Just A Thought...Toward A Movement for the 21st Century
by Rick Adams
MUCH remains to be done to complete the unfinished agenda of the Black Liberation struggle. Many tens of thousands of brothers and sisters participated in the greatest mass movement in this nation's history during the struggle to abolish Jim Crow/Apartheid. This struggle, waged primarily during the fifth and sixth decades of the twentieth century, won many landmark victories. De jure segregation laws prohibiting African people from fully accessing public accommodations, poll taxes and unreasonable constitutional exams blocked Blacks from obtaining voting privileges, and discrimination in housing, education, and employment opportunities were the prevailing practices of the day. The exclusion of the African from fully enjoying the "American Dream" was as ubiquitous as any "iron or bamboo curtain". However the triple weapons of litigation, civil disobedience, and insurrection provided an irresistible force that smashed the lingering legacy of the "peculiar institution" and consigned it forever to the trash bin of history.
NOW we stand at the precipice of the new millennium and many of our people say the modern Civil Rights and Black Power movements were a failure! Thirty percent of our people are low income, under-employed, and unemployed, our life expectancy still lags behind that of the majority population, Black infant mortality rates are comparable to those in developing countries, and hundreds are accosted by the police on a daily basis. Much has changed but much remains to be done.
FOR those who continue to fight the good fight, who have kept their "eyes on the prize" the paramount questions are what issues should the movement focus on that will best move our struggle forward? What constellation of issues will breath life into a movement as much a victim of its own success as a casualty of official oppression? The situation that we face is complex and populated with an enemy that is faceless, that denies that it exists let alone harbors malevolent intentions toward African people, and is supported by countless minions who are largely unaware that they unconsciously support such a monstrous system of oppression!
Large sprawling legal, judicial, financial, political, and educational institutions form the bulwark of this evil empire. Private foundations, multinational corporations, the mass media and institutions of higher education are the financiers, propagandist and strategists of this oppressive order. The police, the legislators, the corporate CEOs, the think tank fellows, the syndicated columnists, and the average civil servant and obedient taxpayers all contribute to the enforcement of this exploitative hierarchy. Reverse discrimination, minority quotas, ill equipped students, unqualified employees, mental, emotional and physical disabilities, and criminal behaviors are the weapons that are employed to turn the victims into the enemy.
RACIST incidents of violence are portrayed as the individual random acts of violence. Discrimination in the workplace is merely business decisions required by "business necessities", underdeveloped communities are unintentional results of the vagaries of market forces, and low participation rates in college and the labor force are the consequence of individuals with dysfunctional families and poor values. In short the "bad things" that happen are largely no ones fault, and when fault is a factor it is those who are the victims who are at fault!
TO combat this deplorable tapestry of social ills the Black Movement of the 21st century must resolve to do four things. The first is to forge a shared and collective analysis of what is the nature of the problems confronting Africans in these United States. The second is that an effective strategy to correct the problems facing Black people must be developed that is embraced by the majority of our community across class, age, gender, regional, ideological and religious lines. The third is that a plan of action must be formulated that effectively addresses the eradication of these problems that beset the African community. The fourth is that sufficient organizational, financial, technical, and human resources must be mobilized from within the African community to supply the core foundation of the Liberation Movement for the 21st century.
THE movement needs to assess the way the modern Civil Rights Movement was able to produce considerable agreement on what issues were of the highest priority and the best way to solve those issues. They were also very successful in framing their argument in the public arena in a manner that controlled the terms of the debate, vilified their enemies, and galvanized mass support in the Black community and significant favorable public support.
THERE is one matrix of issues that seem to offer the ingredients that made the Civil Rights Movement triumphant. This issue has it all; mass human suffering, grievous civil and human rights violations, clear moral lines of demarcation, and easily definable connections to the larger moral and political questions that confront this society. In part two we will exam these issues.