Black Politics After 2016

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The symbiotic relation between antiracist politics and Democratic neoliberalism helps to make sense of the vitriol with which so many antiracist activists have reacted to Sanders and the renewed interest in challenging economic inequality. Notwithstanding copious evocations of the heroic period of black insurgent activism, this politics is not directed toward generating the deep and broad solidarities necessary for building an insurgent political movement. It is an insider, elite-driven interest group politics that is concerned less with reducing inequality than with establishing and maintaining what Kenneth Warren describes as “managerial authority over the nation’s Negro problem.” As West observed regarding the race relations framework’s emergence at the dawn of the twentieth century, claims to speak for black concerns in this politics do not depend on demonstration of accountability to any specific constituencies of black people. From Coates and other pundits to the many random Black Lives Matter activists those who expatiate about black Americans’ lack of interest in social-democratic politics claim interpretive authority based on the mysticism of organic racial representation and, most immediately, recognition by corporate media and elites as authentic voices.

That is a crucial context within which we should understand antiracists’ tendency to align with Wall Street Democrats in denouncing calls for general redistribution and their insistence that Trump’s victory most meaningfully expresses the depth of commitments to white supremacy, sexism, and homophobia particularly among “white working class” voters.

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