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My conclusion is that neither Bennett the Republican nor Carville the Democrat

has any love for the "poor" (code word: black poor),

and thus no love for black people.



Racism Republican Style: Me, James Carville  

The Role of  Youth, Art in Black Liberation Struggle

Conversations with Floyd, Dennis, Herbert, Brisbane, Jeannette


Floyd: I continue to have white students in my classes who claim that white supremacy and anti-Black racism are dead in America.  Yet, coupled with the New Orleans police assault on Robert Davisalong with any number of other everyday forms of these twin evils across this nation--Bennett's utterances demonstrate how deeply embedded are white supremacy and anti-Black racism in American culture and institutional practices.  On "racial matters" America is beyond redemption!

Rudy: Floyd, when we were at Acklyn's house, we left off with a discussion whether the murder of a black city was a "rupture in time," a situation that would not allow us to continue our lethargy in response to "racial matters." Of course, in the last two decades of the 20th century, we were not without racial oppression on a mass scale. True, it was not as sensational as that situation we observed at the superdome and the convention center in which the misery and the neglect of the suffering of the poor were brought into our living rooms, our comfortable bedrooms. The corporate media made it impossible to ignore. Of course, the media did not do this exposure for us, but rather for ratings, e.g. money.

I find it indeed curious you speak of "racism, Republican style."  Maybe there is a party difference in America's racial oppression. But one would have to be a specialist to make any real distinction. For me there's little or no difference in the MO of William Bennett and James Carville. But we choose William Bennett for our venom rather than James Carville. Now Carville was out at Johns Hopkins. Here is what was reported:

Carville also demanded greater personal responsibility from the poor, urging teenagers to "stay in school longer and get pregnant less". . . that the public accept the need to work longer before retirement and include smaller cost-of-living increases in Social Security for the sake of the country" (Johns Hopkins News-Letter, 29 September 2005). 

My conclusion is that neither Bennett the Republican nor Carville the Democrat has any love for the "poor" (code word: black poor), and thus no love for black people. Carville's primary and only interest in blacks is that they have a vote, which is necessary for the Democrats to win anywhere. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have a program for the elevation of the poor, and thus no program for black liberation.

In our affections we must part from both the Republicans as well as the Democrats. We must get to the stage that it is no longer to vote at all, if the choices are only Democrats and Republicans. We must reach that level of consciousness in which we see that it is patriotically black to boycott the polls as long as parties on the ballot have no guarantees for the black poor and thus for black people. Suburban, insulated comfort and security can no longer be a first priority for our middle-classes. Their first priority must be the liberation of the poor, otherwise our politics will be nothing other than opportunism.

Dennis: I can relate to Floyd. Interesting, however, what you said stands for an ultimate truth in my humble opinion: “Suburban, insulated comfort and security can no longer be a first priority for our middle-classes. Their first priority must be the liberation of the poor, otherwise our politics will be nothing other than opportunism.” Right on!

All I have to say is that Democrats and Republicans are all the same and if we can't see beyond electoral politics and the sham that it is, nothing will change anywhere.

I believe now is the time of the assassin, as Rimbaud wrote. Meaning to destroy any illusions, structures, internal fears one has. Combat and learn. . . . the key can only be found through the voices of a few: the artists. . . .

I mean the artists like Kalamuthe elder revolutionaries of the Arts Movement. They must make a concerted effort to engage the younger artists. Still, from my limited and perhaps ignorant point of viewthe only ones who can disarm just a portion of the venom, who can perhaps prepare us for the next era – are folks of my own kiln, my generation. . . .

There are some fabulous fine artists of the new millennium whose work pushes and enlightens, deepens, and challenges and yet all the so-called progressive groups and organizations don't work with them. People forget: this is exactly how Baraka's Black Arts House in the 1960s came about and how a group like the Black Panther Party formed (and I do believe much to the patronization of my elders and to their chagrin – that a similar group will form itself, unaware of the past – just knowing that "something isn't right." 

Panthers were twenty-three, twenty-four when Huey and Bobby started it, right? Hutton was sixteen? Didn't the Panthers feel what had come before them was stagnant and dead. I feel the same way – police brutality has become too much of a staple of our times, no? How many times must the image run?

Now this opens a whole can of worms and room for a completely different philosophical and dialectical debate, but since we control neither our own images, we control neither our political realities, social realities, personal realities. . . . 

Real art was interwoven, almost seamlessly, in the political tide of the sixties and seventies revolution, no?  On all counts. What Baraka did for the mind, Coltrane maybe did for the soul.  One could study, engage in groups, debate all night – but there seemed to be things still and real actually happening.  Even if was just a happening: a play, a movie, poetry.  Art is the highest celebration of life – the only thing I see celebrated around me is Media and Money. Our artists are corporatized. . . .

