“We’ve been here before. 2020 will tell us if we’ve matured politically, or if we’ll continue the endless march back to the plantation, Until Slavery.” ~ Omowale Afrika
Bet it All on Biden (or Bust)
The 2020 presidential election is most certainly a first of its kind for Black America. Never before in the history of plantation politics, have we seen an election divide us so deeply. The number of people willing to place decades of their hard-won political capital on the line, is astounding; especially in support of the architect of mass incarceration.
What is it we hope to gain, in America, by using all of our political currency to place Biden in the White house — even at the cost of denouncing entire segments of the Black radical tradition?
Have we not learned from the lessons of the past? Or will the elementary political calculus, known as, lesser of two evils, continue to be the table on which our bad bets are placed?
Black America aligning itself, politically, with the candidacy of Jim Crow Joe, is perhaps the most bullheaded gamble we’ve made, since Woodrow Wilson. For those whose historical lens is too shortsighted to remember the outcome of this tragic political wager, allow me to refresh your memory.
During the 1912 presidential election, W.E.B. Du Bois would make one of the biggest political gambles of his career, by encouraging Black America to align itself politically, with an enlightened klansmen. Following the successful election of Woodrow Wilson, Du Bois penned an open letter to the 28th president, to remind him what his new friend, the Negro voter, had done for him, and the Democratic Party.
We black men by our votes helped to put you in your high position. It is true that in your overwhelming triumph at the polls that you might have succeeded without our aid, but the fact remains that our votes helped elect you this time, and that the time may easily come in the near future when without our 500,000 ballots neither you nor your party can control the government.
In exchange for outstanding service on behalf of a political candidate, the Negro voter was gifted with Federal Jim Crow laws, mainstreaming of the Ku Klux Klan, and public lynching's in the very uniforms they fought in to protect this country.
44 years after the 1912 election, W.E.B. Du Bois would write a public account of his presidential picks in each of the presidential contests, from 1899 to 1956, where he boldly declared, “I Will Not Vote!” When reflecting on the horrible bet he made on Woodrow Wilson, Du Bois wrote the following:
In 1912 I wanted to support Theodore Roosevelt, but his Bull Moose convention dodged the Negro problem and I tried to help elect Wilson as a liberal Southerner. Under Wilson came the worst attempt at Jim Crow legislation and discrimination in civil service that we had experienced since the Civil War.
Clearly, Black America has not learned the lessons Du Bois attempted to distill for us, in 1956, because in 2020, we’re still placing the same idiotic bets, and still using the same cowardly logic to justify them — even at the expense of losing long term relationships.
Plantation Politics for Dummies
Grassroots politics is not for the faint of heart — a lesson Ice Cube will soon learn, if he hasn’t done so already. The Black political landscape in America, is a minefield — full of slave catchers, political operatives, gatekeepers, and lost sheep. Every four years there’s a reshuffling of the political deck, and with each change in administration, key players in the plantation political economy seek to increase their power.
As a high-profile entertainer, the entry of Ice Cube into the political arena was sure to set-off a recruitment war between the various plantation factions looking to claim him in Free Agency. While Ice Cube was politically astute enough to dodge Roland Martin’s attempt to contain him via Alicia Garza — a known operative of the non-profit industrial complex — the attempts to reel him in won’t stop there.
Navigating the internal politics of the plantation requires a high degree of political sophistication, as you pass through successive gates; and gate keepers. For this reason, escape is nearly impossible for entertainers that have reached the inner-most parts of the Master’s house, given the sheer number of political traps on the road to freedom.
It’s worth noting here, that some never even set foot on the road, because they are quickly reeled in if they venture to close to the steps. We saw this when LeBron James made what appeared to be a radical call, in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting. He was immediately told by former President, Barack Obama, to put away his strike, and get up stairs to organize the vote. Naturally, he complied, because without a political or ideological foot to stand on, the large majority of Black entertainers just do what they’re told.
What we must understand is, the infantilization of Black celebrities is not unique to Black athletes, however, the most acute cases of ideological malnourishment are almost always found among the highest paid entertainers. Billions of dollars are invested, annually, to maintain spectrum deprivation in the Black community.
What this simply means is, if the Spectrum of Black Political thought were a rainbow, 99% of Black people have only seen two colors in their lifetime, which range from outright cooning to radical integration.
The outright coons (i.e. the unapologetic slaves or slavery apologists), which include folks like Candace Owens, Jason Whitlock, and Jesse Lee Peterson, are the easiest to evade, but every so often, they catch a runaway.
For those that make it through the first gate, the second checkpoint on the road to freedom will present very little challenge. This stop is manned by your old guard — plain vanilla — integrationists ( a la the Roland Martin’s of the world), and the new generation of “who’s who,” on the plantation.
These are your corporate strivers, your social justice hustlers, and the influencer wing of the Democratic Party, that collectively fashions itself as the exemplars of “Black Excellence.” Again, not much of a challenge here, especially for those who are seeking to escape the house these folks are clamoring for access to.
It isn’t until you reach the 3rd and 4th gates, which pass through the tunnel of confusion, that most escapees will run into their first challenge on the road to freedom.
