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Everywhere you turn these days, members of the white left may be found curled into the fetal position, weeping, wailing and gnashing their teeth about the Bush victory. Many Africans born and living in the U.S. are equally frustrated, but because we go through life without the protection of white privilege, this is just one more in a long series of disappointments that we have encountered, and we are not paralyzed by it all.

In between sobs, many Kerry supporters have condemned and ridiculed those who voted for Bush, but this only compounds the errors that led to the election results. Although Africans have been pointing out the strategic errors of the white left for more than 30 years, this advice has been largely ignored.

The first and biggest error of the white left is the presumption that white workers in Middle America are “dumb.” This is not only cynical, but dangerously incorrect. Polls demonstrate that the number one concern of America’s voters was the war in Iraq. If there was dissatisfaction with the Bush approach to that war, logic demanded that voters choose a candidate with a different plan. By his own admission, Kerry’s plan for Iraq was essentially the same as the Bush plan. Without an alternative, voters decided to stay with a known quantity by returning Bush to office.

Second, the white left frequently fails to distinguish political interests from personal morals and ethics. In other words, if white voters from the heartland can’t see eye to eye with the left on issues involving birth, death and sex, then there is no further consideration of possibilities for cooperation on issues involving shared political interests – like economic justice. Here, the white left should take an important lesson from the African community. Many of our religious leaders have opinions on morality that are indistinguishable from those of the white evangelical right. However, many of these same religious leaders play leading roles in our progressive political movements and coalitions.

By abandoning even the evangelical right, the white left ignores some of the most decent people the U.S. has produced. Many white evangelicals may be intolerant, racist and reactionary, but they often arrive at those positions out of an honest, good faith belief that they are doing the right thing. Because the white left has not been present to counter the vile lies of the right wing, white evangelicals are left to accept the right wing’s theology and agenda as gospel.

This is not a new phenomenon. At the dawn of the Black Power Movement in the late 1960s, white activists who had participated in the Civil Rights Movement were frequently asked to leave our communities and to work instead with white workers. Our leaders knew then that our own struggle required that white workers understand that we, as Africans, were not the cause of their problems. Because of racism, our own declarations to that effect would be ignored. White activists would have far more credibility in white communities. Many white activists felt insulted and unappreciated. Rather than help provide white workers with a clear analysis, they abandoned them, and left them vulnerable to Richard Nixon’s “law and order” appeals that were actually code words for “keep the Negroes in their place.”

With the passage of time, these same white workers became the heart, soul and backbone of the “Reagan Revolution,” that left our communities devastated. It is no surprise then, that with the continuing absence of a consistent white left analysis that is aggressively pitched to the heartland, Bush got a free ride back into the White House.

The white left’s reluctance to undertake this task is not solely because of stubbornness. They understand intuitively, if not consciously that the consequences of trying to organize Middle America are great. Capitalists understand that if white workers can be persuaded to adopt a radical agenda, dramatic, fundamental change is inevitable. Therefore, the full might of the state and corporate America will be unleashed without mercy on anyone who makes significant headway in changing the analysis of white workers. It is safer for the white left to organize in communities of color.

We Africans must take an important lesson from all of this. Our own survival and liberation depend on us, and us alone. Our political path must lead toward independent power and self-sufficiency. We have yet to see a demonstration of any serious commitment to win the kind of support in white communities that we would need to ensure our safety and comfort within the boundaries of the United States.

Mark P. Fancher is a lawyer, writer and activist.


November 18 2004
Issue 114

is published every Thursday.

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