Most adults over fifty have no respect for me, or any of the people I associate with.  That's a fact and I have been told that to my face.  In turn, most people I know between thirty and forty have a rather strange and anxious feeling of stasis, hopelessness, and severe repression.  They don't trust older folks . . . and most young people late teens to early twenties or so – just seemed concern with money.  Now I generalize obviously, but when political groups tell me they want younger black people to become engaged in the struggle and yet they have no interest in our art, ideas, or point of view. . . .

I am NOT a leader, as much as I would like to bein the traditional sense. I am an artist.  I am a filmmaker, no one cares about that and I have not found or met others within my generation who I can relate to within organized activism or electoral politics. . . .

I did not get one email or phone call regarding that Negro's beatingexcept from you.  Because I am in Berlin? Bullshit.  Because we are inured to it; in fact, one acquaintance of mine from good old Los Angeles made a fucking joke about it. . . .

Americansall of usget what we deserve when we constantly pay taxes to fund a war, but no one will fund its artists, political groups (real ones) or think about actually doing something they haven't been told. . . .

We need healthy ways of constantly engaging in revolutionary activitiesthe wheel should constantly be in motion.

Rudy: Dennis, your response is excellent in its insights. I will address those points that carry the most weight, that I find most relevant in our discussion: the role and support of art in liberation struggles; generational antagonisms; and the direction of consciousness raising. Each of these probably deserve a paper or a dozen papers, or even books. So my responses will probably be at best impressionistic.

Here is what Eugene Redmond and his DrumVoices Revue  have said about Baraka and the Black Arts Movement:  

Often referred to as the artistic and spiritual “twin” or “sister” of the Black Power Movement, BAM and BPM helped usher in the “Black Aesthetic,” Black Self-Determination, Kwanzaa and Black Studies movements which had a domino effect leading to the creation of Asian, Chicano, Native American, Women’s and Gay and Lesbian studies.

This is very high praise. But I am uncertain of the real value or the real legacy of either the Black Arts Movement or the Black Power Movement. 

In that I lived through this period and participated to some extent in key events of both BAM and BPM and found at the time faults in both, I am more measured when it comes to such exaggerated statements as Redmond's or even yours when you say,  "the key can only be found through the voices of a few: the artists." For me artists bring as much confusion as they bring light. They are as much reactionaries as they are revolutionaries. Though the few may be important, but I do not consider them "key" to the liberation struggle. The people are the key; it is they who make the revolution.

The work of the artist is tertiary; at best, secondary (a support) to the liberation struggle. That support depends very much on the relationship they have with the people and their struggles. Bohemian or petty bourgeois artists are often isolated from the people and usually view the people as those from whom they wish to escape or those they look down on as stupid and irrelevant for their own selfish ends. This is where we find Leroi Jones aka Amiri Barka, in his early career.

Today, this is where we find the cave canem writers and the poet Yusef Komunyakaa. They are elitists and generally despise the people. For them the personal is all; they will have nothing to do with racial oppression or liberation. They are a slippery crew, filled with snide remarks, irony, and mockery, which is usually directed toward those who have few defenses. They are representatives of their class and their emphasis usually resides solely on personal success. Though excellent technicians, they fall short in service.

I think you overstate and overemphasize generational conflicts and differences. For as you point out, the youth are as culturally regressive as their elders, and sometimes more so. Of course, part of the problem is the lack of institutions for the transmission of cultural and political, and historical awareness from generation to generation. A lot of this is out of black hands, as you point out. So often the problems that the young and adults have with the other are out of the hands of both. Too often expectations of youth are unreasonable and irrational. The bickering back and forth, I find juvenile and unproductive.

Huey P. Newton, a man of the people, saw the Black Panthers as a successor to Malcolm's secular program. So there is no starting new and fresh. There must always be ideas and programs upon which one must build. If there is no righteous appreciation of what comes before, there can be no movement forward. Huey's ideas are based on those who had lived before, including Nietzsche and his Will to Power, Nathaniel Turner, and Mao.

I will allow that in personal matters and in gender issues, we have gained by the work of writers and artists. During this period of the 80s and 90s, our political consciousness deteriorated to its lowest point, so much so that we have a general disparagement of the poor by the black middle-classes, whose views and sentiments are probably closer to the white middle-classes than to the poor and working classes. Seemingly, we can hold only one thought or emphasis at a time. Certainly that is true for the last two decades.

