Sat, 16 March 2019
“ADOS followers throw away the internationalism of their forbears, embracing instead a sometimes polite, but always frank hostility toward immigrants of all nations on the grounds that they’re either economic competition for native-born blacks...”
Why can’t y’all just decide to be what you already are – more like us – a white co-worker named Travis asked me in the early 1980s. He was a diehard Southern Baptist, Reagan was the president, and we were working at the Hammond Pullman plant, laying on our sides routing ducts and cabling in the tiny equipment rooms beneath Amtrak cars, talking politics and history. I’d just brought up the war in Vietnam, in which the US killed 3 million Vietnamese alone, and the murderous wars in Central America which were happening as we spoke. I probably threw in some references to the ongoing wars for liberation in southern Africa as well.
But you were born here, Travis insisted. Your parents and grandparents were born here, not over there. You’re an American, just like me. What are those people to you?
I never did get through to Travis. War crimes against black and brown people and a mountain of dead possibly communist foreigners meant nothing to him. His identity was not with humankind, certainly not with the working class, his White God and but with his white or mostly white tribe whose flag was the stars and stripes and which had been chosen to rule the world. In the decades since I have heard the same question posed a few more times. Why can’t black folks just be good Americans?Why shouldn’t we embrace empire and line up for our cut like everybody else? Well, now It looks now like Travis got his wish.
There’s an internet current of US-born black people calling themselves ADOS, the American Descendants of Slaves who seem to be trying their level best to be the kind of Good Black Americans Travis talked about. The ADOS people claim to be relentless advocates of reparations for the crimes of slavery, Jim Crow, the prison state and more, but with an important right wing twist which sharply differentiates them from the previous generation of reparistas. ADOS followers throw away the internationalism of their forbears, embracing instead a sometimes polite, but always frank hostility toward immigrants of all nations on the grounds that they’re either economic competition for native-born blacks, that they’re stealing the affirmative action and similar spots which ought to go to native-born black Americans, or that they are somehow cashing in the accumulated moral and social capital which belongs to the US born descendants of slaves alone. It’s a tribal thing, #LineageMatters, ADOSers tell anybody listening, and anyone not a US born descendant of US slaves on both sides of the family is in some other tribe. Until last summer’s wave of revulsion at the deliberately cruel separation of refugee children from their parents at the border, the kindest sentiment you could find on ADOS Twitter feeds was the equivalent of “Latinos don’t stand up for us, why we gotta stand up for them?”
Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore, originators of the #ADOS name and hashtag would like us to believe ADOS is a movement. But that claim is made so often by so many canny self-promoters that it’s hard to take seriously without some kind of proof. Carnell has been doing podcasts, internet writing and commentary, and most reccently YouTube blogging the past several years, while Antonio Moore teaches economics at Duke University. They’ve got a web site at ados101.com and plan to hold a conference this fall in Louisville.
“Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore, originators of the #ADOS name and hashtag would like us to believe ADOS is a movement. But that claim is made so often by so many canny self-promoters that it’s hard to take seriously without some kind of proof….”
Politically bankrupt black Democrats of the black political class don’t know what to make of #ADOS. CNN commentator and corporate lAngela Rye, following the lead of similarly enightened Democratic pundits, would like her audience to believe the ADOS message originates with the Russians. Rye is worse than clueless, she’s lazily chiming in behind the corrupt cops and the so-called intelligence community, a great deal of whom are also Democrats, who guarantee their own budgets and jobs by portraying Americans who disagree with the establishment as foreign-inspired traitors. It’s the RussiaGate scam. Democrats avoid responsibility for the failure of their party to reliably represent anybody but the lords of capital by accusing anybody with unanswerable arguments or inconvenient facts of being mouthpieces for foreign subversion. It’s cynical BS when they level it at the Green Party, or at Wikileaks and Julian Assange. It’s baseless garbage when they throw it at Black Agenda Report – and they have – and its errant nonsense when corporate lazy corporate hacks like Angela Rye throw it at ADOS. ADOSers don’t take money or direction and haven’t borrowed ideas from the Russians Their insular tribalism – and Yvette Carnell frequently refers to ADOS in terms of “our tribe” is entirely home grown and very very tribal. If you look, you can find its like just about anywhere on the planet. Like monarchy, it’s one of those ancient backward looking but widespread human social contraptions which belong in a museum.
