theorists. That too was true of those involved in America’s urban riots of the 60s or more recently. There is no evidence of political sophistication. It all relates to gut responses to racism, poverty, and police repression. Thus the similarity with New Orleans.

Thus the dichotomy of the “ballot or bullet” is of no help in either case, as you suggest. Both American blacks and French “Muslim” youth, though impoverished, have the vote. Of course, the situation was different in 1964 when Malcolm made his “Ballot or Bullet” speech. These French youth, like the blacks and later the Hispanics, are minorities, and thus powerless in a white unresponsive sea, seeking the bottom line in both economics and politics.

My friend Amin Sharif  theorizes plausibly that the American black poor and European “black” poor are part of what he calls a “fourth world.” So, in a sense, third world politics and theorizing are meaningless in this context. These “fourth world” peoples thus need a different kind of vision and politics, than the old 60s politics and arguments. Nor is Islam an adequate explanations of these European “insurgencies.”

In those areas in France where the mosque had influence those kids were quiet and orderly. The rioting kids were outside the control of the mosque. They were more French than African; more post-modern than Islamists. Again, we must find knew ways to speak to these kinds of incidents and issues. This lack of respect for the poor and the black in today’s national politics in Europe and America is the source of the problem. A different kind of argument is necessary than that of the old radicals and revolutionists, even though the issue is one of power and brute responses of power. 

Kam: Rudy, thanks for your insights. Because I have meditated with Buddhists, done sweat lodges with Native Americans and once married into a blue-blooded WASP family (the Johnsons of J&J who won’t even manufacture black Band-Aids), I tend to see everything as interrelated in a way many others simply haven’t experienced enough of the world to do so too. I know that my articles often are beyond the ability of most people to see the interrelatedness of all people, as my Native Brothers say— Mitakuye Oyasin— “we are all related,” but I see it as second nature. So I am very comfortable mixing seemingly incompatible ideas with each other. For instance, people pigeonhole others all the time. I say there are more people than pigeons in pigeonholes. I don’t profess to have any answers, and I’m not suggesting armed insurrection. Just saying it might be on its way. Why? Because I write for readers who already know that this is a post-democracy, who understand that the 2000 election was fixed, I predicted that the summer before in an article entitled “Election or Coronation,” because Bush was related to 16 prior presidents.

I predicted 9-11 two weeks before it happened in an op-ed after Israel and the US arrogantly walked out of the UN Conference on Racism in South Africa. At that time, I warned that the 3rd World was angry and that “minorities can no longer be contained” primarily because the internet had leveled the playing field. Four years later Thomas Friedman writes The Earth Is Flat after the fact and everybody thinks he’s a genius. Black people’s vote are meaningless if I can get stopped by a cop while walking  in my own neighborhood and forced to stand spread-eagled against a police car for a half hour and gropes my balls while grilling me about a crime which had obviously been committed by a black person somewhere. I told him I was a lawyer which only made him angrier and meaner. Black people have no rights in this country which any white man feels bound to respect—Dred Scott. I don’t know if you’re black or not. I hope this explanation helps, but I can’t comprehend it for you.Rudy:  Kam, my intent was not to offend you personally, in any way. I responded to the essay “Election Returns,” which included an extended quote of Malcolm. For my interpretation of what you wrote, your personal history, experiences, background are irrelevant, and thus explain nothing. Of course, as one brother to another, I appreciate that information indeed and I can relate. 

That is to say, even if I knew of what you have now informed me, my response to your essay would remain the same. I quite disagree with how you have lumped people together into a “third world.” The kind of “interrelatedness” you make with third world armed struggles and the American and French situation just does not stand up. The analysis of your article needs finer distinctions than the ones you made.

Your addendum—of being a Buddhist, the incomprehensibility of your article for mere mortals like myself (“my articles often are beyond the ability of most people”), your powers at predicting the future (“I predicted 9-11 two weeks before it happened”), your being treated like a nigger, nor your status as a lawyer—was not the kind of response I expected from someone who is clearly intelligent and informed. I thought maybe you would follow my lead and respond to what I had written, the ideas contained in my critique about you relating Third World politics with the struggle of minorities..

