A view of Black Lives Matter by an ageing White conservative
NOTE: embedded links indicated by underlined italics
“’Racialism’ is racism with a triple-digit I.Q.”
« Qu’est-ce-que c’est un symbole phallus encore? »
« It’s your dick, idiot!”
“Oh . . . oops.”
— A Midwestern Republican high schooler (i.e., me) in French Literature class discussing the poetry of Aimé Césaire, October 1974
“Of course, all lives matter. Right and for now, Black lives matter more.”
B.L.U.F. (bottom-line, up-front). the protests following the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are at an inflection point: failure through violence for short-term gains or the hard work toward success over the next two generations.
As a conservative by nature, current reports of looting and destruction of small businesses unsettle me, deeply. “Conservative by nature” means that my politics are centre-right and, more importantly, I tend toward prudence, probabilities, contingencies, and exit ramps. The United States has already failed twice to attain full unity by setting things right for African Americans; hopefully, this third time will be our charm.
THE CURRENT STATE of FRAY.
We live in the midst of a full-blown Black rebellion, one that is overdue. Hispanics, many Asian Americans and Muslims, as well as, for now, many sympathetic Whites support this uprising following the pre-meditated murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis six weeks ago and of Breonna Taylor in Louisville before that. Ironically, the white supremacists and the gangster régime that coddles them also spark the impetus of the Black Lives Matter (i.e., B.L.M.) movement to act.
America is not in danger of B.L.M.-inspired anarchy, nor facing a Trump-instigated reign of terror. Nevertheless, for the B.L.M.-led revolution to succeed, it will need to sustain the stalwart support of at least forty per cent of American Whites. That support will need to remain steadfast not only for today and not only for tomorrow. Not just this week, month, year or even this decade. White support will have to continue for two generations — the time required to change a culture.
WHAT the BLACK REBELLION REALLY MEANS.
First, this rebellion will not degenerate into a race war since the economics fuelling this resistance involve class as much as race. Beyond the many Whites who share the same interests as Blacks in the B.L.M. movement, others remain sufficiently decent not to force their Black brethren into a corner from which protestors must fight for survival.
While elements of the protest display the street politics of traditional anarchy, this movement does not yet impress me as an enduring concoction of socialism and anarchy led by a violent vanguard of a peace never realised. The principal elements catalysing and sustaining the B.L.M. movement appear to be:
· autonomy assumed by more Blacks to reach a cultural and economic self-reliance of African Americans;
· an energetic push for justice — meaning justice in fact, life, and system — for Blacks too long deferred and, therefore, denied; as well as,
· final realisation of reparations due to the descendants of enslaved Black Americans to recover the value of labour stolen not only during 250 years of involuntary servitude, but also by 150 years systematic under-valuation of said labour.
Louis Farrakhan, the divisive leader of the Nation of Islam in the United States, known as the Black Muslims, remains a mystery to me. From what I have heard about him, the man strikes me as dangerous. Yet, in his long and discursive speech at “The Million Man March” a quarter of a century ago, Mr Farrakhan said one thing that has stuck with me all these years as absolutely valid: that Whites will never care enough for Blacks voluntarily to lift them to freedom in equality.
This call to self-reliance represents the long-term phase of the B.L.M. movement. Why would Moses march the Hebrews through a desert for forty long years in The Book of Shemot (a / k / a The Exodus)? To wean the newly liberated slaves of the Pharaoh’s certain but hard-earned lentils and grow into a culture of individual virtue and innovation. That required forty years, or two generations.
The long-term commitment contemplated here applies not only to Blacks and a critical mass of Whites, but also to Muslims as well as to Asian, Native and Spanish Americans. This long march of progress will be every bit as taxing and liberating for all Americans as it was for the incipient Nation of Israël thirty-three centuries ago or the Great Civil War from 1861–65 by:
· breaking the chains of an underclass , the dependency of which systematically deprives millions of Black men and women from assuming their properly ordained statures in the eyes of G-d;
· Blacks undertaking the de-segregation of the heart and the hard work of breaking a cyclical culture of violence as defined by a scourge of Black-on-Black crime attendant to easy guns and drugs tolerated by too many Whites as “not our problem”; as well as, somehow,
· cultivating the renewal of the nuclear family and an emphasis on meaningfully provisioned education across African Americana.
Along with millions of other fellow Americans, I have my ideas on how the larger society should redress these systemic shortcomings of our culture and political economy. All such ideas, save one, lie beyond the scope of this essay; the one exception being that every White, beginning with me, needs to embrace these challenges as ‘our’ problem, not ‘their’ problem. Shrugging my shoulders in indifference becomes complicity with white supremacists.
These practitioners of ‘eliminationist racism’ the number-one terror threat within the United States according to the F.B.I. In short, for Whites to place sole responsibility of remedial action and initiative onto Blacks is to blame the victim. More than resources are not enough for affirmative action alone was not enough. To reach a just society requires de-segregation of the heart, or a concerted commitment of will by each and every American possible.
RE-MASCULATION of BLACK MEN.
