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The internal class composition of the black community has been radically altered;

 it is now characterized by an affluent professional and managerial elite, a black

working class with declining incomes, and a black ghetto class of the unemployed

and single-parent households that is experiencing a social holocaust.

 

 

Books by Manning Marable

 Black Liberation in Conservative America  / Living Black History  / How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America

Race, Reform, and Rebellion  /  W.E.B. Du Bois: Black Radical Democrat  /  Race, Reform, and Rebellion

The Great Wells of Democracy  /  Afro-Cuban Voices: On Race and Identity in Contemporary Cuba

*   *   *   *   *

Rethinking Black Liberation

Past, Present, and Future

Introduction to  Black Liberation in Conservative America  (1997)

By Manning Marable

 

Black Liberation in Conservative America is largely a collection of political commentaries written during the period 1991–1996 and published in my series “Along the Color Line.” These commentaries currently appear in more than 280 newspapers throughout the world, more than half of which are black American weekly newspapers, such as the Chicago Defender, the Baltimore-Washington Afro-American, and the San Francisco Sun-Reporter. In many respects, “Along the Color Line” has largely defined my public and political life since it was started two decades ago.

The political realities of 20 years ago now seem a world removed from today. The Soviet Union—still a global superpower in the mid-70s when I started writing “Along the Color Line”—no longer exists. Communism throughout Eastern Europe has collapsed. Communist China today has arguably the most aggressively capitalist economy on earth. With some notable exceptions, political parties that espoused liberal to left policies in Europe and North America have been defeated. “Globalization” and the information revolution have rapidly transformed the nature of work and the character of production. As traditional industries disappeared, and as agricultural production globally moved from labor-intensive to capital-intensive methods, millions of working people were displaced. Hundreds of millions of Third World people migrated from rural areas to cities, and from their own countries into Western Europe and North America, in the struggle for survival. Third World countries with socialist and labor parties, have few options except to adopt neo-liberal, capitalist policies.

These massive transformations in the structure of the global economy and labor force have generated a sharp increase in income inequality and greater class stratification. The real wages of working people have steadily declined, and job insecurity now increasingly affects middle-class households as well. In our central cities, millions of jobs that once could sustain families have been destroyed. In communities like Central Harlem today, there are 14 applicants for every available job in the fast-food industry. Members of families confined to the poorest neighborhoods for several generations have never had the experience of a job in their lives. When large numbers of people cannot obtain employment, the quality of life for the entire community suffers: grocery stores and retail establishments close down, social institutions like churches and schools are weakened, the quality of housing deteriorates, and the level of violence connected with crime inevitably increases. Conversely, the same global economic forces have concentrated vast wealth in the hands of a small, privileged elite, which is also increasingly multinational in character.

In the United States, these economic trends created the political space for the triumph of an extreme version of conservatism. In the early 1980s, this reaction was symbolized by the administration of Ronald Reagan. Reaganism was, in many ways, the mirror opposite of the New Deal: government was the problem, not the solution, Federal programs were abolished; industries were deregulated; affirmative action and environmental laws were not enforced; the capital gains tax was significantly reduced; and taxes on corporate profits virtually disappeared. Key elements within the Democratic Party at first tried to attack and reverse the politics of the Right. The 1983 mayoral victory of Harold Washington in Chicago, and the Rainbow Coalition’s presidential campaigns for Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988, illustrated the potential power of a progressive, multi-class, and multiracial opposition.

But liberals, labor, and the Left in the United States failed to consolidate an alternative formation or movement to challenge conservatism. As a result, by the 1990s the political terrain shifted even further to the right. Although a Democrat was elected to the presidency in 1992, the Clinton administration pursued policies that only 20 years before would have been descried as “Liberal Republicanism.” The “mainstream” of the Democratic Party equivocated or retreated on minority economic set-asides, minority scholarships, affirmative action, majority-people-of-color legislative districts, employment legislation, universal health care, and urban development. Clinton embraced the death penalty, passed a repressive crime bill that seriously threatened civil liberties, and signed a Republican welfare bill that will devastate the households of millions of poor women and children.

One might have predicted that these reactionary economic and political trends, nationally and globally, would have revived the organizations and movements closest to the masses: civil rights groups, labor unions, feminists, poor people’s advocates, community activists. Certainly there were numerous examples of resistance across the United States in the 1990s, but a strong, coherent opposition to the Right has not coalesced. Reaganism and the corporations had delivered a devastating blow to organized labor, greatly demoralizing and reducing its ranks. By the early 1990s, the AFL-CIO was losing 300,000 members every year. The growth of nonunion jobs in high technology, service, and other expanding sectors of the economy reduced labor’s influence. Politically, when President Clinton signed the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) over the vigorous objections of the AFL-CIO, he sent an anti-union message nearly as devastating as Reagan’s 1981 crushing of the air traffic controllers’ strike.