That is, a more critical view than “Thanks for your insights” was due. But, of course, prophetic vision is beyond criticism. Pardon me for being skeptical, for thinking that there might be another way of responding to the politics of these terrible times.  Kam: Rudy, I apologize for my harsh words. But I write for 100 papers and I get into battles with folk all over the place. Since yesterday afternoon, I have been engaged in a bitter email battle back and forth with the op-ed editor at a national daily newspaper, who is moved to devote so much time to my thought provoking pieces, but rarely prints any of them. That ought to tell you something. The other day, when some writer at his rag won an award, he emailed me to say that I was a better writer. I am not fishing for compliments. I see a lot of movies. I can safely say that Dennis is a great director. Better than most who have made pictures whose names you would recognize. But if I wrote an article comparing As An Act of Protest to class issue classics like Hiroshima Mon Amour or Swept Away, and I got an email back from a stranger who was asking me how I could possibly compare films from postwar Japan or about decadence in Italy excuse me for being curt. I could put out the word about Dennis, but could not possibly comprehend it for those unwilling to do the homework or too closed to comprehend. I didn’t know anything about you. I apologize and will take a different tack in the future. I am not a Buddhist. I am not saying I’m better than anyone, nor do Buddhists. They are so humble that they walked away from their country rather than kill the invaders. I have also prayed with Native Americans, Baptists and anyone willing to break bread and see me as an equal. Please read this piece by me at Black Star News.  As for the Malcolm quote it works on several levels.

1) It was Election Day 2) He was a Muslim, and Muslims are rioting in Europe 3) He advocated armed struggle, if democracy didn’t work. Even the recently deceased pope said democracy was worthless if it just kept the poor poor. What good is a vote if you cannot improve your lot. 4) Islam is the fastest growing religion here, primarily among blacks 5) Nothing has changes since Malcolm’s day when blacks caught hell for being black, not for being a Democrat or a Republican, or a Lutheran or a Baptist. This and many more allusions made the quote very relevant in my humble opinion. To me these dots are very obvious, and I again apologize for my condescending tone. But i get a lot of hate and hostile mail, and without a proper intro, this is my expectation. I have written 1000s of articles,  so it is reasonable for me to  expect someone to be familiar with my work and point of view. Let’s start over, making believe I didn’t write my first response

Rudy: you awright with me, brother. It ain’t no thing. Intellectual sparring, I ain’t got nothing against it. I found your piece opportune. The kind of political “interrelatedness” of your article makes good rhetoric, a good column. But it’s not sound political thinking. Just recently, I was having a discussion with Amin Sharif  about the same subjects you had in your article. We took the discussion in a different direction than you have. Sharif argued the notion of a “fourth world.” My response is an approximation of where I think he is going with his “fourth world” analysis. He is writing a piece to clarify what he means. I’ll share it with you when he completes it. We both went through the politics of the 60s and 70s and we agree a lot on the shortcomings of today’s politics and afrocentric thinking; that is, such analyses do not fully speak to our 21st century situation, and probably did not speak well to our situations of the 60s and 70s. Amin Sharif and I have also similar views about Africa, our over-identification at the expense of looking at what’s under our noses. I am familiar with your work and your friendship with Dennis. He needs loyal friends like you. I have great respect for you and him. Both of you are excellent writers. I am honored to be associated with both of you. In these kinds of exchanges we both and others benefit. For me thinking is important, and how we think even more important.  Since Katrina, I have been moderating a forum with a number of other people, especially with Miriam DeCosta-Willis. These discussions—Conversations with Kind Friends—  have been provocative, in that such discussions cause individuals to look at neglected topics or look at such topics differently than they had previously. So it was in that spirit that I responded to your piece.

It is not my attention to stir up ill-feeling, be disagreeable, or argue for rhetoric sake. Our thinking requires a sharper edge than ever before. We are in a political maze and putting our minds together is one way of getting out of it. We need to find ways for others also to develop clear thinking beyond the status quo ideologies floating around. What you are doing with other journalists maybe somewhat similar to what I’m doing with a few friends. It’s healthy when there’s intellectual respect and when each are indeed sincerely searching for a way out of punditry and mind-boggling propaganda.

Miriam: Rudy, this is a very interesting interchange between you and Kam, particularly the concept of a Fourth World composed of the poor and colored who live in post-modern, highly industrialized societies, where they are exploited, oppressed, and discriminated against.  You are so right that we have to find new concepts and paradigms; those of the ’60s and ’70s are no longer valid.

