August 16, 2005
Watts & Militant Posers
"The fire next time will be put out next week."
-- Albert Murray
I have to confess that I have not read James Baldwin's "The Fire Next Time". But if there is one book that captures the spirit of the desire to see America burn from black rage, my guess is that Baldwin's book is the intellectual ground zero. I also haven't read Eldridge Cleaver's "Soul on Ice", but something tells me that every black prison pseudo-intellectual is derivative. So when Ed Brown asks, what good has come of black militancy, the answer is only a mindset. There may be some usefulness in the idea of black militancy, but no actual black militants have had any military success. Nobody took on the National Guard, much less the Army and won. Nobody made any tactical moves that resulted in any significant infrastructural damage to the enemy, and nobody set up any militant organization that lasted. Sure there were some riots, sure there are plenty of dainty people who are still afraid of traveling south of the Santa Monica Freeway but there has been no land gained. When it comes to speaking of the legacy of the Watts Riots, that insurgency has been squashed.
It should be enough to say that nobody can name any single figure who led the Watts Riots or the Riot after Rodney King. It was a bunch of dissatisfied people going berserk, some for good reason, many for no good reason at all. I've always held that Black Rage is just a substitute for effective politics.
There is a small contingent of people who have attempted to elevate some OG Crips and Bloods to the status of revolutionary leaders. But even if a dozen leaders of the Crips or Bloods were absolutely on that moral and political program, there's nobody anywhere who could say they have been effective to any degree. They're just street gangs, and that's about as militant as 20th century African Americans got with one exception, the Black Panthers, also defunct. Most people agree that the Panther's greatest success, aside from cool-looking blacklight posters, and jumpstarting gun control in California, was their breakfast program and their newsletter. Hardly the legacy of a successful gang of militants. Most of black militancy has basically been nothing but a militant pose.
This militant pose has worked miracles in the academy where a great deal of black success has taken place. I needn't tell you how ridiculous it sounds in the context of world history to recount the sieges of undergraduate dorms and administration buildings, but somehow this has become legend. What an embarrassment.
But let's not forget the power of the militant mindset. Understand that a significant number of African Americans are under the influence of a pseudo-democratic confusion masquerading as radical politics. The problem is that it is not effectively organized and people have to keep going back to the books. It's always the ghost of Malcolm X who is more effective than the real person standing in front of the black crowd. It's always the idea of James Baldwin's Fire Next Time that's more compelling than the actual plan under consideration. There isn't a politics that has any consistent success in delivering requisite patronage to blacks who would be militants. Legitimate black lefties always have to look over their shoulders because one of their followers might be a real knucklehead or gangbanger who thinks that there is some role for them as a violent henchman. There's always a crowd of rowdies looking for an excuse to do damage haunting black Democrats. This is why politicians like Maxine Waters are put on the spot when the street gets hectic. They're not really her people, but they claim her nonetheless, and naturally since she's a politician, she figures out a way to give them rhetorical satisfaction while not actually doing a damned thing that could ever be close to indictable. This is the state of black militancy today.
Anybody with a lick of common sense knows that there's no future in this frontin'. There is no way to win through militant conflict, and there's really no black leaders capable of mounting a rebellion. Well, there are, but they're the good guys in the US Armed Forces, and there is no racial politics compelling enough for them to bolt.
And yet people continue to be seduced by the potential amplification of black rage into black militancy. I say it's not going to happen and woe to those who hope it does. Maybe you need to rent a copy of 'Dead Presidents' then smoke a joint and forget about it. Better yet, rent 'Black Ceasar' and play some Public Enemy. Then wake up and recognize that Steve Cokely and Khalid Muhammed and all other such pretenders don't even merit a trip to Club Gitmo. That's how pathetic their threat is. Your local neighborhood cops are plenty, and if not them then the local branch of the FBI. But the National Guard? Hardly. The Army? Puhlease. The reason is simple and plain. Blacks don't rebel because blacks don't have anything worth rebelling for that rises to the level of militancy. Not unemployment, not poor health care, not police abuse, not racism, not Reparations, not nothing. All that is handled, for better or worse, by a coast to coast network of Leftists, and what African Americans get by way of those legitimate political activities is good enough. The rest are welcome to go to jail like idiot sheep with bad attitudes.
I know there is a sentiment among many blackfolks, myself included, that wishes that there was something more to the legacy of the militant mindset than PE's 'Fight the Power' video. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction out there in African America, and all responsible political thinkers want to convert that black rage into constructive politics. But all wishful thinking aside, we have to admit that black rage is self-destructive. It won't yeild anything but another excuse for knuckleheads to attach themselves to legitimate desires for reform. But from my perspective in the Old School, black liberals and Democrats have not done enough to make clear the distinction between rebellion and reform. So the seduction and double-talk continues and the idea of black militancy hasn't been properly buried with Malcolm - not that he was half the military leader people like to imagine he might have been. So my message to wannabe militants? I quote Sargeant Waters from 'A Soldier's Story': "The black race can't afford you no more."
Posted by mbowen at August 16, 2005 06:01 AM
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keep it real...how does a spontaneous riot get equated with organized activities like the revolts by nat turner, gabriel prosser and others - or the independence movements of the exodusters into kansas in the 1800's or school breakfast programs run by the bpp?
btw, you DO remember what happened to Sgt. Waters, don't you?!?
