Review: Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era

4 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Atrocities & Genocide, Budget Process & Politics, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Consciousness & Social IQ, Culture, Research, Democracy, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class

cover betrayal

4.0 out of 5 stars My Head Hurts–Time for a Black Caucus on Black Power
October 7, 2009
Houston A. Baker
My head hurts. After enjoying and reviewing Waiting for Lightning to Strike: The Fundamentals of Black Politics yesterday evening, I was not anticipating the firestorm of erudite adjective-laden brow-beating that this author delivers. Minus one star for beating several (black) horses to death, and as Reviewer Carter notes, not without meriting some of the same himself.

First off, this is a book that had to be written and must be read. There are, amidst the “wordier than thou” broad brush critiques, some real gems, some really engaging turns of phrase. It is unfortunate that the nature of the inquiry demands fairly personal explicit attacks on avowedly great black intellectuals, but there is some meat here.

Page 104: “Centrist territory is a rhetorical demilitarized zone where honest, committed, and historically informed proclamations on cause and effect regarding race, culture, morality, and gender in the United States can be studiously avoided, fudged, or simply made to suit the audience on hand.”

High points for me as a reader (white, Hispanic, seriously-angry populist):
+ There is a divide between black intellectual and political leaders and the bulk of the black population that lives in the most wretched of places where 40% or more are below the poverty line. The author also refers to the divide between those blacks who achieve college education, and all others.

+ Martin Luther King was about equality, reparations, and anti-imperialism. King embodied an integration of progressive “philosophy, ideology, activist logistics, coalition politics, and personal conviction.” As I go through the book I see a continuing stream of references to King that make this book in some ways a recounting of the King legacy and the King methods, and I learn for the first time that King called in 1963 for a domestic Marshall Plan as part of his concept of reparations.

+ The black working class is the center of gravity for tru progressive reform, and nothing the Democratic Party has done under Clinton or Obama has been beneficial to that group (Clinton in particular is slammed for destroying welfare and exporting jobs).

The author provides a riveting discussion of Chicago in 1965 with one million blacks caught “in a nightmare of acquisitive white real estate owners, callous labor leaders, corrupt political officials, and morally blind social welfare adherents.” (p. 37). In this context Barack Obama is clearly far removed from the black movement, and very much an elite who has betrayed the black people.

Among my notes:

+ “Wait” means “Never”

+ King ultimately sought and represented “racial, social, distributive, Christian justice,” and what I like about this is its comprehensive integrative notion. I am reminded of the DVD Bonhoeffer.

+ Uncle Tom a sterotype of the Negro that will wait, and a depersonalized substitute for real people.

+ 15th Amendment passed in 1965 required 100 years and a Voting Rights Act to be sort-of-real in one small area

+ True compassion demands restructuring, and I agree with this, see also Redesigning Society (Stanford Business Books) and The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage. The USA today is a corrupt society, a cheating society, with concentrated wealth to the point that a revolution is long overdue.

+ Race is an analytic construct that cannot be ignored.

+ Paul Robson, Lani Guinier, Manning Marable, Angela Davis, Patricia Williams, Troy Duster, Eliajah Anderson, Greg Thomas and others not named are explicitly labeled the authentic black leaders. I personally see a lot of value in Cornell West and found his Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism to be a Nobel-level endeavor, but I have no standing to contest the author on this point.

There is a great deal of repressed anger in this book, and while I have been calling for two Truth & Reconciliation Commissions for some time (one for what US Government has done to its own people, another for what the US Government has done “in our name” to everyone else on the planet), this book made me realize that an absolute top priority, RIGHT NOW, must be to have an internal black community truth & reconciliation circle in which the political leaders of note (my favoriates are Cynthia McKinney, Carol Moseley-Braun, and Al Sharpton) bring together Cornell West and others on both sides of this argument for a good old-fashioned clearing of the air. Certainly the The Average American: The Extraordinary Search for the Nation’s Most Ordinary Citizen needs to be engaged, and the common sense of the community brought to bear. I also feel there has been a real unwillingness to document the realities such as are portrayed in Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor and there is a need for a brutal stock-taking that can be publicized and not denied.

Not addressed by the author, but well worth the time of the Cynthia McKinney’s and Lani Guinier’s of the world is the plight of the upper blue collar and lower half middle class in the white community. Books such as Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War, Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class – And What We Can Do about It (BK Currents (Paperback)), andThe Working Poor: Invisible in America must be absorbed by black leaders, and a coalition created across Independent, Libertarian, Green, and estranged two-party tyranny lines.

My head still hurts. Too many words, too much anger, but essential if we are all to come together again.

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