Note: This is my own take on chapter seven of “Democracy in Black” (2016) by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
Black Liberals (fl. 1909- ) are those Blacks in the US who believe in democracy, capitalism and the US, but want the government to step in to protect equal rights and equal opportunity.
The root of US Black political thought is the observation that the US says it is for freedom, equality and democracy, but does not practise them, at least not when it comes to Black people.
The disagreements over the causes and cures leads to the main schools of thought, here listed from the most dangerous to the least in the eyes of the US government:
- communist: Democracy is a trick. Capitalism needs to be overthrown by revolution for there to be true equality between races. Examples: Paul Robeson, the later W.E.B. Du Bois, Angela Davis.
- nationalist: Blacks need their own country, or at least their own institutions, since the White US institutions cannot be counted on to be fair. Examples: Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Black Power, Black Panthers, Nation of Islam, Ta-Nehisi Coates.
- liberal: The US government needs to uphold its own promises of freedom, democracy and equality, mainly by upholding equal rights before the law. Change comes through voting, protest and court cases. Examples: The early Du Bois, James Baldwin, Martin Luther King, Jr, Freedom Riders, John Lewis, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, SNCC, NAACP, Moral Mondays, Black Lives Matter.
- conservative: US society is more or less fair. Black people need to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Examples: Booker T. Washington, Thomas Sowell, Black Republicans.
- post-Black: There is little the government can do about racism, what little is left of it. Blacks need to transcend race. Examples: Barack Obama, New Blacks.
Overlap: Conservatives and nationalists are both big on self-help. Liberals and post-Blacks are big on colour-blind policies. Conservatives and post-Blacks are big on scolding poor Blacks. And so on.
- Features: charismatic preachers, protest, court cases, voting, speeches, grandstanding. What conservatives and post-Blacks call the grievance industry.
- dependent on charismatic preachers,
- dismantling the master’s house with the master’s tools,
- integrating into a burning house.
- History: Despite its civil rights victories of the 1950s and 1960s, Black Liberalism on the whole has narrowed over the years:
- 1946: narrows its vision to just the US. No more Pan-Africanism.
- 1976: moves to colour-blind policies.
- 1980s: sells its soul to the Democratic Party.
- 1990s: Democratic Party accepts Reagan’s ideas of limited government, thanks in part to Ron Brown. It leaves Black Liberals with little to show for their votes. Big banks and the prison-industrial complex benefit more from their votes than they do.
- 2010s: Black Spring, Black Lives Matter, the rebirth of protest, etc.
White racism: Like communism, democracy is a wonderful idea on paper. But in practice, in the US, it has been deformed by White racism (and, arguably, capitalism). Black Liberals can and have won important gains for Blacks, but they leave White racism in the main untouched.
– Abagond, 2017.
- White Liberals
- Obama retrospective
- Black Americans
- Glaude: Democracy in Black