Similarly, the civil rights community failed to mount a significant challenge against the Right. Economic stratification and, ironically, the successful implementation of reforms like affirmative action greatly expanded the social base of the black middle class. By the mid-1990s, one in six black households earned incomes exceeding $50,000 annually. A small but very class-conscious elite of African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Latinos was increasingly represented in corporate management, government bureaucracies, the criminal justice system, and the armed services. The emergence of three powerful and influential African-Americans—General Colin Powell, Commerce Secretary Ronald Brown, and Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas—symbolized the drift toward conservative accommodation within the leadership of minority communities.

The most critical mistake of black politics was the tendency to emphasize electoralism at the expense of activism. For 30 years, since the end of the Civil Rights Movement, African-American leadership increasingly came from elective offices. The vast majority of these officials were Democrats tied to a political party that had begun to distance itself from black interests and issues. The pressure to break with the Democrats briefly intensified with the successes of the Jackson presidential campaigns, as it became apparent that a left-of-center bloc of racial ethnic minorities, women, labor, and others could be effectively mobilized. But Jackson himself had no desire to renounce the Democratic Party’s hierarchy and, in effect, demobilized his own coalition.

Most African-Americans in Congress were elected from black majority districts and, as long as they could usually win reelection without difficulty. Gradually, the political independence and liberal agenda of the Congressional Black Caucus deteriorated, as many newly elected members pursued their own narrow interests or cut deals undermining a black united front. On major legislative issues, such as NAFTA and Clinton’s 1994 crime bill, a significant number of blacks in Congress broke ranks to embrace the Right.

The conservative trend was represented within the Republican Party by black neo-conservative theorists such as Thomas Sowell, and by a small number of black elected officials such as Congressmen Gary Franks of Connecticut and J.C. Watts of Oklahoma. Far more pervasive was the growing pragmatism of African-American leaders in the Democratic Party who espoused a type of “postblack” or “deracialized” politics. African-American elected officials like former Virginia Governor Doug Wilder or Cleveland, Ohio, Mayor Michael White increasingly advocated agendas that were “color blind”; in other words, that black officials had no further special responsibility or obligation to their African-American constituents than they had to the white electorate.

A series of African-American politicians were elected as mayors of major cities—David Dinkins in New York, Thomas Bradley in Los Angeles, Wilson Goode in Philadelphia—but the quality of urban life for most African-Americans continued to decline. Venerable black institutions like the NAACP and the National Urban League seemed disoriented or in disarray. The chaos surrounding the dismissal of Benjamin Chavis as Executive Secretary of the NAACP in 1994, followed by the 1995 conflict ousting NAACP President William Gibson, reinforced the popular mood that the Civil Rights Movement was dead.

Into the leadership vacuum of black America stepped Louis Farrakhan. To many black working- and middle-class families. Farrakhan’s philosophy of conservative black nationalism, economic self-help, and racial pride made sense. As white political parties repudiated affirmative action and dismantled the social reforms of the Second Reconstruction, Farrakhan pointed to the necessity for black solidarity in the face of racism. To blacks in neighborhoods plagued by crime, Farrakhan’s vigorous opposition to black-on-black violence and drugs was widely praised. The overall economic strategy of the Nation of Islam, however, was taken directly from conservative black educator Booker T. Washington.

Entrepreneurship and black small businesses may indeed create thousands of new jobs, but at a time when millions of African-Americans, Latinos, and other poor people are desperately seeking work at living wages, black capitalism is no solution. Farrakhan’s homophobic, anti-Semitic, sexist rhetoric alienated many potential allies for the Black Freedom Movement. Nevertheless, the levels of desperation and alienation had become so profound within the black community that when Farrakhan called for a “Million Man March” on Washington, DC, the popular response was overwhelming. A massive crowd of as many as one million African-American males came to the Washington Mall on October 16, 1995, by far the largest public demonstration by black people in U.S. history.

The enthusiasm and emotion generated by the Million Man March had less to do with Farrakhan’s reactionary ideology than with the deep desire among African-American people to move their communities forward. The movement had somehow lost its way, and the masses desperately endeavored to reclaim their own spirit and history. In a time of white conservatism and corporate exploitation from the ghetto to the globe, how could the struggle advance?

*          *          *

Leaders are not “born,” they are “made.” Social movements are not only the products of unpredictable historical forces, but also carefully planned, collective actions. By finding their own voice, by defining their own needs and objective circumstances, oppressed people truly can make their own history. The basic social, economic, and political problem confronting black Americans for nearly a century was Jim Crow segregation. Women and men of uncommon courage built institutions that permitted our people to sustain themselves and to survive. They crafted a complex strategy of resistance, focusing at first on legal challenges against white supremacy.

The struggle in the courtroom gave way to the crusade for justice in the streets, employing the tactics of nonviolent direct action. The leaders of this movement recognized the necessity of speaking simultaneously to their own constituency and to the larger world. The struggle for black freedom and equality was based not on narrowly parochial needs or racial self-interest, but on appeals to a just and more democratic society that was universal. As our strategy and political language gradually captured the imaginations of oppressed people across the globe, our movement acquired the legitimacy and power to overturn the structures of legal racism.

