Black Nationalism and the Peoples’ Movement – Glen Ford on Reality Asserts Itself (3/3)

Black Nationalism and the Peoples’ Movement – Glen Ford on Reality Asserts Itself (3/3)


PAUL JAY: Welcome back to The Real News Network.
I’m Paul Jay, and this is Reality Asserts Itself on The Real News Network. We’re continuing
our series of interviews with Glen Ford, the executive editor of Black Agenda Report. Thanks for joining us again, Glen. GLEN FORD: Thanks for the invite. JAY: And once again, if you want to know more
about Glen’s biography, there’s stuff down here beneath the video player. But watch part
one and part two. It’s kind of all about his biography. But let’s start talking a little bit more
about today’s politics. And there’s a phrase you use, self-determination, self-determinist.
And I’m not quite sure whether that means for you that it’s connected with the concept
of sort of black nations. You know. And in the history of American politics there’s been
this concept even of a geographically cut out black nation in the South. When you use
it, what does it mean? FORD: Well, I’m of the school of thought that
black Americans do constitute a nation. It’s not necessarily connected to a land base,
although black folks’ origins–and grew into a people in, of course, the slave states in
the South. But the idea that a people must have a designated land area in order to be
a nation, it would logically follow that if you take away that land, they are no longer
a nation. And, well, that doesn’t make sense. You can’t denationalize a people simply by
driving them off the land or their migration away from the land. JAY: You could actually–you know, as a Canadian,
I can see you can somewhat compare it to Quebec in a way. I mean, you know, a population are,
you know, either sent to or immigrate to or, in terms of pioneer, come to Quebec, and they’re
essentially an extension of France. But over hundreds of years, it becomes the nation of
Quebec. They’re no longer what they were when they arrived. FORD: That’s right. And black America has
a very, very unique history in terms of the diaspora, and it is over a period of generations
that this unique people develop their own way of looking at the world, as all other
people do, their own common reference points, their own internal dynamic in terms of creating
leadership that has legitimacy, all of the characteristics that other national groupings
share. Black America has–there are basically two
tendencies that have been in conflict ever since there’s been something that you could
called black America. One is the self-determinationist tendency, that is, the political tendency
that says black folks have every right to organize among each other for their own goals,
regardless of what the larger society, i.e. white folks, think, and that that is legitimate. There is also what I call the representationist
strain, which says that black folks should have representation at all strata of the general
society and that this can be achieved, and by–progress should be measured by the extent
to which there are blacks in business, or blacks in politics, blacks in all of the various
strata, and that this does not require any transformation of society. Now, these are not two warring camps (and
never have been) in black America with the self-determinationists lined up on one side
of the room and the representationists lined up on the other. Actually, these two tendencies
coexist in conflict in every black brain. And they are at war sometimes with each other.
And I think that all black politics actually flows from this twoness, one the imperative
to build a world that is worthy of black people, and the other to achieve black representation
in the larger society. JAY: ‘Cause it does have to be both, doesn’t
it? FORD: Well, in fact, one struggles on both
levels. And during the time of segregation, there
was very little conflict between the two. That is, since black people were shut out
almost totally from political office, shut out almost totally from business, shut out
of white society entirely in this American apartheid system, then there was no conflict.
Once the black movement opened doors so that black people could become involved in the
corporate world, could become mayors and big political heavy hitters, then the contradictions
between these two tendencies become clearer. JAY: Well, I was about to say this also has
a class character to this question, ’cause it’s one thing to seek representation in the
corporate world or the world of elite politics, you know, this two-party system, and you could
even become president. It’s one thing to have that. It’s another thing to have oppositional
groups that are not only black, that are–you know, that include all people who you would
think have an interest to fight the system, which will be made up of whites and Hispanics
and blacks. So that issue of representation also exists in that front, does it not? FORD: If having black faces in high places
is the measure of black progress, then the attainment of a black president is the highest
goal that we could possibly achieve or aspire to. But if black self-determination is the
goal, then the disenfranchisement of Detroit and in fact half of the black population of
Michigan shows us to be at a nadir of black struggle by that kind of measure. JAY: But what I’m getting at is that this
issue of–let me give you concrete, ’cause I see this in–you know, I’m new to Baltimore,
but I can see it happening here, and I’ve seen it in other places, where the idea of
self-determination in black organizations, when you’re talking in the oppositional amongst
the people, not amongst the elites, can have a kind of thing–create a kind of politics
where you have, like, white-left politics over here and black-left politics over here
and not a heck of a lot of cooperation in between, a few organizations where you find
black and white leadership, but certainly less now, I think, than there was in the 1960s.
And what I’m saying is that this issue of self-determination has a different character
based on class, that to become president, I’m not sure what that achieved for African-Americans
to get a black president. I know you argue it may have been almost a step back rather
than a step forward in terms of the effect on people’s preparedness to fight, but when
you’re talking amongst oppositional forces it’s a different question, isn’t it? FORD: Well, first of all, we still have a
very deeply segregated society. So if we’re talking about black Baltimore, we’re talking
about a segregated city. And so of coarse the organizations that are fighting for the
various neighborhoods in Baltimore, which are black neighborhoods, are going to be producing
