Dear #BlackLivesMatter: We Don’t Need Black Leadership

by R.L. Stephens II on August 10, 2015

Black Lives Matter, a loose network of activists around the country, is currently facing backlash for storming the stage at Bernie Sanders’ events. Black people have a long and powerful history of taking over white political spaces in an effort to advance our interests. But how do these contemporary activists compare to Black insurgency of the past? Moreover, as some of these activists—rallying under the Black Lives Matter banner—demand that Black leadership be centered in the majority-white electoral political machine, what has been the historical role of Black leadership in racial hierarchy?

The wave of Black activists currently demanding the elevation of and submission to Black leadership has given me tremendous pause. Last month, Tia Oso led an insurgent crowd to disrupt Bernie Sanders’ appearance at the Netroots Nation conference in Arizona. Time will tell what the protest’s ultimate outcome will be, but I want to draw your attention to something Oso said in defense of her actions. In an article for mic.com, Tia wrote that through the protest, “Black organizers claimed our rightful place at the front of the progressive movement.” She continued, “Black leadership must be foregrounded and central to progressive strategies if we are to achieve a multi-racial democracy with social and economic justice for all people.”

At multiple turns, the fact that queer Black women started the Black Lives Matter hashtag has been a major point of emphasis. However, making certain Black people, even if they’re queer and/or women, the face of a new Black leadership class will not save Black people. The problem with the Black leadership class of old isn’t that it was male, it’s that it was elite and used to control the masses. The same dynamics are in play today; just look at who was left behind following the Ferguson unrest. As Sarah Kendzior comments, “The average Ferguson protester is often struggling to get by… a lot of those people who were living in poverty on August 9th are still living in poverty; some more so, because they gave up hourly wages and other things to become part of the protest movement.”

The latest effort to storm Bernie Sanders’ appearances is only making the problem more obvious. The two women that interrupted Sanders last weekend seemingly did so unilaterally. You can’t build real mass political power that way, but building effective power is not their point. Make no mistake, this Bernie Sanders hoopla is ultimately about campaign jobs and foundation funding, not emancipation for the masses. These interruptions will create career opportunities for a few activists and political operatives—the Black leadership desired by Tia and others—but, as with Ferguson, the masses of Black people will be unaffected.

You might call this trickle down racial justice, and it’s deeply cynical. Each time a Black person dies at the hands of the police, for many opportunists, it’s just another news cycle to dominate, one more chance to get some cable TV airtime and web clicks.  What’s worse, the people who suffer most are the people on the ground, the Black poor, who have been used as cannon fodder for the cultural and political ascendency of a privileged few. Sarah Kendzior, writing in Politico, captures this dynamic in Ferguson.

In addition to questioning the profit motives of organizations, protesters complain of a “star system” that resulted in a large amount of resources being given to a small number of people. A dozen or so Ferguson protesters, such as Johnetta Elzie, now of Amnesty International in Chicago, and Deray McKesson, of Teach for America in Minneapolis, have tens of thousands of Twitter followers, but most protesters toil in relative anonymity. On the ground in St. Louis, protesters come and go, stymied by daily pressures—who will watch the kids while they protest, how to compensate for lost hourly wages, how to earn a living so they can afford to be in the die-in.

Marginalized people’s complicity in oppressive systems is a difficult reality to accept, but accept it we must. Historians Elizabeth and Eugene Genovese argue that this complicity is a tragic inevitability for subjugated peoples “because they are led to it by worthy motives within a complex social system that successfully directs their anger and resistance into safe channels.”

Black Leadership as a Colonizing Force

The idea that Black leadership is somehow inherently progressive and therefore “must be foregrounded” just doesn’t hold water when we look to history. The African colonial experience clearly demonstrates the fallacy of this argument. Under colonialism, Black leadership was foregrounded by the white colonizing class. This strategy is called indirect rule.

The British empire employed indirect rule as it governed many of its colonies in Africa and Asia. According to Adnan Naseemullah and Paul Staniland, indirect rule is a “ form of colonial control in which colonizers delegated day-to-day governance to local power-holders” who were “often those holding ‘traditional’ or ‘customary’ authority.” This “traditional or customary authority” was, according to Rohland Schuknecht’s British Colonial Development Policy After the Second World War, often exaggerated. A Black leadership class was so beneficial to white colonial governance that where it did not exist previously, the colonizers invented one.

