The Future of Black Politics

Michael C. Dawson in the Boston Review:

Dawson_37.1_suitPeople who live at the bottom of the social order, especially at the bottom of more than one of its hierarchies, are frequently condemned to a life of crippling disadvantage. The existence of such mutually reinforcing power hierarchies calls the social order itself into question as a matter of justice. Political movements need to disrupt these hierarchies to overcome injustice.

In the United States, a healthy black politics is indispensable to that task. Black politics—African Americans’ ability to mobilize, influence policy, demand accountability from government officials, participate in American political discourse, and ultimately offer a democratic alternative to the status quo—have at times formed the leading edge of American democratic and progressive movements; black visions were some of the more robust, egalitarian, and expansive American democratic visions. This status has been lost.

The decline of progressive black politics is apparent in the Occupy actions that have swept the country to protest economic injustice. There has been black participation, and in some areas, such as Chicago, black efforts to mobilize communities have been aided by the presence of a local Occupy movement. But, for the most part, Occupy has been divorced from black politics.

Yet both today’s black communities and black political traditions have much to offer Occupy and progressives at large.

More here.