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Notions of Nationhood
Blacks & Gazans Building a Home.
My father asked me the other day what I thought about nationhood. Even in his current fog there must certainly be deep stirrings surrounding the term. He was an original American Black Nationalist, having founded the small Institute for Black Studies in late 1966. It can’t be mere coincidence that the subject has piqued him and must certainly be related to a similar notion attending the fate of Gazans facing the wrath of Israel’s might and the supplication of internationalists and libertarians of every stripe. It’s a pregnant moment.
The first thing that popped into my noggin was the matter of the desire and ability to form a government, something my father’s organization and many of its unofficial siblings had no intention or capability to fulfill. These small businesses, poetry workshops, church gatherings and newly hatched fashions talked a lot about freedom and power, but realized only some of the former. There was a new captivating style and expression in the blackness they created. It was the extension of the aesthetic of soul, and most definitely elicited a hefty measure of pride. But the raised fist, as emblematic as it was, never became the banner of an actual political party. With all due respect to the Mississippi New Freedom Democrats, SNCC, SCLC, Urban League and NAACP, nothing approaching a national poll arose let alone a national party.
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All through my youth through young adulthood, I found myself shamefaced watching ‘a man from the community’ speaking into some young white woman’s microphone incoherently, some stock footage of a gospel choir, or line of protestors singing in unison. All of these acts represented The Struggle. Similarly my own personal experience in black organizations always reminded me of the gaps between the indifferent, the zealots and the confused in-betweeners who were never quite sure how Black they were and what they were supposed to do.
The statistics and the rhetoric of most of these black nationalists have always been settled in the same vector of inferiority to Whitey. “Controlling for education” was always the preface to statistics of near-equality. But the morality of the aims, hopes and wishes were never about statistics, it was always about finding a home somewhere in America. Immediately as I write this, I think of the opening credits for Spike Lee’s film School Daze. Check it out.
If I were to reduce the hopes and dreams of millions of Americans over generations on this question of power in such a brief essay, you could certainly fault me for my thin conclusions. But there is a massive difference between the power of self-determination and the power of defiance. I suggest that this difference is close to the heart of whatever we seek to call the root of the identity problem in America, and black Americans symbolically dominate that paradigm. Defiance is what blackness personifies. Defiance must always have an object, and the more implacable the object, the more resonant the defiance. Self-determination, meaning the aim and capacity to fulfill may result in defiance, but there is no vector of inferiority. Therefore no jealousy, no hatred, no need for revenge. Someone on their own path to success does not call their prior self ‘inferior’. Defiance is not governance and without governance there is no real power to be had, there is only the grace and patience of those defied. They may hold their power in abeyance, but they won’t relinquish it. “Fight the power!”, they said. That’s what they will always say. Just saying.
So consider the difference between “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” and “The only thing power respects is power.” Now consider the stance of identity politics and of black power politics. When did black power politics demand “Defund the Police”? What has been the concession? The concession required ‘allyship’ and there is no self-determination in such an arrangement. Certainly nothing towards nationhood. The difference is stark. All real black power in America comes from assimilation, from assuming the existing roles of power in the US in service to liberty and justice for all. That is why black nationalism failed.
Black Nationalism could not achieve self-determination for a black nation. It could only generate defiant cultural pride, not governing power.
The implications of the precedent set by black nationalism from a cultural perspective is most of the blueprint for the contemporary culture of complaint and what is called the ‘grievance industry’. The recognition of the necessity for integration is what mutated the black nationalism movement towards black cultural nationalism. The ability for the cultural symbols of defiant black power to become acceptable in the mainstream is the real story. As much as these symbols hold sway, they don’t and they can’t deliver power - not even the power of governance. If Chuck D were the real deal, then his S1W would actually provide security for black lives. It has become self-evident that there is no significant independent black governance, not even black cultural unity, much less a functional black nation. Where is the power in the pride parade? There remains only one nation, but perhaps not so indivisible as we imagined.
The second aspect of nationhood I thought about was the notion of a singular tribe of people who, aside from God, hold no fidelity to anyone outside of themselves and those with which they enter formal treaties. Much of black nationalism accomplished this identity in various ways. It is somewhat remarkable that by taking the same arrogant racial One Drop Rule applied by the Jim Crow South, that the Coloreds, Mullatoes and Negroes were to assimilate themselves, more or less without exception into blackness. The tales of woe and physical segregation away from Whitey were sufficient to compel the overwhelming majority of African Americans to embrace the new black identity. After all, back in the 60s Detroit south of Eight Mile was black. The lines were real.
There are two ways to view this and I prefer the charitable one, which is simply this. Analogous to the disposition of Christians under Roman rule, blacks in America needn’t bother with worldly concerns and thus render unto Ceasar. So long as one is a proper Christian, one needn’t build a new government, a new law, a new judicial system a new police force or army or any such agencies. One merely keeps the Sabbath holy and maintain a strict diet of traditions in one’s designated areas. Stay black, my brother. Hold your head up high, my sister. There is no lack of dignity and respect among such faithful, and no real need to ask for it from any other quarter of society. You can live in America and have a black mind. You can express your black culture. You can keep your black traditions. You may do anything, go anywhere so long as you don’t break the laws of the actual nation. Is it any surprise that the Black Church has survived more or less intact?
