Can Black Politics Be Revived?

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

Obama’s presidency has been disastrous for African Americans, who have been economically crushed and disconnected from their historical roots in social struggle. Political fantasists now urge us to put our faith in demographics, claiming that change will inevitably flow from the darkening of America’s population. But, that’s a trap which leads to a descent into South Africa-like conditions.


Can Black Politics Be Revived?

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

The Black America polity has rendered itself useless to the struggle for a just and sustainable world.”

The Age of Obama, now in its second and final quadrennial, has largely succeeded in divorcing African American politics from the historical Black consensus on social justice, self-determination and peace. What remains is play-acting and role-modeling, an Ebony magazine caricature of politics that leaves the great bulk of Black people with, literally, no avenues of resistance to the savage depredations of capitalism in decline. Shamefully, through reflexive support for President Obama’s relentless assaults on international order, the Black America polity has rendered itself useless to the struggle for a just and sustainable world.

None of this is written in stone, of course. The quickening cascade of crises that define our times – the prelude to collapse – will each provide opportunities to alter Black America’s political course. As Obama’s exit approaches, the African American delirium begins to palpably break, like a spent fever. Black politicos rush to revise the histories of their own post-2007 behavior, inventing examples of their “constructive criticism” of the First Black President and their alleged misgivings and anxieties about the corporate, militarist direction of his policies – in order to position themselves for the post-Obama era.

But the crisis in Black politics was building long before Wall Street selected the talented young actor from Chicago to implement its austerity and global war agenda. The Black Misleadership Class, representing political tendencies indigenous to Black America, is the problem. Having no vision of the future beyond populating it with more Black faces in high places, they will inevitably imbibe other Black-flavored corporate potions in hopes of reviving some version of the Obama euphoria.

Black politicos rush to revise the histories of their own post-2007 behavior.”

Other, slicker operatives promote the dangerous notion that progressive political aims will be achieved by virtue of rapid demographic change in the United States. Rather than defend Obama’s indefensible record in office, Bill Fletcher and Carl Davidson described the 2012 election as a contest that pits “the changing demographics of the U.S.” against the forces of “far right irrationalism” that are trying to turn back the “demographic and political clock.” In this construct, the substance of politics is totally removed, replaced by faith in the innate political inclinations of younger whites and the growing non-white population. Obama’s expanded theaters of war, his disregard of international law, his servility to Wall Street and contempt for the historical Black political consensus – none of this matters to Fletcher and Davidson, whose article was titled, “The 2012 Elections Have Little To Do With Obama's Record … Which Is Why We Are Voting For Him.”

It is becoming a common theme: that the darkening of America will somehow lead inexorably to profound changes in power structures. Just sit back and wait for the demographic revolution. Such thinking is appropriate to Madison Avenue, which plots demographic changes like the wolf anticipates the migratory patterns of the caribou. Demographics are important, but are not magic. All that can be safely predicted based on U.S. demographic trends is that there will be more Black and brown (especially brown) faces in positions of authority, elected and appointed, and that the presence of these darker faces may actually make Wall Street’s rule more palatable. Four years of Obama has already provided us with that lesson.

The numbers paint a picture that looks very much like South Africa, with the white minority on top.”

For those who are looking for an easy route to the Promised Land, one without struggle, in which the course of the revolution can be numerically charted just as McDonald’s displays its billions of hamburgers sold, 2042 is the magic number. That’s when U.S. Census demographers project that persons now classified as non-white will outnumber white Anglos. But, who will actually occupy the pinnacles of power in this non-white majority nation, and wield whatever influence the U.S. retains in the world? Based on current trends, according to a 2012 report by Boston-based United for a Fair Economy, “the overwhelming share of the nation’s income and wealth will remain solidly in White hands.” Tim Sullivan, co-author of the report on “The Emerging Majority,” says the numbers paint a picture that looks very much like South Africa, with the white minority on top, requiring a vast police presence to keep the non-white majority in check.

Such an outcome is not written in stone, either, but is likely in the absence of a sustained movement to topple corporate power and disassemble the structures of U.S. imperialism. However, such a movement will never coalesce under the guidance of the Fletchers and Davidsons, who counsel folks to go with the demographic flow. And, we have already experienced the disaster of corporate rule via dark proxy.

2042 will only be a good year if people fight to make it so. Majorities hold no magic, and never have.

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” - Frederick Douglass.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].


Hotep,              Thank you


             Thank you Mr. Ford [Again] for your expert analysis. I had this very discussion with my father 5 years ago. He felt strongly about the "changes" he has seen over his then 75 years of black working class life and history. He remarked on how there was so much acceptance and practise of inter-racial relationships along with the influx of Hispanics, that he rejoiced in declaring that the 'white man's total rule will soon be over.' 

