Left of Black with Kehinde Andrews

Left of Black with Kehinde Andrews


Welcome to Left of Black. I’m your host,
Marc Anthony Neal. We’re joined today by Dr. Kehinde Andrews who is a professor
of Black studies in the School of Social Sciences at Birmingham City University,
director of the Center for Critical Social Research, and he’s the author of
the just published “Back to Black: Retelling Black Radicalism for the 21st
Century”. How are you doing? I’m good. Thank you. Thanks for joining us. You know
first of all you know you’re from Britain right so you’re visiting us. Visiting the
country. So great to have this opportunity to talk to you about your
new book. You were here at Duke about a year and a half ago.
Yeah the Global Blackness. At the Global Blackness. So we welcome you back. Talk a
little bit about this book and your particular interest as a thinker as an intellectual in the black radical tradition. Yeah so it’s really good to be in the
U.S. obviously. I mean the book “Back to Black” really it’s about saying that we
had a revolutionary moment about 50 years ago where in the U.S. in Europe in
Africa there was these real revolutionary politics and what’s
happened over the last 50 years is we’ve essentially given up. We’ve kind of become
co-opted. We’ve become incorporated. And we need to go back to that radical politics
because we need to understand that it’s already too late to pretend that we can
ever have freedom, justice, and equality within this political economic system.
I mean one other thing I think you begin the book talking about the global impact of
Black Lives Matter. We see this movement occur here in the US. Of course it also
occurs in Britain. But there’s this critique you know that some of the
British youth were much more invested in Black Lives Matter in the U.S.
than they were in their own country. What do you attribute some of
that to? Well I think that’s the global nature of blackness, right? When we had
3,000 young people out on the streets in Birmingham another 5,000 in
London and we haven’t seen that in the UK for 20 years probably. And the older
generation were like well ignoring the British deaths in custody. Et cetera. Et cetera.
But I was actually- and what it shows it shows that the way things happen here
even though it’s thousands of miles away they’re still happening to us. That’s our
people and then that’s felt really in a very visceral level
by the young people. And they come in the street and protest as well. I mean the things that
were surprising to me you mentioned that the black prison population in
Britain is actually a higher percentage than it is here in the US. I mean that’s
something that I mean we kind of think about black folks and prisons in the U.S. as
kind of ground zero for what’s happened in terms of mass
incarceration. How are some of the immigration debates? You know obviously
this is post-Brexit. How does it impact some of the thinking you know
around black radicalism in Britain these days? Yeah I think what’s happening
is that it’s showing people what the problems are. And I think even so if you
think about why young people came out in Britain we have the same problem with
the police. We have same problem with the prisons. It’s on a different scale
because the police don’t carry guns and we don’t- Britain does not incarcerate as
many people. But if you look at immigration law that’s one area where you can see
very clearly that the things that we should be getting we’re not getting. So I don’t
know if you came across the Windrow scandal. But these are people
who had the legal right who were basically born in Britain by the
Empire, had the right to be in the country, and then told we can’t find the
documents. You’re gonna be deported. You have to lose your jobs. And that really
woke people up to understand. It’s a British version of the kind of
birthright citizenship conversation that we’re now having. And I’m sure in
some ways Trump has kind of regularly talked about this right. But no
doubt that was another reason for him to kind of double down on that
rhetoric. One of the things that’s really interesting about the book I mean you do
offer some striking critiques of these intellectual and political movements
that we typically think about as being radical but not necessarily. And
so the conversation about black nationalism right and kind of Ground
Zero for your discussion is a group like the Nation of Islam, which is wholly invested
in black nationalism in certain kinds of ways. But the last thing we would really
think about them as is radical in the sense that we think about radical
thought. But yet you talk about the kind of appeal right the weak national or the
everyday nationalism becomes this kind of appeal to black masses. I mean how do
we get to a point where folks can reengage with kind of the radical
tradition that’s aligned with black nationalist thought? I think the key is political education. Malcolm talked about this. The word revolution has been
misused and largely because we forgot about studies. That’s why black
studies is so important. Because people actually they used to read. They used to
read all the time. And you’d see through something like the Nation of Islam and
weak nationalism. But because we don’t do that anymore and because we often times
get invested in politics but don’t do the work we don’t understand that actually this
is a bad- there are other ways to think about it. There’s more global ways to think about
it. So we get stuck in these very narrow nationalist dangerous- like the
Nation is not going to take this to deliberation. And never was gonna take
this liberally. And so even like Malcolm X leaves the
Nation of Islam. So if you say you support Malcolm you then therefore
cannot support the nation because Malcolm’s said, “I’ve left them.”
But we have people defending things that don’t make sense. And a lot of that is about how
