“ADOS followers throw away the internationalism of their forbears, embracing instead a sometimes polite, but always frank hostility toward immigrants of all nations on the grounds that they’re either economic competition for native-born blacks...”
Why can’t y’all just decide to be what you already are – more like us – a white co-worker named Travis asked me in the early 1980s. He was a diehard Southern Baptist, Reagan was the newly elected president, and we were working at the Chicago Pullman plant, laying on our sides all day or night, whatever shift it was, routing ducts and cabling in the tiny equipment rooms beneath Amtrak cars, talking politics and history. I’d just brought up the war in Vietnam, in which the US killed 3 million Vietnamese alone, and the murderous wars in Central America which were happening as we spoke. I probably threw in some references to the ongoing wars for liberation in southern Africa as well where the US was backing, financing and arming the wrong side as usual.
But you were born here, Travis insisted. Your parents and grandparents were born here, not over there. You’re an American, just like me. What are those people to you?
I never did get through to Travis. War crimes against black and brown people and a mountain of dead, likely communist foreigners meant nothing to him. His identity was not with humankind and certainly not with the working class. It was to his White God, his white or mostly white tribe whose flag was the stars and stripes and whom White God had deputized to rule the planet. In the decades since I have heard the same question posed a few more times. Why can’t black folks just be good Americans?Why shouldn’t we embrace empire and line up for our cut like everybody else? Well, now It looks now like Travis got his wish.
There’s an internet current of US-born black people calling themselves ADOS, the American Descendants of Slaves who seem to be trying their level best to be the kind of Good Black Americans Travis talked about.
The ADOS people claim to be relentless advocates of reparations for the crimes of slavery, Jim Crow, the prison state and more, but with an important right wing twist which sharply differentiates them from the previous generation of reparistas. ADOS followers throw away the internationalism of their forbears, embracing instead a sometimes polite, but always frank hostility toward immigrants of all nations on the grounds that they’re either economic competition for native-born blacks, that they’re stealing the contracts, the patronage, the affirmative action and similar spots which ought to go to native-born black Americans, or that they are somehow cashing in the accumulated moral and social capital which belongs to the US born descendants of slaves alone.
It’s a tribal thing, #LineageMatters, ADOSers tell anybody listening, and anyone not a US born descendant of US slaves on both sides of the family is in some other tribe. Until last summer’s wave of public revulsion at the deliberately cruel separation of refugee children from their parents at the border, the kindest sentiment you could find on ADOS Twitter feeds was the equivalent of Latinos don’t never stand up for us, why we gotta stand up for them?
Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore, originators of the #ADOS name and hashtag would like us to believe ADOS is a movement. But that claim is made so often by so many canny self-promoters that it’s hard to take seriously without some kind of proof. Carnell has been doing podcasts, internet writing and commentary, and most reccently YouTube blogging the past several years, while former LA assistant DA Antonio Mooreis a more recent entry into the world of internet propaganda. They’ve got a web site at ados101.com and plan to hold a conference this fall in Louisville.
“Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore, originators of the #ADOS name and hashtag would like us to believe ADOS is a movement. But that claim is made so often by so many canny self-promoters that it’s hard to take seriously without some kind of proof….”
Politically bankrupt black Democrats of the black political class just don’t know what to make of #ADOS. CNN commentator, corporate lobbyist and former general counsel for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Angela Rye, following the lead of similarly enlightened Democratic pundits, has declared that the ADOS message originates with the Russians . Rye is worse than clueless, she’s the cynical mouthpiece of corrupted politicians and the lying political police of the so-called intelligence community, a great number of whom are also Democrats. These are the government functionaries who have guaranteed their budgets and careers by painting Americans in America who disagree with the establishment as foreign-inspired traitors for a century, since the Red Scare of 1919.