For example, white colonial elites in Sukumaland (Tanzania) strengthened “the status of the chiefs who were at the heart of the new Native Administration setup at the expense of other institutions.” These “other institutions” were the indigenous communal and egalitarian organizing structures that pre-dated colonialism and to which the chiefs had been subservient. Black leadership was foregrounded under indirect rule, and it operated in direct opposition to participatory politics.

Black Leadership vs. Fannie Lou Hamer

The conservative function of the Black leadership class has been a long-standing element of racial hierarchy in the United States as well. Black leaders’ response to Fannie Lou Hamer’s famous interjection at the 1964 Democratic National Convention is a dramatic example. Hamer’s Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party was committed to what she would describe as “clean politics,” a grassroots participatory program that strove to advance the interests of all marginalized people in the state. Hamer and the MFDP’s demand that the full slate of MFDP delegates be seated at the expense of the traditional all-white Mississippi Democratic Party brought them directly into conflict with the White political establishment as well as the Black leadership class.

I think the president [Johnson] became very angry… Then they had a big meeting of everybody else except us in Mississippi and just decided they were going to tell us what to do. And when we came back to this church, at this meeting at this church, they were saying what Dr. King, James Foreman, Roy Wilkins, and it was other big people, and Senator Humphrey… [A. Phillip Randolph] and Bayard Rustin. Fannie Lou Hamer, 1973 Interview

President Johnson enlisted Dr. King, Bayard Rustin, Roy Wilkins and other prominent members of the Black leadership class to pressure Fannie Lou and the MFDP into accepting a token two of Mississippi’s delegate seats, rather than the full slate to which they were clearly entitled. The white leaders of the Democratic Party placed Black leadership at the foreground and made it central to their strategy. But Fannie Lou wasn’t there for Black leadership. She wanted liberation:

And I says, “I don’t know nothing about them people.” But we felt that we had a right—as it was us, as it was our own delegation, and the delegation was from Mississippi—we had a right to make our own decisions. Not them! They couldn’t understand it when we rebelled and we refused, you know, because if we got two votes-at-large we didn’t have nothing.

Fannie Lou Hamer didn’t go to the ‘64 convention demanding—as some Black Lives Matter activists do today—that Black leadership be foregrounded. As she stared down the Democratic party and their allies in the national Black leadership class, she did so as a member of a grassroots political party intimately connected with the needs of poor people in Mississippi. It has always been the centering of participatory politics, not the elevation of Black leadership, that has been truly threatening to white elites. That’s why a concerted effort was made to destroy Fannie Lou and the MFDP, and within ten years, their form of participatory political organizing had been all but extinguished.

The MFDP As a Model for Multi-Racial Organizing

To understand the MFDP’s threat, we need to look at their strategy. For example, the MFDP’s work on voter disenfranchisement was never framed as a purely racial issue. In a 1964 MFDP newsletter, we can see the party use multiracial appeals to set itself as the only true and legitimate political force for all people in Mississippi.

In the 1963 gubernatorial election, only 114,000 people, Negro and white, voted, out of 932,000 citizens of voting age. There are, then, 818,000 people whose voices are not heard. If white people do not register, it is due to ignorance and apathy and also to the systematic methods of disenfranchisement employed, such as poll taxes, and literacy tests which create a generally overwhelming obstacle course between the citizen’s conscience and the right of the ballot.

The MFDP argues that white people are also disenfranchised by a system that creates a “generally overwhelming obstacle course between the citizen’s conscience and the right of the ballot.” By first couching the rhetoric in terms that highlight the general failure of state power to meaningfully include the people, even white people, the MFDP now had the platform to then introduce how racism multiplies the debilitating effect of a system-wide problem.

[Poll taxes and literacy tests] may also be important to the Negro community, but the Negroes who do want to register to vote are prevented by all these methods plus the more drastic means of general intimidation and economic reprisals. Of 435, 000 Negroes of voting age in Mississippi, only some 21,000, or fewer than 5%, are registered voters.

This strategy created potential for political solidarity rooted in shared interests, not empathy or pity. Given that police brutality has killed thousands of non-Black people in the last ten years, it would serve us well to take a page from the MFDP playbook. Instead, many of us choose to pursue a staunch race-only line. Fannie Lou Hamer summarizes the party’s stance on race, “it wasn’t racial exclusive because we tried to include poor blacks and whites and any other body that was really concerned about real changes. Because, you see, to have a real change, we can’t do the same thing that they’ve done in the past, right? So, it would have to be a change from that.”

