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A Reflection on Militant Black Rage
Old tropes never die.
I’m thinking of the Old School in anticipation of an upcoming retrospective on Albert Murray. Murray, Wynton Marsalis and Stanley Crouch were my considered triumvirate of black conservative culture going back almost two decades as I began a journey through the thought and politics of the American Right.
In my writing, I touched upon the man and his meaning to me many times, often just in passing. As much as we get hung up on the significance of our politics, there is something deeper that should be moving us, our literate culture and its attendant proper criticism. All of that has seemed to run off the rails in these days of social media censorship, amplified snark, rueful scolding and populist politics by poll. When I think of Murray, I think of him as a gentle but firm patriarch whose hands guided his two heirs, the musical Marsalis and the cranky Crouch.
Once upon a time in Los Angeles when I was just finding my feet, I walked them into the bookstore of the late lamented Alfred Ligon, a dear friend of the family. I can recall the rantings of the remnants of the Watts Poets and especially that of Quincy Troupe and Donald Bakeer who were in apoplexy over the publication of Monster by Leon Bing. They had very little to say in support of their former colleague Stanley Crouch. I, on the other hand was superbly impressed by Notes of a Hanging Judge. I had never seen anything so bold as this kind of criticism. The blood fued between Crouch and Spike Lee was somewhat legendary in those days. Clearly Spike eats better. Didn’t Crouch punch somebody in the kisser? Poor Stan. According to that character assassination factory & celebrity charnel house Gawker, it was four - count ‘em four smacks. T. Coates, my favorite imaginary villain, also weighs in on ole Stanley’s pugilistics. Well, quite frankly all I ever wanted from Crouch was what he delivered in that book which still stands tall and proud on my shelf, but I also know what kind of pitiless shit-talking he had taken from other gangsters and those who like them. I don’t know if they described themselves as Bastards of the Party, but that’s the biopic they signed off on. So there’s that. All that aside, I think the conservation of classic Old School black culture is worth at least 75 bloody noses, couple dozen broken bones and a torched building or two. Surely Antifa has much more emotional, legal and financial support in this upside down world, but we digress.
Wynton, a man my father cannot stand in the same way the old black nationalist hates Satchmo, has done well for himself as the gentler soul of the duo of sons. I’ve only met him once, backstage at BAM after a performance with Bill T Jones. I do quite often miss New York. On the whole, however, I don’t have so much to say about Wynton that hasn’t already been said. I was an early fan, back in my college days playing Think of One and of course with Herbie Hancock’s Quartet, ‘I Fall In Love Too Easily’ I fell deeper in love. Nothing so sparklingly bold and elegant as Marsalis’ trumpet in that song is matched in my little noggin.
Yet while the poetic cadences of Cornel West and bell hooks’ bread breaking were still baking romances in my older mind, I still remained faithful to those conservative strains. Even while enjoying the relative dangers of my post-soul boho life in Brooklyn digging jeep beats and postmodern performance poetry, there still remained the pull in what others considered the opposite direction of the economics and politics of Thomas Sowell. Even as I marched most of the way to Tompkins Square Park on the Friday afternoon when Los Angeles was burning, Albert Murray’s words were what I told reporters. “The fire next time will be put out by next Wednesday”.
It is with that sentiment in mind that I have considered all of the black rage unleashed over the past few decades. As much as I was only a school kid when Detroit burned, even as my own family with international connections considered expatriation, I know the USMC certified marksman in my own father’s experience was not about to burn baby anything. I was certainly taking some cues from Crouch when I got verbally pugilistic in my early black conservative Republican days.
But let's not forget the power of the militant mindset. Understand that a significant number of African Americans are under the influence of a pseudo-democratic confusion masquerading as radical politics. The problem is that it is not effectively organized and people have to keep going back to the books. It's always the ghost of Malcolm X who is more effective than the real person standing in front of the black crowd. It's always the idea of James Baldwin's Fire Next Time that's more compelling than the actual plan under consideration. There isn't a politics that has any consistent success in delivering requisite patronage to blacks who would be militants. Legitimate black lefties always have to look over their shoulders because one of their followers might be a real knucklehead or gangbanger who thinks that there is some role for them as a violent henchman. There's always a crowd of rowdies looking for an excuse to do damage haunting black Democrats. This is why politicians like Maxine Waters are put on the spot when the street gets hectic. They're not really her people, but they claim her nonetheless, and naturally since she's a politician, she figures out a way to give them rhetorical satisfaction while not actually doing a damned thing that could ever be close to indictable. This is the state of black militancy today.