It’s the RussiaGate scam, and while some of the faces are new, the tactics are pretty old. Democrats get to lead us into permanent wars while avoiding responsibility for the failure of their party to represent anybody except the lords of capital. They accuse anyone with unanswerable arguments or inconvenient facts of being mouthpieces for foreign subversion. It’s cynical BS when they level it at the Green Party, or at Wikileaks and Julian Assange. It’s baseless garbage when they throw it at Black Agenda Report, and they have, by name. It’s errant nonsense when lazy corporate Democrat hacks like Angela Rye throw it at ADOS. But then the Democrats are a party of capital, a party of the permanent government.
ADOSers may be misguided, but they don’t take money or direction and have no need to borrow bad ideas from the Russians We’ve got plenty bad ideas already. Their insular tribalism, and ADOS co-founder Yvette Carnell frequently refers to #ADOS, American Descendants of Slaves as in terms of “our tribe” is entirely home grown and very very tribal. If you look, you can find similar, and similarly backward looking ideas represented in every country on this planet. Like patriarchy and monarchy tribalism is one of those ancient backward looking but widespread human social contraptions which belong in a museum.
The reparations advocacy of ADOS departs from the previous generation of pro-reparations activists, who for convenience I’ll call the Pan-Africanists, even though some of them probably reject that label.
The historic vision and practice of the Pan Africanist movement flowed through the careers of Guinea’s Sekou Toure, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah and the final years of W.E.B. DuBois’s life in Africa. Pan-Africanists had their own reparationist ideas, and by the late 70s and mid 80s significant numbers of Pan Africanists had entered the academy. They were influenced in the United States by the current that flowed through SNCC’s James Forman who called upon white synagogues and churches to hand over $500 million as black reparations to philanthropic organizations, printing and publishing enterprises and organizations that included the National Welfare Rights Organization.
These reparistas, or reparationists, whichever you prefer, kept the internationalist view of the Pan Africanists, even when they don’t identify as such. They embrace the entire human family, while holding that the political and economic unification of the African continent and the coordinated democratic uplift of the African Diaspora is a giant and indispensable step towards human liberation worldwide. Their fundamental moral and political calculus centers international solidarity, with Africans and their descendants worldwide, and with oppressed people struggling against imperialism everywhere.
“So where, if anyplace will ADOS go from here? Right now it’s just internet noise. A lot of noise. If ADOSers have ever managed to put fifty or a hundred people in a room or anywhere in meatspace, not cyberspace it’s news to most of us….”
ADOSers take a different road. Being tribalists rather than internationalists, ADOSers rarely mention the existence of class differences among American blacks. They usually manage to ignore the very existence of the US empire in whose heartland they and their tribe were born and raised, let alone explain how that global capitalist empire generates the influx of refugees to its center, to which they object so vehemently.
But clearly the refusal to talk about class is a kind of class politics itself, while the inability or unwillingness to examine and acknowledge the role of global capitalist empire in creating transnational refugee flows is a de facto endorsement of the same. Opposing white supremacist and capitalist empire is what an actual left would do, and whatever ADOSers are, they ain’t leftists. ADOSers are one of the home grown intellectual outcomes of what Adolph Reed calls the substitution of the neoliberal politics of antiracism for having built an actual functioning left in the United States. If you’re listening to this instead of reading it, you really should go back to the printed version at www.blackagendareport.com to check out the links in the text which flesh out this and other important pieces of timely and relevant background information.
ADOSers are in a permanent rage against Democrats, and declare that like it or not this election cycle will be the one in which the issues of #reparations2020 and #tangibles2020 will be relentlessly pressed upon every party, every candidate. ADOSers see Democrats as going out of their way to appease and pander to every other voting constiuency EXCEPT the descendants of slaves who are owed reparations.
What ADOSers miss of course is that while Democrats do rhetorically pander to women, to gays and to Latinos every election cycle, they only deliver results to the lords of capital who fund their careers. Promises to voters aside, Democrats actually deliver not to women, gays, Latinos and certainly not to African Americas but to Big Insurance, Big Real Estate, Big Media, and Big Energy. They actually deliver to Silcon Valley, to military contractors, to charter school sugar daddies and to hedge fund boyz and similar malefactors of great wealth.