We are again at a decisive moment in black history, where a new paradigm must be developed to advance the boundaries of our politics. We cannot simply duplicate the strategies and tactics of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, because the issues that confront us are fundamentally different. The internal class composition of the black community has been radically altered; it is now characterized by an affluent professional and managerial elite, a black working class with declining incomes, and a black ghetto class of the unemployed and single-parent households that is experiencing a social holocaust. The conservative black nationalism approach suggested by Farrakhan cannot provide the basis for advancing the movement.

Building strong black institutions to provide the goods and services black people need is certainly important. But petty capitalist enterprises will not generate the jobs we need to effectively reduce mass unemployment. Racial separatism does not bring together people from different ethnic and racial backgrounds who nevertheless share common material and social interests. Patriarchy and homophobia divide the black community, as well as the progressive community as a whole. Our political power is reduced when our organizing is based on chauvinism of any kind.

The place to begin the reconstruction of the black liberation movement—as well as the large progressive, left-of-center movements in the United States—is at the nexus of three crucial sites of struggle: community, class, and gender.

By “community” I mean the socioeconomic and environmental context of daily life for most families and households. Nearly all of us live in communities of one kind or another, with their own cultural and geographical dimensions, patterns of social interaction and exchange, and even languages and traditions. It is from the site of community that many of us wage struggles in the living space around the reality of day-to-day existence: access to decent and affordable housing, public health services, crime and personal safety, the quality of the environment, public transportation, the education of our children. These basic human concerns transcend narrowly defined racial interests: an effective program for health care in a community, for example, cannot address only African-Americans. It is where people live that usually defines how they become most active in the civic arena.

And if one surveys the actual racial and ethnic composition of most U.S. urban communities, it becomes apparent that neighborhoods are almost never strictly defined by race. Harlem, black America’s most famous community, is today more than 40 percent Latino. The largest city of the English-speaking Caribbean is arguably Brooklyn. In the next decade, Latinos will outnumber African-Americans as the largest group of people of color in the United States. We must build partnerships across racial identities to serve the broader-collective interests of people who live side by side, ride the same buses and subways, send their children to the same substandard schools, and wait for health services in the same overcrowded hospitals and emergency clinics.

By “class” I mean more than the stratification of incomes or the social status derived from various levels of wealth. Class—the divisions based on the relations and forces of production, and the social consequences of the unequal allocation of property and power—always prefigures the range of social possibilities and life chances, beyond the social realities of gender, race, and community. This is not to suggest that either gender or race can be understood as byproducts of rigid economic categories, or that they exist as secondary factors in the class struggle. Race and gender function both independently and interdependently with economics. But what history does show is that the way things are produced and distributed within society, the patterns of ownership and divisions of property, sets into motion certain consequences, which in turn influence everything else.

During the period of American capitalist hegemony across the globe, especially from 1945 to the late 1970s, part of the surplus was allocated to U.S. workers, who saw their real incomes dramatically improve. Class as a social category almost ceased to be used in mainstream political discourse. In the 1990s, the situation regarding class in American life has dramatically changed. Black Liberation in Conservative America documents in some detail the disastrous decline in real incomes for millions of Americans.

For example, families in the upper 5 percent tax bracket have increased their incomes by 25 percent since 1979, adjusting for inflation. But for middle-income households, real incomes during the same period declined 1 percent; for low-income households, real wages have declined 13 percent. The income decline was even greater for black and Latino families, and for households headed by young adults or single parents. The destruction of jobs and lower wages are a direct result of new technologies and the globalization of capital, in which businesses relocate overseas in pursuit of low-wage, nonunion labor. Even for those workers who have jobs, the pressure of corporate downsizing has created an environment of fear and insecurity.

Black and progressive politics needs to focus specifically on the issues of employment and a living wage, initiating a public conversation about the importance of work for all people. For example, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) ran a Jobs and Living Wage Campaign in 1995 in Chicago, an excellent model of practical class politics. The use of local and statewide initiatives to increase the minimum wage provides an important vehicle for mobilizing both the unemployed and low-wage workers. These struggles over jobs and income can be merged into community-based initiatives around economic development and urban renewal. A new class-centered activism, combined with the potential revitalization of the AFL-CIO, could generate an increase in effective multiracial protest.

The basis of the politics of “gender” in the black community is partially the fact that the primary victims and scapegoats of the Right are women of color and their children. The demonization of poor and low-income black women is a central theme in the ideological and policy assault against the entire black community. When we talk about mobilizing African-American neighborhoods around community concerns, we must recognize that the majority of our households are single-parent families. The majority of neighborhood activists who focus on improving the quality of public schools, on access to decent health care facilities, and on the issue of community safety are overwhelmingly black women.

Struggles for the empowerment of African-American women must be the very center of how progressive politics is defined. This includes deepening the struggle against sexism within black institutions and political organizations, the advancement of black women as leaders and theoreticians in the overall movement, and greater emphasis on programmatic demands and initiatives speaking to the real issues affecting African-American women and girls. As long as African-American males define the assertion of “manhood” as a central goal of their politics, and deny the voices and insights of their sisters, the black movement will continue to be fragmented and pulled toward the patriarchy of the Right.

