Adolph Reed on Respecting Black Leadership

Adoph Reed on Doug Henwood’s Behind the News (6/11/2015)

(edited transcription)

On Respecting Black Leadership

(partly responsive to (dis) Respecting Black Leadership)

Reed: Those who insist that the task of building a left in the United States hinges most crucially on accepting and respecting black leadership had me scratching my head, since, well, what black leadership and according to whom, and . . .  can you be claiming that just because you got the microphone now you should be paid attention to?

That struck me because it brought to mind . . . a similar line among (1970s) black radicals . . .  that because the white working class was so inherently racist that black workers had to take the lead in building the revolutionary movement and one would ask well if white workers are irredeemably racist than how is it that black leaders are going to take the lead in the first place.

Henwood: Who would be the follower of these leaders.

Reed: Exactly. And the response would trail off into quotes from Cabral, Nkrumah and Fanon. . .  At what point does naivete become self-righteous foolishness or careerist aspiration?  Who knows, but whatever it is, it doesn’t seem healthy politically . . . . (that) so much of the left world tends to think through the boss’s eyes.

On Black Lives Matter

Henwood: One of the officially nominated leaders (by the New York Times) is a Teach for America guy who is the head of human capital for the Minneapolis public school system.

Reed: Interesting.  I saw an interview with Deray McKesson, the guy you’re talking about, where he said that he quit his job to be a full time activist.

Not to be a jerk about this, or a cointelpro veteran but how are you reproducing the terms of your daily existence if you quit your job to do this since I haven’t seen anyone if Ferguson much less in Baltimore who has the money to carry a fully time bullhorn carrier.

That was one of things that struck me at the line up of the two panels at the Left Forum that I watched.  The foundation connections, the non-profit connections were kind of striking.  And this has been their story from the very beginning when what was called racial adjustment,  managing what looked like class problems through race. . .  It’s a tad conspiratorial but it makes me wonder what ideological work public attention to this issue is actually performing or is likely to perform.  I don’t mean to suggest that there is a deep conspiratorial department in the bourgeoisie which thinks stuff like this up. They just aren’t that smart but it is the case that there are deep thinking  elements of the bipartisan, elite, neoliberal governing class who are prepared to work overtime, as it were, to produce socially acceptable definitions of the nature of these problems to produce responses that are system maintaining instead of system challenging.

On Clintonites playing the IP card and “debasement of our politics”

I was surprised by how much support for Clinton came from the boomer feminist demographic on explicitly identitarian grounds.  People would say I’m backing her because she’s a woman and that’s my identity.  And granted that’s what blacks and others were doing with Obama too, but it just says something about the overall debasement of our politics.

The thing to be done is to start from an understanding of inequality and injustice as rooted in political economy.  And it’s becoming clearer that the deep fault line within the nominal left is between those who assume that the root of injustice and inequality has to do with the normal functioning of the dynamics of American capitalism and those who oppose that view.

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