Dennis: Regarding the Paris situation,  all I can say is that the past seven days have been so overwhelming in Berlin (we went to Paris last week) – the discussions I have had with other people and specifically the younger black and Arab kids – has been astounding. These kids got something to say, but have no idea of how to say it…If Americans want to see organization, they should look at the precision of these young people. The French have been saying they are freaked out that such organization could exist.  We are NOT talking about L.A. riots here, we are talking about an organization that spawned riots in 300 cities. That may or may not mean or do or accomplish anything – who knows?  What I do know is that it is personal and that adds to its political implications. I will try to get a translation of a few articles for you to read.

Jonathan: rudy, i read with interest the discussion about the current french situation, and the “fourth world” concept advanced by sharif, as well as your take on it. many of my students at the borough of manhattan community college are similar to the immigrant youth uprsing today all over france, so we’ve been talking about the situation a lot in my classrooms. in my opinion, the “fourth world” concept runs the risk of idealization. the third world concept came out of the bandung conference in 1955, and was intended explicitly as a counter to the state ideologies of the capitalist west and the soviet east. the third world concept was embraced by newly consolidated states in africa and asia that were going through decolonization struggles. it was basically a cultural nationalist ideology, at its inception, not a political concept. so if we’re using “fourth world” as a political concept, then i think it fails. if we’re using it as a cultural nationalist concept, i think it works. but the latter is an idealization of history and society not a political critique of it. the limits of the third world concept can be felt in the fact that cuba is simply not a third world country and never has been. cuba adopted not third worldism but rather revolutionary nationalism, which continues to be a model for chavez in venezuela, back to the sandinistas, the zapatistas, and the vietnamese in their fight against u.s. imperialism. in other words, when we say “third world,” we are not talking about revolutionary nationalism but rather the postcolonial states of india, nigeria, and so on. in the postcolonial states, you have neo-colonialism, not revolutionary nationalism. in this light, “fourth world” would somehow refer to a new wave of cultural nationalism. i don’t think this is what’s going on in france right now. it seems much closer to what was going on in u.s. cities during the late 1960s–youth of color in rebellion against a future of second-class citizenship. i’m not sure why we need a new political concept to explain this. the youth in france appear to be about claiming an equalitarian national identity. they want to be equal citizens in france. their targets are all the symbols of everyday french national identity: cars, subways, shops, social institutions, clubs, etc. if they were advancing a new cultural nationalism (fourth worldism), you would expect to see evidence of this in the form of cultural nationalist underground newsletters, radio, and so on. this is what happened with third worldism. yet by all accounts, there is no ideology behind the uprisings. if an ideology does emerge, i doubt it will be cultural nationalism. instead it will probably be a kind of civil rights movement ideology. all of this remains to be seen, however. my thoughts here are provisional. look forward to reading more of this important discussion.

Rudy: Jonathan, yes, the French situation reminds me of the wave of urban riots in the US in the mid and late 60s, which I believe was another face of the civil rights movement of the same period. Of course, I’m not on the ground and I have been relying basically on news report from the NYTimes. Sharif, from whom I got the notion of “fourth world,” has not further elaborated on his concept. He is much more politically astute and informed than I when it comes to international politics.

What you say about “third worldism” sounds right to me, though the political and cultural distinctions are a bit confusing and especially the term “cultural nationalism,” which has its 60s American referents, especially associated with Amiri Baraka. His Crisis essay From Parks to Marxism A Political Evolution may be relevant to this discussion.

As I understand Baraka’s political development, the Cuban experiment, Malcolm, and the Black Power movement influenced his “cultural nationalist” thinking. Though not exactly clear, the wave of riots probably proceeded his particular formulation of BAM thinking, which is dated after 1967 (when Stokely raised the cry of “Black Power”).

Thus your statement about “cultural nationalism” as “an idealization of history and society not a political critique of it” becomes a bit confusing to me. For the term itself is a yoking together of culture and politics, but with an emphasis on culture rather than politics, yet both at the same time, which is how I understand the Black Arts Movement, which defined itself as the “sister concept” of the “Black Power” movement. I suspect that both fueled the nationwide riots of April 1968, after King’s assassination.

The US 60s riots were indeed a political critique (as were subsequent urban riots in America), as I believe the French riots are a political critique, though not formulated as a political movement. They also have a cultural basis. Of course, the American so called civil rights movement had several kinds of formulations as represented by the NAACP, CORE, SNCC, and numerous local organizations. The teenagers and young adults who hit the streets in the 60s had at best very loose ties, if any, with these organizations, though they were affected by the public rhetoric of these organizations.

