My comrade and colleague Glen Ford observed last month that our words here at Black Agenda Report are or ought to be weapons. He's right. If we’re on the case, Black Agenda Report is about the business of popularizing correct and careful analyses, accurate enough to educate and inform the uninformed, and subject to revision as new facts come into view.
That’s why I wrote back in December that I wouldn't be using the term "black misleadership class" any more. Back when we started using it, I understood the term as defining the politics of a particular cohort of black political leaders, elected and appointed officials, black business and religious leaders, the heads of nonprofit organizations and aspirants to these spots all of whom owe their careers to the pretense that they somehow "represent" the total black community. Of course they didn't, and if that was ever their objective, they failed.
Why? Why did this black misleadership class fail to "represent" us? Was it because of their faulty racial politics, or their faulty class politics? Was it because our black misleadership class was never truly "black enough" or were they just following their own class interest as opposed to the class interests of the vast majority of those they purportedly represent? This is not nitpicking, it's a vitally important question, because the two possible answers lead us in two radically different directions.
If we say that the so-called black misleadership class failed us by "letting the race down" then we are very clearly implying that there exists somewhere, somehow, a kind of good racial uplift politics which the black misleadership class might have engaged in but did not. This notion of the failure of the black misleadership class means we solve the problem by seeking or developing not more black misleaders, but "real" black leaders whose job it will be to help discover, define and enact the kind of racial uplift politics the black misleaders did not or could not. But who decides what a "real" black leader is, and on what basis? If we suppose that the cause of the black misleadership class's failure to represent us is their bad racial politics, what's the remedy? For them to get blacker? What does that even look like? It's it's a supposition that leads us nowhere.
On the other hand, if we suppose that the black misleadership class failed to legitimately "represent" black people because the class interests of this leadership cohort conflicted or did not coincide with the those of the working classes to which the vast majority of black people actually belong, lots of doors open up for us.
Only if we understand the disastrous record of the black misleadership class as following its own class interests, rather than as "race traitors" can we understand why black leaders have embraced gentrification, the dismantling of public education, austerity, war and empire as facts of life.
I'm pretty certain that Glen and Margaret and Ajamu and Danny and our poet and many of you agree that the failure of the black misleadership class is not a failure of their blackness, but of their class politics. Unlike Glen at this point, I want my own language to accurately reflect the class origin of this failure, and not lend itself to the false interpretation that that the black misleadership class failed us because they were MIS-leaders instead of true leaders or captured by the forces of anti-blackness, or any of that. I am not saying, and I never said that Glen and the rest of the BAR crew believe any of that crap. But as Glen says our words are weapons. We are in the business of crafting and popularizing precise language which can serve as a guide to correct action.
So we have to be alert to the possibility that our language can be misinterpreted or quoted out of context. That’s why I am not using the term black misleadership class much any more. Our words are indeed weapons, and I want mine aimed at the right place.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com and on SoundCloud at Black Agenda Radio and Black Agenda Radio commentaries.