For Hamer, clean politics was about fair participation for all people: “if they would give us a chance we could make things better for everybody… I don’t want no politics if it’s just going to involve us [Black people].” After the MFDP sprouted, a counter-revolutionary group — the Loyalists — was formed. The loyalists had a convention where 50% of the delegates were white, which Hamer found objectionable when the party’s actual constituency was 90% Black. In the same interview, she says, “Now, I don’t mind giving the whites what they got, but don’t give them over what they got… because they never give us nothing. So, if they have 10 percent of this delegation, set that 10 percent, and let that other 90 percent that was black go on up there.” Hamer’s work wasn’t only about political rights, her multi-racial Freedom Farms project provided housing, income, and food for thousands of people. She says, “We’ve been able to save, we’ve been able to help a lot of people, and they hadn’t all been black.”

Ain’t nothing going to be handed to you on a silver platter, nothing. That’s not just black people, that’s people in general, masses. See, I’m with the masses. So, you don’t ever get nothing, just walk up and say, “Here it is.” You’ve got to fight. Every step of the way, you’ve got to fight.

Black Leadership During Reconstruction

1964 was not the first time that Black egalitarian populism intervened in convention politics. Elsa Barkley Brown in Negotiating and Transforming the Public Sphere: African American Political Life in the Transition from Slavery to Freedom highlights how the mass participatory politics of Black Reconstruction were deeply challenging to the white political class, former slaveholders and liberal Republicans alike. At the 1867 Virginia Republican state convention, Black people—including women and children—showed up en masse, actively and vociferously contributed to policy debates, and made sure that their interests were heard if not adopted by the body.

At issue was not just these men and women’s presence but also their behavior. White women, for example, certainly on occasion sat in the convention’s gallery as visitors silently observing the proceedings; these African Americans, however, participated from the gallery, loudly engaging in the debates. At points of heated controversy, black delegates turned to the crowds as they made their addresses on the convention floor, obviously soliciting and relying upon mass participation. Outside the convention hours, mass meetings were held to discuss and vote on the major issues. At these gatherings vote was either by voice or rising and men, women and children voted. These meetings were not mock assemblies; they were important gatherings at which the community made plans for freedom.  (p. 119)

Black people’s mass participatory politics during Reconstruction threatened to democratize the political process in substantive and fundamental ways. Brown recounts, “The most radical black Republican faction argued that the major convention issues should actually be settled at these mass meetings with delegates merely casting the community’s vote on the convention floor.” White Republicans and the white political class more broadly did everything in their power to eliminate Black people’s emerging mass participatory politics.

Disturbed at black influence over Republican meetings, beginning in 1870 white Republican officials had taken steps to limit popular participation and influence in party deliberations. First they moved the party conventions from First African to the United States courtroom, a facility which held many fewer people and was removed from the black community; then they closed the gallery, thus allowing none but official delegates to attend and participate. In such a setting they were able to adopt a more conservative platform. (Brown, p. 132)

The white Republicans’ marginalizing of Black mass participatory politics was complemented by the emergence of a new Black leadership class. As this new Black political class advanced, Brown notes, “the black public sphere emerged as more fractured and perhaps less democratic at the end of the nineteenth century.”

In increasingly delimiting the church’s use, distinguishing more clearly between sacred and secular activities as when it began to disallow certain kinds of entertainments in its facilities or on its behalf, and attempting to reserve the church for what was now designated as the “sacred,” First African contributed to the increasing segmentation of black Richmond… As political meetings moved to private halls rather than church buildings, they became less mass meetings not only in the numerical sense; they also became more gatherings of an exclusive group of party regulars. This signaled not only a change in the role of the church but also a change in the nature of politics in black Richmond. The emerging format gave business and professional men, especially, greater control over the formal political process. (p. 133)

The violence and political isolation tactics employed throughout Reconstruction were designed to end participatory politics in Black communities, replacing it with a vertical hierarchy that was both more conservative and easier to control. This transition undermined the participation of women and children in Black politics, and would be the beginning of the gendered and male-centered leadership class with which we are familiar.

Fannie Lou Hamer and the MFDP, as well as the Black masses during Reconstruction, interjected in white political spaces in an effort to center a participatory form of politics intimately connected with masses. In each case, Black leadership emerged as a counter-revolutionary force and tool of the establishment. This means that real organizing in actual communities, and not the ascension of a Black leadership class, is the only way to combat racism. As Black people, that’s been our legacy at its best. No one among us is entitled to political support; it must be earned through service and clean politics. It’s time for supporters of Black Lives Matter to decide, are you with this new Black leadership class or the masses? Fannie Lou said “I’m with the masses,” and we’d do well to say the same.