Of course, the leaders of the conservative and militant organizations attempted to give voice to these urban “disturbances,” with the more militant leaders describing these riots as “rebellions,” that is, making them seem to be more conscious (or organized) acts than they were. And there probably were pockets of organized activity in the midst of them. There were those of us who thought racial riots were on some level beneficial, for political pleading for reforms were not as expeditious as desired.

LBJ thought that the civil rights and voting rights bills and their implementation and other government reforms would stop the riots in their tracks. Of course they didn’t. While he was still in office there were still “hot summers.” Of course, only the 1968 riots rose to a national wave, as we see in France. Those US 68 riots did indeed create a sense of black unity and solidarity and did, I believe, expedite a new wave of political activity, including union organizing, which might be interpreted as an extension of the civil rights movement, but also it was an extension of the Black Power movement.

The new leaders that came out of the 1968 riots probably outstripped the participants in the riots and moved in the public arena far beyond them, as both left wing ideologues (identifying closer and closer with third world struggles; and “revolutionary nationalism,” as we saw with Kwame Toure) and as political operatives in the Democratic Party, and as cultural nationalists (which I include the NOI, BAM, and other groups). Of course, there were some who joined the counter cultural movement (including new mores with respect to drugs, sex, dress, etc.) which was probably the least political of the social reactions to the status quo.

Whether the French situation will develop along these lines I am uncertain. I suspect that it might manifest some of these characteristics. But the times are different. I suspect that a lot of the kids and young adults are already at the counter cultural level.

Your point about Cuba—”cuba adopted not third worldism but rather revolutionary nationalism”—might not be as definitive as you suggest. It might be more accurate to say that Cuba wavered between the two. Third worldism, as you point out, was a non-aligned statement, apart from Euro-American politics and the Soviet Union. Of course, Fidel needed the Soviet Union after the Bay of Pigs and the Soviets influenced decisions with regard to Che and his support of African liberation struggles. Even though we have this duplicity, he still was a progressive voice of/for the Third World.

To return to the fourth world concept. Miriam’s statement is probably what I had in mind, more as an identity of a grouping of peoples: “poor and colored who live in post-modern, highly industrialized societies, where they are exploited, oppressed, and discriminated against.” These teenagers and young adults, I believe, probably have some sense of Third Worldism, Islamism, neocolonialism, First Worldism (The New World Order), and civil and human rights movements.

I suspect the greater number of participants in the French riots lack political sophistication that would fit into any of these categories. I’m uncertain that these “fourth world” peoples will develop an international political consciousness that will rise to the level of that found in the concept of a third world, whose advocates were middle-class intellectuals. 

As I recall the Vietnam War did in some sense create an international left wing youth consciousness, which I believe was undermined by a political backward move of identifying with communism, Pan-Africanism, cultural nationalism, counter culturalism, and status quo politics. The French situation as well as the Latin American identification with Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan experiment, is worthy of our attention, especially those of us living in First World countries. 

Racism, poverty, and police brutality will always fuel such rebellions, however sophisticated some of their leaders may become.

Wilson: The most striking difference between France 2005 and Detroit/Newark 1967-68 is in the number of people killed.  In Detroit, the National Guard was called up within two days and the 82nd airborne was sent in on the fourth day. There were 43 people deaths, an amorphous count of 1189 injured, and over 7000 people arrested in a period of five days, In Newark too the National Guard was called up within two days.  As in Detroit, the deployment of troops seems to have intensified the violence.  The rioting in Newark lasted six days and resulted in 23 deaths 725 amorphous injuries, and some 1500 arrests.   By all accounts the French authorities have exercised considerably more restraint than the American Authorities during the sixties. 

Rudy: You have made a striking observation about the number of arrests and  killings that occurred in the American riots of the 60s.Of course, in America, we have had a more extended history of urban racial minorities and racial riots.  The restraints I suspect are on all sides in the French situation.

I have not done a study of the riots of the 60s so I don’t recall all the particulars. For instance, did the violence escalate on all sides from Watts 1965 to Newark and Detroit? By 1967 and 1968, as I recall, there was some use of guns by “rioters,” shooting at police and firemen. Maybe these were just newspapers reports.