The Civil Rights Movement and the Black Consciousness Movement moved forward on the backs and sufferings of the black poor and working classes and their children. As the leaders of these movements became more and more peculiar, and became more and more ideological and esoteric, they moved too far ahead of the people into impractical matters, and they eventually abandoned the people for elitist or personal interests.

As we know the  poor and undereducated within our communities are as plentiful  now as when these movements began in the 60s and ended in the 70s. So what artists have produced of substance for the people is small and that which has value, like the work of the late August Wilson, is seen only on Broadway and other white venues rather than in our neighborhoods and in our schools. So if artists are not committed fully to the liberation of the poor and the powerless, they cannot be the "key."

And if their work is not disseminated and absorbed by the poor and the powerless, their work can have no social value in the liberation struggle. In any event, the work of the artist must mirror the people, their sentiments, and their aspirations if it is to have any lasting value. And if it does not move the middle-classes to sacrifice its interests for those of the poor and powerless, it is damn near worthless in our liberation.

Herbert: I will have more to say later on this topic, but as you may expect, I do not find myself in agreement with you. What evidence do you have that the Cave Canem writers "generally despise the people."

Rudy: What sort of evidence do you require? What sort of evidence do you have they don't?

Herbert: Kalamu will be at Pratt on Friday, Nov 4, at 6:30 P.M. By the way, it was a Cave Canem writer who helped in bringing him here.

Rudy: I agree that Kalamu's words are not as derisive as my own but he does set himself apart from them, read his own words.

Herbert: Rudy, yes I would agree with you.  This same cave canem writer also interviewed Tony Medina.

Rudy: Are these interviews available?

Herbert: My colleague, Reggie Harris, just showed me the announcement yesterday of the dvd of Joanne Gabbin's conference in which his name appears on the catalog interviewing Tony Medina.  It is obvious that Kalamu likes a great deal the kind of poetry that Tony does. I have also met Tony. His poetry is very much in the style of Louis Reyes Rivera. The dvd is now available for ordering.  I can give you more information later about the interview.

My point being, I think you are a better scholar and critic to have arrived at the conclusions that you wrote about earlier.

Rudy: I make no pretense to be scholar or literary critic when I speak of cave canem. I speak more as a social critic, in the same way that they speak of BAM or Baraka or a Marvin X. Are the statements exaggerated, maybe slightly. But I'd like to hear their raison d'etre.

Brisbane:  Rudy, I understand your frustration with our inability to organize a black political party.  A few of the reasons relate to our divisiveness over many things based on our failure to identify a sufficient number of reasons to be cohesive.  We were not one people from the beginning of our enslavement and the 60s emphasized integration into the american culture, thus blocking any real efforts to organize as black people in america.  It seems that we feel the pull of nationalism more than that of racial cohesion. Brainwashed might be appropriate here.

The other reasons relate to the work it takes to build a party and sustain it.  We may be too weary from all the other battles to undertake this one too.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, we have achieved in this country has come without major struggles that never end.  Perhaps we are human after all.  Tired is what I think, and that leads to disengagement.  We have had to fight alone and against incredible odds since the 1600s.  Maybe we need a rest.

I am sure you are not happy with that response but it is what I believe hampers the efforts you feel will make the difference.  I wonder if we haven't lost faith in a certain way-the faith that what we do really does matter.  You do have to believe that your work will mean something to go out and struggle everyday. 

People have to focus on something that will anchor them and thus we look for smaller battles that are more evenly balanced and frankly, battles that have tangible outcomes that we understand.  I am not saying that we can't understand political power or its likely result, I just think it is too tenuous at this point in time.  And too, those who would build a party must be clear about cohesiveness by their actions.  We can't seem to pick one person around who we will rally.

How do we support
Kalamu  and Malik Rahim?

Rudy: I'm somewhat overwhelmed by your response. You have covered a lot of territory and you have approached the question of black power in a most curious way. I'm not sure altogether what is appropriate. Nevertheless, you have laid a groundwork that is a good beginning for a discussion that is necessary under the circumstances we now find ourselves, that is, our being set upon on all sides.

My frustrations have little to do with "our inability to organize a black political party." For I do not think we have tried in a concerted way. Of course, we recall the Black Panthers. But they were more a party in name, than otherwise. There was an effort in DC. The source of its failure, I'm uncertain. But that should indeed be investigated and discussed.  It may be a rewarding scholarly activity.

My frustrations result from our inability to reach a level of consciousness that we think that organizing a political party is the most appropriate and logical thing to do within the circumstances and context we find ourselves. That is, if I have political frustrations, it is about our unwillingness to consider and discuss the topic of the viability and necessity of a black political party merely as an intellectual exercise.

