After Charlie Peach’s comprehensive takedown of American Descendants of Slavery’s (ADOS) detractors and the revelation of a suspected N’COBRA internal strategy memo for a smear campaign, there’s little more that I can say that has not already been said, but those that know me know I shall yet try to find a way.
Over the last two and a half months, the ADOS political movement has been under attack. These attacks have come from several disparate parties who otherwise appear to have NOTHING in common, other than an interest in suppressing the emergence of ADOS and our rightful justice claim.
As a result, this piece exists as more of an explainer. A clarifier. A defender.
There has been a lot of manufactured confusion, misinformation and disinformation about what and who ADOS are. I’m writing this for multiple web spaces to deliver clarity and reclaim our work from the virulent personal attacks against the movement’s cofounders and the dishonesty of what multiple detractors say that what this movement is versus what it happens to be.
With this, I will deal with three arguments that frequently come up in these criticisms:
- An argument that Blacks must vote for the Democratic Party without reservation and it is far less important to hold a political party accountable.
- The ADOS movement is nativist and anti-immigration.
- Because ADOS is “anti-immigrant,” it represents a stance that curries favor with white nationalists and the Republican Party explicitly.
Democratic Candidates and Fears about the 2020 Presidential Election
Black folk have remained with the Democratic Party since the Kennedy administration because pragmatic decisions have been made for collective survival. It has been the "lesser of two (party) evils" trick for a people who has unwillingly made into a bottom caste in the richest country in the world...but over the last 20 years and multiple massive tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans, a country of ever-increasing, calcified wealth.
The co-founders of the emerging political movement, ADOS, along with allied ADOS political influencers, have been accused by critics as encouraging Black Americans not to vote in the 2020 Presidential election.
Such attempts to pin this sort of blame on Black folk are wrongheaded. The lack of critical nuance, whether it is incompetence, mendacity, or some range of both, are damaging. Opportunities for better conclusions are lost because the wrong questions are being asked. There’s a great amount of heat in the polemics of these battles via social media with little light.
We are people that have put teeth to the political mantra, "no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent interests."
I want you to think about this one:— Michael R Hicks (@mrhick01) April 16, 2019
When #ADOS get SERIOUS about the mantra "no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent interests," it makes a lot of folks quite nervous.
We have placed the self-interest of ADOS first and foremost...it is not about "Blackness" per se, it's about lineage, our ancestors who were made chattel slaves in the country that came to be known as America and forced to endure an innumerable number of atrocities...for nothing in compensation for those crimes.
We are demanding that the Democratic Party do right by the most consistently loyal, durable faction of the party. Allowing President Obama to serve his two terms without making substantive demands for a Black Agenda are looked on as an inflection point, a political strategic mistake that must never be repeated. Politics is an exchange and it seems that ADOS are the last people to truly understand what that means...and that's been to our detriment.
There is an argument that any lack of involvement by ADOS in the 2020 election will be the fault of Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore, the co-founders of this movement. These critics claim that as white Americans in the aggregate are hostile to the idea of reparations and point to polls as evidence that this is a policy that should not be pursued. According to CNN-Kaiser Family Foundation study in 2015, only eight percent of white Americans agreed that Black American descendants of slaves, ADOS, should get cash payments for reparations (with 89 percent against the idea).
Simply put, let me share with you an excerpt from an August 3, 1857 speech in Canandaigua, New York from none other than Frederick Douglass:
“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.
This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
White Americans were hostile to ADOS sitting at the front of Montgomery buses. White Americans, and more than a few ADOS, were uncomfortable about the justice demands of ADOS during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. White Americans, and more than a few ADOS, chafe at the declarative statement of “Black Lives Matter.” Struggle, progress. Agitation is necessary, a level of chaos is critical. Unjust government and unfulfilled justice claims demand redress. The irony is not lost on me that some of the same negroes that hated the push for justice in years past were more than willing to take advantage, or have their children take advantage, of the modest increase in access and opportunity in the 1960s and 1970s.
As ADOS understand what we are fighting for given the socioeconomic state of our ethnic group and our majority-ADOS communities throughout America, we understand that our claim is a just one. Irregardless of any unpopularity, reparations are due the American descendants of slavery as a lingering, unrequited claim of justice. It is America's overdrafted check that MLK Jr. referred to as stamped and returned "insufficient funds."
We assert that if it is just, it is worth doing.
When we review the complaints that we are telling ADOS not to vote, this is explicitly untrue. What we are doing, as Yvette Carnell has asserted, is “influencing the Black, ADOS vote to strengthen it.” Politics is an exchange. With each election cycle, especially over the last 27 or so years, Black Americans have received an ever-diminishing rate of return for our votes for Democrats.
