Understanding ADOS: The Movement to Hijack Black Identity and Weaken Black Unity

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By Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor
January 2, 2020

*Author’s note: Thank you to everyone that read and shared this report. Within the first month of publication, the report was read and downloaded by over 37,000 people. The main countries readers are from include: U.S.A., UK, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, Germany, Barbados, the Netherlands, Australia, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, France, Mexico, Switzerland, Finland, Ireland, the Philippines, Singapore, Japan, Spain, Denmark, Rwanda, Cameroon, Belgium, Italy, China, Russia – and more. Clearly, ADOS and the issue of misinformation and disinformation are conversations that are long overdue for the global Black community. I will continue to write and speak on this subject while sharing more information, resources, and tools that can be used to support the global Black movement for reparations, social justice, and human rights. – J.A.M. Aiwuyor, Feb. 4, 2020.

Introduction:

The term “American Descendants of Slavery” (ADOS) was created in 2016 to describe and distinctly separate Black Americans/African Americans from Black immigrant communities (Africans, Afro-Caribbeans, Afro-Latinos, etc). The movement claims to advocate for reparations on behalf of Black Americans. 

However, this movement’s leadership is linked to right-wing media and white supremacists that have a history of attempting to cause divisions in the Black community. ADOS leaders say they’ll use the moniker “ADOS” as part of their legal justice claim for reparations. But instead, it is likely to be used to create policies that would further marginalize and oppress Black communities. The ADOS movement is particularly seeking to impact the 2020 presidential election, the 2020 census, and beyond.

ADOS appears to be a highly sophisticated propaganda campaign using the combination of African American history (in order to build trust) along with disinformation and misinformation tactics. Yet, with the support of economist Dr. William “Sandy” Darity and Dr. Cornel West, the ADOS movement has been able to garner legitimacy in various circles – allowing it to grow through support from unsuspecting Black Americans that support reparations.

An Overview of ADOS

On the cusp of Black Lives Matter and in the middle of the International Decade for People of African Descent, a fringe movement called “American Descendants of Slavery” (ADOS) has emerged to systematically fracture Black communities and directly attack Black unity and or Pan Africanism among the U.S. Black population. 

The movement relies heavily on right-wing, anti-Black, anti-immigrant talking points, and a series of policy positions reliant on a person’s ability to produce documentation or what I am calling “slave papers” in order to verify Black native identity. If implemented, the end result of these policies could be a weakened, further marginalized Black population.

Their main slogans are #ADOS, Tangibles, #Tangibles2020, and “cut the check.”

The ADOS movement is often aligned with another group of similar beliefs called Foundational Black Americans (#FBA) founded by filmmaker and Youtube personality, Tariq Nasheed. 

Despite its claimed reparations focus, the ADOS movement appears to operate like the Trojan horse – to infiltrate the Black community, hijack Black American identity, and contaminate legitimate causes like the fight for reparations and civil rights. 

A critical look at the group’s leadership, proposed policies, and actions provides more insight concerning the ADOS movement’s true intentions. 

ADOS’s harmful and anti-Black practices and policies: 

