Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Black Nationalist Measuring Stick: Who Sets the Standards?

Image by National Geographic

By Dan Tres OMi

When the Rev. Jeremiah Wright mainstream media induced fiasco was raging in the summer of 2008, many evangelical and progressive Christians came out of the woodwork to claim that Rev. Wright did not speak for them. While history has shown that Rev. Wrights approach to Christian Theology from a Black Nationalist perspective is older than the founding of the United States of America and even predates the black evangelical movement, his protractors were correct in assuming that Wright did not speak for them. While I agree that Rev. Wright is correct in his assessment of U.S. Foreign policy and it's treatment of people of African descent, Wright cannot speak for all of the Black Church. The same can be said of Black Nationalists of the extreme stripe.

Some may argue but let's be frank, there are varying degrees of Black Nationalism. Just because one is an adherent to Black Nationalism and is a Christian, it does not make said person less of a Nationalists then someone who practices Islam. If one practices Vodun, it does not make that practitioner of Vodun much more of a Black Nationalist as someone who is an atheist and a Black Nationalist. I have encountered those who never read Cheik Anta Diop or Dr. John Henrik Clarke but help to uplift the Black community each and every day. While some will say they are not true Black Nationalists since they might not wear the Red, Black, and Green (RBG), but their actions speak for themselves. If they are out there on the front lines helping educate Black youth every day of the week then in my humble opinion, they are Black Nationalists through and through.

It bothers me to no end when I hear one set of Black Nationalists downplay someone's contribution because they disagree ideologically or because of the occupation or position one may hold. Like most people, we of the Black Nationalist slant tend to judge a book by its cover. It is no wonder that we continue to let charlatans, agents, and misogynists enter wily nily into our ranks. Then there are those of the Black Nationalist slant who assume that if one just stays Black and dies, then said person is a card carrying African warrior. Both assumptions are far from the truth.

If a police commissioner of a particular city is black and the usual politics of neglecting and abusing Black communities within that city continue unabated, is that police commissioner who happens to be black helpful or harmful to that community? Can we consider that commissioner an ally or an opponent? Remember that every brother ain't a brother. Yet if that police commissioner helps to quell police brutality and misconduct, stamp out police corruption, help to strengthen communities and remove much of the crime throughout that city, wouldn't that commissioner be considered an exemplar? Does the uniform matter if he helps out those who looks like him?

Many choose to follow a hollow stereotype of a Black Nationalist. You know the type: daishiki's downed, arabic name, and the afro pick. Yet individuals such as the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Arturo Schomburg, the late Dr. Amos Wilson, and several others did not do those things. In other words, one's actions will speak for themselves. Calling the white man the devil, refusing to work a regular 9 to 5 to support one's family, reading a few books on black history, and accepting an arabic named doesn't mean a thing. Ironically, we tend to consider individuals who perform these acts as true Black Nationalists. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

Making meaningful and consistent contributions that result in the further positive upliftment of our community makes one a nationalist. It could be anything from reading to children in one's local elementary school to mentoring a fatherless child to building bookshelves for a local church to organizing fund raisers for local charities or events. It could be a few times a year or once a week. It could mean earning a degree to create new Departments of Africana Studies in major universities. It could mean getting elected to a city council and helping others implement the right tools to uplift the community.

As a group who considers themselves conscious minded, we should be able to measure anyone's commitment to our struggle. We have the best exemplars and ancestors around. We are the ones who always “do the math” and have access to those who can help us decide who is holding it down and who isn't. The standards have already been set. The blueprint has been provided. Now we just have to go to work.

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