evolution of black radical thought

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at phoenix.Princeton.EDU
Thu Jun 25 10:45:43 PDT 1998

Louis P accuses me of pontification, zero knowledge, ignorance and stoked emotions (as if I am the only one who gets emotionally trapped talking about race)--so I must use my last daily post in self defense, though this will prompt more email blows. My critics are not embarrassed by the ad hominem nature of their criticism; I guess we just can't all get along.

Boyd's essay ends by raising the problems we have discussed: the race/class relation and the nationalism/Marxism opposition. Marable suggests that the Marxism within the black community has often been quotes from the Peking edition of Lenin on national self-determination. Which is to say that the opposition has been between red, black and green nationalism/pan Africanism and simply red nationalism. Boyd develops no real critique of black nationalism or the search for black operational unity; indeed the last quote is from Garvey.

He says not a word about the sexism in recent nationalist visions (which is a big step back from what Marable and Davis have underlined; it boggles my mind that Max thinks the idea of a Million MAN march is so great, but then he was inspired by the Promise Keepers on which the MMM was modelled or was it visa-versa in keeping with the idea of a black vanguard?)

Boyd ends with an agenda of human rights (that the class biased laws of our country should not be more brutally applied to black people), full employment (which should be possible if enough work is farmed out to the prisons), and self determination (which can be a code word for chieftains in the bantustan).

Boyd recognizes that other thinkers (Frazier, Cruse) have doubted whether social radicalism can develop within the black community or in black exclusive organizations. I have the same doubts (and I am sure there were many at the Conference who could express better than I have). Boyd rejects these doubts. But given that Boyd recognizes this an open, live question, I am surprised that I have been subjected to so much vitriol.

Aside from its vague analysis of contemporary politics, Boyd's essay is a moving and beautiful expression of historic black struggles.

By the way, I have read a lot of work by the conference organizers: Alkalimat (whose textbook I used), Sanchez (whose poetry I taught; my most memorable class is black poetry, so I hope Ward Connerly's recent campaign is annihilated), Davis and Marable (whose essays I have taught), West, Dyson and others.

best, rakesh

ps I will need to look at Robert Allen's Black Awakening in Capitalist America to engage Louis' P defense of black control of the black community. Allen raises criticisms, as did Oliver Cox of another sort in his last writings.

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