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Black Political Thought Examination 1 Paper
By Chelsea Simpson
Is Written in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for
POLI 343: Black Political Thought
Virginia Commonwealth University
Fall Semester 2016
Prof. Eric. S. King
Critical thinking is assessed as “the process by which you analyze concepts and
arguments in order to determine their justification/warrant or whether they should be
1
discredited.”(Professor King) In order to successfully accomplish this task, one must understand
the implications of analysis, interpretation, and informed judgements and what their
contributions are to the process of critical thinking. The process of analysis simply means
“Identify its purpose, and question at issue, as well as its information, inferences(s), assumptions,
implications, main concept(s), and point of view”(criticalthinking.org) By conducting analysis
on a given topic, one is more prone to have an accurate and more clear interpretation of this topic
and that therefore leads them to informed judgments, rather than ignorant assumptions. Critical
thinking is also more specifically categorized into two segments, reconstructed logic and
contextual analysis, for the purposes of Black Political Thought, understanding the role of
political ideologies in terms of reconstructed logic in critical thinking means to understand “how
concepts hang together.” (professor King) The four political ideological identities whose logiese
will be further explained are Black Nationalist/Contemporary Black Nationalist, Black
Liberalists/ Liberal integrationists, Black Conservatism/Contemporary Black Conservationists
and Black Feminists/Contemporary Black Feminists. In terms of critical thinking this essay will
examine the way black philosophers and political scientists understand the reconstructed way of
logic that Black Nationalist/Contemporary Black Nationalist, Black Liberalists/ Liberal
integrationists, Black Conservatism/Contemporary Black Conservationists and Black
Feminists/Contemporary Black Feminists use to triumph in their ideologies by assessing how
each group conceptualizes their perception on their view and stance and black individuals in the
American society.
To understand the four political ideologies and their logic on their positionality and
contribution in/to the American society, one must understand the meaning of politics. Politics is
“the association between at least two people who perceive and communicate about a shared
1 a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.(Merriam Webster)
2
tension between their human needs and social facts in which they initiate a relationship to
resolve a tension.” (Professor King)In terms of Black Political thought, politics are carried out
through “ordinary spaces of everyday talk among African Americans serve as forums for
dialogue that contribute both to the development of individual ideological dispositions and to the
revisions of ideologies across time.”(Harris-Lacewell,2004, p. 3) The tension that these political
ideologies are seeking to reconstruct and furthermore resolve is the societal placing of Blacks in
America and what political and philosophical significance they have in scholarly realms.
The oldest of the four political ideologies is Black Nationalism. Black nationalism is “the
second oldest political ideological tendency found within black political
thought.”(Dawson,2001,p.22) The Black nationalist seek to “include support for AfricanAmerican autonomy and various degrees of social, economic, and political separation from white
America.” (Dawson,2001,p.21) In terms of critical thinking, the problem that Dawson argues, is
black nationalist identify most with the notion that black people or African Americans as a whole
are a separate entity from white America. This logic is justified by “the fact Africa holds a
special place as the ‘motherland’ for most black nationalists leads many (not all) to see people as
african descent as at least the spiritual allies of African Americans.” (Dawson,2001,p.21)
Immediately, it is apparent that to black nationalists, there are many inadequate connections
between African Americans and white people due to black nationalists sense of belonging and
identification not with the Americas, but with Africa and Africans. An inadequate connection is a
connection in which a relationship is present, however it is not ideal and there are evidently
problems amongst the relationship. The ideologies of the Black nationalists are “racially
charged” and black nationalists are known to be highly exclusive mainly due to the fact that “all
other ideologies are viewed to be tools of white oppressors.” (Dawson,2011, p.22) This shapes
1 a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.(Merriam Webster)
3
the way in which individuals who adhere to such principles act because they claim that these
ideologies were “ developed out of the historical experienced of african
americans.”(Dawson,2001, p.21) Black nationalist view the main source of the issue of their
positionality is society as their relationships and societal standings amongst white in America.
Due to the history of oppression, degradation and outcasting of African Americans in American
black nationalists aim to ultimately seek autonomy from white America.
