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The Milton Measure

[Archives] Black Power

Mark Meyer

by The Milton Measure on Friday, February 10th, 2012

“The important literature now is the underground press, the speeches of Malcolm, the works of Fanon, the songs of…Aretha Franklin. The rest all sounds like the Moyinhan report and Time-Essay, explaining everything, understanding nothing, changing no one.”

From Soul Power, by Andrew Kopkind

New York Review of Books

There is a new political attitude in America today. It is an attitude demanding change, with a voice of necessity and desperation. Above all, it is an attitude that virtually all “responsible” America deplores—”responsible” being a cliché for those advocating the status-quo. The day has come to talk with the people and not about them, to stop respecting Congress and the President regardless of their actions, to see what position America is really in. Perhaps this is why there is so much anger and disillusionment in America today.

Although the new outlook is present in both the black and white communities, the new black-perspective is causing the most outrage. This is certainly no surprise. The self-righteous calls for law and order came fast and furious in the wake of urban rebellions. Here again we find that gross hypocrisy which Malcolm X saw to be the trademark of the white liberal. Was there ever any “law and order” in the ghetto? Why should anyone respect “law and order” when they see government graft everyday? Then there are those who see the rebellions as the result of the “cultural deficiency,” and after doing so they head back to their suburban homes—Mantovani and T.V. It is really no surprise that black people are getting fed up. Who would want a part of this hypocritical double-talk? Yet still President Johnson needs a “fact-finding commission.” There are, however, deeper and more specific reasons for the new disillusionment.

One of these major causes for disillusionment is the Southern control of our government. The President is a Southerner. Ten out of sixteen senatorial committees are controlled by Southerners. Twelve out of twenty congressional committees are controlled by Southerners. One can well see why Dr. Martin Luther King claimed that “the real problem is that out government is running wild with racism.” So why should black people turn to the government? Why should they take their problems to those who least want to see their betterment? As Malcolm X said, “You don’t take your case to the criminal, you take your criminal to the court.” In this case the court he was suggesting was the United Nations. This is typical of the elevation of the black struggle from one of civil rights to one of human rights. They no longer wish to work within the framework of the United States’ law, for U.S. laws never did fully apply to them, except in the negative sense. This is the aspect that whites find particularly terrifying, and with good reason. It marks the end of the pleasant and almost fairy-tale like quality of the integration struggle and moves it into a ruthless and sustained drive towards Black Power. After all, for the blacks, White Power is a constant reality.

The role of the whites in the new attitude is not as important as that of the blacks, but it is perhaps more complicated and interesting in its implications. As usual, the white man seems to thrive on the idea of adversity, in so much as he doesn’t have to live with it for very long. His imagination is flared by charitable excursions into the ghetto, such as when Hippies ventured into the streets of New York ghettos to give out food. It is no surprise that more and more black leaders are finding this attitude repugnant. It is the ultimate in condescension.

The attitude in whites finds a more legitimate outlet in the war in Vietnam. Even in this area, however, there are somewhat questionable allegations of race war, both among the black revolutionaries and among the New-Leftists. It is clear that race and racism are fast becoming an obsession with many people, but it is the government that is reinforcing the race war theory by its domestic actions. On the other hand there is a link between the war and racism in America, in that there is no reason an American should fight in Vietnam when there is not freedom for all in this country. If the situation here were not so awesome (from the youth’s point of view), I am sure that President Johnson could receive followers for any cause. But, of course, this is a paradox. We simply can’t renovate this country while spending 28 billion dollars a year in Vietnam. Gunner Myrdol has estimated that this country needs trillions of dollars over many years to get us “out of trouble.” Meanwhile we spend 250 million dollars a year on oceanographic studies and five million a year on rent subsidies.

Is the situation hopeless, then? Well, it certainly isn’t happy. In fact it’s pathetic. We, as affluent whites, have a responsibility, presuming we are legitimately concerned. Our first responsibility is not to spread the word in the Black Community. There is a new generation of black leaders who can do that very well. Our responsibility is to our own community, for it is in the affluent white suburbs that it really lies. This is not a Negro problem; this is, above all, a white problem.

White racism and condescension are at the root of the situation in America today. If we shake up our communities or even our homes with a little of that necessity and desperation of attitude that is so needed, perhaps we can avoid the massive nationwide explosion that now seems inevitable.

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Posted by The Milton Measure on Feb 10 2012. Filed under From The Archives, From the Archives. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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