So our discussion might begin here. Why do we fear on just a scholarly basis to consider this extraordinary phenomenon, that is, why do we fear organizing independently of the Democrats and the Republicans, two parties that have not had the black poor on their agenda for more than three decades? Why do we continue an alliance with the Democrats when they have failed us, ignored us, operated around the issues that most concern us? It is tantamount to making Lyndon Johnson a god and praying at his altar. Why do we, like Bill Cosby, try to shame the poor into voting for a party that has not served its interests, nor has any plan to serve its interests?

There are other relevant places we can begin. What is the nature of the divisiveness within the black community? I do not think that it is geographical. Nor do I think that it is age, that is, generational, as is suggested by my filmmaker friend Dennis. Nor do I think it a matter of education, nor even income.

This divisiveness has more to do with consciousness and the levels at which it exists within the black community, generally. There is a considerable amount of muddy thinking, which has resulted from fear and opportunism. These have been with us from the slave ships across the Atlantic and on the plantations of the masters. It did not cease when "White Only" signs in the 50s and 60s came tumbling down. There was no dismantling of the "White Only" attitude.

Our schools, our colleges, our teachers and professors, our churches, and other professional institutions have not had their minds on the liberation of the poor, especially the black poor. They have not struggled against the "White Only" attitude, but rather our leaders have made alliances with it. Thus, black institutions have failed us and our children and the unborn generations. We as much as George Bush are responsible for the scenes we all watched on network TV. 

We pretended as if everything was everything.

Our emphasis has been more on affirmative action than on jobs for the poor, more on contracts for black businessmen than on substantial wages for black women who work in service industries. So consciousness raising has had more to do with the narrow interests of the middle-classes and the Democratic Party agenda than the interests of our people.

At this stage my advocacy does not require the energy and resources to build a political party from the ground up as it has to do with raising the consciousness of our people from the low state to which it has sunk. First, we might praise the poor for not going for the okey-doke of electoral politics as now organized and thus staying away from the polls. Second, we might praise them for sustaining black people by their taking on of two and three jobs and maintaining households despite the criminalization war that has been waged on their men, since forever.

Third, we can withdraw our support (financial and otherwise) from those black politicians who do not have a viable program for the liberation of the poor. Fourth, we should abandon the notion that we need the leader around which to rally. We are now grown up. We do not need leaders to read the Bible to us, or the constitution. We are sufficiently literate to do that for ourselves now. What we need now is free thinking, widespread. We need persons who are willing to think outside of the political boxes we have been in since the mid-70s. We are not too exhausted for this kind of democratic action and thinking.

Here's the contact for Malik Rahim. But we have all kinds of info on Kalamu.

Jeannette: Rudy, I'm not quite sure what you mean by "we pretended as if everything was everything?" Are you speaking of conscious or unconscious denial on the part of middle-class black folks? Or does it matter?

Between 1981-1991 I observed, as a school social worker (with "emotionally disturbed" students, 99% of whom were black males) elementary, middle and high school teachers who were bogged down with a myriad of personal, family and financial problems (brought on by materialistic needs) which required them (the teachers) to also work more than one job. If the equation becomes working a part-time job after teaching in a "stressful" environment for 8 hours, how much is left to give the student who comes from a "troubled" family? 

Teachers (who refused/did not have time/were afraid of the neighborhood...could not make "home visits" to connect with the stressed-out "single" parents/grandparents of the student) often found themselves in church on Sunday weary and trying to "feel better"

about their own lives. So, if you have most of the pews filled with persons massaging their own wounds, instead of attending to the people in the decaying drug infested neighborhood of the church, what is the answer? How can these people keep their minds on the poor? Is this conscious pretense/denial? How could these folks sitting on pews "liberate" the poor?

It's starting to feel like I am about to answer my own question...I have written so many letters to the editor about this and it hasn't done anybody any good. (And being an advocate inside the church doesn't seem to work for me at the moment.)  We all know that many churches have huge budgets because church folks contribute large sums of money but they don't invest in programs that would make a difference in the lives

of the teenage drug dealers or single moms or miserable elderly that live near the church.   Where does this stinginess come from?  Is it all about serving dinners, redecorating the building or buying a few pencils at the beginning of the school year? 

I will not even begin to deal with the church leadership issue except to say that too many brothers bring their unresolved issues from childhood to the leadership roles...which significantly adds to the failure of the institution.

What I saw in the churches were many pews of sad, depressed, sometimes angry and often jealous, back-biting/stabbing hard-working folks who have great difficulty getting along with each other, let alone some from the neighborhood not "dressed to kill, etc."

