Black Politics and Anti-Black Politics

Black Politics and Anti-Black Politics


Hello and welcome to African Elements. I’m Darius Spearman. In this episode, what is politics and what
defines the experience of black folks within political structures? How does racism factor into that experience? We begin our exploration of Black politics
and anti-black politics right now… Thank you for watching African Elements. If are new to this channel, we produce content
for Africana and Black Studies that’s accessible to students and lifelong learners in and out
of the classroom. We’ve got lots of free and subscription based
content on our web page, so if that’s something you might get some value out of, consider
supporting us on Patreon at the link above. Otherwise, a “like” and subscribe would also
be greatly appreciated. Be sure to hit that bell icon so that you
will be notified when new content drops. Let’s get started with the basics… What is politics? For the purpose of this video, politics refers
to the shaping and distribution of power. The most common expression in shaping and
distributing power that most often comes to mind is the act of determining who will have
the ability to set policies and represent a specific group of constituents – or, more
simply, the act of voting. But beyond voting, there are so many more
forms of political engagement. How you dress, how you wear your hair, where
you shop, where you don’t shop – every thing from music and art to where and how you travel
– all of these things if done for the purpose of shaping and distributing power can be political
acts. If you use your imagination, practically anything
– even a prank – can be an expression of political activism… So, if politics is the process of shaping
and distribution power, then what is power? The most common political definition of power
is simply the ability to get a person or group of people to do something that that person
or group would not otherwise do. For those of you who are viewing this series
as part of a course requirement, for example, if you would not otherwise be viewing this
video then your instructor is exercising a certain degree of power. That power is based on your desire to fulfill
some requirement or pass a test that the instructor has control over. In turn, you as students also collectively
hold a certain degree of power. If your instructor is not performing adequately
you can exercise your power to get your instructor to change his or her behavior by addressing
those issues with the Department Chair or Dean or by leaving a review. If you understand the ways in which political
systems work, then the variety of ways in which you can exercise power are bound only
by your creativity. This web series is aimed at just that – understanding
how political systems work so that you can best decide what methods you will use in order
to harness your power and affect the change that you would like to see in the world. One of the main features of the political
system that we will be exploring is antiblack politics which systematically limits the degree
to which black folks can exercise power. In other words, a major component in the shaping
and distribution of power as it relates to black people is racism. For the purpose of this video, racism will
be defined as decisions and policies that have the impact of subordinating a racial
group and maintaining control over it — whether intended or unintended. That last bit is important. Notice here that the definition of racism
that we will be operating under does not require the subordination of a racial group to be
intentional. Nor does it require that subordination to
be an act of malice. Racism in a political sense goes far beyond
what we typically view as racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan or neo-Nazis. The definition we will be using also doesn’t
necessarily concern itself with the actions of individuals. For example, a poor white person screaming
a racial epithet at me has little or no ability to influence my behavior or get me to do something
do something that I would not otherwise would do – which is to simply go on about my day. Such an individual therefore has little or
no power over me. Conversely, one doesn’t have to be a member
of a hate group or hurl racial epithets in order to engage in antiblack politics. In fact, many anti-black policies come from
people who think themselves liberal and fair-minded folk who would be the first to say that they
abhor hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and readily condemn them – and I believe
them. Consider for example college admissions and
the politics which determines whether you have the ability to attend the University
of your choice. Among (air quotes) fair-minded people, the
political discourse over at least the past generation has centered around the notion
of merit… But who decides who’s deserving of admission
and who lacks merit? More importantly, who decides what constitutes
merit? Those who push SAT and GPA scores, for example,
believe that these are objective, fair measures of merit and that minimizing these measures
would give an unfair and unearned advantage to minority students– a notion often referred