The reparations advocacy of ADOS departs from the previous generation of pro-reparations activists, who for convenience I’ll call the Pan Africanists, even though some of them are not. The historic vision and practice of the Pan Africanist movement flowed through the careers of Guinea’s , Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah and the final years of W.E.B. DuBois’s life in Africa. Pan-Africanists had their own reparationist ideas, and by the late 70s and 80s significant numbers of Pan Africanists had entered the academy. They were influenced by the current traceable to SNCC’s James Forman who called on white US synagogues and churches to hand over $500 million as reparations to philanthropic organizations, printing and publishing enterprises and organizations that included the National Welfare Rights Organization. These reparistas, reparationists, whichever you prefer, kept the internationalist view of the Pan Africanists, even when they don’t identify as such. They embrace the entire human family, while holding that the political and economic unification of the African continent and the coordinated democratic uplift of the African Diaspora is a giant and indispensable step towards human liberation worldwide. Their fundamental moral and political calculus dictates solidarity, with Africans and their descendants worldwide, and with oppressed people struggling against imperialism everywhere.
“So where, if anyplace will ADOS go from here? Right now it’s just internet noise. A lot of noise. If ADOSers have ever managed to put fifty or a hundred people in a room or anywhere in meatspace, not cyberspace it’s news to most of us….”
ADOSers have taken a different road. Being tribalists rather than internationalists, ADOSers rarely mention the existence of class differences among American blacks. They usually manage to ignore the very existence the US empire in whose heartland they and their tribe were born and raised, let alone explain how that global capitalist generates the influx of refugees to which they object so vehemently, Obviously, the refusal to talk about class is a kind of class politics itself, while their inability or unwillingness to examine and acknowledge the role of empire is a de facto endorsement of the same. Opposing racist and capitalist empire is what a left would do, and ADOSers are NOT leftists. ADOSers are one of the home grown intellectual outcomes of what Adolph Reed calls the substitution of the neoliberal politics of antiracism in place of building an actual left. (IF YOU’RE LISTENING TO THIS YOU SHOULD FIND THE PRINT VERSION AT BLACKAGENDAREPORT.COM AND READ THE PIECE THE PHRASE LINKS TO.)
ADOSers are in a permanent rage against Democrats, who they see as going out of their way to pander to every other constituency but black Americans who are owed reparations. What ADOSers miss of course is that while Democrats rhetorically pander to gays and Latinos every election cycle, they only deliver results to the lords of capital who fund their careers, to Big Insurance, Big Real Estate, Big Media, Big Energy, to Silcon Valley, military contractors, to charter school sugar daddies and hedge fund boyz and similar malefactors of great wealth. Candidate Barack Obama won the whopping majority of the Latino vote in 2008 and 2012 by promising a road to citizenship. But President Obama was the deporter-in-chief, delivering an all time record 2 million deportations during his eight years, so many that even a two-term Trump is unlikely to match is total cause there just aren’t enough undocumented people and green card holders accused of misdemeanors remaining who they can manufacture excuses to deport. President Obama separated immigrant families at the border and built hundreds of miles of border wall, leaving only the last six or seven hundred miles for his successor to complete. Obama opposed gay marriage in 2008, only coming around when election to a second term seemed certain. The pandering to other ethnic voting blocs that so enrages ADOSers is pretty much fakery, but as tribal folks will do, ADOSers seem to see only perceive the slights, the lies, the insults which are directed at them.
ADOS leaders Carnell and Moore have probably never participated in, probably never seen a mass movement against unjust authority. As far as most of us know, they’ve never organized a new union or tried to take over a corrupt old one, never led a rent strike, never founded a cooperative, or gotten themselves arrested for defying unjust authority. There was a time when those sorts of credentials were required for aspiring black leaders.
“ADOS is not a movement. It’s another hashtag, a brand. It’s shrunken, shriveled and tribal brand of reparations politics, tacitly endorsing US global empire and throwing shade on solidarity...”
So where, if anyplace will ADOS go from here? Right now it’s just internet noise. A lot of noise. If ADOSers have ever managed to put fifty or a hundred people in a room or anywhere in meatspace, not cyberspace it’s news to most of us. What put #BLM on the map back in 2015 was their Cleveland conference, into which corporate philanthropists allied with the Democratic party sunk a cool million or two for hotel and conference rooms, travel expenses, food, entertainment, per diems, media production and the organizing person-hours to bring several thousand people into town for the affair. ADOS doesn’t have anywhere near that kind of money, and it’s hard to imagine who might fund them. Carnell and Moore are not about to turn ADOS into a membership supported organization. The only institution I know of with which they’ve cultivated actual ties are some sectors of the black church. But the black church’s pockets aren’t that deep and they don’t have a tradition of funding what would look to them like a political initiative, unlike the mainline Protestant churches who are shoveling money at the New Poor Peoples Campaign.
ADOS is not a movement. It’s another hashtag, a brand. It’s shrunken, shriveled and tribal brand of reparations politics, tacitly endorsing US global empire and throwing shade on solidarity. Its backward looking tribalism, and hopefully its inability to find a way to finance growth into any kind of effective political force will doom it to haunt the margins of black twitter, YouTube celebrity, and some corners of the academy.
If we’re lucky.
For Black Agenda Radio Commentaries I’m Bruce Dixon. Find our audio podcasts – there are two of them, Black Agenda Radio and Black Agenda Radio Commentaries on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Libsyn or wherever you get your podcasts.
Please do know that Black Agenda Report is being censored by Google and other commercial social media, and has been singled out by anonymous cowards who, like Angela Rye does with ADOS, accuse us of making propaganda for the Russians. So please do like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and all, but old fashioned email direct frofm us to you is the only way to guarantee you’re receiving the fresh news, commentary and analysis from the black left that Black Agenda Report has delivered each and every week since 2006. So please visit our web site at www.blackagendareport.com and hit the subscribe button to receive our free weekly email newsletter containing weekly summaries of and links to all our weekly posted print, audio and video content neatly packaged for your listening and sharing convenience.
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Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport. He answers email, and has also been known to answer tweets to @brucedixon.
Direct download: 20190304_bd_ADOS_tribalism_shrinks_repartionist_politics-FINAL.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 10:03pm EDT
Thu, 7 March 2019
The moral justice of the reparations proposition is unassailable. Millions were murdered, transported across oceans, worked to death, starved abused, raped, their labor, loved ones and children stolen from them, and their descendants selectively disadvantaged to this very day. They deserve to be made whole. It’s only justice, and it’s only right to try to correct an historic wrong.
The reparations demand is not new. It was embodied in the efforts of some Union generals in the Civil War who redistributed land confiscated from slavemasters. That’s where the slogan “40 acres and a mule” comes from. President Andrew Johnson vetoed legislation to give the freed slaves the land they had worked on, and quickly reversed the policy almost every place it had been enacted. In the 1890s the demand surfaced again with proposals to grant pensions and land to surviving former slaves and their families. Again there was powerful opposition from the planter class, since most African Americans were agriculture and domestic workers in the South, and all the pension bills died in committee.
The modern reparations current – and I call it a current to distinguish it from a movement – and everything claims to be a movement these days – that current begins with James Forman of the Student NonViolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) whose 1969 “Black Manifesto” demanded $500 million from white churches and synagogues to be handed over to philanthropic trusts, a southern land bank, printing, publishing and other projects including the National Welfare Rights Organization.
In 1980 and 87, the federal government awarded reparations to a small group of Native Americans – a tiny fraction of First Nations people slaughtered and dispossessed, and to 60,000 survivors and descendants of Japanese-Americans stripped of their property and interned during WW2. In 1987 NCOBRA, the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America was founded. And in 1989 Detroit congressman John Conyers introduced a reparations study bill in Congress. Conyers re-submitted that reparations bill each and every congressional session till 2007, when he finally became chair of the House Judiciary Committee. The bill sat in his desk drawer during the next four years while he had the power to pass it out of committee. Once Conyers was safely out of power in 2011, he resumed the submission of his reparations study bill to each successive Congress until his forced retirement last year.
“...19th century reparistas if I can call them that, were all about the practical politics of assembling political coalitions ...”
Again, the moral correctness of the reparations proposition is unarguable. People were wronged, their descendants were wronged and they deserve to be made whole. Only a fool can argue with that. But something has changed here. Reparations agitation in the 19th century arose directly from former slaves, from the black working class. 19th century reparistas if I can call them that, were all about the practical politics of assembling political coalitions which might do the heavy political lifting needed to carry out reparations for African Americans. Although they failed, they were seriously about the politics and the implementation. The reparations current of the 20th and 21st century is something altogether different.
To begin with, the modern reparations current did not originate with the black poor, the black working class. No disrespect to the late brother Forman, but the modern reparations current originates from the class of what Adolph Reed calls professional race managers, the cohort of relatively educated and affluent African Americans who assume the roles of spokesnegroes allegedly representing the rest of us. In the 1960s and 70s some of us fought for the inclusion of the histories, the writings and the scholarship of people who looked like us in the academic canon. One outcome of that struggles is the careers of a class of black academics who have adopted the morally just reparations arguments, extending them into the realms of psychology and spiritual well-being.