  1. ADOS leaders have a history of working with right-wing media like NewsMax and the fake-progressive organization, Progressives for Immigration Reform that is supported by white supremacist, John Tanton. 
  2. ADOS leaders want to split Black representation on the 2020 Census and make “ADOS” its own category – which would negatively impact the representation of Black communities, potentially decreasing access to funding and other resources available to Black communities overall.
  3. ADOS co-founders claim to be outspoken advocates for cash payout reparations but refuse to support the H.R.40 – Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act – a bill sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. ADOS leadership initially supported the bill but is now pushing for the bill to include their newly presented moniker “ADOS” instead of “African American.” This is a frivolous excuse to move the goal post and center the reparations movement on the ADOS leadership instead of the communities they claim to represent.
  4. ADOS leaders have a proposed policy that would require Black Americans to provide slavery documentation before having access to affirmative action and reparations. Many Black Americans will not be able to provide this documentation. Consequently, their “slavery papers” policy would open the doorway to government scrutiny of family records, increased surveillance, and exclusionary practices.
  5. ADOS leaders bash and refuse to work with established Black reparations organizations like the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations (N’COBRA), which has advocated for reparations on behalf of Black Americans for decades. 
  6. ADOS leaders and members frequently attack Black historians, scholars, activists, and leaders through a form of online and in-person harassment called “swarming.” 
  7. ADOS leaders seek to limit Black immigrants from obtaining U.S. visas,  similar to the policies advocated by white supremacists that are attempting to stop the “browning of America” by decreasing Black and Brown immigrant entry to the U.S. 
  8. ADOS leaders do not believe that Black Americans can or should have any connection with Africa. They tell their followers to trace their lineage to America only and to stop acknowledging Africa as the home of our ancestors. 
  9. ADOS leaders have stated that Pan Africanism is dead and that African Americans are more closely connected genetically to white Americans than other people of African descent. 
  10. ADOS leadership and members use radicalization tactics like “othering” by demonizing and blaming Black immigrant communities for a lack of resources and jobs. They twist facts to fit their narrative and limit successful dialogue with others by telling members to “stay on code.” 
  11. The ADOS movement is suspected to be supported by a strategic propaganda campaign propped up by a large number of anonymous online accounts likely paid trolls – pretending to be Black Americans that agree with their movement in order to increase the appearance of their popularity and gain more followers.
  12. ADOS leaders use the work of deceased Black leaders like Queen Mother Audley Moore and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in their campaigns in order to build trust in the Black community. They use the works of these Black American ancestors out of context and exclude all references to African roots, African identity, Pan Africanism, or anything related to global Black movements or unity. 
  13. ADOS leaders seek to take credit for all current reparations discussions, including the #1619 Project created by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and the recent House hearing on H.R. 40 during which Ta-Nehisi Coates and Danny Glover testified.

ADOS Leadership, White Supremacists, and the Black Vote

The ADOS movement was founded in 2016 by Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore. The pair have a thriving Youtube and Twitter following. Moore is a lawyer and Carnell served as a congressional aide before gaining popularity on Boyce Watkins’ YourBlackWorld.net. Antonio Moore authored several articles on NewsMax, a right-wing leaning news site. 

Additionally, ADOS co-founder, Yvette Carnell served on the board of Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR), a fake progressive/front organization linked to white nativist, supremacist and eugenics supporter John Tanton, who sought to limit Black and Brown immigrants in the U.S. (Lee, 2014/SPLC, 2010)

A report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, titled “Greenwash: Nativists, Environmentalism and the Hypocrisy of Hate,” states:

A quarter of a century ago, John Tanton, a white nationalist who would go on to almost single-handedly construct the contemporary, hard-line anti-immigration movement, wrote about his secret desire to bring the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest environmental organization, into the nativist fold. He spelled out his motive clearly: Using an organization perceived by the public as part of the liberal left would insulate nativists from charges of racism — charges that, given the explicitly pro-“European-American” advocacy of Tanton and many of his allies over the years, would likely otherwise stick.

It continues: 

Now, the greenwashers are back. In the last few years, right-wing groups have paid to run expensive advertisements in liberal publications that explicitly call on environmentalists and other “progressives” to join their anti-immigration cause. They’ve created an organization called Progressives for Immigration Reform that purports to represent liberals who believe immigration must be radically curtailed in order to preserve the American environment. They’ve constructed websites accusing immigrants of being responsible for urban sprawl, traffic congestion, overconsumption and a host of other environmental evils. Time and again, they have suggested that immigration is the most important issue for conservationists. (SPLC, 2010).

The ADOS movement appears to borrow from the strategy of Tanton’s covert white supremacist based initiatives. Through an identity-based framework, ADOS is trying to increase friction between African American and Black immigrant communities – thereby increasing support for anti-immigration initiatives that will largely affect Black immigrants. With fewer Black immigrants in America, their movement could stall a Black and Brown majority population in the U.S. for an additional few years – this is a major goal of white supremacists. And this goal is tied to how African Americans see themselves in terms of identity, which is why ADOS leaders try to get their followers to disconnect from Pan Africanism and African heritage. 