The 3rd gate is manned by radical integrationists, who often repackage the language of Nationalists and Pan Africanists, to make themselves appear to be Black America’s revolutionary vanguard. However, when you scratch beneath the surface, these folks are quickly revealed as integrationists, with attitudes.
What’s particularly challenging about this gate, is its attendees are high profile activists, who are loved by the people. Folks like Killer Mike, and Tamika Mallory, who have consistently used their voices to protest on behalf of the Black community, and have dubbed themselves, modern-day “revolutionaries.” Given their track record of activism, an escapee can easily be fooled into believing they’ve made it to safety, when in reality, they’ve only made it to the ideological center of plantation politics.
The danger with this brand of pseudo-radicalism, is both Render and Mallory, are politically wedded to the type of liberal reformism, that can only be achieved through voting. But never in the history of the Black Radical Tradition, has a Black revolutionary ever used the words, “Pull up and vote for [insert candidate here],” so clearly these folks are not native to the tradition they profess to represent.
A hair to the left of Mallory and Render, is where you’ll find many of the intellectual giants of the African-centered tradition of scholarship, who are reduced every 4-years to mere Democrats in dashikis. The large majority of escapees will easily bypass this group, due to their negative socialization towards Africa, and their desire to have nothing to do with it.
If you make it pass the radical integrationists, and the African-centered camp of Democrats, you’ll reach the fourth and final gate, which is located at the darkest point in tunnel of confusion. This is where you’ll find the most radical, of the radical integrationists. Paradoxically, escapees that make it to this point on the road to freedom have the greatest potential for embracing a revolutionary politic, but are easily captured by the most anti-revolutionary leadership.
Leaders of the ADOS & FBA movements, represent the dueling spheres of ignorance that command the final gate. While FBA is more akin to a church, than a political formation, ADOS nominally represents itself as a reparations, data-driven, advocacy group — that is a more “practical” alternative to the Black radical tradition.
Carnell and Moore truly embody the political axiom of “no permanent friends, only permanent interests.” This is clearly seen in the fact that each of the scholars (i.e. Ball, Hamilton, Darity) whose work was used to build the incomplete political thesis of the movement, are now persona non grata within the movement.
The reverse is true for entertainer Ice Cube, who was once the laughing stock of ADOS leadership, but is now welcomed as an ADOS favorite son.
As I said at the beginning, grassroots politics is messy business, and certainly not for the faint of heart.
For those entertainers who are fortunate enough to escape the tunnel of confusion, just outside of the the plantation fence — but certainly not outside of the reach of the dogs (political operatives), and slave catchers — you’ll be met by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, and the NOI.
For most entertainers that escape the plantation, this is about as far as they make it, before the economic weight of freedom catches up with them.
Very seldom, perhaps once in a generation, you’ll get a weary traveler that makes it as far as the woods. There, you’ll be met with your final trap — the white Marxists — who, generation after generation, capture our most brilliant youth, from Angela Davis to Noname.
For those who are skilled enough to avoid the final trap, just on the other side of the white Marxists, awaits cancellation.
Here, you will find the keepers of the Black Liberation tradition — the political heretics, and the maroons. Any entertainer who makes it to this point in their ideological, and political development, will face complete ostracization from every slave on the plantation. Paul Robeson, is perhaps the only entertainer to make it this far as an escapee, and he was completely written off as a lost shepherd.
So in closing, I say to our brother Ice Cube — keep on running my brother. Anyone who hasn’t been completely compromised by years of plantation politics, will see that Ice Cube’s contract with Black America is of noble intent. My only hope is that, for his sake, he learns sooner, rather than later, that the party (Not referring to a political party) he’s looking to execute a contract with doesn’t honor contracts, treaties, truces, or constitutional amendments. The only thing white supremacy honors is POWER, and anything short of that will not address the conditions facing Black people, in America, or anywhere else on the globe.
About the Author
Omowale Afrika is a Garveyite, and grassroots institution builder, with over 15 years of student & community organizing experience. Omowale has served the local Philadelphia community in a variety of roles, including, the former President of Marcus Garvey’s, UNIA & ACL, Division 121, and as an Anti-Violence activist with Men United for a Better Philadelphia.
He currently serves as the Vice-Shenuti for the Philadelphia Chapter of Afrocentricity International, where he oversees Youth Programming. His responsibilities include managing the community outreach initiatives for the African Heritage & Cultural preservation fund, through which he launched the #BlackInstitutionalGiving challenge in 2019.
Omowale was the lead organizer for the RBG Centennial Conference, and the 2020 Remaking Black Power Summit. In addition to his organizing efforts, brother Omowale is an independent filmmaker & community lecturer, with his most notable works being the Strike Drum lecture series, and the Un-American Dilemma project.
Brother Omowale lectures, writes, speaks, and organizes around the following issues:
- Pan Africanism/Black Nationalism
- Afrikan Spirituality
- Political Prisoners
- Black Liberation
- Black Power
- State Sanctioned Violence
- Rebuilding Black Families
- Community-led Development
- Nation Building
If you’d like to make a contribution to support his work, you can do so using the link below.
Thanks in advance for your consideration!