There is a truly vast amount of academic and popular writing from dozens, perhaps hundreds of black academics and professionals who insist that the pursuit of reparations and the attainment of apologies for slavery and Jim Crow are crucial to the spiritual and psychological well being of African Americans. You can find their views exhaustively examined in Psychology Today, in the journal of the American Psychological Association.
Some would have us believe that the current reparations demand arises from the most politically advanced sectors of black American thought and political action. I’m not buying that. I can’t really prove it, but I suspect a lot of the young people currently flying the “reparations now” flag learned to consider reparations as a moral and as a political proposition from black academics, not from the broad masses of our people.
The trouble is that all a moral proposition needs to justify itself is to be right. A political proposition must be made to happen in the real world, which is frequently indifferent or hostile to moral propositions. In the political world, a 21st century appeal for reparations is pathetically easy to twist into “something for those undeserving people and nothing for you real Americansf white people.” The worldwide political reality is that special policies aimed at special constituencies make for easy targets.
Medicaid for instance has proved trivially easy to shrink and shred and even deny eligibility to most of those who should qualify for it because Medicaid is aimed exclusively at poor people – popularly but incorrectly assumed to be mostly black. France has universal day care from infancy to about age 4 for everybody, whether you’re a working mom, disabled, or a billionaire. That’s what makes it politically bulletproof, the fact that everybody is in and nobody is out. The same inclusive model -protects the free at the point of service medical care systems of Britain, Canada and other places.
Once we untangle the moral and psychological parts of reparations from the political task of making stuff happen we are faced with a political problem.
The only two times black people in this country made significant material advances were during the Civil War and early Reconstruction, and the brief heyday of the Freedom Movement when Jim Crow was largely dismantled from about 1960 to 1975. In both cases the forward progress only lasted as long as a large plurality of white support backed black aspirations. When that plurality of white support eroded, the period of progress ended.
Our modern reparistas focus on the spiritual and psychological “only-this-and many apologies-will-make-us-whole” facets of reparations while they take no responsibility whatsoever for even identifying even the vaguest of roadmaps, naming the constituencies we’d have to persuade to our side to make the political heavy lifting of reparations possible. The politics most or our reparistas do espouse pretend that there ARE no class distinctions inside black communities, even though the gaps between the richest and poorest American blacks are larger than those between corresponding American whites.
Many modern advocates of reparations are straight up opportunists, like Ta Nehisi Coates, who deploy reparations rhetoric as a counter to socialism. There’s a reason why many of Chicago’s most prominent reparistas supported Rahm Emanual in the last mayoral election. The Conyers reparations bill and others like it are great things to hide behind, with no thought of ever achieving results. So the notion that the reparations demand arises from the most politically advanced sectors of the black community is highly questionable too
The fact is that Medicare For All, the Green New Deal, legalized unions with the unrestricted right to strike, and the forgiveness of student debt would all disproportionately benefit African Americans. Which demographic segment has the highest per capita student debt? It’s black women. Black people are disproportionate victims of predatory student, medical and consumer debt too. We were represented far higher than our share among the home foreclosures of 2006-2009, black women are the most likely demographic segment to form and join a fighting union.
“Many modern advocates of reparations are straight up opportunists, like Ta Nehisi Coates, who deploy reparations rhetoric as a counter to socialism. ...”
Again, the reparations proposition is entirely morally justified. But the political atmosphere is not a neutral place where arguments prevail because they are righteous. We live in the place where 60 million people voted for Trump, and where we cannot even marshal a plurality of white support for affirmative action, a far lower hurdle than reparations. A sober assessment of current political reality seems to indicate that a dogged insistence on calling the policies of fairness, equity and justice by that name, may be a big impediment to the heavy lifting it takes to enact them.
It’s not rocket science. People are clever enough to talk and to listen in code all the time. And though large majorities of black people DO support reparations when pollsters ask the question, they’re likely far more attached to results than they are to the label.
So what if we just did the work to make the stuff happen, but we didn’t call it reparations?
For Black Agenda Radio Commentaries I’m Bruce Dixon. Black Agenda Report is being censored by Google and other commercial social media, and has been singled out by anonymous cowards who accuse us of making propaganda for the Russians. So you should like us on Facebook and all, but the only way to guarantee you’re receiving the fresh news, commentary and analysis from the black left that we’ve delivered each and every week since 2006 is to visit our web site at www.blackagendareport.com and hit the subscribe button. Subscribing to our free weekly email newsletter is the only way you can get weekly summaries and links to all our weekly posted content neatly packaged for your listening and sharing convenience.
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