The U.S. has always been a violent, hostile hell for enslaved Africans and their descendants. But even forced labor, torture, rape, lynching, exploitation and discrimination failed to crush these people because their spiritual and cultural strength not only sustained them, but also set them on a trajectory toward liberation that astounds, confounds and frustrates oppressive enemy forces. Still, recent history betrays evidence of erosion of moral and cultural fortitude in the Black community.
We’re not talking here about Black-on-Black crime, substance abuse, teenage pregnancies and other behaviors cited as moral failings by right-wing white commentators and Black proponents of so-called “respectability.” Such phenomena do not evidence moral collapse. Rather, they are tragic reactions to immoral social and economic conditions created by capitalist oppression. The crisis confronting Black people rests in the radical departure by some from a spiritually based tradition of enlightened, progressive to revolutionary politics powered by a commitment to justice and the salvation of humanity.
The problem is most easily seen through the lens of historical comparison. During his Congressional tenure, we were inspired by Ron Dellums’ consistent opposition to imperialism and militarism, but we are disheartened by his successor Barbara Lee and other Black “misleaders” who shamelessly parrot Biden Administration lies about Ukraine. We also worry about the identity crisis that exists among many at the grassroots. As just one example, when Nigerian musician Burna Boy made a logical and reasonable call for Pan-African unity and a commitment to Africa, there were swift and vicious attacks. At least one social media response demanded that the musician simply “STFU” and leave Blacks in America alone. The group American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) and others who share their belief that Black immigrants to the U.S. are distinct from those whose ancestors were enslaved in this country serve only to affirm this self-defeating idea that Africans in America should guarantee their continuing powerless “minority” status by isolating themselves from Africa and the rest of the African diaspora.
In other ways, Africans in America have drifted from the Black Radical Tradition. It is all puzzling and frustrating, but part of the explanation is found in psychological operations carried out by manipulative mass communications weapons wielded by the corporations and elite forces that are the engines of western capitalism, and which have taken dead aim at a Black culture that has resistance to oppression at its core. Amilcar Cabral explained it this way:
“…[I]t is generally within the culture that we find the seed of opposition, which leads to the structuring and development of the liberation movement.…[D]omination, by denying the historical development of the dominated people, necessarily also denies their cultural development. It is also understood why imperialist domination, like all other foreign domination, for its own security, requires cultural oppression and the attempt at direct or indirect liquidation of the essential elements of the culture of the dominated people.”
The progressive to revolutionary political values that have historically been integral to the culture of Africans in the U.S. are threatened by not only a continuous propaganda onslaught, but also by Africans’ possibly unconscious absorption of an artificially created element of white American working class culture. Bluntly stated, many white workers have been trained to not only tolerate stupidity and ignorance, but to also honor and glorify those who are stupid and ignorant. We see it in the veneration of empty-headed celebrities, the drive to purge non-existent Critical Race Theory content from public school curricula, and the fanatical support for the village idiot who served as the country’s 45th president.
This lust for ignorance was imposed on white workers to ensure their continuing allegiance to the ruling class. The worst thing that could happen from the capitalists’ perspective is for this segment of the population to become politically informed, because their militancy (as demonstrated on January 6th) if directed at their true class enemies would spell doom for the system as we know it.
Mind control of white workers is as old as the U.S., and it has been carefully and consistently cultivated. Supreme Court decisions in the 19th Century cases of Dred Scott v. Sandford and Johnson v. McIntosh not only sent a loud and clear message to white workers that the U.S. exists for white people only, but they also established among white workers a sense of entitlement – minimally an expectation of a place in the caste system that is always above the level of Africans and First Nations people. So cherished is this caste promise that when white workers perceive that they are losing ground to Black or Native peoples, there is a mass, violent mental breakdown. It manifested as Klan terrorism during Reconstruction, and as MAGA fanaticism during the current era.
The control of white worker thinking has been critical not only to the survival of the elite, but also to the advancement of their agenda. White workers were needed to wage genocidal wars against defiant indigenous nations and later against regions in the global south as the U.S. empire began to expand. White workers were needed as plantation overseers to brutalize and demobilize rebellious Africans. They were later needed to perform the same function in their roles as cops.
The crimes that white workers have been manipulated into performing for the sake of capital and empire have been so vile, violent and horrific that they could carry out these missions only if they accepted the conscience-soothing, carefully designed white supremacist lies of their bosses. It was necessary as well to inject into white worker culture a disdain for knowledge and intellectual curiosity. The key to capitalist and imperialist success has been the white workers’ passive acceptance of supposedly patriotic propaganda as they have been led like sheep to slaughter.
If one plays in tar it will stick, and the danger for Africans in the U.S. is that proximity to white workers and non-stop exposure to mass and social media will cause Black people to become intellectually lazy and to lapse into ever greater acceptance of willful ignorance and idiocy.
To be fair, substantial numbers of Africans – particularly youth – have resisted descent into the intellectually bankrupt U.S. cultural abyss by either active resistance or efforts to escape. This is exemplified by their opposition to police terrorism in the streets; their return in droves to HBCU’s, and the increasing numbers who plot and execute relocation to Ghana and other African countries as part of what some have called “Blaxit.” In addition, social media spawned the birth of a variety of radical Black blog sites and podcasts of every kind.
Yet, we must pause and consider that for eight years of an Obama Administration, large numbers of Black people affected an “if the President says it, we don’t need facts, we don’t need to think, and we don’t need to criticize our leader” attitude. It was an attitude that certainly fit nicely into the culture of the larger society. It should go without saying that we do need facts, we do need to think, and we do need to criticize. But it becomes increasingly apparent that we need to say that and say it often.
It is tragic because enslaved African ancestors who were forcefully denied literacy craved it, and as they fought their way out of bondage, they gave reading and education the highest priority. Their analyses birthed an enduring commitment to a progressive political agenda and a program that was grounded in independent institutions they controlled, usually the Black church. Rather than maintain independence and a progressive culture, Black misleaders have sold the community’s allegiance to Democratic Party hacks and shills for the oligarchy.
Perhaps because they have praised and worshiped God unceasingly, Africans in America have enjoyed his divine protection. How else can we explain their survival and continuing ascension even in the face of oppression that should have wiped them out? However, if Africans in America allow themselves to descend into willful ignorance and the cesspool of corrupt party politics, while rejecting what is at their moral core, namely a commitment to liberation and justice for all people, they will reject not only their culture, but their very humanity. Once that is done, even almighty God may be unwilling to save them from themselves.