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50

The Trouble With Uplift

How black politics succumbed to the siren song of the racial voice

by Adolph L. Reed Jr.

5
terms
3
notes

L. Reed Jr., A. (2018). The Trouble With Uplift. The Baffler, 41, pp. 50-66

(verb) to cause to seem inferior; disparage / (verb) to take away a part so as to impair; detract / (verb) to act beneath one's position or character / (LEGAL) an exemption from or relaxation of a rule or law

52

disparaged the film as a “white savior narrative”—a phrase that is now a routine derogation of certain cross-racial sagas of resistance to white supremacy

—p.52 by Adolph L. Reed Jr.
notable
3 days, 14 hours ago

disparaged the film as a “white savior narrative”—a phrase that is now a routine derogation of certain cross-racial sagas of resistance to white supremacy

—p.52 by Adolph L. Reed Jr.
notable
3 days, 14 hours ago

(noun) the act or process of manumitting / (noun) formal emancipation from slavery

53

Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 race film Django Unchained reduced slavery and manumission to the antics of a spaghetti-Western-style hero who in fact never challenges slavery but fixates only on rescuing his wife

—p.53 by Adolph L. Reed Jr.
uncertain
3 days, 14 hours ago

Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 race film Django Unchained reduced slavery and manumission to the antics of a spaghetti-Western-style hero who in fact never challenges slavery but fixates only on rescuing his wife

—p.53 by Adolph L. Reed Jr.
uncertain
3 days, 14 hours ago

(verb) writhe toss / (verb) wallow / (verb) to rise and fall or toss about in or with waves / (verb) to become deeply sunk, soaked, or involved / (verb) to be in turmoil / (noun) a state of wild disorder; turmoil / (noun) a chaotic mass or jumble

59

This new welter of platforms and voices seeking to promulgate and validate the acceptable terms of black leadership

—p.59 by Adolph L. Reed Jr.
notable
3 days, 14 hours ago

This new welter of platforms and voices seeking to promulgate and validate the acceptable terms of black leadership

—p.59 by Adolph L. Reed Jr.
notable
3 days, 14 hours ago

(adjective) self-proclaimed so-called

61

This surface accord within the charmed circle of soi-disant black leaders reinforces the illusion

—p.61 by Adolph L. Reed Jr.
confirm
3 days, 14 hours ago

This surface accord within the charmed circle of soi-disant black leaders reinforces the illusion

—p.61 by Adolph L. Reed Jr.
confirm
3 days, 14 hours ago
62

The politics thus advanced is profoundly race-reductionist, discounting the value of both political agency and the broad pursuit of political alliances within a polity held to be intractably and irredeemably devoted to white supremacy. This fatalistic outlook works seamlessly to reinforce the status of racial voices who emphasize the interests and concerns of a singular racial collectivity. Central to these pundits’ message is the assertion that blacks have it worse, in every socio-cultural context that might be adduced.

This refrain is also consistent in two important ways with the reigning ideology of neoliberal equality. First, the insistence that disparities of racial access to power are the most meaningful forms of inequality strongly reinforces the neoliberal view that inequalities generated by capitalist market forces are natural and lie beyond the scope of intervention. And second, if American racism is an intractable, transhistorical force—indeed, an ontological one, as Ta-Nehisi Coates has characterized it—then it lies beyond structural political intervention. In other words, Coates and other race-firsters diminish the significance of the legislative and other institutional victories won since Emancipation, leaving us with only exhortations to individual conversion and repentance as a program.

hm idk how much i agree but this is interesting

—p.62 by Adolph L. Reed Jr. 3 days, 14 hours ago

The politics thus advanced is profoundly race-reductionist, discounting the value of both political agency and the broad pursuit of political alliances within a polity held to be intractably and irredeemably devoted to white supremacy. This fatalistic outlook works seamlessly to reinforce the status of racial voices who emphasize the interests and concerns of a singular racial collectivity. Central to these pundits’ message is the assertion that blacks have it worse, in every socio-cultural context that might be adduced.

