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Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot: #ADOS and Tariq Nasheed at the Turn of the Decade

If only in our private lives could the close of a year bring with it such clarifying moments as 2019’s end appears to have presented to #ADOS…

Of course there’s always the idea of entering into the New Year free of the exceedingly toxic elements in one’s personal life. Or, if not an idea of, then at least a longing for. But rarely is the stroke of midnight on January 1 accompanied by such an explicit purge of the repugnant, an expulsion of the totally narcissistic, and the ridding of the grifters who all somehow managed to slip in past the gates earlier in the year.

Yet a glimpse of this phenomenon is precisely what the past week or so has offered anyone with an eye toward the #ADOS movement and #FBA (which, if the latter doesn’t want to refer to itself as a movement, then it can maybe be more appropriately described as the culture-identity racket being run by Tariq Nasheed; a hashtag which—now that #ADOS has scraped it off its hull—has resumed its barnacle-like existence adrift in the waters of black American empowerment, merely waiting to latch onto the next viable vessel).

There’s no need to recapitulate the intellectually numbing and adolescent-level pablum that Nasheed and many of his followers evidently cannot help but resort to when they are challenged inside a serious political space. The untroubled relationship to manufacturing and disseminating libel. There’s no need to point at the giant neon warning sign of having someone with such megalo-hustler instincts like Nasheed anywhere near an initiative that would involve massive resource redistribution within the nation. Or to spell out the larger implications for the reparations movement being in the hands of not only an unserious and puerile provocateur, but someone who has routinely proven himself to be fully incapable of speaking cogently to the issues most effecting the group that he claims he wants to uplift.

This is after all the same person who, when the native-born black community needed a clear and informed voice to properly articulate to Tucker Carlson and his audience of millions how the logic of American white supremacy is in fact nakedly on display in the project of importing foreign-born blacks into this country, could only respond by arching his eyebrow in a studied manner and asking the host: “So we don’t live in a system of white supremacy? Everybody’s lying, Tucker?”

That’s not missing your shot. That’s taking the ball, bouncing it off your face, and then placing it in the opponent’s basket for them, twice.

Because at that point you’ve not only freely given Tucker Carlson—one of the most execrable commentators to’ve ever been plopped down onto the American media landscape—the opportunity to easily tease out your lack of knowledge, but you’ve further allowed him to humiliate your group by getting away with asking a question calculated to disparage the very fact of their ongoing and unique oppression. How could white supremacy possibly be said to be alive and well in such a diverse America, asks an incredulous Carlson. To which Nasheed’s most astute rejoinder on national television is essentially “What? It’s not?”

How could Nasheed possibly allow Carlson the satisfaction of so relishing that moment—where the host just so clearly knows he has an intellectual plaything before him on the studio teleprompter—that he lets out a scoff which in it seems to in fact contain the entire arrogant, murderous and genocidal history of the very white supremacy that Nasheed just let him pretend no longer exists.

To do that is to completely excuse oneself from making any further contribution to the discourse. It is the type of thing that gives lie to the whole ‘FBA doesn’t do politics,’ which is said as if he imagines himself to even have any real choice in the matter. What the Tucker Carlson fiasco demonstrated is that he has no choice but to not do politics because he simply can’t move nimbly enough in that space to accomplish what needs to be accomplished. He might be able to tap into the emotion coursing through this thing and really slickly market the idea of what needs to be accomplished, but the revolution will not be merchandised. And if your response is “But, but #ADOS has t-shirts!” Yeah, and the people buying them and wearing them are doing so while attending local chapter meetings across the country, encouraging others to call their representatives about the most salient issues for their group, showing up at the Supreme Court, and just in general being extremely and obsessively politically active.

To this last point (which at least from my perspective is the most germane), the #ADOS movement offers something critical that #FBA simply does not: the opportunity for a unique form of allyship that—in terms of working towards realizing justice for the group—portends to be as instructive as it will be productive as it will be transformative.

Does #FBA have allies? Do they even want allies? Need them? What would these allies be allying together in the name of, anyway? Can #FBA do what it wants to do without allies? Can what it wants to do result in a marked shift in that group’s material condition? And, if #FBA is intent on remaining siloed off from the political, how would allyship actually function in effecting a kind of transformation? From which site of actual possibility? Or does a deliberate withdrawal from the political allow for merely something like this: a chest-beating assertion of foundational blackness while leaving untouched the very institutions that have always worked (and will absolutely continue to work) to deny that group its Americanness?

In looking at #ADOS there is no such uncertainty. It’s why the group puts the “A” in the acronym first. Because theirs is a political project of undoing that denial and asserting that it is they who made Americanness possible; that it is their exclusion from the idea of Americanness that sustains it, and it is their exclusion which has provided a way of being American in this country that we, in particular, as white people, have literally never not known and enjoyed. And to the extent that we have pursued a course of action that seeks to help radically alter that situation, our efforts have more entailed holding on way too tightly to that whiteness instead of a willingness to learn how to give it up; we’ve long avoided coming to terms with the fact that actual justice for anti-#ADOS discrimination necessarily means a rotation in the seat of power and a transference of advantage to where it has never gone but always should have been.

It’s very much an American project. Which means that we have to be a part of it, but also that our allyship is necessarily either a put up or shut up kind. And putting up means giving up whiteness. There can be no more equivocating on the matter of what it means to heal their group as we move on into 2020. And on now what will be the 401st year of white supremacy in America, let us recognize that, insofar as we profess to completely despise that miserable reign, then our fight is alongside #ADOS.

To a prosperous New Year.

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