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November 17, 2005

Elizabeth Wright's Apolitics

Elizabeth Wright offers an interesting and fairly decent analysis of the choices faced by African Americans in contemporary society.

I think it's worth reading as a critique of both left and right politics vis a vis their efforts to change the destiny of masses of blackfolks. I have a feeling that this kind of even-handed spite appeals to the Ed Browns among us, but the real upshot of her essay is in final agreement with Thomas Sowell's political disincentives.

So, what is it that blacks need to do? They need to come to their senses and extricate themselves from their intense commitment to politics. They need to turn all that energy now spent on building the careers of politicians and other opportunists to the economic development of every predominantly black neighborhood. Their concentrated focus should be on bringing wealth to those neighborhoods and keeping it there. They need to reach back in time, to those "bad, old days" when blacks were forced to cooperate with one another, and take their cues from practical, wise men like Fuller and Gaston and those Chicago realtors. By building wealth, blacks could no longer be the pawns of manipulative leaders, whose only assurance of power comes through maintenance of the status quo.

When I speak of black 'aggregation', this is generally what I mean, and it is heartening for me to hear such an appeal. It warms the cockles of my heart. Unfortunately, poltiical reality suggests that such notions, romantic as they seem may be a long way from practicality, and I think Ms. Wright engages in a bit more wishful thinking.

Even as I attempt to emphasize the roles and responsibilities of the Old School, I am painfully aware of the difficulties of reifying this minority within a minority. Yet it is a reliable strategy because blacks make distinctions between themselves. Any political attempt to get the attention of blacks with no regard to any other aspect of their selves than their racial identity or racial politics is doomed to fail. Just as it has been generally accepted that the monolith of 'the black community' is a myth, Americans are going to have to accept that 'the black political interest' too is a reductive myth.

Since the goal is to win over the black masses from the opposition, whatever works for the Democrats is fair game -- even to the point of handing out ATM cards to hurricane victims. By becoming enthusiastic riders on the "diversity" bandwagon, as well as indulging in an unprecedented form of cronyism, Republicans prove that merit means no more to them than to the people they so vigorously disparage.

It is an improper goal. The only person that cares about the black masses is Jesus. So when are political pundits going to stop acting like black conservatives are supposed to be John the Baptist. We're not voices crying in the wilderness about the coming of a savior for the black masses. We're just calling 'em like we see them.

I'll admit that I talk about the things I think blackfolks like me ought to find appealing about the Republican party, but I'm not even trying to evangelize. That's why I talk about the Old School. It's where I come from, an admitted minority within a minority. But I also scoff at blackfolks on the fence - those who take false pride in calling themselves 'independents' because they are too high an mighty for the compromises of the Democrats and Republicans. Politics is all about negotiation and compromise - it's what makes it interesting, and human. But sitting on the sidelines with haughty highmindedness.. well that's cool if you're a priest, but middle-class citizens really have few higher callings in a democratic republic.

Posted by mbowen at November 17, 2005 08:36 AM

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Quite frankly, it sounds as if she is regurgitating, Dr. Claude Anderson and Powernomics.

Politics is the second platform above economics. Until you control the first, the second will always be little or of minimal value.

Posted by: Dell Gines [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 17, 2005 12:29 PM

OK, Dell's 2nd sentence nails it.

I have a feeling that this kind of even-handed spite appeals to the Ed Browns among us


I'm HONORED!!!! :-)

Seriously, it ain't about spite, it's about Dems not using political power and finesse. It's about Repubs, seemingly, not doing the public image thing.

I just heard "News and Notes" on WEAA. A Bush official was defending the Bush administration and what it's "doing for" Black folk. He claimed most of what they are doing is undercover because they don't need the limelight.


There ain't one Black Republican in power who doesn't have the poliical knowledge to say, "This has to get pub or else it's really worthless?"

Look, when my consulting biz up and running again, I'll enter the political game. Only I'll do it like Robert Johnson of BET. I'll play both sides for my advancement.

Posted by: DarkStar [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 17, 2005 04:55 PM

blacks relying on politics is like our relying on the media to portray us in a certain way. asians don't seem to be nearly as worried as we are about jobs as actors. they put their energies elsewhere. the reason we rely so much on politics is because we are waiting for white people to give us something that, even if we deserve it, we are not going to get. in the meantime we are not doing as well for ourselves as we should. in fact to suggest that we can do better without a complete revolution in the US enrages people. this i know from personal experience. it's always "they" or the government or "this country" has to do this or that before we can do certain things.

Posted by: Anita at November 21, 2005 09:59 AM

I understand your point but the fact is that asians aren't just 'asians' and blacks aren't just blacks. I think black political success in America is admirable and that we have done so in the context and mold of American democracy is an achievement that cannot be discounted. There *is* a culture of democracy, and African Americans, by and large have assimilated it. But there is also a culture of business that we have yet to learn in the 'black mainstream'. We can generalize and say that the reverse is true for Asians, but in point of fact Asians doing business with other Asians in isolation is not an enviable model.

I agree that focus on civil rights in black politics is not going to deliver the kind of patronage that's going to raise the material circumstances of African Americans, BUT the transition to the politics of social power and influence can do that. Black politicians are very well placed to make that transition, much more well prepared than any other 'minority' group. The question is how, when and on what terms will that transformation take place?

I argue that a marginalization of the Coalition of the Damned is part and parcel of this transition - that Derrick Wallace is right there where the action is.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2005 10:56 AM