Some ADOS members are even suggesting that we do away with the terms “Black American” or “African American” and use “ADOS” exclusively. This is just as dangerous as voter suppression and disinformation campaigns because language and ideology have a longer-lasting effect. If ADOS leaders can make Black Americans rethink their identity as people of African descent and ingrain ADOS’s American nativist sentiments in the national narrative, their ideology will still dictate African American sentiment towards Black immigrants and policies directed towards the Black community – beyond 2020. 

A recent PFIR newsletter stated: 

The ranks of the disfranchised are large and growing each year. In the last three years, the American Descendants of Slaves or ADOS movement, a movement that understands the impact unbridled immigration has had on our country’s most vulnerable workers, has grown to a size where it has real political clout. Given that if less than 90% of black voters who vote do not vote for a Democratic presidential candidate, the Republican candidate will win. Add to this the growth of black conservative groups such as Urban Game Changers that have coalesced around the topic of immigration, and it is conceivable the White House will be out of reach of any political party that does not prioritize restricting immigration. (PFIR, 2019).

PFIR believes that ADOS could help fulfill its mission and makes its intentions of fracturing the Black vote with their anti-immigrant campaign very clear. Thus, they celebrate ADOS’s contribution to their goals. 

ADOS Hijacks Legacies and Identities

Queen Mother Audley Moore – Hijacked Legacy

ADOS co-founders are misusing the legacy of Queen Mother Audley Moore, a vigilant Pan Africanist, that founded the Committee for Reparations for Descendants of U.S. Slaves (Farmer, 2019). ADOS co-founders hijacked her legacy and twisted her intentions to fit their narrative. Their advocacy is the complete opposite of Queen Mother Moore and everything that she represented. This is exactly the same tactic used and implemented by white supremacist John Tanton to infiltrate liberal movements.  

Queen Mother Moore’s work on reparations existed within the context of an international reparations movement.

Yet, when using the story about her activism, ADOS supporters like Dr. Sandy Darity neglect to share with his followers the fact that Queen Mother Moore referred to herself as African. 

Here is an example of Dr. Darity using Queen Mother Moore’s legacy to ignore the ADOS movement’s xenophobic and anti-Black core.

Queen Mother Moore also founded the Universal Association of Ethiopian Women and the African American Cultural Foundation, Inc. (Blaine, 2019). Additionally, she was a co-founder of the Republic of New Afrika (Berger, 2018). She is referred to as Queen Mother because she was given the honorary title in Ghana (Pace, 1997). 

Yet, ADOS co-founders continually strive to distance themselves and their followers from Africa. 

At the ADOS conference that was held in October 2019, “The audience was told that they should trace their origins to American slavery, not Africa. They were told that their ancestors had built the country with slave labor and that the country owed them a debt. They were told that they should demand reparations, and withhold their votes in 2020 unless the Democratic nominee outlined a specific economic plan for ADOS.” (Stockman, 2019)

ADOS leaders also build off of the work of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA) but have been hostile towards the organization, even though N’COBRA members have a long-standing track record of advocating for reparations.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – Hijacked Legacy

ADOS leaders claim to base their movement on the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well. They have circulated media using his image and videos of his speeches along with their website and logo. Thus, they are attempting to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a posthumous symbol/spokesperson of the ADOS movement. The videos circulated highly resemble tools of propaganda. 

It should be noted that although Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated that we are the “descendants of slaves,” he did not use this statement to limit our identity to slavery or to distance Black Americans from global Black movements. In fact, he and Coretta Scott King visited Ghana, attended Ghana’s independence ceremony, and met with Ghana’s first president, the then Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah (Elnaiem, 2018). 

Later, he said to Richard Nixon, “I want you to come visit us down in Alabama where we are seeking the same kind of freedom the Gold Coast is celebrating.” (Stanford)

“Ghana tells us that the forces of the universe are on the side of justice… An old order of colonialism, of segregation, discrimination is passing away now. And a new order of justice, freedom and good will is being born,” he said. (Elnaiem, 2018)

MLK was very much aware of Black American cultural ties to Africa, other people of African descent and the global Black push for freedom. However, ADOS leadership often cherry-picks history, miseducating their followers. 

