IDENTITY POLITICS AGAIN

jones/bhandari djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Wed Apr 19 23:03:35 MDT 1995


I largely stand corrected by Justin.  I was thinking of a progressive radio
station's support here for the nonsense of African Liberation weekend.
Many of the columns which Justin refers to, I bet, were written by Adolph
Reed, Jr. who for example did critcize Andrew Kopkind for naively accepting
Jesse Jackson as a black leader.  My argument then was based on a local
radio station and Reed's critique of Kopkind's coverage of Jackson (see
Reed's book The Jesse Jackson Phenomenon, which includes interesting
chapters on the left and black/jewish relations). But as for the general
tenor of dissenting magazines, Justin is doubtless right.

Justin raises the real point of white paternalism.   As part of the larger
problem of the relationship of intellectuals to everybody else, yes, this
is a very real problem (has anyone read Max Nomad's diatribes against
intellectuals).

How this problem is more complex when the intellectual is white and the
ordinary people are African-Americans is not clear to me--I am not sure it
is any more complex at all.   Certainly few of us would have trouble with
African-American intellectuals criticizing Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh:
an example of preventing the white masses from liberating themselves? So
what is the problem when it is visa-versa?  Clarification here would be
appreciated.

 Critical ntellectuals  sometimes can make--hardly ever but sometimes-- a
small contribution: some attempt at clarification and clarity (especially
in the critique of revisionism of course).  If a (white)  intellectual can
help to  clarify the critique of a (black) reactionary or a (black) mayor
(as if his or her color mattered), that will not thereby make the
revolution, and it won't necessarily be paternalistic. It could just be
helpful.

As for Justin's point about attacking more powerful leaders than Farrakhan,
I think that he is right. Very right.  And here Mike Davis taught many of
us quite a bit about the Bradley and Riordan regimes.

As for my suggestion that SOME white leftists are happy to have their
knowledge of  African-American people come to them through a few select
leaders, then I fear that I am right. Well, Reed is right; he makes this
point all the time.  Enough is not being done to fight what is still an
apartheid society.

Comradely,
Rakesh



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