As it stands, American descendants of slavery have been forced to navigate a political landscape that passes off the political and socioeconomic interests of multiple “minority” groups of various grades of melanated humans into a generalized crayola box of policy prescription. It is a poor one at that, as It is a display of photo-ops over substance.
This challenge is aggravated when the structures of the Democrats jump into motion to silence and marginalize ADOS voices when questioning the efficacy of this political arrangement.
I say this understanding that there are forces in the political terrain who do not operate in good faith and are not honest about their real intentions. I assert, however, this is found in both of America’s major political parties and neither one are honest with their intentions.
Black conservatives that represent Republican groups want Black Americans to leave the Democrats because…reasons. There is no other substance behind the marketing attempts other than President Trump’s “whaddaya have to lose?”
That said, the Democrats are also problematic for the interests of ADOS people, but not in any false equivalent way. Democrats, through their party apparatchiks and melanated functionaries, offer little more than fear-based appeals to come to the polls.
Overwhelmingly, in my not uninformed opinion, I believe these appeals to the collective of ADOS are more about the personal fates of these brown-faced media personalities as opposed to the mass collective of ADOS, who are overwhelmingly working poor and poor. Rarely when these media faces are watched on television or the various media streams on web platforms do they tell ADOS that they have an explicit financial interest to herd Black votes to the Democratic Party. This is a problem. While making declarations that working poor and poor ADOS will be worse off if a Republican takes office, what they really mean is that they will be worse off if a Republican takes office, as their paid contributor jobs from the networks and consulting fees from the Democrats will dry up if they cannot deliver the goods—our votes.
Again, the overwhelming majority of ADOS are not doing financially well. We deal with the double whammy of not only having stagnant wages and lower incomes than white Americans, we also profoundly lack wealth.
“Black America built itself out of pieces of Cosbyesque fantasy. Now it needs the fantasy to be real in a world built of white inheritance and real wealth transfers.” @tonetalks #ados pic.twitter.com/MnRHDDIcJ9— Antonio Moore (@tonetalks) April 19, 2019
If ADOS choose to make sacrifices and leverage their votes, it shall make the party that ADOS have been incredibly loyal to for the last five to six decades take our vote seriously and redouble their commitment and reciprocate that loyalty. Remember first and foremost: politics is an exchange.
On top of that, the policies that the party’s establishment candidates propose are little more than half…or quarter, or tenth-of-a-loaf policy suggestions. How does that sufficiently answer for a people whose households have a median wealth of $1,700 (versus a $110,000+ median for white American families) minus depreciating assets such as cars, clothes and furniture?
It does not.
It is critical that the Democratic Party understands that we have been their most durable, consistent, loyal voting bloc. A bloc that is increasingly criticized by centrists in the party structure that Black folk aren’t helping the party enough, as the establishment, at least tacitly, supports ever-diminishing returns for this most loyal group of ADOS.
That must be changed.
The infighting engaged on the cyber-battlefronts of social media and public community discourse are a byproduct of our people's condition and the revelation that there are individuals and groups who benefit from the status quo, one that is killing ADOS collectively. The chaos is necessary. This is about a shift in power.
THE ADOS MOVEMENT AND ACCUSATIONS OF “NATIVISM”
Another line of criticism has emerged over the last couple of months is the charge of nativism, a policy of protecting the interests of native inhabitants against those of immigrants. Nativism, is a common technical term in scholarly studies, but in contemporary public discourse is recognized as a charged political term (that I suspect the writers that use this term for discourse in the public realm certainly know). This line of criticism argues that ADOS co-founders Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore are nativists, “the most widely known proponents of, current day, Black nativist thought.”
The political analyses of this criticism charges the ADOS movement for being a “conservative strain of Black political thought,” and this is where contradictions emerge.
As described by Omowale Afrika, Miss Carnell and Mr. Moore “advocate for a ‘New Deal-type’ democratic socialism.” Wait. How does a “conservative” line of “Black political thought” involve a democratic socialist redistribution of wealth in the name of reparations, restorative justice? A political position that happens to be to the right of scientific socialism is not by definition, conservative.
This represents another of the problematic arguments about the ADOS movement. A false equivalence of bigotry is pushed on Black Americans and the ADOS movement when they have the audacity to voice concerns about the efficacy of the Democratic Party’s status quo position on the challenges of millions of undocumented workers now in the United States and how immigration negatively impacts Black American descendants of slavery, particularly ADOS men. It becomes another injurious attack on ADOS the movement as well as ADOS citizens in this country.