On the contrary, the Black conservatives have hope in America and believe that
“America is redeemable.” Unlike the ideology that white supremacy and slavery has caused the
disposition of black people in America ,like Nationalists believe, conservatives believe that the
retardation of the black societal progress is a smaller aspect of a greater universal issue and that
the notion that “blacks have suffered special oppression and deserve special consideration are
rejected.” (Dawson,2001, p.21) This notion separates them from all the other ideologies because
they reject the notion that black individuals deserve any high treatment or or honor as that would
be considered immoral. Black conservatives believe that it would be unjust to honor one group of
individuals because “blacks are one of several groups that have suffered
disadvantage.”(Dawson,2001, p.12) Black liberalists would refute this claim by saying that
“America is viewed by inherents of their ideological vision and fundamentally racist; segregation
is seen not as a goal, but as a stage which must be tactically planned for in the very long struggle
for racial equality.” (Dawson, 2001,p. 17) Although both conservatives and Liberalists blame the
state as a source of the disposition of black people in America, Liberalists have labeled this
institution as fundamentally racist.1 Therefore, the difference in thinking is clearly highlighted
because the conservatives view all marginalization as equal in the sense that no one groups
hardships and oppressions is over the others. This is contradicted by the Liberalists because they
1 a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.(Merriam Webster)
4
believe that the system is specifically set against black people, and it was tactically made to
continually oppress black people over a long period of time. So, therefore Black liberalists tend
to find themselves as pessimistic towards the future of America because “they are concerned
about protecting individual freedom from the arbitrary state of society.”(Professor King) This
would back the claim that racism and the american tradition are in a symbiotic relationship and
they feed off each other.
Black feminist, unlike the other three ideologies, have a multifaceted approach when
dealing with the way their ideologies perceive themselves in the American society and
universally. This is because they belong to two different social groups, being black and a women.
In a society where both social categories that black feminist embody are underrepresented and
face exceeding amounts of oppression. In a patriarchal society such as the United states men are
designed to be the forefront of all aspects that run a society and women are meant to be the
followers who are submissive to the will of men, in traditional terms. Also, being black in
America where the system was put in place to make people of this race to be considered less of a
human being, black feminists deal with the intersection of two complex ideological standpoints.
Black feminist seek to establish themselves as both black and women in America.
In conclusion, in order to fully grasp the political ideologies and the reconstructed logic
they use to engage in critical thinking, one must understand the historical implications, context,
and positionality of each of these ideologies and what the forefront of their missions to establish
themselves politically in the United States are. The idea of black political thought also has to be
understood in both social and historical context as from having from “everyday talk” as a main
influencer of how different political thoughts are formed. It is critical to understand that these
ideologies and their way of thinking stemmed from “uncovering how ideology is developed by
1 a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.(Merriam Webster)
5
black people talking to one another in their daily lives.”(Harris-Lacewell,2004, p.5) This helps
further helps these ideologies identify and establish what it means to be black in America.
Each political ideology uses different methods to handle the four functions of an
ideology. In order to successfully understand how each political ideology operates, one must
analyze the implications that the ideologies uses to explain, evaluate, orientate, and
program/prescribe politics and everyday issues. “By uncovering how ideology is developed by
black people, talking to one another in their daily lives, we can better prescribe, analyze and
predict variation in the African American political thought.” (Harris-Lacewell,2004, p. 5) A
forum in which these traits are often conducted is called the “African American counterpublic.
African American counterpublic as “a sphere of critical practice and visionary politics, in which
1 a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.(Merriam Webster)
6
intellectuals can join with the energies of the street, the school, the church, and the city to
constitute a challenge to the exclusionary violence of much public space in the United States”
(Black Public Sphere Collective 1995) Through the study of how these various political
ideologies use their energies to respond to the American public, and establish themselves in the
community and greater world through the forum of activism and political expression we see
how Black Nationalist/Contemporary Black Nationalist, Black Liberalists/ Liberal
integrationists, Black Conservatism/Contemporary Black Conservationists and Black
Feminists/Contemporary Black Feminists handle the functions of an ideology, and respond to
their relationship with the state.