60 responses to “Dear #BlackLivesMatter: We Don’t Need Black Leadership”

  1. Kelly Beard says:

    WOW! This is the most insightful blog I’ve read on the topic. I wish I knew how to re-post! Bless you.

    • R.L. Stephens II says:

      Thanks, you’re too kind. You can cut and paste the link in an email or on social media if you’d like to share it.

      — R.L.

    • R.L. Stephens II says:

      thanks for reading. the link doesn’t work.

      • ScAR says:

        Be careful. You don’t want to be one of those blacks that chimes in in the middle of a movement for clicks and media appearances while the ‘real’ activists are silenced. Also, don’t be like MLK and get used by white liberals who only want to hear from you when you are reinforcing their objection to more confrontational blacks like Fannie Lou Hamer.

    • MaDTruthSeekeR says:

      I believe Sanders did indeed hire someone straight out of BLM to work on the policy.

  2. Doug Henwood says:

    This is a terrific essay. Could I get you on my radio show to talk about it? Email me at the address above if you’re interested.

  3. Mike Miller says:

    Please make this correction: “James Forman” should be “James Farmer”. Farmer was executive director of CORE, and was among those urging the MFDP to accept the two-seat “compromise.” James Forman (not Foreman) was SNCC’s executive director. Neither he, nor Bob Moses, SNCC’s Mississippi director, supported the compromise. As far as I know, they simply said to the delegates, “This is your decision.”

  4. Brindle says:

    Thanks for this. The context of historical events is so helpful. I’m not sure what links led me to this but worthwhile.

  5. Paul Nelson says:

    Brilliant. This is why I responded as I did to the Bernus Interruptus, I just knew that real change does not happen with grandstanding. Bravo!

  6. Mike says:

    Miss you, Robert.

    🙂

    -your SoAn sibling

  7. Kopinjol says:

    Wonderful Essay, very insightful. Thanks for the references.

  8. I think this article makes some excellent points about organization, democracy and mass participation. I have also had similar organizing experiences and summarize some of these in an article in which I now link to this article:
    http://www.globalteachin.com/why-presidential-elections-and-the-bernie-sanders-campaign-are-not-necessarily-detrimental-to-movement-building

  9. Emmanuel J. Tellez says:

    This is a tour de force essay. The historical context is so very much appreciated–I had no idea–and I like to consider myself someone who reads about politics, the Left, its legacy in the US, etc.

    I will share widely. Thank you again!!!

  10. MrK says:

    Dear R.L. Stephens II, excellent article.

    Here is some news: Alicia Garza, the founder of #BlackLivesMatter, works for the NDWA.

    Here is the Director of the NDWA at the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative America. (And here.

    Maybe in today’s professional activist industry, you’re never far from a Clinton or Soros Open Society grant.

    This is why I think the Clintons are behind the Bernie Sanders harassment.

    • R.L. Stephens II says:

      I don’t know if I’d say the Clintons are behind it, but they’re definitely benefiting and managing the fallout. But I’ve been accused of being soft and under-appreciating the depth of collusion here. I think Alicia Garza is well-meaning, but that the system redirects anger and resistance into safe channels. This means intent is but one factor, and any one of us can end up being complicit in things that go against our interests. But thanks for your comment, it’s giving me something to think about.

      — R.L.

  11. Fantastic article. Plz see my essay on Police Reforms at my website
    Oshoosi.com. BLM folk that I know strategically avoid responding
    to it. Mine is the ONLY comprehensive or omnibus set of legislation
    to deal with policing and it’s current fascistic substrate out there in the
    public sector at this point. Everything else is piecemeal.

    Best,
    Alashe Michael Oshoosi
    (Michael F. Wright Ph.D., J.D.

  12. Aaron says:

    This was a very interesting article , I heard the show with Doug Henwood and looked it up,Good read, Thank you

  13. Michael Sampson says:

    I’m sorry but the false dictomy that is created between “black leadership” and mass leadership is disingenuous. This is basically a pro-Bernie Sanders, BLM criticism disguised in revolutionary rhetoric, taking Fanie Lou Hamer out of context to support an integrationist strategy. You can have mass leadership under black leadership. Your hit piece of BLM leaves out a critical class analysis which was the crust of Fanie Lou Hamer. The claims made that BLM activists seek to join the “Black Leadership” class is as well ridiculous. In what context is that claim being made? Has any prominent Black Lives Matter activists taken political positions with the establishment? I think leadership is important. However, black leadership and leadership that doesn’t perpetuate negative archetypes of white men being the only capable beings in the U.S. having the ability to lead is important as well. So is self detenrinarion for African Americans which is created by encouraging black leadership from the working class black masses.

