Why do we do this? Why? Why do we pat ourselves and others on the back for our weird, Tiësto-like treatment of the ‘meaning’ of the African American struggle for freedom and equality?
Truly, at this point in our discourse(s) of the African American freedom struggle there ought to be an actual DJ air horn that blares right before any non-ADOS person starts talking publicly about what it ‘means.’ The African American freedom struggle has become the remix album of movement politics. There is the “African American Freedom Struggle” (LGBTQ REMIX); the “African American Freedom Struggle” (DACA Edit); the “African American Freedom Struggle” (Democratic Socialist Dub Mix), and on and on. Every group, it seems, gets a shot at reworking it. And so if you want to know why ADOS are so ‘divisive’, or why they get so fractious when confronted with our coalition hokum, you should just ask yourself how the hell you think you’d feel if for the past half-century you were made to sit and watch everyone else remix the meaning of your group’s historic struggle while you and your family stay not collecting a single cent in royalties. Not only that, but you all never even got paid in the first place.
It must be said again and again: the “ever present possibility of universality” is something that has been crudely retrofitted onto the African American freedom struggle by the Left, and it has done this in spite of all kinds of evidence that such a thing is pure fiction. There is nothing universal about the core material demand of ADOS. It’s a debt. That’s it. And whether or not poor whites ‘get free’ too or whatever is utterly impertinent. Sorry. I know we want to put like a campfire-y spin on America paying a specific debt, but I think we need to seriously consider the fact that when we ask ADOS to join hands with us and sing our song of freedom and justice, the hands we’re expecting to receive are ones that—for the past 400 years, at every possible turn—have been denied the chance of actually holding any real economic power whatsoever. And I implore you to think about how enthusiastic you’d be to have people ‘recasting’ the meaning of your group’s struggle—which has been a struggle to wrest the economic power you are owed—if it meant that your child’s hands, too, would be denied possession of that same power.