For one to understand how each political ideology handles the functions of an ideology
the reason for their formation must be explicitly understood. “The formal and “informal”
exclusion of African Americans from the polity provided a political basis of the for the official
public sphere to ignore (except for purposes of surveillance) the black counterpublic well into the
middle decades of the twentieth century.” (Dawson,2001, p. 35) This essentially caused the
increase in black political activity in the counterpublic. So, with African Americans now able to
more freely express themselves legally, these ideologies formed as a direct result of this former
exclusion in the American society. “As we shall see, black ideologies are almost highly critical
of both the hegemonic American liberal world view of any given period and the actual
functioning of the American state and the place of blacks in civil society.” (Dawson, 2001, p.53)
This criticism has lead to the hegemony and opposing beliefs between the political ideologies
and it allowed each political ideology to have an area of focus in which more strongly exhibited
what areas of the state was most troubling to them. Black Nationalists built much of their
ideologies off of a direct response to responding to the racial system of America that puts black
1 a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.(Merriam Webster)
7
at an extreme injustice. Black Nationalists “assert, in its most extreme manifestations, that all
internal divisions within the black community must be subordinated so that African Americans
can concentrate political and economic struggles on behalf of racial interests alone.” (HarrisLacewell,2004, p.20) The historical unjustness of the American society towards blacks is the
fundamental core of what these nationalist use as a marker to explain, evaluate, orient, and
program their ideas. “Black variations of liberalism, with one moderate expectation, have been
transformed by the historical experience of African Americans in ways which not only stretch
the traditional boundaries of mainstream American liberalism, but also contain elements which
are decidedly anti liberal.”
(Dawson, 2001,p.13) The history of America explains why Black nationalists view themselves as
more closely tied with Africa than the Americas in which they live. They see themselves as
direct “victims of western civilization”(professor King) So, they explain their viewpoints and
beliefs based off of this main historical context. The evaluate their positioning in the American
society as individuals who are not equal, due to the unjustness of the system, and strive to
address and diminish black inequality. Black Nationalist orient themselves by forming coalitions
such as the Black panthers in order to “employ both economic and electoral strategies, and is
articulated through a language of self-determination and racial pride.”(Dawson,2001, p.86) Black
nationalists’ programmatic measure to explain why whites actively resist black equality is the
forefront of their political ideology. In regards to their perception on other ideologies,
“Nationalists tend to privilege race over other identities, such as gender, class and sexual
identity.” (Harris-Lacewell, 2004, p.21)) This lack adequate attention and attentiveness towards
gender and sexuality issues, have proven to be one of the leading reasons why the Black feminist
ideology emerged in the black political sphere.
1 a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.(Merriam Webster)
8
Black feminist handle the functions of their political ideology from a multifaceted point
of view. “Black feminists argue that it is the intersection of gender with race and class which
requires African American women to battle against multiple forms of oppression.(Collins 1991;
Crenshaw 1990; Locke 1987)” (Dawson, 2001, p.20) So therefore, they face issues dealing with
a multitude of areas, and their main concerns are to alleviate race and gender inequalities. Black
feminism as an ideology derives from an attempt to address real material circumstances, to create
way to understand how race, gender, class, and sexuality intersect in black people's lives to
create unique forms of political, economic, and social oppression.” (Harris-Lacewell, 2004,p. 31)
This explains why their ideologies are centered around inclusion and unity amongst coalitions
and organizations, because in all area, Black feminists were outcasted. Essentially, the biggest
oppressor to black feminists is political and social marginalizations, they face the pressures of
the patriarchal society to remain in a position where they need to hold themselves to a lesser
standard of men, and allow men to be the frontrunners, as well as the whole American system
that was intentionally built against blacks. Marginalization significantly affects the way black
feminists orient themselves. The need for antiracial and antisexist political groups initiated black
feminists orientation, and drives advocacy for inclusion in not only the political sphere but
universal and philosophically. The enemy of Black feminism is clearly white supremacy and
patriarchy, which unlike many of the other black political ideologies, with the exception of black
conservatists, makes them “sympathetic towards forming alliances outside the black
community.” (Dawson,2001,p. 21) This branching out seems to contradict Harris Lacewell
notion that, black people come together because of their blackness and this then, eventually
generates political talk, leading to political action. Dawson’s idea of “natural leadership” in the
role of black men prove to exclude the feminist and offers essential criticism to Harris Lacewell
1 a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.(Merriam Webster)
9
justification of the use of black counterpublics, essentially, there is still not a solid role for
feminists because the “spaces” were not meant to place their views at a position of equality, but
rather provide a forum for black individuals to talk, with the assumption that the leadership roles
would fall on the black male, leaving female leadership not at the forefront of these everyday
discussions.