to as “reverse racism.” The perception of a “meritocracy” remains
even though it’s been demonstrated repeatedly, for example, that the SAT test is a better
predictor of family income than it is of success of first-year freshman in college. Other measures of merit, such as personal
narratives give a better overall picture of the student and what he or she brings to the
academic community. Such measures are often looked at as non-meritocratic
even though repeated studies have shown that there is value in having a diverse range of
experiences that students bring to bear in the classroom and in academic community. Similarly, GPA scores carry many of the same
racial biases. The use of honors classes and the extra weight
given of five points on a four-point scale means that students in schools that offer
such classes gain an advantage. Coincidently, those schools happen to be in
more wealthy districts. A report issued by The Harvard Civil Rights
Project observed that school integration was at the same level in 2004 as it was in 1969. As such, African Americans who are still segregated
in less wealthy districts are being penalized simply because their schools don’t offer them
the opportunity to gain extra grade points. As a result, African Americans students who
might have a 4.0 grade point average may be competing with students from other districts
who have a 4.1, 4.2, or 4.3 grade point average or four-point scale. As we will see, who controls the narrative
–or who has the ability to say what constitutes merit and what doesn’t constitute merit – has
the ability to exercise a great deal of power. So is important here to note that when I speak
of racism I’m not necessarily talking about individuals wearing white sheets and hoods. I’m speaking of individuals and institutions
that put in place policies that have the impact of subordinating a particular racial group
regardless of intention. So, black politics is the purposeful activity
of black people to acquire, use, and maintain power whereas the policies and laws of antiblack
politics maintain dominant structures and institutions of white privilege, again whether
intended or not. We have clear examples of explicitly antiblack
politics in the antebellum period of the United States that stripped black slaves of anything
resembling legal recognition of their humanity and severely limited the freedoms of Blacks
who were non-slaves. After the Civil War there were explicit policies
to limit the freedoms of the newly liberated Blacks in the form of the black codes among
other things. For more information about that, check out
video linked above, but suffice it to say that there was no attempt to pretend that
these black codes were anything other than a collection of antiblack laws – I mean
it’s in the name. But what if the intention is not so explicitly
stated? Take the drug war for example. It’s been widely reported that one of former
President Richard Nixon’s top advisers, John Ehrlichman, revealed that it was an intentional
policy on the part of the Nixon administration to heavily criminalize drugs as a way of targeting
both the antiwar movement and Blacks specifically (I’ll leave a link to one of the articles
below in the description). Now in this case we have a clear acknowledgment
that this set of drug policies was specifically intended to target Blacks, but usually that’s
not going to be the case. Just as, no police officer would be foolish
enough to openly state (air quotes) “because you are black” as the reason you were pulled
over. So for the purpose of this example, let’s
pretend that this information didn’t come to light and we have no idea what Nixon’s
intentions were. In fact, let’s just give him the benefit of
the doubt and assume that his intentions were purely out of a genuine concern for curbing
drug use and he had no idea that these drug policies were going to disproportionately
impact Blacks. Hypothetically, would that mean that the drug
war isn’t an example of antiblack politics? Well, let’s go back to our definition of racism
[show banner “racism”]. Based on our definition of racism, the intention
is irrelevant. What is relevant is the impact, which clearly
had a disproportionately negative effect on black people. Based on that impact, the drug war is clearly
an example of antiblack politics. What are some other examples of antiblack
politics? I’d love to see your insights in the comments
below. I’ll be back for another episode very soon,
where we will discuss a crucial ingredient in exercising power – freedom. Will talk about what freedom is and how black
people can obtain it. In the meantime, if you’d like to support
this work, consider subscribing to African Elements Patreon page at the link above. A subscription of just one dollar a month
would go a long way towards helping to keep these videos coming also, if you get any value
out of these videos, a “like” and subscribe would be greatly appreciated. Until next time, thank you for watching!

One thought on “Black Politics and Anti-Black Politics

  1. Great content. These are some deep concepts that American society as a whole either isn't aware of, or just fails to acknowledge. Looking forward to more content from this channel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *