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We have gone beyond the rational and the reasonable and the sensible. Guilt is no longer

a persuasive tool available to liberals and progressives. Our enemies have a free hand.



Staying Alive for the New Struggle

An Editorial by Rudolph Lewis



To speak of racism is to be portrayed as a racist. . . .

The battles with racism are about staying alive in our souls. — Anonymous


Hot, arid winds of race hatred are blowing toward those who desire a more just multi-political America.  I received an email recently labeling the work I do at ChickenBones: A Journal racist. My suspicions lean toward one of those fair-haired persons who benefit most from racism. But fears of political repression are all over the map. A retiring college administrator with a Ph.D. (a long-time acquaintance) charged me with being an anti-Semite because I did not act favorably to the anti-Barry Bonds comments made by one of his Jewish friends.  A Florida Republican state senator soliciting sex in a public toilet blamed his homosexual urges on the fear of black men.

These are indeed extraordinary times. With the success of the Right Wing in all three branches of government, whites in power generally feel they have a free hand to do and say almost anything they please and so they are on the warpath to eliminate all opposition and all criticism. They have won the war and their object now is to set up a new regime to hold onto their gains. Either one falls in line, or falls by the way side. There is in the present political climate, I'm afraid, little tolerance for in between. They got all the tanks, gun ships, and missiles, and little reluctance to use them on civilians.

We have been in retreat from Martin’s Dream for the last several decades. "Staying alive in our souls" is now our fall back line. That was the primary project of America’s slave ancestors. It was the mind frame that produced the Spirituals, in which the enslaved American Negro poured “his most poignant yearnings,” and a great variety of slave folklore, animal tales, etc. In some sense it was not a literature of argument and not a literature of what Richard Wright called "hate and bitterness," begging for relief. It was a coded discourse to sustain despairing souls through burning hot sun-filled summer fields and cold bitter wind-blowing winter nights, a cohesive preparation for the right moment of advantage. But we must do this and more.

The new relevant literature in this new political era must be as Arthur Huff Fauset described Negro folklore, one of "moralism, sober and almost grim, shrewd and frequently subtle" (See The New Negro). He felt that this was the essence of the "African originals." That is, they were derived from tribal societies in which individual expression was extremely monitored and censored. That era is upon us. The Republicans and the Democrats close ranks in passing reactionary “security” legislation. They have done millions wrong and now they arm themselves to squash any organizing against their political repression.

We have gone beyond the rational and the reasonable and the sensible. Guilt is no longer a persuasive tool available to liberals and progressives. Our enemies have a free hand. There's no longer a USSR, foreign opposition to the U.S. bullies. These new power elites have an answer (excuse) for every misdeed. As Albert Murray pointed out in his Omni-Americans (1970), "putting the bad mouth" on such madmen from a soapbox is no longer an effective strategy, for "all political establishments” always have “built-in devices to counteract the guilt and bad conscience."

In public, as we have seen with recent government apologia for slavery and other memorials, there is "crestfallen acknowledgement and little else," they compensate for their "crimes by feeling genuinely sorry for the victim." They are quite willing to allow us to "blow off hot air," to indulge in militant ranting, to toss around talk of “reparations,” for a moment. But watch them: they "settle back into routine." Those complainants become marked targets, like Aristide of Haiti; agents are sent out to chop off feet, or refresh the work force (or their agents) with new forced recruits.

The clock has not so much been turned back, as much as the game has become more sophisticated, like the psychologically trained torturers The lynch law is no longer needed. The stupid Bull Connors and George Wallaces have passed the baton to a new high tech, think tank generation of white supremacists. Rope and burning faggots have given way to computerized electrodes and waterboarding and threats against life and family and job and health security. We were self-deluded into retirement, believing true progress had been achieved when only the field of play had changed. Civil rights legislation and government agencies to execute the new laws indeed allowed certain freedoms and certain advantages. But all that was temporarily enforced. Republicans convinced white Americans that they didn’t really have to become less white or change their hearts.

