against 'entrenched identities'

Max Sawicky sawicky at
Wed Jul 1 09:21:13 PDT 1998


> Oh Max, you have been inside the Beltway too long if you think that DC/PG
> County is the most likely place to find real world expressions of what you
> call "practice." That's like saying Atlanta is representative of

Au contraire, I would argue that DC/PG is an excellent test case. For non-natives, Prince George County in Maryland adjoins the District and has seen major population growth of working-class blacks, as well as wealthier ones. Few better places for the germination of black activism could be imagined. The District is really two cities. One is the "inside the beltway" that some people like to rant about when they run out of arguments, though I'm not referring here to Mike E. It is the world of the Federal government and all those seeking to influence it or profit from it, a world in which my participation is much less than imagined. The other Washington is that of residents east of the park, mostly black, for whom the Federal government is where they work and not the object of their professional or political interest. (An exception is that lately the Feds directly run the DC government, so they are the object of more notice than normally.) The idea that all these folks are politically absorbed in the Federal government is silly.

Sections of DC and PG are just as troubled as the worst parts of a Detroit or Chicago. You are right in the sense that DC/PG is just one place and not a decisive test of the question of how much black activism is going on.

> the South, or Santa Fe of the SW. Time for you to take a few months off,
> climb in the
> jelopy, and visit the world outside DC and its environs.

I'm happy to learn of any such activities.

> >> I question why the BRC is automatically branded "nationalist."
> >
> >Note that the term is not pejorative coming from me,
> >but really, if something is called the "black radical
> >congress" is at least divided on the subject of inviting
> >whites, it seems safe to call it a nationalist gathering,
> >broadly speaking, while recognizing that it entails many
> >shades of variation.
> How many predominantly white conferences have you been to in which there
> were a multitude of tendencies, some extreme, others not? These rarely if

Plenty, but they were never called "The White such and such . . . "

> ever are characterized on the basis of their whiteness, but when Blacks
> gather and among them are some who would just as soon never
> interact with a
> white person if they did not have to, the entire gathering is immediately
> labeled "nationalist." When SCLC or the A. Philip Randolph Institute, or

Most of my critics here seem to have accepted the label, though that doesn't make it so.

> any number of other primarily Black organizations conduct gatherings to
> which only a handful of whites come, they are not branded "nationalist."

I'm confident there was never any question of whites being welcome at an SCLC or APR meeting. Here there was at least a question. As I said, I don't have a problem with an exclusionary meeting in principle; only with a consistently exclusionary politics.

> But when Black radicals convene and seek to do so without having
> to cater to the views, interests, or feelings of whites, the entire
gathering becomes
> "nationalist." When Jews gather together are those gatherings
> automatically
> Zionist?

I don't know what the Jewish Labor Committee is doing these days, but the fact is that political meetings of Jews are invariably based on a shared commitment to Zionism. Even liberal or radical jews of the Tikkun variety. Otherwise, there would be no point in having such a meeting! The only exception would be some kind of gathering dealing with fighting anti-semitism, though it happens that the preeminent organization in that business--the ADL--is also pro-zionist, among other things.

> When Christians gather are they automatically Anti-Semetic?

Obviously not. As I said above, to me nationalism does not mean anti-white.

> . . .
> Nationalist need not be racist, but in the context of the debate we have
> been having, its use was linked to "exclusion," which suggests that those
> who feel excluded on the basis of their race invest in the term
> "nationalist" something more than a benign characterization, especially
> considering the emotional volatility of the interchanges we have had.

True enough.

Nationalism is indeed a term loaded with alternative connotations, some of which are very negative to my way of thinking. Just like zionism, christianism, judaism, or populism. By contrast, I cannot deny, trade unionism, social-democracy, progressivism, feminism are much safer. But safety isn't everything; we do have to take chances.


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