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Adolph Reed Jr. on Black Politics in New Orleans and Beyond
by WTUL News & Views
Monday Feb 26th, 2018 8:44 AM
On February 5th, 2018, writer and scholar Adolph Reed, Jr. gave a public lecture on Black Politics in New Orleans and Beyond to close out Sites of Resistance: An Exhibit Exploring the Geographies + Histories of Social Change in New Orleans.
[ Audio: 1 hour and 5 minutes ]

Adolph Reed Jr. is currently Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania after having previously been on the faculty at Yale, the New School, the University of Illinois-Chicago, and Northwestern. A native New Orleanian, his distinguished career has included more than 7 books, countless articles and regular columns in magazines like the Nation, the Progressive, and the Village Voice.

Sites of Resistance (open to the public in the Albert and Tina Small Center from September 12th, 2017 to February 5th, 2018) was built to reframe a dominant narrative that has obscured New Orleans’ historical role as a site of intense organizing, legal strategy, labor struggle, and civil rights activism. By elevating lineages and spaces of dissent and marginalized stories of inter-racial collaboration, as well as histories of direct conflict and challenge in contested spaces, its intention was to reconnect its audience with the possibilities for making change that have been erased from our civic framework.

Sites of Resistance and the associated discussion/presentation series were curated by Public Programs Manager, Sue Mobley and made possible by the generous support of the Surdna Foundation.

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by sources
Monday Feb 26th, 2018 1:34 PM
adolph-reed-jr.jpg
Photo of Adolph Reed Jr. courtesy billmoyers.com

From Wikipedia:

Reed's work on American politics is notable for its critique of identity politics and antiracism, particularly of their role in Black politics.

Reed had been a harsh critic of the policies and ideology of Black Democratic politicians. Reed has consistently criticized the politics of Barack Obama, both before and during his presidency

In an article in The Village Voice dated January 16, 1996, he said of Obama:

"In Chicago, for instance, we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of foundation-hatched black communitarian voices; one of them, a smooth Harvard lawyer with impeccable do-good credentials and vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process over program — the point where identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle-class reform in favoring form over substance. I suspect that his ilk is the wave of the future in U.S. black politics, as in Haiti and wherever else the International Monetary Fund has sway. So far the black activist response hasn’t been up to the challenge. We have to do better."


This was reprinted in Class Notes: Posing as Politics and Other Thoughts on the American Scene (New Press, 2000).
by Jacobin
Monday Feb 26th, 2018 2:06 PM
Excerpt from:

The Trouble With Anti-Antiracism

By Jonah Birch and Paul Heideman

During the 1990s and early 2000s, his many pieces dissecting the pathologies of American politics, the steady rightward march of mainstream liberalism, and the role of the black intellectual elite in the post–Civil Rights era were essential reading.

These days, however, Reed’s focus has, in large part, shifted to what he calls “left identitarians” — an array of figures whom, he argues, seem motivated by a desire not to eliminate inequality, but merely to redistribute it in order to ensure diversity among the ranks of the elite. For Reed these forces represent the left wing of neoliberalism, whose commitment to a race-first politics reflects their desire to join the ranks of an upwardly mobile black managerial class. In pursuing that endeavor, Reed argues, they discourage social movements from identifying non-racial sources of inequality, and from developing the kind of broad-based political coalition necessary to accomplish real change.

Reed includes Black Lives Matter under the umbrella of left identitarians. His arguments against BLM, and contemporary antiracist politics more broadly, rest on two main contentions:

• The politics of antiracism results in a tendency to misinterpret class differences as manifestations of “race.” The consequence is a pervasive misunderstanding about the causes and contours of the problem. Thus, Black Lives Matter, Reed argues, ignores the non-black victims of police violence and mass incarceration, excluding big chunks of society, including groups that are part of a natural constituency for left politics. With such a narrow base for its politics, BLM can never generate the kind of coalition necessary to mount a successful challenge to the American ruling class or its policies — in fact, it is an impediment to such a movement.

• The basic analytic framework put forward by Black Lives Matter, as well as by contemporary antiracists more broadly, of focusing on the disparities in things like poverty, health, or police violence between black and white Americans, forecloses class politics by implicitly endorsing inequality as long as it is fairly distributed between the races. This ensures that these movements remain limited to efforts to establish racial equality — an equal representation of racial groups across the rungs of class hierarchy. These movements thereby ignore economic inequality, and let neoliberal capitalism off the hook.

For those of us who share Reed’s political goals, it’s important to challenge him on both these points. We believe that movements targeting racial disparities are not distracting from problems of class inequality. Rather the focus on racial inequality leads movements toward confrontation with the market — precisely because you can’t target the foundations of racial inequality without confronting the logic of class inequality in American capitalism.
by nonsite.org
Tuesday Apr 17th, 2018 7:06 PM
Full article here

Longevity has its discomforts, to be sure. It also has its compensations, one of which is that decades of recurrent exposure to variants of the same genera of intellectual and political pathologies facilitates recognizing them for what they are. To their credit, in their recent Jacobin essay, “The Trouble with Anti-Antiracism” (https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/10/adolph-reed-blm-racism-capitalism-labor/), Jonah Birch and Paul Heideman do concoct some rather novel ones, and I address those here as well. But it is probably more broadly useful to begin with consideration of some of the ways they follow the familiar script.

Key among their errors of the familiar sort is the tendency that I have described as a cargo-cult politics, “the wish for some magical intervention or technical fix that will substitute for organizing a broad popular base around a clearly articulated, alternative vision that responds to most people’s pressing concerns.” Kenneth Warren has characterized it also as a form of argument, or non-argument, that depends on asserting the not-yet-visible revolutionary potential of political expressions that seem unformed, inchoate, incoherent, or even decidedly nonradical in the present. Such claims, he notes, typically adduce esoteric insight supposedly derived from privileged relationship to the currents in question. They also, he observes, amount to exhortations for faith in things as yet unseen, which, like the cargo cults, only those with special vision can recognize. This is an alternative to argument; it is a call for religious-like faith.

So Birch and Heideman begin with an extravagant assertion, that “After forty years of decline and retreat, the Left is undergoing a mini-revival. This development has been driven by millennials, whose political awakening has unfolded through Occupy, Black Lives Matter, and, most recently, the Bernie Sanders campaign. In all of this, we can see the rise of a potential mass base for a left political program.” Their next paragraph, however, acknowledges that much of what can be seen at the moment are “inability to sustain high levels of mobilization” and a tendency toward “empty posturing, self-promotion, and moralism.” They omit, moreover, that reactionary “libertarian” Gary Johnson also has had significant impact among those demographic groups. How, therefore, do they see radical potential as definitive in this motion? They find it via two fallacious interpretive moves. The first is a post hoc, propter hoc fallacy, based on a reading of the postwar civil rights insurgency that would be logically impertinent if it were correct – just because B followed A does not mean that A caused, was necessary for, or even instrumental in the appearance of, B, and even if A did plausibly cause B in one historical context, that does not mean that it necessarily would in another. But their view of the trajectory of postwar black politics is shallow and ill-informed. They imagine that the postwar insurgency was initially committed to a “conservative social vision…rooted in the ideology of the middle class leadership of the black church” and later discarded that ideology in favor of “a process epitomized by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s radicalization over the course of the 1960s.” This is a potted narrative that is blind to the tensions and contradictions within black politics – including actual class contradictions – that shaped the insurgency, as well as mainstream institutional black political participation, between the 1940s and mid-1960s.

In fact, another, more richly grounded and textured perspective makes clear that their characterization of an initially conservative movement that became radical “through the course of struggle itself” is exactly the opposite of the movement’s trajectory...