They are essentially hijacking his legacy like they’ve done with other ancestors while attempting to hijack/recreate the Black American identity as a whole. 

This is why they insist on calling ADOS a lineage. And this is why it is important for us to instead reference them as a group or movement – to make it known that they do not represent and can not dictate the identity of 42 million Black Americans without our consent. 

And we do not consent.

The ADOS Black American Purity Test Will Further Persecute Black Communities

The irony of the ADOS movement is that it relies on a surface level analysis of Black identities in America. “Lineage matters” is another one of their slogans but they have yet to master the distinction of lineage even among the population they claim to support.

Slavery itself is not a lineage. Slavery is a condition that was attached to our lineage by oppressors and colonizers, that created the racial hierarchies upon which America has, since its inception, used to exploit and oppress people of African descent through laws, policies, and systems.

View their “slavery papers” criteria for reparations and affirmative action based on the work of Dr. Sandy Darity below:

1. An individual would have to provide reasonable documentation of at least one ancestor enslaved in the United States and

2. They would need to demonstrate they have identified as black, African American, Colored, or Negro on established legal documents for at least 10 years prior to the onset of the program

Note: In addition, we would add that at least one grandparent fulfills both prongs of the criteria if a person is biracial. (ADOS101.com)

The Black identity in America (even among those of us that descended from enslaved Africans) is far more complicated than they are suggesting. They neglect to provide examples of “reasonable documentation,” which, no matter the attempt, would result in a wave of issues not likely to be easily addressed. 

Following their guidelines, how would lineage be proved in the following cases? :

– African Americans descended from Maroon communities.
– African Americans descended from people that changed their names and locations after emancipation or escapes.
– African Americans with no trace of documentation beyond our grandparents or great-grandparents.
– Descendants of enslaved Africans that escaped or moved to Canada, Nova Scotia, Mexico, and Liberia.

Would they be excluded from ADOS payouts? Would they pass the ADOS Black nativist purity test? Would they be considered worthy of citizenship, affirmative action, and reparations? 

Who is going to manage this fact-finding/witch hunt expedition? Who ultimately decides who among us is the pure Black American? Who would wield that power, and under what authority?

Black American/ African American identity, heritage, and lineage are more complex than is traditionally acknowledged. 

And due to the complexity of Black existence in America, creating a litmus test reliant on documentation to prove our Blackness or our native Black Americaness would lead to a slew of additional exclusionary practices that would lock out even many Black Americans from the rights ADOS leaders claim to protect. Additionally, it could open up pandora’s box for scrutiny of existing family records or a lack thereof by the federal government. 

How ADOS Promotes Anti-Blackness Through Anti-Immigrant Beliefs

The co-founders of ADOS harbor anti-immigrant sentiments, primarily directed towards Afro-Caribbean and African immigrants. They believe that Black immigrants are taking the resources of the Black American population and that the native Black community should be distinctly recognized to differentiate between ourselves and Black immigrants in policy decisions.  

This narrative is from an old playbook. As Alan Jenkins, in his essay,  Bridging the Black-Immigrant Divide noted, “…that conversation was framed in terms of competition and conflict. That framing was no accident. The mainstream media have fixated on potential points of black/immigrant tension, looking for a conflict storyline. And that storyline has been amply fed by conservative anti-immigrant groups intent on driving a wedge between the two communities.” (Jenkins, 2007)

Currently, ADOS leaders are calling for additional limits to the H1-B Visa program so that less Black immigrants are allowed into the U.S.:

“Findings published in USA Today concluded that top universities graduate ADOS in tech, but those graduates can’t find jobs in Silicon Valley.  Only 2% of technology workers at seven Silicon Valley companies are Black, according to the report, and many of those are Black immigrants, not ADOS.  And according to a study by Rutgers Professor Hal Salzman, American colleges graduate more tech workers than tech companies need, hence the H1-B program reduces opportunities for ADOS searching for careers in technology. The government must strictly limit the number of H1-B Visa workers tech companies that flow in each year.” – (ADOS Black Agenda, 2019) https://ados101.com/black-agenda

As noted above, ADOS leaders and members emphasize the same anti-immigrant narratives created by conservatives, white nationalists, and white supremacists (Hayden, 2019). The narrative of “leeching immigrants” that are “taking jobs and draining resources,” is fear-mongering rhetoric that blames Black and Brown immigrants for disparities in employment, housing, education, and other areas of concern – instead of placing blame for these issues on the racist oppressive systems that dictate our daily lives. Donald Trump and his administration have been actively promoting the same anti-immigrant talking points (Scott, 2019). 