These right wing fanatics promised to disarm and denude those forceful mechanisms and install a different set of government bureaucrats, like a Clarence Thomas or those USDA officials lobbying Congress NOT to pass black farm legislation. They fulfilled their promises and then some. Charges of racism and racial discrimination do not have a snow ball's chance in hell of going anywhere these days and those who brought that into force, like Stokely Carmichael, Thurgood Marshall, Oliver Hill and Fannie Lou Hamer, are dying off like flies. Such talented and devoted men and women are rare. It takes generations to produce martyrs.

In short, the movement for integration is dead. Liberalism is in its coffin; the lid sealed; the dirt has been tossed in. And what masquerades as liberalism breathes through tubes. Only the Condies and the Colins are acceptable. That is as far as diversity will be allowed in this new era. Different colors but not different politics. If you can't get with the program, you'll have to find some other game to play. In some sense this is where Du Bois  was in the 30s when he lost faith in the efficacy of "integration," advocating instead a retreat from outworn politics and a renewal of reliance from below, depending on our own resources.

Those black professionals who do not want to become right-wing conservatives will be tossed out of their institutions. They will be forced to embrace their brothers and cousins left behind in order to make a life. That is, we must again discover positive virtues in forced segregation and de facto segregated non-mainstream institutions. But we have a racial liberalism and a diverse population (Latin and Asian Americans and others) that never existed before, advantages that Du Bois never imagined for democratic struggle.

The traditional black institutions (colleges, civil rights organizations, churches, etc.), however, are no safe haven, for their administrators, like Julian Bond, are now among the worst right wing collaborators, though they were once militant social activists. MLK knew such religious men like T.D. Jakes, who develop in every generation and promise heaven above and financial rewards below. Today their collection plates are filled with corporate and government dollars to the tune of $17 billion a year. Attempts by liberals and radicals to seize those institutions usually fail, though I do not discourage an effort. In any struggle there are lessons learned. But new institutions and new mechanisms that mirror the current needed struggles against mainstream party disenfranchisements will have to be created, as well as a new rhetoric. 

As you know, there are those who are creating institutions to escape the necessary and inevitable struggles ahead of us on U.S. turf. That is, there's another "Back to Africa" movement and the old race rhetoric, a la Garvey and the Southern abolitionist societies, as well, is afoot. I am not so much against it, only those politics are for the few and the exceptional and we have some recollections of the behavior of former American slaves and their Liberian rule over the “natives.” They were unable to outrun their American souls and, at times, malaria.

Anyhow, the struggle must go on here and we must see it as a protracted struggle just as the white supremacy right wing saw theirs as a protracted struggle. It took them 30 years and now they're back in the driver's seat. We must look too at our struggle as a long range one, in need of new tactics and new strategies, operating across the old racial lines.

I doubt any of my generation will be here to see the fruits of this new struggle. But we indeed must commit ourselves to do whatever is in our power now to assist the new young leaders who must come to the fore to carry the blood-stained banner. We need to make our minds up quickly and help them to lay out the parameters for that struggle.

These new organizations and institutions must mirror the kind of America we truly desire. Such concepts as Amin Sharif's "The Fourth World" need more consideration. We must guard against “minorities” being goaded into the round royal rings to slug it out blindfolded, while the money bags sit on the sidelines, amused. We need Sharif’s fresh thinking and we need more of it. For the new struggle will not be merely a national (or racial) one, but an international one.

The new struggles will occur more intensely in both Europe and the United States, the control centers for the new global oppressive forces. In both regions the issues and the struggles will be exceedingly similar. Vast numbers of "colored" people will be moving globally north, not south, as we see with displaced Sudanese migrating to Israel and Sweden. Cheap voluntary labor is what now drives the Euro-American engines. And cheap labor, especially if it is colored, seldom receives respect.

That strategy depends on destabilizing governments and societies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. We must collaborate with those at home and abroad for birthing leaders responsive to the needs of the broad masses. Mules are carrying laptops and mobile phones into the isolated Andes and devoted men are carrying them into the Ituri forest and the sandy deserts to fight against corrupt and comfortable leaders. Those of us at the heart of Western corruption and repression must teach ourselves to be less comfortable and commit our resources to the coming and inevitable democratic struggles.

posted 15 August 2007

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Go, Tell Michelle

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#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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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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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 24 February 2012




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