we get back to do study and make that part of our activism. Yeah it’s funny
now because you know Farrakhan for whatever reason is continuing to circulate
in the US press and particularly with you know some of the recent attacks he’s
been identified and perhaps rightfully so as an anti-semite but he’s never- and
the Nation of Islam has never really been associated with violence against Jews. In
fact you know except for like other black people the Nation of Islam has never been associated with violence in that
kind of way. But what do it kind of course and it’s kind of taken away from
the NOI conversation for a moment. There’s a way in which this kind of weak
nationalism is also used to undermine the legitimacy of black political
movement you know amongst whites often reducing like the most almost
ridiculous versions of black nationalism. Stuff that actually doesn’t have
any gravitas in black communities to use as an example of why the organizing of black folks is a problem. Yeah so that’s why weak nationalism is problematic.
I was reading the book. I read some piece about Michael Jackson They Don’t Care About Us is black nationalism. Like what are you talking about? If that’s what black nationalism is, we’re lost completely. But there’s also a way that we undermine our
own thing. This is one of the things I’m trying to push back on
with the book. Just because it’s black it doesn’t mean it’s good. And that’s the
worst version of weak nationalism. Where we just defend people like Farrakhan.
Bill Cosby being defended. All these terrible figures getting- or a bunch of
folks that we have elected. Clarence Thomas. All these terrible figures. Because of this weak nationalism.
So we need to move beyond that. That’s actually- if we’re gonna- Black has to be
political. And it has to be same work for particular kind of politics. And that’s
what makes something black radical and that’s what we should support. I mean the
same critique you’re offering around Pan-Africanism right. And the great line
that you have you know black Pan-Africanism is essentially a
bourgeois movement that’s really about you know modernizing a perception
of modernizing Africa within the context of imperialism. And I’m sure most
folks don’t even think twice about that because you know if weak nationalism
isn’t one stand-in for political organizing Pan-Africanism is the other. Right.
Honestly that was difficult for me to write- that was the most difficult chapter
because if you grow up in America Britain the West Pan-Africanism is what
we think of as being black radical. Right. But when you actually look back, the
Pan-African movement starts in 1900 in the Palace of Westminster.
They literally couldn’t start at a more appropriate place for what it is. It
brings together the elites. They’re not talking about revolution or anything
like that. They’re only talking about independence in
45. And you look at the kind of independence. This is a nation state. I
have my country. You have your country. And the track actually what happens with Pan-Africanism it leads to the African Union. I don’t know anybody that would
say that isn’t right. And that’s just the reality of that political project. And so
what I’m trying to say in the book is you need to be far more clear
about what we’re talking about. Garvey-ism is not Pan-Africanism. In fact
Garvey-ism was purposely kept out of the Pan-African movement because it had
its more revolutionary grassroots. So let’s stop talking about Garvey as a Pan-Africanist. And let’s really draw out the difference between Du Bois
and Garvey. I mean you talk about the fact that you know
Garvey’s part of a group of Jamaicans who actually hosts Du Bois right.
You know he considered himself a you know supporter and a fan of Du Bois and that
changes when he gets to to the U.S. Well when Du Bois basically calls him stupid
ugly and black and says I want no part of your policies Very personal. But and I think even
then I think because this is one of the things black radicalism is based on
saying we need unity of all of us. And you always see the radicals always try
and reach out. So Garvey makes a big effort to go reach
out to Du Bois. And what does he find? Du Bois is just not interested. And then from there builds a
separate project. And we have to understand that we have disagreed with each
other far more than we have disagreed with white people. And these are really important
disagreements and they lead to different outcomes. And black radicalism has kind of just become-
And we need to take those discussions seriously. Yeah there’s a proper position. And we just kind of buried
that radicalism under these other things black nationalism
quarter nationalism Afrocentrism. We just kind of lumped people together but
actually there is a proper historical tradition which will lead to different
solutions if we enacted. So you know if you think about Black Studies here in
the US and you mentioned British Black Studies, Stuart Hall comes up right. Though
Stuart Hall is rarely actually claimed within Black Studies.
Gilroy of course comes up you know. You might get a mention of Kobena Mercer.
What is Black Studies like in terms of the rank and file of it in British
universities and more broadly in terms of British culture these days? Well black
studies doesn’t really properly exist in British universities. To be honest. I mean so
I’m the first well second full professor of Black Studies in the UK right. You have
people like Gilroy and Hall. I mean Gilroy’s not Black Studies. He’s in one of those areas you say he’s black, but he’s not Black Studies. I think that’s important because we have to have these debates. What makes Black Studies Black Studies? And for me there’s two real- there’s two kind of
defining ones. One is the politics of how we engage with each other. But the second
one is it’s kind of a critique of the university that we have to do things