Additionally, ADOS leaders and membership believe that Affirmative Action should be a “streamlined” program only for those that can prove their family was enslaved in America. Under their proposed Affirmative Action policy, the Black immigrant population, which also experiences racism and systematic oppression, would be excluded from Affirmative Action programs. ADOS leadership has no plan for how exactly this type of exclusionary illogical practice is supposed to be implemented, beyond their demand for Black people across America to suddenly produce slave papers to validate their Black identity.

Elevating divisiveness in Black communities through legislation that would ultimately affect all people of African descent in America would only cause more harm and certainly would not address America’s racialized systems of oppression. ADOS leadership and members (either knowingly or unknowingly) are advocating for the second-class citizenship of Black immigrants, somehow believing that Black Americans would be shielded from this process. Yet, that is not how America functions. Black is what America sees first. 

When Amadou Diallo was shot down by the NYPD, no one asked him if he was the descendant of U.S. slaves first. 

A true reparations movement, that focuses on transformative systems and policies would also promote reparative justice among the lives of Black and Brown immigrants. This is why renowned activist and actor, Danny Glover uplifts people of African descent around the world and is serving a spokesperson for both reparations and the International Decade for People of African Descent.

As was noted by Dr. Robin D. G. Kelley, “Given the relationship of slavery and racism to the global economy, this outcome makes perfect sense. Many of these poor immigrant groups are themselves products of centuries of imperialism — slavery’s handmaiden, if you will — or descendants of slaves, as in the case of many Caribbean and Latin American immigrants (Kelley, 2002).”

Additionally, increased hostility towards Black immigrants will only lead to increased hostility towards the overall Black community. Just last year, Peter Sean Brown –  a Black American man, even after several attempts to prove his identity, was wrongly detained by ICE and almost deported to Jamaica. 

Brown stated after the incident, “I would never have expected in a million years that this would happen, and I can tell you it’s not a good feeling. And with policies like this in order and people implementing them like that, it was only going to continue…There has to be a stop at some point before it becomes all of us.” (Shoichet, 2018)

Noticeably, white immigrants are never met with this hostility or blamed for America’s failed systems. The discussion in general rarely even includes white immigrants. This is because the core issue is not about immigration. Black and Brown immigrants are demonized because by 2045 people of color in America will outnumber the white population. Thus, white supremacists are seeking to limit Black immigrants because their birth rates increase the overall Black population. 

They believe that limiting Black immigrants from entering the U.S. will slow down the browning of America (Stein, Dam, 2018). This is likely why racists like right-wing commentator Ann Coulter support the ADOS movement. And this is exactly why John Tanton, a known supporter of eugenics, supports PFIR and its anti-immigration efforts that ADOS appears to mimic. They enjoy and hope to gain from the divisiveness. 

View this exchange between Ann Coulter and ADOS  co-founder, Antonio Moore and FBA founder, Tariq Nasheed. Coulter says, “I like #ADOS, but I think it should be #DOAS – Descendants of American slaves.  Not Haitian slaves, not Moroccan slaves, etc.” 



Ann Coulter’s support and PFIR’s support is not by happenstance. It’s very intentional and telling about the trajectory of the ADOS movement. 

ADOS Visibility Online and Beyond

Election Interference Warnings

ADOS co-founders, Carnell and Moore, host shows on their Youtube channels, teaching their followers about the economic impact of slavery and the estimated amount of reparations owed to Black Americans. The shows are also used to spread anti-immigrant narratives, chastise Black activists that don’t agree with their movement, comment on various Black issues, and discuss their proposed policies. 