             I simply remarked, "Dad, haven't you heard of South Africa, where even after the election of Mandela, whites still control the wealth and resources and most of the natives wallow in poverty? Don't you think the same thing can happen here?" He disagreed for on the horizon, canditate Obama was on the rise. His eventual vote for him would be his way of 'sticking it to the man!' I remarked that if he get in, it would only be because 'the man' wanted him to be there, because Obama will do his bidding. My father scoffed.

          As the years have past, I would periodically update my father on the very facts you Mr. Ford have mentioned about the Obama administration and the actual status of blacks in America. Over time his responses have been less vibrant yet still supportive of Obama, but less hopeful of a 'people of color ascension to power' as he had been years before. 

          After sharing with him just weeks ago the facts about Obama's sequestration, the plight of the black famers, the closure of majority black schools and our continued loss of wealth in America, my father was more hesitant, but still out of zinc with the reality of our current and long term situation in this country. His pride would not allow him to give up 'sticking it to the man' through his support for Obama, but on the idea that somehow blacks, hispanics or bi-racial Americans would some day hold the reins of true power in this country, my 80 year old father simply said, "Well I won't be here... That will by your fight."


"Sticking It To the Man" says it all

Your story is incredibly illuminating and provides us with the touchstone of why Blacks unconditionally support Obama.  I can't say it any better than your Pops proclaimed it:  They believe they are "sticking it to the man,"  that's why he has "swag," when he takes the podium at a press conference.  In reality, and no offense to your Pops, I'm speaking of the collective, it's about as infantile and childish a notion as you can get.  Symbolic bullshiggity in other words.

As it relates to the future of Black Politics and the raising of a Black Political Consciousness, you can forget about it sad to say.  I have another old school saying your Dad might appreciate.  My Mom always told me, "the Bible says our children/offspring will grow WEAKER and WISER."  I suppose by wiser she meant wordly and by weaker.... well, hell.. you know what she means.

Wiser for sure ain't intellect.  In fact studies show that's declining.

Humans may be gradually losing intelligence, according to a new study.

The study, published today (Nov. 12) in the journal Trends in Genetics, argues that humans lost the evolutionary pressure to be smart once we started living in dense agricultural settlements several thousand years ago.

"The development of our intellectual abilities and the optimization of thousands ofintelligence genes probably occurred in relatively non-verbal, dispersed groups of peoples [living] before our ancestors emerged from Africa," said study author Gerald Crabtree, a researcher at Stanford University, in a statement.

Since then it's all been downhill, Crabtree contends.

EC:  No crap.  Since Obama it's all been downhill too, and it hasn't flatlined yet.  I will say this much, if Black Politics can be revivied it damn sure will be someone from the lower caste leading the way, it won't be a Morehouse or Spellman grad, that's for damn sure.

Obama's rhetoric may transcent Black politics

As Mr. Ford has insightfully suggested numerous times, the Age of Obama has brought us a new standard of cooptation, not just of Black dissent but any progress toward conscientization of anyone having progressive leanings.  Today I listened to Obama's speech regarding Guantanamo.  He said "history will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism and those of us who fail to end it. Imagine a future, 10 years from now or 20 years from now, when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not part of our country. Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are hold—being held on a hunger strike. I’m willing to cut the young lady who interrupted me some slack, because it’s worth being passionate about. Is that who we are? Is that something our founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children?  . . . .Our sense of justice is stronger than that."

 Remarkably, except for the last few seconds on DemocracyNow, where I heard the commentary, little time was given to deconstructing the incredibly fierce tone of Obama's moral rhetoric condeming his own actions.  This, to me, is the new political rhetoric that I still hope will be resoundingly rejected in the near future by the voting public, including Black America when it's no longer a Black leader that it feels compelled to protect.

Can Black Politics be Revived?

Greetings, The only way Black politics will be reveived is when we in the Black masses judge all politicians and our selves in the light of principled action. We can not support Obam's wars at the same time we opposed Bush's wars. Obam might make a nice picture, but his policies are still manure. I belive that our adherence to principles in the past gave us great strength. We must become a princilpled people again. I live in NYC which has a large immigrant population. I can tell you that every brown or black face you see is not the friend of the African American commuinty. Some in the continenetal african community shun us. Some Carribeans say they don't want anyone misstaking them for an African American. So much for Pan Africanism. The only people I have ever seen practicing Pan Africannism is the African American commnuity in the U.S. It is a tragedy that even among so called activist and revolutonaries that we are stuck with a simple skin analysis as a guide to our political actions. Only when we reimbrace a commitment to freedom, justice and equality can Black politics be revived. We must hold all accountable to these princilple regardless of what they look like. Eric