essentially all-black organizations. That is to be expected. If we’re talking about diversity as some kind
of goal unto itself, I don’t think that that’s necessarily accepted as being the standard
for organizing. You move people where they are. And if we are basically in a very segregated
society, we’re going to have and should have organizations that reflect that reality. JAY: Oh, no question. But I’ll give an example.
We were having a conversation the other day about an organization that wants to try to
influence the outcome of particular school, and they use the phrase–some of the people
use the phrase–’cause I know within the organization there’s debate about this–there should be
black control of the school. And so I asked, well, why isn’t it community control of the
school? And one reason is that the city council is black. The person who’s standing in now–they’re
looking for a new head of the department responsible for schools, but that person’s black. And
if it’s just a question of black control of the schools, there kind of is black control
of the school, because you have a black elite here that has these political positions. Community
says–the people in the community–and there probably is 95 percent black people in that
community, although I think there is a growing Hispanic population. I’m not sure if there’s
a poor white–not much, but in that particular–. FORD: And if that community is not choosing
the people who in fact control the schools, then we don’t have black control. We just
have black folks who are in nominal positions of power. But there is not black power. JAY: Not if you add a class character to it. FORD: Not if you add just a popular character
to it. JAY: Well, they–well, I mean, not many people
voted, but they voted. FORD: If the 95 percent black community was
actually empowered, you would logically have black folks in charge, but they would be folks
who were representing that community, not black folks who were chosen by, let’s say,
the bankers to put a black face on banker rule of the community. And we can make that
analogy going all the way up to the presidency. JAY: Yeah. I mean, but–so then what’s stopping
that? FORD: Actually, there’s no contradiction,
and I think it’s a false dichotomy. JAY: No, I mean, why aren’t–. No, no. I’m
saying then why aren’t black–like, in a city like Baltimore–I mean, you’re not from here,
but I don’t think it’s too dissimilar in other places, maybe, but there isn’t much going
on other than the official candidates in the official party machine, and there isn’t much
of a challenge to them. FORD: Yes. Almost all black political activity
has been sucked up into the Democratic Party. And even if all the operatives in a ward or
most of them in the city itself are black, the Democratic Party is beholden to other
forces in society, cannot move without the okay of those other forces. And so even if
you seem to have a black Democratic Party on the march, they’re marching to somebody
else’s tune. JAY: Let me go back to one point you made
earlier. I mean, I think you’re completely correct. In a majority black city, and you
start dealing with local issues, you’re going to have majority if not completely black organizations,
that is, the people who are being affected. But I’m talking about a need for when you’re
taking on broader issues or if you actually want to deal with state-wide politics, you
know, there is going to be a need for united fronts, there’s going to be a need for organizations
that are not all black if you want to win. I mean, you cannot control, for example, the
state of Maryland just with a black organization. Even in the city of Baltimore, especially
if you include the county, there’s a large nonblack population, and there’s a lot of
people who have a lot of interest to try to change the situation as well. And I don’t
think there’s any doubt African-Americans are suffering the most in the situation, but
there are a lot of other people suffering too. FORD: Sure. And, you know, let’s forget about
the complexional aspects of this. Black America is the most left-leading constituency in the
United States. JAY: Yeah, without a doubt. FORD: The social justice issue has always
been central to black politics, but that does not mean that there is not conflict. And the
conflict stems from the basic social justice progressivism of black folks in the rank-and-file
and those leaders who have been chosen and given access to the implements of at least
nominal power by forces outside of the community. So we have to wage constant struggle within
the community not to just have black faces in place, but to have democracy within this
black nation. And if we have democracy, then we will have a kind of representation that
is quite to the left of the rest of America. JAY: And does that force, if you have this
as this process unfolds–and I think eventually it has to–does not this force have to help
lead the whole rest of the society? FORD: By definition. If we’re talking about
a takeover of the state of Maryland, the black component of that coalition, if it is actually
reflective of the constituency, should be the most progressive element of that coalition.
It should be the driving force for whatever progressive value that coalition has. JAY: Yeah, ’cause, I mean, that’s some of
the conversations I’m getting into here as I’m trying to understand the politics here
is that, you know, the best and brightest and, to my mind, most progressive of the African-American
community, they have to start imagining that they’re going to be the leaders of the whole
society. FORD: Well, Dr. King–. JAY: It doesn’t mean they don’t also organize
as a people, but they also have to organize and be leaders of the whole people. FORD: That’s what Dr. King was talking about
when he said that black folks–and I’m paraphrasing in here–have the burden of having to be the
soul of America. And he saw it as a burden that we not only have our internal struggle
with our Uncle Toms of old (and we have different names for the now), but there is also the
fact that if the black community is not organized in ways that reflect the progressive character
of our people, then there is no possibility of an effective left movement for the country
as a whole. So the fate of progressive politics in the United States is dependent on this
internal struggle in black America between those who want transformation of society and
those who have attached themselves to the powers that be. JAY: Alright. To be continued. Thanks very
much for joining us. Thank you, Glen. FORD: Thank you. JAY: And thank you for joining us on Reality
Asserts Itself on The Real News Network.