It is suspected that the ADOS movement is being elevated on digital media platforms by an election interference/ disinformation campaign. The suspicions are based on reports that similar tactics were used during the 2016 elections to stoke racial tensions. Some believe that for the 2020 election, a concerted effort is being made to attack the Black vote through divisiveness and confusion. ADOS leadership and membership’s rhetoric make them vulnerable to be used for interference purposes. 

For example, ADOS members are calling for the implementation of their “Black Agenda.” However, with their slogan, “No Black Agenda, No Vote!” critics of the ADOS movement fear that outside forces my amplify this message in hopes to implement voter suppression under the guise of activism. 

The National Urban League’s “State of Black America” report warned, “Your timeline is the new battleground for voter suppression. A sweeping Senate investigation found that before, during and after the 2016 presidential election, Russia’s St. Petersburg-based troll factory, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), used social media to distract and divide American voters, demobilize the electorate and depress the vote. Russian propagandists specifically targeted African Americans through a wide-reaching influence campaign. Their tactics included posing as legitimate activist groups, eroding trust in democratic institutions and spreading disinformation.” (pp. 10)

ADOS Websites

ADOS members continuously state that ADOS is a lineage and not a membership-based organization. However, most Black Americans have never heard of the movement and have not opted into this new moniker. Thus, ADOS does function more like a membership-based organization or group. Furthermore, ADOS group members have several websites and online groups/meetups indicating regional memberships like ADOSla.org, ADOS DMV, ADOSColumbus.org, ADOS.NYC, and ADOS_NC, ADOSA.org, ADOSInstitute.com, and their video arm ADOS.tv/Afroplex.com. The main website for the movement is ADOS101.com.

Seizing the Narrative

ADOS is mostly considered a fringe movement. Yet, because they have gone mostly unrebutted in a substantial way, they have taken advantage of an opportunity to seize the national narrative. They have already started gaining ground in the national media by engaging in protests and hosting events like their recent ADOS conference – featuring key figures like Dr. Sandy Darity, presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, and Dr. Cornel West. 

For example, Dr. West attended their conference in October 2019 and celebrated the movement live on CNN. He has also been promoting the ADOS movement during his speaking engagements. Additionally, Dr. West has started preaching Black nativism in alignment with the ADOS movement. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdvOUUJ_j1A&feature=youtu.be

As was mentioned earlier, Dr. Sandy Darity is also helping ADOS leadership to seize the narrative. As one of the leading economists and scholars championing reparations, Darity’s support of the ADOS movement is pivotal to its growth. He has faced some backlash by critics of ADOS but remains a supporter, believing that the ADOS movement is “the most vital black movement today in conjunction with Black Lives Matter.” However, Black Lives Matter is a movement that is inclusive of the entire Black community, with its leadership understanding the importance of global Black movements.

The strength of Black Lives Matter is its inclusiveness and its embrace of the overall Black collective. Whereas ADOS attempts to parse Blackness and disrupt Black unity in favor of aspired Black nativist privileges. So attempting to align ADOS with the strength and depth of Black Lives Matter is not grounded in reality. 

In one tweet Darity acknowledged the xenophobic, anti-Black attacks lodged by ADOS members, telling ADOS followers to apologize for “denigration” and “rejection” of other Black communities. 

But this is not enough and ineffective because ADOS leadership, the core of their movement, continually drives the movement’s xenophobia and anti-Blackness. 

For example, on December 16, 2019, ADOS co-founder Yvette Carnell live-streamed a two-hour video bashing the Ghanian tourism industry in which she implied that the entire country of Ghana was scamming African Americans. At a time when white supremacists have openly seized control of two-thirds of the U.S. government, everyday infringing on our civil and human rights – Ghana’s tourism industry and its appeal to African Americans was her pressing issue of the day. Because the unifying message of the Year of the Return is more of a threat to the ADOS movement than the white supremacists that support it. 

It is clear that Dr. Darity is doing a delicate dance between the reality of the ADOS movement and the potential he perceives it to have. He’s seeking to continue its growth while attempting to minimize the problematic ideals, beliefs, and proposed policies of ADOS leadership and its members.

