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Date: Sun, 10 Jan 1999 12:19:38 -0600 (CST)
From: Michael Eisenscher <meisenscher@igc.org>
Article: 51672y To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.17665.19990111181548@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

The second rise of Black conservatism

By Mumia Abu-Jamal, 19 December 1998

The colonialist regime bourgeoisie is helped in its work of calming down the natives by the inevitable religion. All the saints who have turned the other cheek, who have forgiven trespasses against them, and who have been spat on and insulted without shrinking are studied and held up as examples.
Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth (1966)

Throughout the nation one cannot ignore the repeated projection of so-called 'Black Conservatives' (as if Black folks here have a damn thing to conserve besides their oppression) as the leaders of distinction, and proper 'role models' for the great masses of people in the African-American community to follow.

One hears voices now that are indistinguishable from those of the ruling elite, and as such, they become echoes of the expressions of the white elite, in black-face. They thereby join the incessant drumbeat against the Black community, dark echoes of every supposed pathology that is said to be the exclusive fault of those who reside within Black ghettoes. In their perspective, the poor are responsible for their poverty, and their poorness is a kind of defect of character, or worse, a kind of sin.

The very notion that space, or more to the point, the uses of space, are determined by the system's laws, seems lost to them, and anathema. But it was law, the legal expressions of state power, that built the walls around ghettoes, and constructed the psychic walls of mental ghettoes of Race that surrounds us all. Legal scholar I. F. Haney-Lopez writes:

Law, then, constructs racial differences on several levels through the promulgation and enforcement of rules that determine permissable behavior. The naturalization laws governed who was and was not welcome to join the polity, antimiscegenation laws regulated sexual relations, and segregation laws that told people where they could and could not live and work. Together, such laws altered the physical appearances of this country's people, attached racial identities to certain types and features and ancestry, and established material conditions of belonging and exclusion that code as race.
-Prof. I. F. Haney-Lopez, White By Law...(1996)

Through a program of blaming the victim, such conservatives blame the people for their lack of power and influence. At the end of the U.S. Civil War, after Reconstruction was savagely reduced to the silenced rubble of history, Afro-America saw a rise in the spirit of conservatism, a reflection, by Black businessmen, of the chilling and repressive climate that greeted so-called 'freedmen', and they adapted to it, be going along with it. Historian Eric Foner, in his remarkable Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution: 1863-1877 (New York: Harper, 1938), writes:

Conservative ideas found their greatest support among the emerging class of black businessmen -the same group that would later supply the principal base for [Booker T.] Washington's ideology. Robert Gleed, a black merchant reportedly worth $l5,000 in the early 1870s, served on the central committee of Mississippi's 1871 Planter's Convention. Other black landowners and entrepreneurs echoed the shibboleth that government should be "carried on by the men of refinement", and, especially with the advent of the depression, shared Democratic resentments about high taxes and state expenditures. After establishing a land and brokerage business in 1871, Martin R. Delany lectured blacks repeatedly on the harmony of interests between capital and labor and spoke out against carpetbaggers -representatives of "the lowest grade of northern society." Delany's increasingly conservative outlook blended personal economic interests, disappointed political ambition, and pessimissism about the future. Utopian hopes for a permanent change in Southern life, he counseled should be abandoned; prosperity would eventually rule in South Carolina as it did elsewhere, and blacks should strike a deal with leading whites while they still retained significant bargaining power. [p. 546-7]

"Conservatives, bred by the doctrine of their own oppression, become mouthpieces and echoes of those that wish for the very worst of their kindred. It was, and is, a doctrine borne of loss, not of hope; it comes from hopelessness, not progression; and it serves the interests of the wealthy and well-to-do, not those in need.

Once again, history shines light on the now.


Column Written 12/19/98
© 1998 Mumia Abu-Jamal
All Rights Reserved

Dr. Crow