Generation matters! And perhaps never so much as now for Afro-America. At a time when we most need unity of political action, the rancor of disagreement resounds throughout our community. The current generational conflict first flared in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.
The generational conflict unleashed in Ferguson reflected tactical differences between the civil-rights generation and a segment of black millennials, then aligned with the hashtag “#BlackLivesMatter.” It represented a clash over temperament and tactics. The Black Lives Matter faction of the millennials challenged the civil-rights generation over what they called “respectability politics.” Less studied than their elders, the youth endorsed tactics of disruption but shorn of a radical strategic vision. That is, they shared the civil-rights generation’s liberal integrationist social vision, but cloaked their politics in militant pro-black rhetoric and pugnacious tactics.
Due to a severe lack of political education and a refusal to ground themselves in African American communities, the Black Lives Matter eruption quickly faded. However, in their brief moment, they placed the issue of police misconduct and murder on the country’s agenda. Indeed, they are responsible for the decline in police killings of black people.
The current generational conflict concerns more than tactics. The ideological differences are sharper. The current generational struggle is between the second wave of the Black Power movement, the surviving revolutionary black nationalists and radicals and a largely working class but pro-capitalist faction of millennials who adopt the cultural trappings of black nationalism.
I was aware of the existence of this tendency but had not encountered them. On Jan. 25, I participated in a panel discussion, “Race, Presidential Politics and the Black Agenda” in Indianapolis sponsored by the Economic Freedom Fighters of Indiana. There for the first time, I confronted black millennials who were members of the American Descendants of Slaves (#ADOS).
An ADOS millennial attacked me as “boomer” and then forcefully argued against supporting “the most left” democratic candidate. In an amazing bit of historical revisionism, the ADOS member sought to elevate the “silent generation,” the civil-rights generation, above the Black Power generation, evidencing a hostility toward black nationalism. However, his main purpose was to attack the Democratic left, especially surging presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
ADOS is a right-wing African American nativist organization that advocates for a form of reparations. Their support for reparations confuses many millennials about their actual politics. The group appeals to an anti-immigrant tendency in the black community.
ADOS correctly recognizes that recent black immigrants should not be eligible for reparations but wrongfully dismisses the claims of black immigrants whose families have been in the U.S. since the 1870 Naturalization Act extended citizenship to “aliens of African nativity and persons of African descent.” Moreover, the experiences of the second generation of black immigrants painfully attests that they suffer the same kind of race-based discrimination as their African American cohort.
What’s even more troubling is that ADOS compares immigration with “the institution of slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, convict leasing” and “mass incarceration.” From their perspective, immigration is also a factor responsible for African Americans’ “losses.”
ADOS’ vision of reparations is largely of individual payments. Its “Black Agenda” is essentially a plea for “set asides,” for a Nixon-style program to develop black capitalists.
They call for the revival of affirmative action, though restricted to only the descendants of enslaved African Americans. ADOS would deny black immigrants and all other “minorities,” including the darker peoples and women across race, access to any compensatory programs.
ADOS’ political objective is revealed in the first paragraph of its “Black Agenda.” In the second sentence, it charges the Democratic Party with using “programs like affirmative action as ‘giveaways’ to all groups in exchange for votes.” They do not criticize Donald Trump or any Republican.
This explains why ADOS has focused its attacks on black radicals, nationalists and progressives, and on the left wing of the Democratic Party. To be blunt, ADOS is a collection of knowing and unknowing agents and assets of Trump and the Republican fascists.
ADOS played a prominent role in disparaging former presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris of California in the black community. They have also verbally assaulted other black activists who support reparations but differ from their plan. Therefore, they have aggressively attacked black progressives like Talib Kweli, Ta-Nahisi Coates and Mark Thompson, even provoking a physical confrontation with Thompson.
The millennials unleashed by ADOS have taken the disruptive tactics of their middle-class, liberal cohort, the Black Lives Matter network, and aimed them squarely at the black left. Mmoja Ajabu, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters of Indiana, claims ADOS members are a disruptive force in Indianapolis black politics.
More than a tactical disagreement is at play in the generational conflict between the children of Black Power and the ADOS faction of black millennials. This dispute is ideological, political and strategic.
We, the second wave of Black Power, have studied Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. and agree with them that capitalism is not in the best interest of our people. Politically, we view reparations as an engine to jump-start a collective rebuilding of the African American community, including our capacity to wield an autonomous political decision-making apparatus, rather than a series of individually focused initiatives. And strategically, we oppose Trump and the Republicans and support the most leftist Democratic candidate, Sanders.