ADOS Attacks and Online Harassment – “Swarms”

ADOS group members engage in an act called swarming. Its when bots, trolls, and fanatics send a downpour of tweets to one particular account, engulfing a person’s twitter account and notifications in order to overwhelm, harass, and bully them. 

First, attacks start with Black immigrants, then attacks are directed towards any Black person, especially Black Americans, that do not fall in line with their movement. They often reference staying “on code” as a way to influence their members to repeat their rhetoric and ignore criticisms of the ADOS movement.

Already in the ADOS world, if you look like an outsider, if your last name is not English, if you have one immigrant parent, if you’re married to an immigrant – you are viewed as a threat. Basically, Black people with the closest proximity to white American identity are celebrated, and those with the closest proximity to an African identity are villainized as outsiders. And if one is unable to go in their closet and pull out their handy dandy “slave papers”, which is not that simple (Taylor-Coleman, 2016), your identity and existence are continually attacked.

Here are some examples below, featuring tweets from ADOS members: 

Based on their repeated actions, it’s not hard to see that the ADOS movement encourages Black people to attack other Black people based on their assumed ethnicity or based on their refusal to acquiesce to their demands.

ADOS twitter accounts have attacked journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, activist Bree Newsome Bass, actress Yvette Nicole Brown, rapper Talib Kweli, radio host Mark Thompson, tv-host Joy Reid, political commentator Dr. Jason Johnson, and many others. They even mocked the death of Rep. Elijah Cummings. They attack anyone that does not agree with their beliefs, especially other Black Americans.

ADOS co-founder, Yvette Carnell, even hosted a two-hour video where she posted activist Bree Newsome Bass’ wedding photos in an attempt to chastise her for not aligning with their movement. Bass is known for her courageous act of civil disobedience when she removed the confederate flag in South Carolina during the summer of 2015.

On Thanksgiving Day of 2019, ADOS twitter accounts attacked Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee because she handed out turkeys to people in her community. They were demanding that the H.R. 40 Bill be rewritten to include the term “ADOS” specifically, or they won’t support it, and they will continue to harass her online with hateful tweets. An ADOS twitter account has accused Jackson Lee of being a “Sneaky African/Caribbean immigrant masquerading as a Native born Black American.” 

How can such a movement and its leaders be trusted to manage and dictate the rules for reparations?  

How can Dr. Cornel West or Dr. Sandy Darity justify publicly supporting such a divisive, anti-Black movement and its leaders? 

The Pan African Response

In conclusion, I sincerely believe that many members of the ADOS movement are unsuspecting people that genuinely believe they are fighting for reparations – unaware that ADOS leaders and other outside forces may have used their vulnerability and purposely tied the reparations cause to the low-hanging fruit of divisiveness, anti-Blackness, and anti-immigration sentiments. Additionally, many are unaware that the ADOS movement is likely bolstered by a flurry of bots, trolls, and fanatics that seek to control the narrative through a swarm of tweets, websites, and online forums – with much of the interaction stimulated by multiple anonymous accounts. 

Unsuspecting social media users are then led to believe that the movement is more popular than it actually is. This allows ADOS leadership to increase buy-in from actual people in hopes to stir their emotions and get them to join their cause. Thus, any action taken to address this movement must focus on education that publicly dispels the false narratives shared through ADOS misinformation and disinformation campaigns. 

Educational campaigns surrounding reparations must highlight the global effects of imperialism, the global Black movement for reparations, the need for restorative justice, and the need for reparations aligned with radical systematic changes that continually uplift Black communities economically, medically, educationally, etc.   

There have been a few articles published to counter the ADOS narrative. However, the ADOS movement has already been featured in the New York Times, has started meeting with members of congress, and some ADOS-identified members have started running for office. Pan Africanists, Black activists, and scholars have the resources, institutional knowledge, and activism needed to push a more accurate, unifying narrative, but we must organize quickly and be ready to publicly denounce ADOS. Black Americans in the Pan African movement especially need to counter the ADOS movement’s false narratives.