  14. Hobart Johnson says:

    Heard you today talking to Doug Henwood.

    A very thoughtful and necessary analysis which helped me get clearer on the cognitive dissonance I’ve experienced regarding BLM.

    Your blog is a gift. Very resonant out here in Oakland CA.

    H. Johnson

  15. Cristin says:

    I read this essay after hearing you interviewed in WBAI. Thank you for your thoughtful perspective. I never heard of Fannie Lou before this. IT is a pleasure to hear/read a nuanced view of a complex situation. And to learn history too. By the way i am a white woman and I want to learn about race and ask questions about people’s experience and reactions to events but I don’t usually have the opportunity. So radio and essays/blogs are my main resource. It has long seemed to me that anything complex is impossible to fully capture in a tweet !! The amount of reading and thought you put Into your essay is appreciated

  16. William Anton Lee says:

    Thank you sir. I’m a 60 year old who took black history from a Professor Williams in Sacramento, CA. This piece so reminds me of his perspective. He was amazing instructor. I share with you that as the son of Caucasians, an American and a German, and a child of the 60’s. I was blessed to have grown up in Washington, DC. and did what a kid could do during gut wrenching days. I took Black History because I knew my standard education had failed me there. The dynamics in the classroom, just as much as the material, shape me for a life time. Your piece here is stellar. I doubt you need my encouragement; none the less, I hope your voice rises above the noise we have come to expect from politics.

    Best in life and health,
    William

  17. Jeff Bird says:

    I just heard your comments on Doug Henwood’s podcast. Made me want to read your blog. Excellent analysis.

    A recent PBS program made it clear that President Johnson took the extraordinary action of counter-scheduling a press conference in the TV time slot that Fannie Lou Hamer was to testify before the Democratic Convention, to draw away pubic attention. Such was Johnson’s fear of her testimony.

    How do you think the Sander’s Campaign should respond to the demands made by the women in Seattle?

    Jeff Bird

    • R.L. Stephens II says:

      I’m not sure what the path forward is for Sanders, and that’s not really my focus. I’m more concerned with how independent grassroots organizing can grow. Whomever is in office, we need organized extra-institutional ways to help our communities.

      — R.L.

  18. Saulo says:

    Would like to talk to you about either publishing this piece or a version of it in New Politics. Check us out.

  19. bayoustjohndavid says:

    I hate to nitpick such a thoughtful piece, but I think it’s important to correct everybody that says BLM stormed Bernie Sanders events. There was more than one event, but the event in Seattle, the one that received the most publicity,was a Social Security Works event. You could say it was a Sanders event by virtue of his being there, but he had other events they could have disrupted. I’m sure that Social Security Works would welcome other candidates at their rallies, BTW.

    I do say that as a middle-aged white male, but I also say that as a widow’s son who would have starved in childhood without Social Security. Since my low income today means I’ll probably starve in old-age without SS (the idea that we can all work well into our old-age is laughable*), I can’t see any reason whatsoever to respect fools, or worse, who disrupt Social Security rallies. Considering my childhood and probable future, I suspect I’d feel that way if I were Black, Hispanic, or anything else. It might be different if there weren’t other rallies they could have disrupted.

    I know that’s getting far away from your main point, but after the financial crisis, I thought we had the situation in which poor, and insecure working, people of all ethnic backgrounds would finally start working together. Unfortunately, an economic system in which the gains from economic growth all go the top, is a zero sum game for everybody else (as Dean Baker pointed out in a different context), and therefore one in which it’s easy to divide and conquer. Still, I would have thought the need to save Social Security would be one thing that everybody from center-left to far left could agree on. Hypothetical question: ten years from Republicans and centrist Democrats have greatly weakened SS, studies shows that the people who really suffer as a result are disproportionately Black or other minority. Don’t know if that would be the case, but it stands to reason that if people who could afford to retire without SS (might need to forgo some travel plans, but wouldn’t go hungry) are disproportionately White, the people who couldn’t would be disproportionatley Black. It would be absurd to blame BLM and its supporters (I’m thinking of the professor I saw on Alex Witt last weekend), but would it be proper to tell them to STFU when they start talking about the new injustice that they helped make happen?