My thinking here comes from the Black revolutionary poetry of Aimé Césaire from a French Literature course in high school and my later reading of The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon. The take-away from these two writers is the necessity of violence for the reprise of Black male autonomy. Obviously, this kinetic road to one’s re-humanisation has its oil slicks.
Most delicate of these tensions remains the fact that most people in general, and American Whites in particular, understandably take a dim view of looting and what looks like wanton property damage and vandalism. There may be more latitude toward pulling down monuments or torching unoccupied police cars. These are common enough objects and replaceable, after all.
Nevertheless, busting up people’s shops and ruining their livelihoods does not play well in the suburbs, quickly wearing down the formidable level of commitment required of Whites (i.e., 40% for two generations). More Whites may start to look the other way on police violence against Blacks and the reparations and conciliation process breaks down.
Limited and highly visible destruction, however, catalyses the Black rebellion to sustain radical change and impresses the necessity of that rebellion upon Whites. Additionally, as Lawrence of Arabia noted, for people in revolutionary ferment, looting is less opportunistic plunder and more an agitprop to confirm and inspire the bottom-up repudiation of a corrupted, unjust régime.
And, G-d knows well that American Blacks have suffered long and hard under an unjust order. The question now arises, from my conservative world-view, of when to stop the violence. That is: how close is the street crime to the line now invisible to Blacks and other protestors, but flashing red to non-B.L.M. Whites when crossed? Put simply: ¿when is enough, enough?
The brittle balance required to maintain the pro-B.L.M. coalition prescribes a switching point from violent to non-violent resistance. For me, at least, the protestors are fast approaching that limit. Now would be the ideal time for many repeats of what occurred in Louisville when protestors protected a policeman surrounded by a volatile mob.
B.L.M. participants may not be able to prevent looting or vandalism, but they can photograph the people leading it and report the looting to police. As the police arrive the area B.L.M. coordinators then open a lane of approach for the police. Above all, the great majority of protestors must practice zero-tolerance for taking any lives, including that of policemen. Here coöperation with police will more likely consolidate the necessary support among Whites of goodwill.
In the meantime, law enforcement needs to stop battering reporters and other innocents. Instead police and crime detection professionals should investigate who is actually committing these crimes. In a spooky irony, descriptions of recent ‘Anti-fa terrorists’ depict people whose behaviours correspond more closely with white supremacists (i.e., the number-one domestic source of terror per F.B.I. Director Wray).
THE CHALLENGE of REPARATIONS.
If one is oblivious to history, as I was for many years, (s)he will likely dismiss the whole notion of Black reparations as a racist sense of entitlement profferred to, and in favour of, Blacks for doing nothing. This dismissal is at best false and most likely racist. Reparations seek to restore to the descendants of slaves the value of labour stolen labour from their ancestors during 250 years of involuntary servitude.
In fact, additional largesse may well be in order to recover the amount of labour not fairly compensated during days of debtor prisons, share-cropping, Jim Crow laws, segregation, and a near-universal discrimination against African Americans. While affirmative action and civil rights laws addressed these issues, segregation remains entrenched; moreover, since 2013, states have undermined voting rights for Blacks and voting-age students, two core segments of B.L.M.
President Grant tried to monetise reparations for slaves in the 1870s but failed. A hundred years later, President Johnson made as strong an effort as President Grant had with the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act as well as programmes including Model Cities and Affirmative Action. The current round of demands for reparations indicates that, fifty years later, one can see that the Great Society has failed. Both efforts tried hard enough, but not long enough.
Reparations calculations vary widely due to a sensitivities of assumptions and values assigned to parameters. The redemption value of Dr King’s defaulted promissory note range from $500 billion to four trillion dollars on the lower end all the way up to fourteen trillion dollars on the higher end; values seem to settle in the $10–12 TRILLION range. My particular calculations integrate the following five scenarioes into a composite reparations bill of $10,865,616,290,109:
1. best case based on full and fair value of labour starting with the boom after the Civil War;
2. worst case of permanently depressed agricultural economies but full and fair employment;
3. the value of each slave in 1860 in today’s dollars;
There is the question of costs of affirmative action of $590+ billion and cumulative losses from race riots, conservatively estimated at $10 billion by assuming a $2 billion worst case for the George Floyd protests. These total, conservatively, $600,394,566,141. Netted against the gross bill of reparations, the net payable due to Blacks is $10,265,221,723,968.
Victor Hugo observed that nothing is so powerful as an idea whose time has come. To realise that idea in the case of Black Lives Matter, however, one must recall and heed Ralph Waldo Emerson and Louis Farrakhan that envy is ignorance, imitation suicide. These thoughts delineate the opportunity and dilemma facing the Black Lives Matter movement.
Indeed, realisation through beneficial use of the $10.3 TRILLION net reparations bill, if collected, rests on profound changes with the hearts of Blacks and Whites alike:
· switching to non-violent resistance as model citizens;
· restoring the full statures of Black men and Black families;
· opportunities for Black children renewed; and,
· the final strides toward freedom taken by Whites intent upon, with patience toward, a new and better America.