These folks occupying  pews either don't have the interest or don't know how to figure out what's wrong with themselves? How can they liberate when they have taken no responsibility for their own knowledge or growth? How can one "liberate" his neighbor if he or she is not liberated? 

(I think one must love oneself in order to liberate oneself, then he or she can think about love/liberaton of "the other.") I'm talking good old plain health/self-esteem/wellness kind of self-love.

I've witnessed folks hanging onto depression or whatever else ails them as though it were a sugar tit. Neither the scriptures nor the sermons seem to have much effect when it comes to actual change.  The singing/shouting becomes a feel-good substitute/catharsis for the long, hard work of self-examination/healing/recovery and the journey to self-love. 

Perhaps I am starting to ramble. I realize that somewhere there must be a few progressive black churches that make a difference in the lives of the poor. This whole issue makes me so sad and angry that I can hardly talk or write about it anymore...and another issue comes to mind...dependency.  A lot of folks sitting on churches pews apparently are not grown up. Many seem overly dependent on food, drugs, alcohol, clothes, gossip, unhappy marriages, and the preacher's interpretation of scriptures. Why do we continue our alliance with the Democrats when they have failed us?... for the same reason that one stays in an unhappy marriage when it has failed...dependency. It's comfortable (?) on some level, familiar and doesn't require much work.

So... I've been in a mood for listening to Marvin Gaye lately, but I still don't quite know what "everything is everything" means. I thought it meant "it's okay."  My sense is that the folks I've been speaking of (public school and church) don't think it's okay (everything is everything.) I can't speak for the other institutions you mentioned because I don't have any close observations. Intuitively public school and church folks know things are messed up! So why don't they try to fix it?

Depression, angry, weariness, dependency, fear of the unknown (what if I leave him after 25 years of marriage?  What if I quit being a burnt-out teacher and do something I really love? etc. etc. Who could possibly be better than the Democrats?) Trust. How can you trust the unknown? Let's just make do with what we know.

Ah yes. Trust is a major issue for us...or so it seems. Why would we trust ourselves enough not to be spoon-fed?  We would have to really, really, really love ourselves in order to trust ourselves, would we not? And do we love ourselves? (Or perhaps this trust issue is simply my personal projection...)

Rudy: Jeannette, half the time I don't know what I'm saying, though I try to be fair in my estimation of things. I don't really mean to be mean, to say things that are hurtful. I just don't think we where we should be in our thinking within the context and circumstances we find our selves. For certain I had thought that thought before I wrote, before I said it aloud. And I think I had held that view for sometime, maybe a decade or more, that too many people thought "everything was everything."

Maybe it is my background that will give some context for it. By the time I was 19 I had joined the Black Consciousness Movement and was organizing for a black studies program at Morgan State College that would lay the groundwork for our liberation as a people. I had joined the anti-war movement and was waging a campaign against ROTC being a required program for all freshmen and sophomore males.

By the time I was 19 I was part of a black student group that was quoting Fanon. By the time I was 20 I was a draft resister. By the time I was 21 I was helping black women in Baltimore organize a union when they were making on an average of $1.65 an hour. So it is out of this youthful background that I speak. These were my first efforts in organized resistance.

Maybe I first heard the expression "everything is everything" in some song, or maybe it was some hip expression induced by some drugged escapist view of the world. I believe I might have heard some speech by H. Rap Brown who argued that "everything isn't everything." In short, we ain't free. And we ain't free in a number of ways. The social controls have tightened and become more numerous. We have been duped, bamboozled, fell for the okey-doke, hoodwinked. Consciously, we have accepted our oppression. Wake Up!

The "White Only" signs are down and we accept that we have thus been accepted as an equal and respected part of the American fabric as all other American citizens. In our failings to move about or move up in this new world, the fault is not in the world, the fault is in us. So instead of beating up our bosses, we beat up our women, our children; we pursue every kind of perversion, to keep our minds off thinking that we are an oppressed people, that is, the same niggers we were before civil rights and voting rights, before the signs came tumbling down. In short, we turn on ourselves.

I submit that it this kind of psychological operations you observed: "depression, angry, weariness, dependency, fear of the unknown." Here we have persons who know deep down that "everything isn't everything" but still a person afraid to think the truth and respond to it with integrity and dignity. You know, It Ain't About Race. And we are shocked and surprised by New Orleans. Well, a New Orleans is subject to happen anytime in America. Can we wake up?

posted 13 October 2005

Racism Republican Style   It Ain't About Race   Sitting ducks at the superdome  

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By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.”  His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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