Many might suggest that “race” still remains the central terrain for black struggle. Of course, “race” as a social category directly manifests itself in community, class, and gender contexts. Where we live, how we work, and our experience of gender are all profoundly affected by the inequality of race. Black women’s lives and struggles are not mirrored in the perspectives and interests of white middle-class women. Working people who are black not coincidentally have unemployment rates twice that of white workers. Race matters, but race is most real as a social force when it manifests itself in the consequences and conditions of inequality and discrimination.

Practical steps to improve the quality of life within communities, such as organizing against police brutality and harassment in our neighborhoods, or taking measures in reduce the level of gang violence, or mobilizing parents to reduce the level of gang violence, or mobilizing parents to improve the curriculum of public schools, all contribute to the empowerment of racial ethnic minorities and other oppressed people. Sometimes activism can be effectively channeled through electoral politics, as in voter registration and education campaigns. But more frequently, it is through the institutions of civil society—within extended kinship and friendship networks, in our cultural and social organizations, and among co-workers on the job—that practical political activism is expressed.

All constructive forms of resistance and collective mobilization by black people directly or indirectly challenge and undermine institutional racism. When people recognize that through their collective actions they can change the way things are, they truly feel empowered. Liberation begins by winning small battles, day by day, creating greater confidence among the oppressed, ultimately building toward a democratic vision that can successfully change the very foundations of this system.

Nearly a century ago, W.E.B. Du Bois predicted that the central problem of the 20th century would be “the problem of the color line.” What was clear to Du Bois was that African-Americans would effectively challenge racism only when they understood the dynamics of inequality and oppression on a global scale, and when the politics of racial justice was closely connected with a large critique of capital and class. So I remain optimistic, despite the recent reactionary victories of the conservative Republicans and the neo-liberal accommodationism of the majority of the Democrats. The vast contradictions of race, class, and gender increasingly polarize this nation as the political space for a progressive alternative becomes more than a possibility.

Radical democratic change within society is a question not just of politics, but of vision. Can we rethink what we mean by black and/or progressive politics and craft a new, more effective paradigm for activism? Can we construct a theory and practice that challenges racism while also addressing the contradictions and inequalities of gender, class, and community? Can we redefine the category of “blackness” itself, away from its racial and biological concepts and identity-based politics and toward a progressive politics and common language that bring together oppressed people with very distinct ethnicities, cultures, and traditions? To paraphrase Malcolm X, the decisive struggle is not between black and white, but between the world’s haves and have nots. The future of black liberation is inextricably linked to how successfully we answer these questions, while speaking to the vast majority of humanity.

*          *          *

As in every collection of previously published essays, there are certain limitations imposed by their composition and the historical moment in which they were written. “Along the Color Line” articles are designed for a mass audience, rather than an academic elite. Nearly all essays in their original form were less than 1,000 words. The journalistic style and approach emphasizes getting to the heart of an issue quickly, exploring conflicts and contradictions, and succinctly presenting possible solutions. The limitations of this genre are found in its lack of subtlety and nuance. Most political issues don’t present themselves in simplistic, black-versus-white terms. What this style of writing yields, however, is an intimacy with important events that define a moment in time. When something significant occurs, the political essayist is forced to analyze personalities and issue quickly, based only on what is known at that moment. A collection of such political writings spanning several years reveals something of the character of that period, as well as the audience for whom the texts were written.

The column has also served as a venue for presenting new theoretical concepts to a black audience. Some of these articles, initially published as newspaper columns, were later substantially expanded and revised into essays appearing in journals and anthologies. I often use materials from my columns as the basis for public lectures and political workshops. Consequently, many of the central arguments and even some of the language in the essays from my recent books Beyond Black and White and Speaking Truth to Power are also presented here. In preparing this volume, I eliminated many of the articles that paralleled or repeated too closely the topics and themes in other works, published work was inevitable. Nevertheless, reading the columns as they were written retains a special value, in that they are immediate responses and commentaries on the dynamics of racial politics as they occurred in the period 1991–1996. Taken as a whole, the “Along the Color Line” columns presented a perspective that pointed toward the construction of a new paradigm for black and progressive politics.

The immediate social background that helped to create this project of political journalism and social analysis was the 1970s. At the beginning of the decade, there was a series of domestic and global confrontations against the corporations and western capitalist democracies: Vietnam, Latin American and African liberation movements. Black Power, Attica, the emergence of feminist and gay and lesbian movements, the Wounded Knee confrontation and the American Indian movement. With the moral and political collapse of the Nixon administration over Watergate scandal, it seemed that the Republican Party would be discredited certainly for many years to come. Many liberal Democrats were elected in the congressional races of 1974. Within the African-American community, there had been a series of stunning political victories. The number of black elected officials increased from barely 100 to 1964 to almost 2,000 in one decade. Jim Crow segregation had been outlawed across the South, and blacks were elected to positions of power in many cities and towns for the first time since Reconstruction. For most progressive activists, this was a tremendously optimistic period of social struggle. The oppressed on a global scale, whether defined by the struggles of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, or ethnicity, appeared to be gaining ground. The logic of history itself was on our side.