I don't know about the exodusters but I do dig on Kansan history. I must get to know that.
Yes there is nothing in contemporary black life that would generate a Turner or a Prosser, and quite frankly I think Michael Franti ought to be slapped just for putting him in the same song as Flavor Flav.
What happened to Sgt Waters is the same thing that happened to Biggie Smalls. Vigilante justice. Then again, Biggie didn't deserve to die, Waters did.
we all deserve to die.
yeah, you won't get a nat turner pursuing freedom from a plantation in virginia - but you will still get black folks bouncing from seemingly lucrative vocations/careers and embracing the freedom of entrepreneurship...to a much greater degree than white folks - for many reasons.
times have changed and black folks are still looking for a freedom that many find elusive - even when it's right underneath their feet. and i think that's what you've been saying all along.
militant feminists want to blow up shiznet?
militant homosexuals want to blow up shiznet?
Posted by: DarkStar at August 16, 2005 06:24 PM
What I'm saying is that the Old School ought to be about rescuing black consciousness and black nationalism from the knuckleheads who have been coddled by the Left. The kind of knuckleheads who would say that people like Assata Shakur are the heirs of the black progressive agenda.
I am more in agreement than disagreement that black corporate wranglers like Vernon Jordan and black military leaders like Ben O. Davis are the models. I believe that they transcended a 'Negro' mindset and had a 'black' mindset which, perhaps not so much with Davis as Jordan, was cultivated and refined in the 60s. These people are no sellouts, rather they are following values which are influenced by and influencing of new ideas of black potential.
Again, when I went to my family reunion, my old cousins were telling me that their parents and grandparents never expected that blackfolks would be flying on airplanes, much less flying first class to Europe on business. So I say that black consciousness represented a sea change. We didn't *have* to be militant because we finally accomplished what Carter Woodson had in mind for us - a revolution of mind. People who mistook the existentials of radical black thought for some kind of militant violent revolution in the streets were fools. And yet today we still have liberals paying lip service to those fools and their fallen icons.
What I'm saying is that the Old School ought to be about rescuing black consciousness and black nationalism from the knuckleheads who have been coddled by the Left.
By definition of the Old School, "they" are, but it's not in terms of "Left" and "Right". Terms I'm growing more militantly dismissive of as regard to Black folks.
I am more in agreement than disagreement that black corporate wranglers like Vernon Jordan and black military leaders like Ben O. Davis are the models.
For those who know these people, I believe most are more in agreement. But young heads don't know these people. It's a byproduct of the U.S. anti-history movement.
And yet today we still have liberals paying lip service to those fools and their fallen icons.
Broad bush ain't it?
When has Jesse Jackson promoted the Black Panther party? Or SLA? Or MOVE?
Posted by: DarkStar at August 17, 2005 04:42 AM
the consciousness and the militancy go hand in hand. the process of creating consciousness is/was born in the crucible of the conflict. "who am I?" am I who they say I is? who are we? are we who they say we are? let's not think for a moment that black folk first rejected white notions of self in the 1960's. that was the first time it was done in front of a camera. take it back to richard allen and absalom jones...take wherever you need to take it, but don't divorce the consciousness and the militancy - because there was a time when the simple act of reading was tantamount to a declaration of war...
The context we are discussing this in, or should be, is whether any of the rash acts done by blacks backed into a corner are legitimate stepping stones that are useful in today's political environment. What's done is done. Now what?
In the context of a family analogy, the father who was a soldier doesn't necessarily ask his sons to enlist when it's peacetime.
Here's the thing...again! It's essentially a tautology...Rash acts don't lead to constructive enduring things so if you persist in using this narrow label, there is little to discuss. The point is that the narrow application is ahistorical and denies the contributions of many others who fit within a broader definition. That's been my contention from jump...you were there, but then you slide back into mcwhorter's nonsense...jus leave him alone.
and if the question that you're fundamentally asking is whether or not violence still has a role in American politics, the answer remains yes...especially at the local level. is violence or the threat of violence used in politics today? absolutely...it not, there would no need to arrest Genovese "family members" or Latin Kings or any other collective that extorts dough from local merchants.
Well I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that those people I call 'The Coalition of the Damned' are ready willing and able to organize militantly, but I still envision them marching with pitchforks and torches.
I believe that when it comes down to the moment, they'll not hesitate to overturn a police car and set it on fire, but I can't imagine that they would plan such activities in advance. Either way, they're all Democrats, socialist, anarchists and commies, so I disclaim them all. McWhorter, as a conservative Democrat disses them as well. Let them go in their direction, McWhorter and I are not responsible.
it sounds like you're talking about a fringe group of folks who were not at all synonymous with the organized entities whom mchorter would catch in his net of aspersions. by deriding the watts riots and its outcomes, mcwhorter and other lazy folk implicate the panthers, toure and others as essentially non-productive anarchists without a program...that's false and contradicts the history. if you want to suggest that rioters who never formally joined an organization and were only in it for the tv or toaster oven have not been productive, we've got shelf space for a PHD of the pretty damned obvious. my main bone of contention is that this stuff is sloppy. y'all need to clean it up...