    *The idea that we can work into old age is laughable because the technological advance that increased life expectancy have also increased productivity and decreased the need for labor. That’s nothing new, late 19th century work week was about 60 hours, mid-twentieth work week was about 40. Imagine what the unemployment rate would have been in 1950 if factories had paid low enough wages that people needed to work 60 hours. We needed the 40 hour week to maintain full employment in the twentieth century, we’ll probably need lengthy retirement to maintain employment levels in the 21st. In that context, “people are living longer, so they need to work longer” is one the most specious statements that I’ve ever heard so many otherwise intelligent people make in political debates.

  20. cripes says:

    This needs to be examined, in light of history and what Glen Ford calls the black “misleadership class.” However, i am encouraged by the groundswell of participation in anti-repression organizing around the country.
    I saw the PBS doc on Freedom Party and Fannie Lou Hamer, and remembered as a child how riveting her testimony was. How she placed the people before leaders and their concessions to (white) power.

    I did a podcast on health care/insurance for a foundation during the Obamacare implementation, the interviewer kept trying to fit me into her foundation-funded narrative, introducing me as an “Obamacare advocate” to which i retorted that i was an advocate for taking insurance companies out of health care entirely. The entire thing became an exercise in correcting her efforts to misrepresent me as a Enroll America cheerleader.

    We must constantly be on guard against the corruption, co-optation and elitism fostered by the elevation of individuals into privileged positions.

  21. John Reimann says:

    A couple of points:

    Back in the 1960s the Black Power movement arose. I think in part that was a reaction against the influence of the middle class white liberals. Given the situation in the US, the class issue – and the politics that flowed from it – wasn’t seen so clearly, so it was put down to race.

    As for today, it seems to me there are two different issues: On the one hand, no movement of a specially oppressed people can be led entirely or even mainly by people who are not of that group. That would indicate that it’s not really a movement of and by those people, but something from the outside that seeks to bestow justice on somebody. But obviously, who that leadership is, and what their policies are, can’t be ignored.

    In the former colonial world, we see that the capitalist class of that country will ally itself every single time with the colonial powers over the needs of the great majority of their country. Is it so very different here with the specially oppressed groups?

  22. Mel Reeves says:

    Hey brother thanks for laying this out so well. This movement has to be taken on and folks have to understand that to take leadership includes the responsibility of leading people the right way and down the right paths. History has to be consulted. A class as well as race analysis has to be crafted. And you are so right no real leadership can be had without including the masses this top down stuff has not worked and will not worked. And ignoring the work of folks who have come before is just insane. Thanks for laying it out there.

  23. WJ says:

    This is a great essay, and a very true one. The dynamic is far, far older than U.S. history, in fact. The Roman historian Sallust quite clearly thinks that the creation of the office of the tribunes for the plebeians ultimately led to the creation of a plebeian “leadership class” that undermined their ability to collectively resist the patricians–which they had earlier done by threatening overt civil war. After the tribunes come into existence–after, that is, plebeian demands were safely cordoned off within the existent institutional structure of Rome–the plebeians as a whole become less organized, and so more easily managed.

  24. danny says:

    It seems this essay and your message is universal and goes beyond black misleadership. As i read through it, I couldn’t help but nod my head in agreement and consider several analogous examples of similar civil rights/social justice examples including those involving unions and environmental organizations. But none have been nearly as damaging as black misleadership.

  25. Very insightful essay. I was born in the south, my parents were sharecroppers in Mississippi and I just turned 56. You contextualized key events in the African-American experience that are frequently overlooked.It is not ancient history.Thank you for emphasizing that the elevation of Black leadership was not the focus in the 1960’s and for detailing in a powerful way that such a narrow focus won’t serve the masses of Black people in the 21st century. I feel very fortunate that within the past 2 days I have come across two moving and wholly engaging pieces..Dr. Cornel West in the NYT and yours today..You knocked this one out of the ballpark.

  26. admirer says:

    I’d be really curious to hear your opinions on these two articles. Perhaps even a longform response? They are both pretty compelling to me.

    https://itsgoingdown.org/another-word-for-white-ally-is-coward/

    https://antistatestl.noblogs.org/post/2015/08/22/8-19-15-page-and-walton/

  27. John Reimann says:

    As a long time union member, expelled for fighting for the membership, I can say that things are little different inside the union movement. Probably worse, in fact. It seems to me that the history of the workers’ movement is filled with a history of mistakes, blunders and outright betrayals. And the basis for most of this has been being unwilling to make a clear break from big business and their representatives.