different. We have to be engaged in print. And unfortunately, Gilroy doesn’t match that. So let’s just say he may have
some good intellectual ideas but that’s a different project than Black Studies. If you
look in Britain where black studies really has existed is outside the
university. So in what we have Saturday schools which is organized by the
community, community education. There’s a vibrant history of Black Studies. It’s
just now coming into the university in a somewhat successful way but also- It’s not lost on me that you’re in Birmingham City University right. That
you’re not at some of the other universities
where the population is very different. So the city’s important. The tradition’s important. Even
the fact it’s Birmingham City University not the University of Birmingham. So the
University of Birmingham is where you know Hall comes through, where Gilroy comes through.
It’s the Center for Contemporary cooler studies. But they
closed that down a long time ago. And all that’s left is like a blue plaque. Like a
historical “This was here. And now it’s no longer here.” So I guess it’s a somewhat different
project than- even Hall. And I respect Stuart Hall but I think I don’t know if Stuart Hall
would even call himself Black Studies. What has the reception been to the book so far? I
mean everybody now you know a lot of folks have seen your clip with Piers Morgan. I’m sure there are a fair amount of folks in the US like, “There are
black intellectuals in Britain?” But how has the reception been to the book so far? Yeah it’s been way too nice. Honestly people are way too nice. You
read the book. I mean the book is- you wrote the book for folks to argue with you. Right. And so far people- it’s written in a tone which is like
the philosophy of the book is it’s already too late.
So we just have to cut to the chase and just make it- and some of that
critique’s quiet- when I read the book when I read it I actually spat my
tea out at parts because I was like, “I can’t say that.” I’m not gonna get away with saying that.”
But everybody was way too nice. So I’m looking forward to some- I think in America I get more
criticism. So I’m looking forward to it. You know we just had Chris Tinson through a couple of weeks ago. A
great book he did on Liberator Magazine. And I asked him the same question.
You know do you find at this moment that the quality of the debate is really
there around black ideas right and around black studies? I mean a lot of it comes
down to beef on Twitter right? I got more followers than you got. I had a more snappy
comment right? I got access to better memes than you do. I mean for the most part
that seems to be- and it’s not that folks aren’t having substantial debate on Twitter right. But when you think about that moment
that you kind of identified 50 years ago even before then where everybody is
reading everybody and expecting to grapple with it right do you find that
there is a space now for that kind of exchange? I think so. I think that’s been
one of the- so I guess when I say everybody’s been too nice about the book I think
they’ve appreciated that it has gone and engaged in that
sense and it hasn’t just been like how do we criticize white people. How do we
talk about racism? Actually how do we talk about our intellectual ideas and
where we’re going? And I think that has been- even if people don’t agree with the
book they appreciate it that’s that’s the level of discussion. So you can come
in write a book of different ways and then we have these events in life and
loads of events around the book. Some of them in some really really white spaces.
But it’s just literally all black people. I mean some people haven’t had that many black people in the place because they’re coming out because they want to have
these discussions. I think that’s really important. Is that the people really
want to have those discussion there and that’s a good sign.
What are you working on next? So the book I’m currently working on is The
West is Built on Racism, which is kind of first- “Back to
Black” is like what do we do about the West being built on racism. This is kind of like
the forensic analysis of how everything that we currently have is still built on
race. And I’m also trying to do it I’m trying to publish a paper in
the sociology journal The Social Theory of Malcolm X. I think he’s got about a 1%
chance of getting published. But we’ll see. Those are the two projects I’m gonna do.
We’ve been joined by Dr. Kehinde Andrews who’s professor of Black Studies at the
Birmingham City University in Britain. He’s the author of the just published
“Back to Black: Retelling Black Radicalism in the 21st Century. Thank you very much
for joining us. Thank you.

7 thoughts on “Left of Black with Kehinde Andrews

  1. This guy is the biggest racist in England telling us not to wear our colours the flag is bad and people who wear England tops are evil and doesn't want anyone to stand for the national anthem there's one solution leave our country 🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧

  2. NOI killed Malcolm X. That's enough for me to not give a toss. One of the things we need to look at is his sexism is inhibiting black liberation.

  3. Why can't blacks commit the most murders, rapes and robberies per capita without being discriminated against

  4. I don’t like the part in which you dismiss and lump Pan-Africanism as bourgeois ideology. Like many ideologies or political movements including Garveyism, Socialism, etc there are reformists and revolutionaries. This is the distinction that we need to make – revolutionary pan-Africanists like Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Frantz Fanon, Cheikh Anta Diop, Amilcar Cabral etc vs reformist pan-Africanists like Senghor of Senegal and Jomo Kenyatta. You have done a great injustice to radical revolutionary pan-Africanist.

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