My approach to politics at this time reflected most of these assumptions. I had become active in the National Black Political Assembly, a black nationalist formation seeking to build an independent political force within black America. I became involved in the Institute of the Black World in Atlanta, a progressive, Pan-African research center founded by Vincent Harding. I was interested in grounding myself more closely in the newly emerging struggles across the black South, relating these issues to the global struggles against colonialism and inequality.

In the summer of 1976, I accepted a teaching position as Chairperson of the Political science Department at Tuskegee Institute, in the heart of Alabama’s Black Belt. I was no stranger to this community. Many summers as a boy I traveled with my father to visit his extended family in this small southern town. Nearly a century earlier, the Alabama State Legislature had allocated several thousand dollars for the establishment of an all-Negro vocational and normal school in the surrounding Macon County. Booker T. Washington, barely 25 years old and a recent graduate of Hampton Institute, was chosen to head the new enterprise. Within two decades, Tuskegee Institute had become the largest educational institution for black people at that time in the world.

I was familiar with Tuskegee’s rich history, as well as its political contradictions. In the Civil Rights Movement, the town became the focus of a powerful struggle against racial gerrymandering and the denial of blacks’ voting rights. Yet the town was largely divided between two distinct and divergent black neighborhoods: the affluent, well-educated elite on the west side, attached professionally to the college and the Veterans Administration Hospital, and the working-class laborers, rural farmers, and entrepreneurs who lived on the other side of town. My father’s family was part of this latter group, closely connected with an emerging black political and small-business leadership that came into being after desegregation.

The local newspaper, the Tuskegee News, still reflected the racial divisions that were deeply rooted in Macon County’s history. Most of the articles focused on the small and rapidly disappearing white business and planter elite, which had prospered under Jim Crow but now losing its power and privileges. The newspaper’s editor, a conservative white Democrat, wanted to broaden the general appeal of the publication to reach the growing black middle- and working-class community.

With weeks after arriving in Tuskegee before the beginning of the fall semester, I visited the office of the Tuskegee News. I introduced myself and offered to write an occasional article on politics and public policy issues for the newspaper. I did not request any payment for the articles selected for publication. My primary goal was to speak to important political and social issues affecting black Americans, both locally and nationally. I hoped that the series would provoke discussion and debate, contributing in some small way to the Black Freedom Movement. The white editor of the Tuskegee News did not share any of these political perspectives or interests, but he did want to sell more newspapers to local black residents. In August 1976, my regular commentary series began. In its early years the series was called “From the Grassroots,” after the theme of a famous 1963 speech by Malcolm X. In the early 1980s the series was renamed “Along the Color Line.”

In the two decades since its inception, “Along the Color Line” has served several distinct purposes. The columns are almost always “conjunctural”—that is, they comment on and about what is happening politically at a given moment. When major events occur, there is a need to analyze what’s happened and to frame issues within a broader social context. Historians have the luxury of pondering over archival materials, carefully weighing the evidence and reflecting critically on the motivations and interests of all personalities and parties in conflict. Time is the ally of scholarly detachment and reflection. I was trained as an historian, and part of my intellectual orientation is to push back from the site of the here-and-now to view the past through a distant mirror.

The weakness of the historical method is its inherent tendency to make us neutral observers, rather than actors in the making of history. The chimera of scholarly objectivity can lead intellectuals away from an engagement with the real issues people care passionately about. Scholarship must inform and educate, but for oppressed people it must do more than this. Social analysis should empower people to acquire a better understanding of their world and how it actually works—who benefits from the existing structure of power and who doesn’t. A critique of social reality is always strengthened by the perspective of history, because patterns from the past can powerfully influence what happens in the future. But the primary purpose of social analysis should not be merely to interpret reality, but to transform it.

From the beginning, “Along the Color Line” also analyzed internal debates and issues within the African-American community. There is a belief, especially within white Americans, that black people are somehow monolithic as a social and political group. African-American know better. The entire political history of black America has been essentially a series of debates: Frederick Douglass versus Martin Delany in the 1850s; Booker T. Washington versus W.E.B. Du Bois in the early 20th century; Paul Robeson versus Walter White in the 1940s; the competition and conflicts within the Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s involving the NAACP, National Urban League, Congress of Racial Equality, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; Black Power versus integration in the 1960s; black nationalism versus revolutionary marxism in the 1970s; the ideological development of black neo-conservativism in the 1980s by the likes of Thomas Sowell, Tony Brown, Glen Loury, Robert Woodson, and Shelby Steel; and the controversies involving the “black public intellectuals” in the 1990s, including Cornel West, Henry Louis Gates, bell hooks, Patricia Williams, Michael Eric Dyson, and Gerald Early.

Frequently, there have been leaders within the black community who have utilized the myth of the monolithic black community to stifle internal voices of dissent: “If we’re all black, and if we all experience racism in common, there must be a unified response and leadership to address our problems.” But movements of any oppressed people cannot advance unless there is a healthy degree of internal criticism and discussion. The columns often spoke critically of the contradictions among black leaders, but never made ad hominem attacks on an individual’s character of personal motives. For example, one can certainly criticize Jesse Jackson for all sorts of reasons, but he merits our respect for his important contributions to our movement. I disagree vigorously with the political perspectives of both Colin Powell and Louis Farrakhan, but our profound differences should not keep us from engaging in a serious dialogue with those who share their views within the black community.

I have never believed that scholarship takes place outside the boundaries of society. We live and work in a real world, where triumphs and tragedies occur daily across the divisions of race, class, and gender. We are witness to the struggles all around us. The task of the racial intellectual is to illuminate the contours of social reality, to challenge those who benefit from the unequal divisions of resources. “Along the Color Line” has allowed me to interpret contemporary events as a passionate advocate for the interests of my people. Although the essays provide information that can be used by a widely diverse audience, my primary purpose has always been to reach African-Americans. Through this political discourse I make certain assumptions that many in polite academic circles might not approve; they may find comfort in the mainstream, isolated from the political and economic turbulence of today’s social landscape. But it is only when we stand against the current, confronting the powerful forces of prejudice and inequality, that the tools of scholarship become meaningful.

*   *   *   *   *

Black Liberation in Conservative America  (1997)

By Manning Marable

 

Acknowledgments                                                                                                                  xi

 

Introduction

Rethinking Black Liberation: Past, Present, and Future                                                             3

 

Section One

INEQUALITY AND PUBLIC POLICY

 

Restating the Problem: Race and Inequality                                                                            21

Class Polarization and the National Insurance Scandal                                                           23

Economic Anxiety and Self-Reliance                                                                                     29

Fighting for a Living Wage                                                                                                    31

Law and Liberation—Haywood Burns and Shanara Gilbert                                                   34

Lesbians, Gay Men, and Inequality                                                                                        36

Prisons, Profits, and Inequality                                                                                              43

Class Warfare in America                                                                                                     47

 

Section Two

STRONG BLACK WOMEN

 

Violence Against African-American Women                                                                          55

Black Women in Politics                                                                                                       58

The Lynching of Lani Guinier                                                                                                 60

In Defense of Angela Davis                                                                                                   62

Kendra Alexander, Freedom Fighter                                                                                     65

Rethinking the Abortion Debate                                                                                            67

 

Section Three

EDUCATION AND AFRICAN-AMERICAN YOUTH

 

A Message to Black Youth                                                                                                   73

Youth Violence and Gangsta Rap                                                                                          75

Minority Scholarships and Higher Education                                                                          77

Racism On College Campuses                                                                                              79

Equal Access to Higher Education—The Case of Mississippi                                                 82

Jim Crow and the Brown Decision Revisited                                                                         84

Rich Schools versus Poor Schools                                                                                        89

New Directions in Black Public Schools                                                                                90

Diversity and Democracy in Higher Education                                                                       94

Young, Gifted, and Black—The Promise of Black Youth                                                     110

 

Section Four

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK—

CONSERVATISM AND RACISM IN THE 1990s

 

Why Voters Are Angry                                                                                                       117

Playing the Race Card                                                                                                        119

The Politics of Hate                                                                                                            121

Free Trade or Class Warfare                                                                                              127

What Clinton Owed Us—And Why He Didn’t Pay Up                                                       129

Clinton’s Economic Agenda                                                                                                129

Oklahoma and the Specter of Terrorism                                                                              136

The Third Wave of Reaction                                                                                               140

Breaking the Two-Party System                                                                                          143

Bottom-Up Democracy                                                                                                      149

Presidential Politics, Race, and the 1996 Election: Beyond Liberalism                                  151

 

Section Five

RACE AND REVOLUTION—

TRANSNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES

 

Apartheid in Transition                                                                                                        159

Farrakhan’s World Tour—The Issue of Nigeria                                                                  169

Race and Revolution in Cuba                                                                                              171

The New International Racism                                                                                            176

 

Section Six

THE NEW RACISM

 

What is “Race”?                                                                                                                 185

Why the Churches Burn                                                                                                      187

The Etiquette of Racial Prejudice                                                                                         189

Why Integration Has Failed                                                                                                 191

Two Kinds of Blackness                                                                                                     194

The Color of Prejudice                                                                                                       196

The Charm of Race                                                                                                            198

Black Racial Fundamentalism                                                                                              201

An American Dilemma                                                                                                        203

 

Section Seven

BLACK EMPOWERMENT

 

Black Heritage and Resistance                                                                                            209

Remembering Martin                                                                                                          211

Black Liberation—Where Do We Go from Here?                                                               213

The Vision of Harold Washington                                                                                        219

Mike Tyson versus the Morals of Our Movement                                                                221

Justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal                                                                                              224

Racial Stereotypes of Black Culture                                                                                    226

The Politics of Black Awareness                                                                                         228

Wilkins versus Steele—Black Intellectuals in Conflict                                                           230

Should Farrakhan Be Allowed to Speak?                                                                            233

Environmental Justice                                                                                                          239

Wanted—A New Black Power Movement                                                                         244

 

Section Eight

MULTICULTURAL AMERICA

 

Why Conservatives Fear Multiculturalism                                                                            251

Building Latino-Black Unity                                                                                                255

America in Search of Itself                                                                                                  258

The Retreat from Equality                                                                                                   260

Affirmative Action for Whites?                                                                                            262

Full Employment and Affirmative Action                                                                              265

 

Conclusion

THE STRUGGLE FOR

DEMOCRATIC TRANSFORMATION

 

What is Freedom?                                                                                                              271

From Freedom to Equality                                                                                                  273

 

Index                                                                                                                                  275

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Dr. Manning Marable
(May 13, 1950 - April 1, 2011)
Scholar, Activist, Mentor

By Russell Rickford



Prof. Manning Marable, an ebullient teacher and institution-builder who embodied the reciprocal possibilities of scholarship-activism, and a Du Boisian intellectual who sought in the black past lessons for the radical transformation of American democracy, died on April 1, 2011 at the age of  60.

Dr. Marable was a prolific scholar whose labor in the arenas of history, political science and social criticism inspired popular and academic audiences. He was a “race man” in the best sense of the tradition—“our grand radical democratic intellectual,” in the words of philosopher Cornel West. His wellspring of love for black folk nourished a passion for democracy and a vision of Africana studies as a crusade for the material and spiritual liberation of all oppressed people. Marable’s deep knowledge of the African Diaspora made him a force in the field of black history; his courage and progressive politics made him a treasure for “the grassroots.”

For Dr. Marable, “living black history” was more pilgrimage than principle. His journey began on May 13, 1950 in Dayton, Ohio. Born to James and June Morehead Marable, schoolteachers who enforced a regimen of U.S. and world history books, the young bibliophile soon discovered the gift of historical imagination. Acutely conscious of race matters, he was further politicized by the April 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. He was among the first mourners to arrive at the Atlanta church that hosted King’s funeral. (He covered the event for Dayton’s black newspaper.) A high school senior at the time, he perched on the steps of Ebenezer Baptist in the predawn shadows to await the masses.

A precocious student, he completed his bachelor’s in 1971 at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana (while leading the black student union) and went on to earn his master’s (1972) and Ph.D. (1976) in history at, respectively, University of Wisconsin, Madison and University of Maryland, College Park. Between the mid-1970s and early 1990s, Dr. Marable served on the faculty of Tuskegee Institute, University of San Francisco, Cornell University, Fisk University, Colgate University, Purdue University, Ohio State University, and University of Colorado, Boulder.

As a scholar who traversed the disciplines of history, political science and sociology, Dr. Marable grounded his work in the black American experience while exploring the larger African Diaspora, traveling to Kenya, Tanzania, Cuba, South Africa and Brazil. He developed political and academic contacts throughout the black world, seeing the remaking of racialized societies as the primary task of the engaged intellectual. Armed with the theories of Du Bois, C. L. R. James and Antonio Gramsci, he mastered political economy, emphasizing material solutions to social inequality and exposing the interlocking shackles of race and class.

During the first half of his career, Dr. Marable headed the Race Relations Institute at Fisk, the Africana and Latin American Studies Program at Colgate, and the Department of Black Studies at Ohio State. However, it was his directorship of Columbia University’s Institute for Research in African-American Studies, which he founded in 1993, that marked his most significant personal and political transitions.

Facing the sudden acceleration of sarcoidosis, an illness he had battled for years, and increasingly devoted to the socially redemptive power of political ideas, he crafted the Institute in the image of Du Bois’s Atlanta University project. Under Dr. Marable’s stewardship, the Institute married scholarship and social transformation, launching initiatives to bolster the case for African-American reparations, fight the specter of racialized mass imprisonment, and reclaim the radical vectors of Malcolm X’s legacy. Meanwhile, Dr. Marable cultivated two generations of scholars, activists and students, discovering in each individual a unique genius for advancing the cause he lovingly described: empowering the black masses to reclaim their agency and “return to their own history.”

Dr. Marable wrote prodigiously. The legal pads he dispatched in longhand became the masonry of a scholarly edifice that included more than 30 books and edited volumes, as well as hundreds of articles in academic and popular journals. From the Grassroots, Blackwater, How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America, Race, Reform and Rebellion, Beyond Black and White, Let Nobody Turn Us Around  (with Leith Mullings), The Great Wells of Democracy, Living Black History, and now, Malcolm X, anchor the shelves of countless students and circulate endlessly in prison yards, their covers curled and shabby, their wisdom pristine. Committed to class-conscious analysis rendered in straightforward prose, Dr. Marable also  produced and distributed free of charge, a public affairs column—“From the Grassroots” (later “Along the Color Line”)—that for three decades reached a vast readership through the black press, reinvigorating Du Bois’s legacy of political commentary and agitation.