Anybody with a lick of common sense knows that there's no future in this frontin'. There is no way to win through militant conflict, and there's really no black leaders capable of mounting a rebellion. Well, there are, but they're the good guys in the US Armed Forces, and there is no racial politics compelling enough for them to bolt.
Few seem to have the knuckles to say so these days who doesn’t appear to be aiming to court populist politics. I caught a bit of a shouting match a couple weeks ago on Fox TV with Cornel West and some other black dude in a suit. Cornel feigns at not being political although with him it’s often hard to tell; he’s a slippery minx. For me it’s hermeneutical, as it always was. I’ve always been trying to bring us a higher culture, if not higher love. It’s why, speaking of hiphop, I used to love her, now I don’t, Miranda’s Hamilton notwithstanding. I know I know. That’s for another library of thought, another day.
What I’m trying to say now is that because people such as myself and Albert Murray and our diasporic intellectual brotherhood abide in the margins of the common sense, decency, reason and restraint that y’all forget, such panicked questions remain unanswered. What do these [black] people in the streets want next? They want the same thing they’ve always wanted. They want to flip it and reverse it, it being 647.3 years of the legacy of International White Supremacy and the conspiracy of destruction of the African race. I suppose I would put slavery, rape and miseducation in there if I could make that into a coherent sentence, but as Ronald Reagan would say, “I leave that to others”. You all know the drill. The only things that change are the addresses of the Mau Mau vanguard and the Progressive enablers. I do recall that it was said the Marxists were a bit more honest in the 60s and 70s. Where I go in the interwebz, ‘socialism’ is not whispered but ‘revolution’ is. We don’t even wince at the idea that the guys who made “Fuck da Police” anthemic won a buttload of awards for their biopic.
I’m not paranoid, but I do often have trouble understanding what level of preparedness I actually require. It’s one thing to boldly say that Civil Rights are a done deal and that 100% of the black applicants to NRA membership are accepted. Yet we do face the nasty truth that my 2nd Amendment rights are all too often denied in principle in what passes for liberal politics these days, while for many practical purposes the 4th and 5th are in abeyance as well. Isn’t there anyone left who can even be satisfied with the interpretation of original intent we had a mere 30 years ago? How is it that the postmodern intersectional Progressives understand sustainability in every dimension but their own unchecked desire for growth and cancel power? Moreover how can I say so without being accused of having my own equally mendacious political agenda? Well I suppose that would be easy if I could talk about society and culture and criticism outside of the partisan media’s grip. It is what I hope for and expect of this place and every other online place I’ve written for what that’s worth. Clearly in the shadow of the communications oligarchs, we have our own problems.
I think that like poor disillusioned Yukio Mishima I struggle for the unity of pen and sword. I am not sure that it won’t come to that. Maybe not this year or next. It depends upon how many of us survive the plague. But we all know how excitable we have gotten when we must overthink the motives of anyone who declares the absolute necessity of law, order and equal protection under it. Just the other day Bret Weinstein was trying to instruct his podcast audience how to, oh so gently find a quiet way to participate in diversity retraining without raising too much of a ruckus. Look ma, free speech requires subterfuge.
The Black Experience has its requisite share of politicized militant rage. Not to put such a fine point on it, but it was long hot summers of rage that ultimately led to the redistricting of the American political maps. That’s power. Perhaps we are seeing in White Fragility the corresponding puzzle piece to the protrusions of Eldridge Cleaver’s philosophy. We all insisted on that unitary interpretation of The Black Experience, we in The Black Community that never really was. Its rational dysfunctions have come full circle, a revolving door of racial rationalizations that makes us too dizzy to think straight or walk straight. I think it’s about time that the other side of black thought about culture, a non-ideological reasoning with the highest literary and truth telling standards is brought to bear on this chaos. Albert Murray said that literature was his religion. It’s a discipline we all need.