In the midst of the ugly, slanderous charges that have been leveled at the ADOS movement over the last two and a half months, a nagging criticism is made that our political interests are the same as that of white supremacists. It would be laughably ridiculous if the socioeconomic stakes for ADOS people were not so high. A study by Prosperity Now and the Institute of Policy Studies estimate the current $1,700 of median Black American wealth will fall to $0 by 2053 if current trends continue.
In public political and social discourse, ADOS are held to an asymmetric standard that does not match those of other American minority groups. This suppressive stance acts as a malware posing as an antivirus program — it projects an environment of a Common Wisdom and Mutual Understanding that, of course, everyone knows is the proper societal way to go, but in actuality is an infection that damages the intellectual space for critical self-analysis of ADOS group interests and erases political imagination.
The motivations, whether Black or white, are wrongfully judged as the same and further violence is done to the ADOS justice claim when foreign-born Africans of the diaspora, who disproportionately come to the United States with class positions that “exceed not only the average black American, but that of the average white American.”
I know right?— Michael R Hicks (@mrhick01) April 20, 2019
A white supremacist right wing operation...of Black Americans...that calls for reparations for American descendants of slavery and the closing of the racial wealth gap.
It's the most ridiculous things that these people are trying to sell.
The very reason #ADOS exists is because of the lack of action, outreach, effectiveness...whatever you choose to call it...that N'COBRA had in motivating Black Americans into action.— Michael R Hicks (@mrhick01) April 20, 2019
The inconvenient truth is that we are a result of other groups' failures.
A MOVEMENT OF BLACK AMERICANS CHALLENGING AMERICA’S GOVERNMENTS FOR REDISTRIBUTIVE REPARATIONS: RIGHT WING WHITE SUPREMACIST NATIONALISTS?
Errors. Omowale Afrika critiques the ADOS movement’s position as one of “empty political rhetoric” because it “represents a gross misunderstanding of how racism and power function; at worst, it is an act of political negligence, and a complete disregard for an entire body of knowledge that has already debunked the political efficacy of Negro American nativism.”
There is an arrogant, elitist application of Pan-Africanist political thought assumes to be an erroneous Common Wisdom and Mutual Understanding that takes as a given a universal knowledge, or at least anyone that purports to be a Black political strategist. Afrika’s bold assertion has not been empirically, demonstratively proven, especially insofar in comparison to material, political applied achievements of Pan-Africanism on this planet. This profoundly problematic, reductionist analysis of the ADOS justice claim minimizes our demands to merely “a check” (as if a short political slogan-as-tool stands for comprehensive policy) and the Civil Rights Movement as a capitulation to white supremacy…no, more than that: white supremacy personified itself.
So, what am I missing here? A critique by a Pan-Africanist that we have no means of getting what ADOS want, but if we transformed into Pan-Africanists, who govern none of the 50+ countries of Africa that have thousands of tribe-nations and languages and dialects, nor any of the Afro-Caribbean nations, nor hold a dominant sway in American Black political discourse, will surely achieve this vision before anything ADOS could ever desire to accomplish? How does that make sense to anyone?
What it reveals is that Pan-Africanists, at least a selection of them with influence, never believed that reparations could be a goal in the realm of possibility. Pan-Africanists have used reparations as a black McGuffin, a means to unite a borderless African diaspora planet, with the continent of Africa transformed into a socialist United States of Africa, while chiding ADOS for the limited “Negro American” audacity to make “demands without the ability to physically, or economically enforce them(!)” Under further critical review: it is little more than a tool for Pan-Africanists to use as Blackness virtue-signaling as opposed to any good-faith effort to struggle for Black people a righteous, owed justice claim in America.
And in that vacuum of mismanagement of ADOS interests by all of the parties in the silly wrestling photo meme above, the ADOS movement emerged to review and address the psychic and material needs of America’s descendants of chattel slaves, forever the mules for other groups, whether fringe or enormous, to champion others’ causes.
There are no delusions about the difficulty for the battle for reparations. Even under the most ideal of circumstances and political will, it would take years to assess the compensatory monetization of American damage, putting in place the infrastructure to implement the compensation as well as the oversight and necessity of a redoubled effort to make ADOS a protected American class…and the current state of America is far from any ideal circumstance and political will. This could take decades. It certainly could, and plausibly will, be a struggle that will take beyond my lifetime.
However it is yet worth doing. It is the owed debt unpaid to my ancestors. As they were not given it as Freedmen after the end of the Civil War, it is our charge to collect that debt for our descendants, compounded with further injury, with interest.