This refrain is also consistent in two important ways with the reigning ideology of neoliberal equality. First, the insistence that disparities of racial access to power are the most meaningful forms of inequality strongly reinforces the neoliberal view that inequalities generated by capitalist market forces are natural and lie beyond the scope of intervention. And second, if American racism is an intractable, transhistorical force—indeed, an ontological one, as Ta-Nehisi Coates has characterized it—then it lies beyond structural political intervention. In other words, Coates and other race-firsters diminish the significance of the legislative and other institutional victories won since Emancipation, leaving us with only exhortations to individual conversion and repentance as a program.

hm idk how much i agree but this is interesting

—p.62 by Adolph L. Reed Jr. 3 days, 14 hours ago

(noun) a long, mournful complaint or lamentation; a list of woes

62

the jeremiads offered by contemporary racial voices so commonly boil down to calls for “conversations about race”

—p.62 by Adolph L. Reed Jr.
notable
3 days, 14 hours ago

the jeremiads offered by contemporary racial voices so commonly boil down to calls for “conversations about race”

—p.62 by Adolph L. Reed Jr.
notable
3 days, 14 hours ago
64

This vision of unyielding black pathology is yet another testament to the harmony of antiracist and neoliberal ideologies—and it, too, harks directly back to the origins of the black leadership caste at the dawn of the last century. Washington and Du Bois, together with Garvey and other prominent racial nationalists, envisioned their core constituency as a politically mute black population in need of tutelage from their ruling-class-backed leaders. Touré F. Reed persuasively argues that the mildly updated version of this vision now serves as an essential cornerstone of the new black professional-managerial class politics. Underclass mythology grounds professional-class claims to race leadership, while providing the normative foundation of uplift programs directed toward enhancing self-esteem rather than the material redistribution of wealth and income.

Exhortations to celebrate and demand accolades, career opportunities, and material accumulation for black celebrities and rich people—e.g., box office receipts for black filmmakers or contracts and prestigious appointments for other well-positioned black people—as a racial politics are consistent with the sporadic eruptions of “Buy Black” campaigns since the 1920s and 1930s. Such efforts stood out in stark contrast to more working-class based “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” campaigns that demanded employment opportunities in establishments serving black neighborhoods. Like “Buy Black” campaigns, which seem to have risen again from the tomb of petit-bourgeois wishful thinking, projections of successes for the rich and famous as generic racial victories depend on a sleight-of-hand that treats benefits for any black person as benefits for all black people. [...]

—p.64 by Adolph L. Reed Jr. 3 days, 14 hours ago

This vision of unyielding black pathology is yet another testament to the harmony of antiracist and neoliberal ideologies—and it, too, harks directly back to the origins of the black leadership caste at the dawn of the last century. Washington and Du Bois, together with Garvey and other prominent racial nationalists, envisioned their core constituency as a politically mute black population in need of tutelage from their ruling-class-backed leaders. Touré F. Reed persuasively argues that the mildly updated version of this vision now serves as an essential cornerstone of the new black professional-managerial class politics. Underclass mythology grounds professional-class claims to race leadership, while providing the normative foundation of uplift programs directed toward enhancing self-esteem rather than the material redistribution of wealth and income.

Exhortations to celebrate and demand accolades, career opportunities, and material accumulation for black celebrities and rich people—e.g., box office receipts for black filmmakers or contracts and prestigious appointments for other well-positioned black people—as a racial politics are consistent with the sporadic eruptions of “Buy Black” campaigns since the 1920s and 1930s. Such efforts stood out in stark contrast to more working-class based “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” campaigns that demanded employment opportunities in establishments serving black neighborhoods. Like “Buy Black” campaigns, which seem to have risen again from the tomb of petit-bourgeois wishful thinking, projections of successes for the rich and famous as generic racial victories depend on a sleight-of-hand that treats benefits for any black person as benefits for all black people. [...]

—p.64 by Adolph L. Reed Jr. 3 days, 14 hours ago
66

Nevertheless, we continue to indulge the politically wrong-headed, counterproductive, and even reactionary features of the “representative black voice” industry in whatever remains of our contemporary public sphere. And we never reckon with the truly disturbing presumption that any black person who can gain access to the public microphone and performs familiar rituals of “blackness” should be recognized as expressing significant racial truths and deserves our attention. This presumption rests on the unexamined premise that blacks share a common, singular mind that is at once radically unknowable to non-blacks and readily downloaded by any random individual setting up shop as a racial voice. And despite what all of our age’s many heroic narratives of individualist race-first triumph may suggest to the casual viewer, that premise is the essence of racism.

bold

—p.66 by Adolph L. Reed Jr. 3 days, 14 hours ago

Nevertheless, we continue to indulge the politically wrong-headed, counterproductive, and even reactionary features of the “representative black voice” industry in whatever remains of our contemporary public sphere. And we never reckon with the truly disturbing presumption that any black person who can gain access to the public microphone and performs familiar rituals of “blackness” should be recognized as expressing significant racial truths and deserves our attention. This presumption rests on the unexamined premise that blacks share a common, singular mind that is at once radically unknowable to non-blacks and readily downloaded by any random individual setting up shop as a racial voice. And despite what all of our age’s many heroic narratives of individualist race-first triumph may suggest to the casual viewer, that premise is the essence of racism.

bold

—p.66 by Adolph L. Reed Jr. 3 days, 14 hours ago