Black conservatist ideology is most centered with marginalized mindset tendencies of
blacks in America. Black conservatist ideologies are the extreme opposite of black nationalists
ideologies because they seek to establish the notion that “America is redeemable,” unlike
extreme black nationalist who believe the only way to redeem America is to get rid of all the
white people in it. Black conservatives advocate the idea that “African Americans should be
entirely self sufficient, and should not demand any official recognition of or redress for any
historical or contemporary inequalities stemming from racial discrimination.” (Harris- Lacewell,
2004, p. 20) This explains why conservatives are optimistic about the future and believe that
blacks indeed can obtain social, political and economic equality amongst whites. Although black
conservatists have no physical enemy, Harris-Lacewell include in her presentation of
conservative ideology, that the notion that “we(black americans) are still victims to slavery” is an
ideological enemy or ploy designed to influence us and apologetic whites to support liberal
causes such as expanded government. Conservatives do not deny the history of slavery, however
they do not believe Blacks should still be mentally shackled by it because that limits the ability
to move forward and be competitors and active in the political sector. The denial of racially
charged politics essentially makes this ideology the “outcast” in comparison to the other black
ideologies, however, their ideology speaks directly against the idea that blacks are still
challenged by the faces of oppression and offers a forum for political and economic
1 a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.(Merriam Webster)
10
advancements by positioning their ideologies on the idea that blacks and whites should
inherently view themselves as equal competitors in the world.
Black liberalists, in contrast, function of of the idea that “America is fundamentally
racist.” (Dawson, 2001,p.17) This ideology's active enemy is the state, because of the historical
foundings of America. “Liberal Integrationist want a society in which African Americans enjoy
the political, economic, and social freedoms and rights of other people in society.”(HarrisLacewell, 2004,p.26) In order to achieve this goal, literalists try and orient themselves in ways
they can “link black interests to those of the larger society,(Harris-Lacewell, 2004,p.27) and by
doing so, they hope to gain equality amongst whites. The state in this ideology is seen as the
source for change. They believe that if the system in which was made to discriminate against
blacks is not changed, then there will essentially be no accurate and fair representation of african
americans in society. So, encouragement in “Electoral participation, federal litigation, pressure
for state based economic redevelopment, and support for race targeted government programs are
the hallmarks of liberal integrationist strategy.”(Harris-Lacewell,2004, p.28) They view
themselves as markers of change in the american society and because of this market themselves
in a way that they are actively involved in social, political, and economic aspects in society in
order to include themselves in a society that was meant to exclude them.
Positionality proves to be a significant factor in the way these political ideologies center
their activism and find their voices in the American society. The activism conducted on behalf of
these ideologies are centered around politics, social equality, economic equality, and
participation in society. These items serve to model how each ideology explain, evaluates,
orientations and programs themselves in comparison to the dominant culture. The state is the
1 a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.(Merriam Webster)
11
reference point to identify the radicalness of these ideologies and attempts to gain greater
participation and recognition amongst others is what drives these ideologies. Based on how each
ideology views the functions of a state, we see their handles vary in how their conduct their
perceptions of activism.
Contextual analysis is an important process to taking critical thinking “a step further.”