Much of Dr. Marable’s energy was spent building—and not merely interpreting—the movement for racial justice. As he observed, “It is only when we stand against the current, confronting the powerful forces of prejudice and inequality, that the tools of scholarship become meaningful.” Some of his most rewarding experiences came through his involvement with the Institute of the Black World in the 1970s (an association that enabled him to chauffeur—and thus interrogate and debate—the great Pan Africanist historian Walter Rodney). He participated in the National Black Political Assembly, the National Black Independent Political Party and the Democratic Socialists of America in the 1980s and the Committees of Correspondence in the 1990s. His long record of leadership on the left included his role as co-founder of the Black Radical Congress in 1998 and his participation in the 2001 United Nations World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa.

From Jamaica to Cuba to Sing Sing Prison, Dr. Marable lectured. He made frequent media appearances on programs like Democracy Now! He served as founding editor of Souls, a journal of black history, politics and culture. He established Columbia’s Center for Contemporary Black History. He created archives and digital resources for teachers and researchers. He served on the board of the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History. He received many commendations, including the 2005 National Council for Black Studies Ida B. Wells—Cheikh Anta Diop Award for Outstanding Scholarship and Leadership in African-American Studies, as well as two honorary degrees: John Jay College of the City University of New York (2006); and State University of New York, New Paltz (2000).

Dr. Marable was a generous mentor. A Marxist feminist who was also a “Malcolmite”; a black history savant with pop culture tastes (“You can’t handle the truth!” was one of his stock phrases); a dissident social scientist who remained faithful to the political promise of the hip-hop generation, he brandished these identities with passion and grace, convincing his pupils that they, too, could achieve a more perfect whole. Ultimately, that eclecticism reinforced his vision of what social history and critical theory might accomplish: the construction of a liberation movement that shatters social barriers based on color, class and gender.

Dr. Marable is survived by his wife, the anthropologist Leith Mullings; his three children, Malaika Marable Serrano, Sojourner Marable Grimmett, and Joshua Manning Marable; two stepchildren, Alia Tyner and Michael Tyner; a sister, Madonna Marable; his mother, June Morehead Marable; three grandchildren and an extended family in New York, Ohio and Tuskegee.

Donations can be made to The Manning Marable Memorial Social Justice Fund which will provide grants and awards to organizations and individuals that reflect an honor Dr. Marable’s commitment to the struggle for justice. Checks can be made out to The Manning Marable Social Justice Fund and sent to:

The Manning Marable Memorial Social Justice Fund
c/o The Adco Foundation
328 8th Avenue
Suite 404 
New York, NY 10001
Attention: Dana Ain Davis 

Source: IRAS

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Malcolm X

A Life of Reinvention

By Manning Marable

Years in the making-the definitive biography of the legendary black activist.

Of the great figure in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins' bullets at age thirty-nine. Through his tireless work and countless speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world.

Manning Marable's new biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America, from the rise of Marcus Garvey and the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the fifties and sixties.

Reaching into Malcolm's troubled youth, it traces a path from his parents' activism through his own engagement with the Nation of Islam, charting his astronomical rise in the world of Black Nationalism and culminating in the never-before-told true story of his assassination. Malcolm X will stand as the definitive work on one of the most singular forces for social change, capturing with revelatory clarity a man who constantly strove, in the great American tradition, to remake himself anew.

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King of the Mountain

The Nature of Political Leadership

By Arnold M. Ludwig

“People may choose to ignore their animal heritage by interpreting their behavior as divinely inspired, socially purposeful, or even self-serving, all of which they attribute to being human, but they masticate, fornicate, and procreate, much as chimps and apes do, so they should have little cause to get upset if they learn that they act like other primates when they politically agitate, debate, abdicate, placate, and administrate, too."—from the book King of the Mountain presents the startling findings of Arnold M. Ludwig's eighteen-year investigation into why people want to rule. The answer may seem obvious—power, privilege, and perks—but any adequate answer also needs to explain why so many rulers cling to power even when they are miserable, trust nobody, feel besieged, and face almost certain death. Ludwig's results suggest that leaders of nations tend to act remarkably like monkeys and apes in the way they come to power, govern, and rule. Profiling every ruler of a recognized country in the twentieth century—over 1,900 people in all­­, Ludwig establishes how rulers came to power, how they lost power, the dangers they faced, and the odds of their being assassinated, committing suicide, or dying a natural death. Then, concentrating on a smaller sub-set of 377 rulers for whom more extensive personal information was available, he compares six different kinds of leaders, examining their characteristics, their childhoods, and their mental stability or instability to identify the main predictors of later political success. Ludwig's penetrating observations, though presented in a lighthearted and entertaining way, offer important insight into why humans have engaged in war throughout recorded history as well as suggesting how they might live together in peace.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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