I suspect the militant rhetoric of the mid and late 60s created organized pockets for all kinds of activities going on beyond the cameras. But you are right the authorities came down like a ton of bricks–National Guard, early curfews, use of alternative facilities (like the civic center) to confine “looters” as well as for those just sitting on their steps.

Maybe the French (authorities and rioters) have been indeed much more civil and humane than what we experienced in 1967 and 1968. I do not recall, however, that we had a lot of burning of cars. I may be mistaken. Why this chosen tactic in one place and not another?.

Kam: Fourth World is interesting idea, but shouldn’t somebody explain exactly what the First and second worlds are before jumping to a 4th. I never hear anybody refer to them. I think I read once that 1st was White capitalist and 2nd was white socialists, but that was about 30 years ago. I will continue to believe there’s only one world till we find signs of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, which is certainly a possibility.

Rudy: Kam, I think Jonathan hinted at it with his mentioning of the Bandung Conference and the formation of the unaligned nations. Probably, most of us came across it in Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, in Sartre’s “Preface.” But below is a fuller background of the term:

The economically underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa, Oceania, and Latin America, considered as an entity with common characteristics, such as poverty, high birthrates, and economic dependence on the advanced countries. The French demographer Alfred Sauvy coined the expression (“tiers monde” in French) in 1952 by analogy with the “third estate,” the commoners of France before and during the French Revolution-as opposed to priests and nobles, comprising the first and second estates respectively.

Like the third estate, wrote Sauvy, the third world is nothing, and it “wants to be something.” The term therefore implies that the third world is exploited, much as the third estate was exploited, and that, like the third estate its destiny is a revolutionary one.

It conveys as well a second idea, also discussed by Sauvy, that of non-alignment, for the third world belongs neither to the industrialized capitalist world nor to the industrialized Communist bloc. The expression third world was used at the 1955 conference of Afro-Asian countries held in Bandung, Indonesia.

In 1956 a group of social scientists associated with Sauvy’s National Institute of Demographic Studies, in Paris, published a book called Le Tiers-Monde. Three years later, the French economist Francois Perroux launched a new journal, on problems of underdevelopment, with the same title. By the end of the 1950’s the term was frequently employed in the French media to refer to the underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa, Oceania, and Latin America. 

— Gerard Chaliand, “Third World,” Third World Traveler

Jonathan: kam, remember that baraka came to reject cultural nationalism. see in specific his essays “the revolutionary tradition in african american literature” and “on aimé césaire” (in the amiri baraka reader). in rejecting cultural nationalism he was rejecting his own cultural nationalist ideology which he had popularized during the 1960s. but by the mid-70s, he started to see “third worldism” and cultural nationalism as a new ideology of the “nationalist national bourgeoisies” of the newly created african and asian republics. he rejected cultural nationalism because of its “deceptive classlessness” (baraka’s words). he writes a lot about this in his autobiography, and also in his critique of spike lee’s “x” film. revolutionary cuba was exploited by the soviet union, but fidel and the cuban communist party had no choice because of the u.s. blockade. still, cuba did not go the “third world” route, and this was deliberate. cuba’s state ideology is not cultural nationalism, it’s revolutionary nationalism, with josé martí its original political symbol. the main distinction, as i understand it, between cultural nationalism and revolutionary nationalism is that the latter comes out of working-class political struggle whereas the former comes from the middle class. this is simplistic, but as a general pattern i think it holds true. in this sense, the youth rebellion in france is clearly not cultural nationalism and nor will it ever be. the youth are very poor and completely marginalized. they are not seeking to take the place of their french rulers but rather are attacking the very foundation of french government rule, which is not cultural but political (anti-immigrant laws, the persistence of second-class citizenship status, and so on). so my point was just that concepts like “third world” and “fourth world” are cultural not political. when the political and the cultural are combined successfully you get revolutionary nationalism. when they fail to be combined successfully you get cultural nationalism.

posted 9 October 2005

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as “the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field ‘cut their teeth’.”

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 4 August 2008 




Home  Jonathan Scott Table   Amin Sharif Table  Conversations with Kind Friends   Katrina New Orleans Flood Index

Related files:  The Fourth World and the Marxists  Paris Is Burning  Lessons from France   Letters from Young Activists  The Venezuelan Revolution   Responses to Jean Baudrillard   

The Fourth World: In the Belly of the Beast    Big Easy Blues  New Orleans: The American Nightmare   Black Middle Class and a Party for the Poor  The Day the Devil Has Won


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