21 thoughts on “Black Nationalism and the Peoples’ Movement – Glen Ford on Reality Asserts Itself (3/3)

  1. Although I believe that people who are not the direct aim of a group for the promotion of a group should be included in the group like a black interest groups having white, hispanics, and asians involved and men in feminist groups that doesn't mean i believe that their should be some allowance of actual bigotry into these groups.

  2. There is a problem though at core for any group that works by exclusion of any section of people that has nothing to do with their own choices as it may work for a time as it most definitely has in the u.s. but if your message is not also directed to all of society you will completely not of your own will take on an adversarial character in other people's eyes.

  3. And the same for education, if your interest groups can't produce people who are completely of different substance to your group along the lines i said before, then you have failed. We need whites who are willing to speak the truth about the lives of blacks, hispanics, indigenous, asians etc(that most white people already know but not publicly) and guys to speak the truth on gals and so on.

  4. If these other groups remain silent the appearance to the people who haven't learned anything will simply be that yes maybe there is some problem for the other groups but since no one of my group mentions it, it must not be that serious. I could be wrong but that's what it seems like to me.

  5. primarily ideology. ideology leads to eschewing empiricism in order to hold onto ones ideology. (the progressive movement is where eugenics started, which lead to sterilizations of blacks both in America and abroad.) this is not to say all of progressive thought is wrong or bad but when facts have been against any ideology, the ideology in question tends to veer towards dogma and away from rationality. I could go on but the space here is limited.

  6. in other words it is not necessarily their intentions that are bad, but the repercussions and unintended consequences of their actions, most accurately in the last 40-50 years

  7. I can't post web addresses but here are the names:

    Growing Up Black in American Apartheid – Ford Pt1

    Giving Grassroots Leaders a Voice – Ford Pt2

  8. It'd be useful if TRNN titled their videos so that they're easy to find. For this, so far anyway, 3-part series, the titles vary a lot, only the ending, "- Ford …", matching. This definitely doesn't help with finding other parts.

  9. I've seen this many times before. Yet I don't believe race has any say in a communist struggle. Glen's view of the world is racist and thus misguided.
    You'd think that being subject to racism all his life he wouldn't fall in the same narrative but I've found the mentality in the US so racist at any level that this is actually no surprise. For example no one would call him black in my country. Having 1 black ancestor automatically makes you black in the US which is fundamentally racist.

  10. Why is it that there is so much racism in Sweden? I don't get it, you live in one of the best countries on earth yet I always find you talking crap about how "white people are victims of racism everywhere" as if there was some kind of unbalance that would favour "non-white" immigrants over poor "natives".
    Get fucking real, whatever shitty filthy book you're reading stop it right now and grab a history one.

  11. people have been suggesting similar things for a long time. rnn doesnt seem to get it. it be so easy to title this stuff. "reality asserts itself… with glen ford" or "with david blumenthal part 1, 2, etc"

  12. these people are everywhere and always the same insipid ahistorical battle cry "anti racist is a codeword for antiwhite." they dont seem to understand that it is defacto white countries, american in particular, which are responsible for the monstrous imperialist nature of the capitalist system. its racial privilege. the country is defacto but now theres a contingent of non white people trying to have a voice and this act is "above their station." like straight people whining gays are speaking up

  13. I agree with you; although that is part of what he means by 'representationalism' and that sort of split. Malcolm X initially advocated for black nationalism whereas after going on the Hajj he was for more open to collaboration with other ethnicities. On the other hand, where a group of people are systematically disenfranchised as a result of their ethnicity, they become required to form their own institutions. I agree with the goal, yet one has to work in the present, a present which is racist.

  14. As to communism; communism is an economic system and has relatively little to do with race/nation one way or the other. Whether internationalism was a part of communism was the big split between Stalin and Trotsky. In fact, anti-imperialism and nationalism were very much large parts of communism, especially in Asia. Of course, that too was a source of conflict; Soviet communists did not believe communism was possible in a pre-industrial Asia (Marxism is, after all, rooted in Hegelian dialectics)

  15. Glen Ford that was a fair assessment. I think who you call representist, the would at large call integrationist. And for who ever edited this video MLK was not a Black Nationalist, he was a socialist and a integrationist.

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