Posted by: nquest2xl | June 4, 2008

The Unspeakable: Black Identity and a homeland for it (Part I)

I must admit, I have envy. I envy two examples. I envy two things accepted as convention. I envy two people. I envy two people Sen. Barack Obama has paid respect to recently, perhaps, as matter of convention and/or because of the respect accorded to their humanity and tragedy that is, IMO, lacking when it comes to the African-American experience.

The two people I’m talking about are Jews and Native Americans.

Paying respects and vowing “unwavering” and “unshakable” support for non-negotiables with respect to Israel, Sen. Obama explained how his own personal search for identity helped him understand the call of Zion, the quest for a Jewish homeland, at an early age. In Indian Country, Obama recommitted the nation to another “special relationship” with the First Americans, complete with greater respect for tribal sovereignty, observance of the government-to-government relationship between the U.S. government with various tribes and a recognition of and commitment to the problems that impact Native Americans more than others.

That last statement, alone, is in stark contrast to what’s been previously presented here before. Gone is the “everybody is having tough times” rhetoric of hardship equalization.

For some reason, not only is the particular and specific scope of the problems and, indeed, the particular focus on the oppression of respected groups, First Nations and Jews/Israel, okay to talk about without also mentioning other people’s problems but they, the once dispossessed people who have repossessed some semblance of their homeland, aren’t publicly accused of or disparaged for “focusing so much” on their own plight as historically oppressed people to the point where they ” lose sight” of what they have in common with other Americans. No, not only are they and their oppression situation accorded respect but their very aspirations are respected and not viewed as some type of reactionary response:

Historically, African-Americans have turned inward and towards black nationalism whenever they have a sense, as we do now, that the mainstream has rebuffed us, and that white Americans couldn’t care less about the profound problems African-Americans are facing.

It goes without saying that to even raise the issue of Black Nationalism is taboo in American mainstream politics. Barack Obama definitely won’t run on a platform insisting that the American government should recognize and maintain the kind of special relationship it has with either Native Americans or Israel. And, contrary to Obama’s historically challenged claim, Black nationalism has always been pervasive in Black America.

That’s something which should cause him to re-evaluate his “we all have a piece of each other” rhetoric where he admonished Blacks and Hispanics not to “pretend that Whites don’t have problems…” It’s a cruel jest, as Dr. King would say, in a society where Obama himself noted how there are Quiet Riots going on due to [White] America’s Empathy Deficit to ask the oppressed to have sympathy for those who are often complicit in their oppression even if they don’t feel “particularly privileged” by their Whiteness and have hard times as a result of their class status in America’s capitalist society.

One thing Obama won’t do and that’s ask those same people, white middle and working class people, to pay Reparations to African-Americans or, in this case, to establish and honor a homeland for a people taken from their ancestral home and subjected to centuries of cruelty — a holocaust in it’s own right.



  1. My maternal grandmother was born in 1908. The NAACP was founded the following year in 1909. Since its inception, the philosophical imperative of the NAACP has been challenged on several fronts, including by one of the pre-eminent co-founders: W.E.B Du Bois. It’s a philosophical debate that continues to this day: Integration or African nationalism?

    I heard Whoopi Goldberg on the View several weeks ago making fun of the various “incarnations.” People who continue to poke fun at the various name changes that have been put forward over the years appear neither to fully appreciate nor understand this fundamental divide within our culture.

    Thank you for this.

  2. Thanks for your response. I think the name change thing is an excellent example of the lack of appreciation that goes on here.

    I always ask people, essentially, why they disparage or would deny African-Americans an ethnicity. In fact, for the curiously “colorblind” (in one eye) people who make an issue out of the name change to African-American, I ask them “what ethnicity are so-called Black people?”

    This piece by dNA shows how Americans generally don’t have a problem with hyphenated Americans, even Americans with dual citizenship.

  3. […] the looks of it, Obama could never be confused as my ideological brother. For that matter, neither more recent Black presidential hopefuls including the Reverends Jackson […]

  4. It’s not about being a hyphenated American. It’s about acknowledging our unique Americaness. We did not come here by choice or as political refugees or because we were escaping religious oppression. We are Black and we are Americans because we decided to remain here and become so.

    We neither need nor do we require permission to be Americans. We already are, however all that is African about lies only in the color of our skin and that is a thin basis upon which to claim ethnic identity. Dark skin is not an exclusive feature of people who live on the continent of Africa.

    Italy, France, China, Korea… These are all countries, not continents!

    Ethnic identity is a function of language, food and culture, all of which, for American Blacks are American: English, “soul food”, and American South/American Northern immigration.

  5. Sorry for the late response but I simply reject this notion of yours:

    “all that is African about [us] lies only in the color of our skin…”

    Your conception may be about skin color but mine is not. Nor is skin color the basis for most folks asserting their African heritage and claiming that as part of their ethnic/cultural make up.

    Our African-ness has everything to do with our unique American-ness.

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