In my early 30s, I created one of the first black owned and operated websites, known as The Cool Zone. It remains, largely unchanged since day one. One of its many elements was originally called Dead Nigger Storage after the Tarantino film clip. Actual Stormfront folks loved it so much I decided to change the name to Black Hell. It’s easy to be popular for the wrong reasons, which has always been a problem of any ethnic minority with different cultural priorities than those of the powerful elites of this nation. Your demonstrable ability to represent yourself accurately is weaker than those elites’ ability to stereotype and propagandize your very existence. Of course this continues to be the case. Hell, we can’t even identify what a woman is. Orwellian as hell. Anyway, The Cool Zone still represents, despite its lowercase tongue in cheek Boohabian flavor, a predominant flavor of that black mind. It was purposeful and I think fairly consistent. Well, as consistent as somebody at peace with a certain concentration of postmodernism can be.
The point was that from the standpoint of black cultural production, which was my aim until I killed the Boohab, my own writing into cyberspace was a black cultural project. You can get the gist of it from none other than my quote of James Baldwin here.
“Passion is not friendly. It is arrogant, superbly contemptuous of all that is not itself, and, as the very definition of passion implies the impulse to freedom, it has a mighty intimidating power. It contains an unspeakable hope." -- James Baldwin
That intimidating power, manifest in many forms of blackified defiance, is exactly what I’m talking about. It may very well have defined what were considered the permanent aims of a people, but that monolith has eroded significantly since the 80s and 90s, for better or worse depending on your take on ‘the people’.
The less charitable take is that black identity has devolved into a menacing cool pose that is simply oppositional for the sake of being oppositional. It is invested in keeping alive racial myths one of which is a separate dignity and destiny for the black people of the world, or ‘people of color’ if you will. The problem is that this flies only in the WEIRD world, and most ‘people of color’ don’t give two shits if they’re not living and/or working in Woke America. Strategically, this identity is what is required for the ideological subversion of American democracy, and ‘be’ is more important than ‘do’. Such a position can only be powerful in America, sez me, if it captures ‘The Black Experience’. So there are great incentives to do the work of a massive historical revisionist process. Fine if you accept specific intellectual theories about power lying in words and you use phrases like ‘silence is violence’.
I feel sorry for people on that side of our many fences. Tireless AI language bots will destroy them. If you think Twitter is bad now, wait until Elon puts a colony on the Moon and sells it to MSNBC. And then we are back to Baldwin’s unspeakable hope.
It bears repeating that I much prefer Christians to postmodernists. At least Christians respect the fixedness of the Nicene Creed and the language of the KJV, which has homeschooled many great Americans. There’s a reason which Christianity persists and today’s identitarian progressivism is already bucking under the pressure of intersectional → individual reality. But that’s another essay for another day.
Law, Liberty, Love and Land
As an OG Black Nationalist, my father’s favorite slogan was those five words. But his debut with the Watts Poets was a stern reminder that one cannot live on the leading edge of ideological rhetoric. One day perhaps I will publish his poem in full for subscribers, but here is an excerpt.
BUT Y'ALL FORGIT Throwing away history like empty scotch bottles or cigarette butts or the fates of tiny black tots lookin' for a way through life. And they are told, "Make in your own, chump, I did." And so they do. Hep, in step, and faster - they run to the grave whereas we walk casually and with a foolish smile Telling ourselves we are strong and black and beautiful and that we have Consciousness and Awareness and all that other stuff we never had 'cause we never paid attention to who was supposed to get what and what who was supposed to do with the findings once the discovery was made that Christ is Self.
So founding a new nation dedicated to any propositions is difficult. It almost never happens. The enemies of new laws, new liberties, new love and new land are legion. If you ask me it takes blood and suffering and generational imperatives and massive amounts of commitment of lives, fortunes and sacred honor. I am long past missing the prospects for a black nation in America - even for a virtual one. The arcane knowledge passed down from our parents and the Talented Tenth zealots who have pledged their sacred honor to Angela Davis and to the black bodies of defiance from Nat Turner to Fred Hampton to Michael Brown - this has failed to generate anything beyond a coalition of subversion. A nation needs to live in the light and its aims need to be transparent because cabals fall apart. Rulers need to employ Geniuses so that the Peasants may prosper doing what they already do. Ideological revolutions are short-lived. Puppet regimes die.
I know there are still people who love to parrot slogans for Jesse Jackson. He’s still alive, and so many will strive to Keep Hope Alive. But hope is not something exclusive to any political movement, and the defense of liberty is a job to be inherited through generations. Love must remain for self and for others as self, and Christ is a fairly damned good example. The land remains, despite everyone’s desire for NYC real estate. I know. I just came back from the 17th largest state with over 77,000 square miles of land for fewer than 1 million people.
Gazans & Blacks
So the implications stand for Americans who seek to make early statements in demonstrating that they have always been right on the issues. The problem of course is that Stoics don’t care who is right, we care what is right. We know it’s possible for nobody to be right. It’s better to be helpful than to be right. It is not something that needs immediate determination.
If you can only think of yourself as a slave, then the only recourse you have to freedom is bloody rebellion. Easy for the childless man. Easy for the zealot. Not so easy for the rest of us. But if you would lead a nation, the requirements, the challenges and the stakes are orders of magnitude greater. At some point your cadre of leaders must recognize, if they are to be successful, that rebellion and defiance are the tools of slaves and prisoners, not the strengths of free men who would preserve freedom, defend liberty under the law and provide justice for all.
The people who are defined by their identity, by their previous condition of servitude are constrained by those definitions to seek revenge. They don’t seek self-determination, they seek power by any means necessary. To seek nationhood is an awesome task. It is not an escape, it is a great burden of responsibility… I cannot help at this moment that I sound like Spiderman’s uncle so it’s time to stop.
One builds a home with care. One takes care of one’s home. One repairs a broken home. Respect for that building skill is shared with one’s neighbors, because the proper citizen desires self-determination, law, liberty, love and land for all mankind, not just for his power-seeking defiant culture.
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