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November 02, 2003

Malcolm & Arianna's Taxes

I've been bouncing a lot of P6's stuff in my head. His site was really cooking in early September (and still is). Reviewing the following quote of his I've arrived at something of an ethical dilemma:

There's also a difference in the way we deal with rules and laws. A common statement among Black folks is that as soon as we learn the rules, the rules change. I think it's more subtle than that. The problem is that there's a split in how they are interpreted by Blacks and whites (another subtle thought!). For white folks, the rule for applying rules is: That which is not forbidden is allowed. For Black folks, the rule for applying rules is: That which is not allowed is forbidden. White folks are punished for breaking the law; Black folks are punished for failure to follow the law. When law tells white folks what they can't do, it tells Black folks what we can do. When law tells white folks what they can do, it tells Blacks what we must do.

I think that Malcolm would probably be a Republican if he were alive today (boy I'd love to see him slapping Diane Feinstein around, but I digress). I think so because I know he would be pro-gun, pro-life, anti-government, pro-business. But on that last score I thought about the following. If Malcolm were a pro-business and presumeably anti-tax, would he do what Arianna does? That is to say if he were rich would he use tax attorneys to get him the best breaks on his taxes possible?

This is probably not a fair issue to place at the feet of those two. Huffington for her part says that it's the illegal shoving of huge deductions through already fat loopholes that is the problem, not necessarily that loopholes exist. If her miniscule tax bill were illegal, then she'd have more explaining to do than she does. And now that I think about it, I don't think Malcolm would have any problem whatsoever keeping every dime from the feds, and the state.

Still the question of black ethics stands in light of bogarding against the presumptions P6 raises about the allowable under the law. Nobody from Arianna's team is going to open a tax advisement center in the 'hood. Legal aid in the black community hasn't meant tax shelters, although I can tell you about a whole lot of blackfolks in A.L. Williams. (Heh, it became Primerica, there's a lot of blackfolks there too). My point, which I will try to emphasize more and more now that it's becoming clearer to me as it survives lines of questioning like this, is that I strongly believe that the properly interpreted impetus of black nationalism would be for blackfolks to take every advantage America offers.

Black consciousness outlived its usefulness as a consuming ideology when it failed to accomodate the religious, ethnic and class diversity of an increasingly liberated African America. Plus it had some fairly large problems with sexism. But it did overcome the Duboisian dilemma of dual consciousness. It did give the Negro a way out of his guilt trip, it did show a way around a lot of problems Carter Woodson so eloquently exposed. Black nationalist politics launched hundreds of independent organizations which retained autonomy through the integrative movements of the 70s and provided great environments for doing well. (Although too many people today probably believe it was all Affirmative Action (hmm.)).

That black nationalism and consciousness was foremost in the minds of the individuals who launched organizations like the National Association of Black Accountants and the National Black MBA Association should be self-evident. What is not so self-evident is where the line between integration and segregation is blurred. I'll simply assert that it is the in the interest of a revised black nationalism to employ mass markets for the purposes of a black elite. Furthermore it is in the long-term interests of African Americans that these black elites reach a certain level of success, whether or not they conflict directly with the class interests of ordinary blackfolks. If blacks don't sell out successfully, African Americans will only marry into wealth.

There are a number of significant questions that arise from this suggestion that need to be handled at length. I think the most important is whether or not there need be a meaning or a message embedded in the success of African American elites. I am likely to elide this question on egalitarian grounds but advocate gently that there already is a meaning which is simply a fulfillment of a dual destiny. The first is the generic destiny of the American Dream and concurrent proving true of meritocracy and equality. The second is the historically specific aspirations of African Americans in their many social and political movements of race raising. I want to avoid any suggestion that there is embedded essential meaning to the success of a race - that a Black President of the US is not a materially different kind of President in any way other than as the fulfillment of these dreams which are not in conflict with each other.

But the ways and means of black success will be different and in that way grown differently than any other because of the existentials of blackness. But these are not permanent distinctions and could not be described or predicted by those who advanced Black Nationalist aims. The Black President or elites should be like other American elites and subject to the same forces. They will only own themselves and their own unique history.

So at the top of the American mountain, the view will be the same. Malcolm's intellectual progeny will use the system like Arianna does, hopefully with better results.

Posted by mbowen at November 2, 2003 08:48 PM

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