ADOSers forget how candidate Barack Obama won the whopping majority of the Latino vote in 2008 and 2012 by promising them a road to citizenship. But President Obama proved to be the deporter-in-chief, with an all time record 2 million deportations, so many that even a two-term Trump administration is unlikely to match his total. There may not be enough undocumented people and green card holders to hang the necessary misdemeanor under current law which allow the feds to manufacture deportation cases against. Like his successor, President Obama separated immigrant families at the border and built hundreds of miles of border wall, leaving only the last six or seven hundred miles for Trump successor to complete. Obama opposed gay marriage in 2008 , only coming around when election to a second term seemed certain. The pandering to other voting blocs that so enrages ADOSers is pretty much fakery, but as tribal folks will do, ADOSers seem to perceive only the slights, the lies, the insults which are directed at them.
ADOS leaders Carnell and Moore have probably never participated in, probably never seen a mass movement against unjust authority. As far as most of us know, they’ve never organized a new union or tried to take over a corrupt old one, never led a rent strike, never helped found or lead a cooperative, never gotten themselves arrested for defying unjust authority. There was a time when those sorts of credentials were required for aspiring black leaders.
“ADOS is not a movement. It’s another hashtag, a brand. It’s shrunken, shriveled and tribal brand of reparations politics, tacitly endorsing US global empire and throwing shade on solidarity...”
So where, if anyplace will ADOS go from here? Right now it’s just internet noise. A lot of noise. If ADOSers have ever managed to put fifty or a hundred people in a room or anywhere in meatspace, not cyberspace it’s news to most of us. What put #BLM on the map back in 2015 was their Cleveland conference attended by six or seven thousand people into which corporate philanthropists allied with the Democratic party sunk an estimated two million for hotel and conference rooms, for travel expenses, food, entertainment, per diems, media production and the organizing person-hours to coordinate it all and bring that six or seven thousand people in and out of town.
ADOS has nothing like that kind of money, and it’s hard to imagine where they might get it. Carnell and Moore are not about to turn ADOS into a membership supported organization. The only possible donor institutions they’re know to have public ties with are some are some broke HBCUs and sectors of the black church. But the black church’s pockets are not that deep, and the black church has no tradition of funding political initiatives. In this respect they are quite unlike the mainline US Protestant churches, which by now have probably shoveled a cool million into their New Poor Peoples Campaign and the promotion of its leader Bishop William Barber as the reincarnated voice of Dr. Martin Luther King.
I never saw Travis again after they closed the last Pullman plant and putting 3,000 of us workers, black, brown and white into the street. Travis wasn't exactly a friend and I wouldn't know his face if I met him today almost forty years later. But if I had his email today, I'd want to send Travis links to the ADOS site and their YouTube and Twitter feeds. I think once he got past the reparations stuff, he'd find a whole lot to agree with, American Descendants of slaves really DO want to be more like him.
ADOS is not a movement. It’s another hashtag. It’s a brand. It’s a shrunken, shrill, shriveled and tribal version of reparationist politics. Its tacit endorsement of US global empire and its abandonment of international solidarity spring inevitably from its backward looking tribalism. Hopefully their inability to find sponsors or internal methods to finance its growth into any kind of effective political force will doom it to haunt the margins of black twitter, YouTube celebrity, and some dusty corners of the academy.
If we’re lucky.
For Black Agenda Radio Commentaries I’m Bruce Dixon. Find our audio podcasts – there are two of them, Black Agenda Radio and Black Agenda Radio Commentaries on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Libsyn or wherever you get your podcasts.
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Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport. He answers email, and has also been known to answer tweets to @brucedixon.
Both the audio and print versions of this article have been lightly edited since their original posting yesterday to correct minor errors and improve clarity.
Earlier versions of this article day that Antonio Moore teaches economics at Duke. That was an error... Sandy Darity, another prominet ADOSer teaches at economics at Duke, not Mr. Moore. The audio version will be corrected later today (3/16) to reflect this. We apologize for the error.