The process of critical thinking as contextual analysis helps to “determine the meaning of
its[political ideologies] concepts and assumptions to understand the circumstances that lead to
the formation and acceptance of the theory or framework by individuals and groups.” (Professor
King) This logical process serves tool to essentially question why each ideology participates in
society the way that they do, which deal with social, political, and economic reasons. Moreover,
critical thinking as conceptual analysis one understand the meaning, or significance of certain
political ideology to the greater society. The conceptual analysis of critical thinking can be
further defined as the “Sociology of Knowledge.” This term essentially means “the general way
of dealing with a problem.”(professor King) So therefore, the inherited economic, social and
political situation of different black individuals in America who identify under the umbrella of
Black Nationalist/Contemporary Black Nationalist, Black Liberalists/ Liberal integrationists,
Black Conservatism/Contemporary Black Conservationists and Black Feminists/Contemporary
1 a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.(Merriam Webster)
12
Black Feminists , as well as the relationship each group has with each ideology helps understand
the meaning of these ideologies.
To understand the meaning and the contribution that the black political ideologies have
on the greater society, and to identify the way each ideology looks at their idea of “the problem”
in society, an understanding of their inherited economic, social and political situations must be
grasped because this is essentially what the ideologies shapes their beliefs in lieu of. The
commonality between all of the members in each political ideology stems from the fact that they
are all people of color who are from generations of slavery which serves as the foundation for
each ideology because that is every member's inherited situation. However, each political
ideology takes a different position on their role socially in terms political agenda and social
persona in relation to other blacks as a result of this inherited situation. It also is important note
that the formation of these various political groups also speaks to the social positionality of these
various political ideologies. Black Nationalism was founded off of the theories of Marcus
Garvey called Garveyism. “Garveyism identified the international and historical bases of black
subjugation and declared the right and necessity of black separation from oppressive policies by
developing separate political representation, cultural icons, and economic institutions.” (HarrisLacewell,2004, p.53) This essentially speaks to the idea that the promotion of black business
economically, the uplifting of anyone who falls under the race black, and active and separate
political representation are the embodiment of Black Nationalists. Harris-Lacewell supports this
claim by arguing “Nationalist may believe, “I am black and you are black and this matters
because it means I have a responsibility for protecting you and you owe the same to me..”
(Harris-Lacewell,2004, p. 25) Socially, this implies that blacks have a responsibility towards
anyone else who shares this same inherited situation of color. This speaks to the social
1 a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.(Merriam Webster)
13
construction of how black nationalists view their role in the society, including the area of the
economy. “In 1966 the SNCC produced a position on black power asserting that SNCC should
be “black staffed”, black controlled and black-financed…. If we continue to rely upon white
financial support we will find ourselves entwined in the tentacles of the white power complex
that controls this country.”(Harris-Lacewell, 2004,p.26) These three stances that Black
Nationalists take on their role socially politically and economically all have a commonality,
black power and unity; this is essentially the meaning of what it is to be a Black nationalist in
America.
Black Conservatives in contrary, would argue against the main ideologies that drive black
nationalism. Black Conservatism “is grounded in the work of Booker T. Washington. His
accommodationist philosophy found institutional expression in the Tuskegee method of
industrial education, designed to instill work ethic and manual skills in the post-Reconstruction
blacks with the promise of making African Americans profitable and compliable members of
society.”(Harris-Lacewell,2004, p.29) Historically, the disposition of blacks in the political,
social and economic systems due to slavery has caused conservatives to respond to this by
encouraging its members to economically take charge and seek inclusion. “Black conservatives
locate the source of black inequality in the behavioral or attitudinal pathologies of African
Americans and stress the significance of moral and personal rather than racial characteristics to
explain unequal life circumstances.”(Harris-Lacewell,2004,p.28) Socially, instead of focusing on
the notion that since America was built on slavery, white people are against us and essentially
the problem, as nationalist would argue, conservatives believe that “Our ancestors recovered
quickly from the despair of slavery.”Harris-Lacewell,2004, p.29) Therefore it is inaccurate
1 a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.(Merriam Webster)
14
“bogus” to act as if the system is still inherently against Blacks in America. Conservatists argue
that “black pathology is the perpetrator of inequality.” (Harris-Lacewell, 2004, p.29) This
ideology is the engine of what it means to identify as a Black conservative in America. Socially,
black conservatives do not see themselves as affected by the unjust racial system in America, so
therefore, their ideologies do not focus on necessarily building the black community or
establishing recognition for themselves politically as Black Feminists do. “Political strategies are
considered inferior to strategies based on economic development for bringing about black
progress.”(Dawson, p. 20) Although black nationalist would somewhat agree with the approach
of being represented in the economic sphere of America, conservatives would not necessarily
focus soley on the promotion of black business as a method of bringing black progress, but rather
they would argue to establish businesses to be self reliant, and free from government assistance
in order to establish a colorless society. Although black conservatists, are identified in the
political field by their race, their meaning and the forefront of their political social and economic
actions is to establish a colorless society in which all citizens can flourish without shackling
themselves to their race.
