Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Multiple Black (Male) Ideologies

Many (male) African-American leaders have risen throughout the years with their own "school of thought" on how to best improve the life of the “negro.” Each had their own particular viewpoint and/or drew upon the ideologies of each other. They managed to gain large followings in their own rights (which, if you ask me, show how desperate the black community was/is for “guidance”). The most prominent of these men were Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. It is not possible to talk about all of these great men unless I plan on writing an entire book; instead, I will focus on several of these leaders whose ideologies I find quite interesting (but may not actually agree with): Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, and Malcolm X.

Booker T. Washington (1856 – 1915). Washington was born in Virginia to an enslaved mother and an unidentified white father (a plantation owner perhaps?). He received public attention after he spoke at the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta. Washington’s speech, known as the Atlanta Address of 1895 or Atlanta Compromise, was inherently a public agreement that blacks would submit to white supremacy in exchange for basic education. If I were a white racist during that time I would love that agreement as well. Give the niggers a little money to get a bit of education (vocational only, of course) and they agree not to disturb the status quo by fighting for their equal rights? Score!

It is no wonder that Washington gained such prominence after this speech; he was pushing the white agenda. Washington was one of those people who feared ruffling feathers to avoid conflict, which was understandable (he had been given power). The same could be said for black intellectuals and leaders today. Once they have gained a certain amount of popularity with powerful, white, male intellectuals and political leaders they are likely to bend to the whim of those whites to maintain their newly acquired status. No names will be mentioned.

Marcus Garvey (1887 – 1940). Jamaican-born Garvey held a completely different stance than Washington. He advocated for the establishment of a country and government for and by those of the African diaspora. Not only did he advocate separatism, but he proposed that people of African ancestry move back to Africa (W.E.B. Du Bois did not like this idea at all). Black folks back to the Mother Land? Hells yeah! But wait...would everyone be forced to go or would they have a choice? What about people who are biracial? What about the “Latinos” whose bloodline is a mixture of indigenous peoples, Africans, and Europeans? And in which country would we settle? Would it be just one country or multiple? I am all for Garveyism, but we cannot ourselves to be blinded by the utopic idea of blacks living in their ancestral homeland. (And Garvery was really pushing it by giving kudos to people like the Ku Klux Klan for their honest and open hatred of blacks)

We have to consider whether or not millions of African-Americans will be welcomed on the continent of Africa. We have to consider if African-Americans are going to collaborate with Africans or bring with them an air of superiority. We have to consider how blacks from different cultural backgrounds are going to get along. An African-American, a black European, a black person from the Caribbean, and a black Brazilian are completely different people. What if the permanent presence of African-Americans and other blacks in Africa spurs the creation of militant political parties bent on cleansing their country of the "black foreigners"? That is a scary thought, but it is a possibility as it is already taking place in Africa. Taking a bunch of black people and dumping them in Africa does not automatically solve the problems that plague our communities. Rather, it seems like it would create new ones. There is also the matter of getting passed the military. You think blacks are just going to be allowed to walk out of America? Ha! There goes the undercrust of the labor force. That is why they had to deport Garvey as quickly as they could. He was putting too many ideas in the minds of blacks.

Malcolm X (1925 – 1965). Malcolm X and his parents were supporters of Garvey. During his short lifetime, Malcom B managed to influence many as well as posthumously. Influenced by Garveyism during childhood and the teachings of the Nation of Islam as a young man, Malcolm X advocated separation of the black community from the oppressive and racist white community. It also appears that he thought blacks should re-acquaint themselves with Africa and others of African origin across the globe, but it does not appear as if he proposed the same back-to-Africa idea as Garvey. (Read Program of the Organization of Afro-American Unity).

Malcolm X’s philosophy was quite different from another well-known leader of that time, Martin L. King, who was fighting for racial equality. For Malcolm, by attempting to gain equality within an unjust system, no one would ever change the system (the same can be said for feminism). The system was what bred inequality in the first place because it was racist. The Civil Rights Movement was like the black community begging for their equal share of the American pie. No one was actually proposing to eradicate racism, which was the real problem. The only solution was for the black community to separate themselves from the system and establish their own economic, educational, and political (etc.) systems.

There are very few black thinkers today who have risen to the same ranks as in the past. The male thinkers who do exist reiterate the ideologies of the past and women are not taken seriously. Then again, it is pathetic that the black community would move into action only when a charismatic male is leading them.

(I foresee a post about ideologies from some fierce, black women in my future.)


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