In opposition to the meaning and functionality of black conservatists in America, black
feminist’s whole political and social agenda is based on their inherited situation, which serves as
a driving factor for their actions and goals as an ideology. “Black feminism as an ideology
derives from an attempt to address real material circumstances, to create a way to understand
how race, gender, class, and sexuality intersect in black people’s lives to create unique forms of
political social, and economic oppression.”(Harris-Lacewell,2004, p.31) Oppression the inherited
situation and factor that influences and shapes the identity of Black feminists in America.
America is a patriarchal society that was made to operate with men at the forefront of all aspect
1 a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.(Merriam Webster)
15
in power and dominance. America is also a society that was built off of exploration of
individuals slaves masters saw as less than humans for economic benefits. So, having two
identities that shape one's being in a society where these are seen and inferior is what
historically, socially and politically initiated the establishment of Black feminism. Black
feminist did not seek to establish economic inclusion and identity like conservatists, but rather
aim to “contribute to the understanding of relations of power, domination and
resistance.”(Harris-Lacewell,2004, p.31) Therefore, to be a black feminists, means to be one who
understands and advocates from the inclusion of intersectionality of race gender and class, and to
rejection oppression due to inherited situations.
Historically, Black liberalism emerged as a critique to American Liberalism. Black
liberalists similarly to feminists and nationalists view their inherited situation as a problem, so,
they base their core ideologies off of the idea that “America is viewed by adherents of this
ideological vision as fundamentally racist; segregation is seen not as a goal, but as a stage which
must be tactically planned for in the very long struggle for racial equality.”(Dawson,2001, p.17)
Like black nationalists, black liberalist want to establish themselves in the greater society.
However, black liberalist have hope in the American system because they “suggest that the
American system works in theory; the problem is that, in practice, it only works for privileged
members of society.”(Harris-Lacewell,2004, p.26) So, the strategies that the liberalist take on are
mainly government based in hopes of ensuring black progress in America. They believe that that
“most effective way to pursue the interests of blacks is to link black interests to the of the larger
American society.”(Harris-Lacewell,2004, p.27) Essentially, by linking black interests to the
greater American society, black liberalist want to achieve equality in the system that works, but
1 a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.(Merriam Webster)
16
just not for them. So, establishing equal political and social identity amongst blacks in America
is the meaning of Black Liberalism.
Contextual analysis through the means of understanding political, historical, economic
and social background in relation the ideologies of Black Nationalist/Contemporary Black
Nationalist, Black Liberalists/ Liberal integrationists, Black Conservatism/Contemporary Black
Conservationists and Black Feminists/Contemporary Black Feminists, serve to identify and
shape why each political identity aims for the representation in America they way that they do.
Upon analyzing the inherited situation that are shared amongst blacks, it can be concluded that
these political ideologies all emerged as a direct response to coping with the state in relation to
one’s identity as a black person in America. Through these means of identification and the
various interpretations of and critiques of how to be included in the American society, the four
political ideologies established their meaning.
1 a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.(Merriam Webster)
17
Works Cited
CriticalThinking.org - Critical Thinking Model 1
https://www.criticalthinking.org/ctmodel/logic-model1.htm
Dawson, Michael C. Black Visions: The Roots of Contemporary African-American Political
Ideologies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.
Harris-Perry, Melissa V. Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political
Thought. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004.
King, Eric S., Mr. "Black Political Thought." Lecture, Virginia Commonwealth University,
Harris Hall Rm 2120, Richmond.
The Black Public Sphere: A Public Culture Book. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press,
1995.
1 a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.(Merriam Webster)
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