There needs to be a more concentrated effort to uplift informed, unifying voices in the national media and, even more importantly, on social media. Additionally, supporters of the ADOS movement, that give the movement legitimacy, need to be publicly addressed. 

For the most part, many Black academics and activists are against the ADOS movement and recognize what is happening. However, the lack of a concentrated effort to drown out ADOS leaders’ voices and uplift trustworthy unifying voices has given ADOS leaders the ability to gain a stronghold online among impressionable and vulnerable Black Americans. We need more voices on social media platforms, in the media, at universities, at community events, and in conferences uplifting the Black collective and speaking out against the ADOS movement. 

We need to uplift the work of the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) and The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA), organizations, activists, and scholars that recognize the importance reparations and reparative justice within the scope of an international, Pan-Africanist framework. 

We must work to protect the Black community from disinformation campaigns and engage our communities so that they are aware of the consequences of the ADOS movement and others like it that will surely pop up in 2020 and beyond. 

Any person interested in joining the initiative to spread awareness concerning disinformation campaigns targeting the Black community and uplifting the Black collective, email jamaiwuyor@gmail.com

Additional Critiques of the ADOS Movement

Adjei-Kontoh, H. (2019, November 21). The tortured logic of #ADOS. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://theoutline.com/post/8286/american-descendants-of-slavery-movement?zd=1&zi=v43qa763

Afrika, O. (2019, February 10). Does the #ADOS & #MAGA convergence signal imminent Economic Collapse? Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://medium.com/@omowaleafrika/does-the-ados-maga-convergence-signal-imminent-economic-collapse-1eea117620ae

Afrika, O. (2019, May 12). A.D.O.S 101 A historical primer of the anti-African roots of the ADOS movement. Retrieved December 18, 2019, from https://medium.com/@omowaleafrika/a-d-o-s-101-4b741e100598?

Brooks, R. (2019, March 1). Fake Black Voter Bots Could Sideline Real Black Voices In 2020. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/ryancbrooks/black-activists-twitter-bots-2020-election-trolls

CRAWFORD,  BRYAN 18X . (2019 5). ADOS Its origins, troublesome ties and fears it’s dividing Black folk in the fight for reparations. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/National_News_2/ADOS-Its-origins-troublesome-ties-and-fears-it-s-dividing-Black-folk-in-the-fight-for-reparations.shtml

Drayton, T. (2019, April 12). ADOS wants reparations—but at what cost? Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.dailydot.com/irl/ados-reparations-slavery/

Greene, T. K. (2019, November 11). Why #ADOS Is Trash. Receipts Attached. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://medium.com/@TalibKweli/why-ados-is-trash-receipts-attached-5a337f46f10

Hampton, R. (2019, July 9). A Movement or a Troll? Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/07/kamala-harris-not-black-ados-reparations-movement.html

Media Matters Staff. (2019, April 15). What to know about ADOS, a group targeting Black progressives. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.mediamatters.org/4chan/what-know-about-ados-group-targeting-black-progressives

StrategyCamp. (2019, August 3). The Top 5 Reasons ADOS is Trash. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://medium.com/@SIIPCampaigns/the-top-5-reasons-ados-is-trash-a17b8c33262d

Velez, D. O. (2019, May 19). We should be discussing reparations for slavery. Beware those with a right-wing agenda. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/5/19/1856371/-We-should-be-discussing-reparations-for-slavery-Beware-those-with-a-right-wing-agenda

Wong, D. (2019, February 22). How the ADOS Movement is Hindering the Pan-African Struggle. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://medium.com/@dwomowale/how-the-ados-movement-is-hindering-the-pan-african-struggle-8fe6e57fc44e

Sources Cited

Berger, D. (2018, April 10). “Free the Land!”: Fifty Years of the Republic of New Afrika – AAIHS. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.aaihs.org/free-the-land-fifty-years-of-the-republic-of-new-afrika/

Blain, K. (2019, February 25). Audley Moore, Black Women’s Activism, and Nationalist Politics – AAIHS. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.aaihs.org/audley-moore-black-womens-activism-and-nationalist-politics/

Donovan-Smith , O. (2019, March 8). – The. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/gdpr-consent/?destination=%2fnation%2f2019%2f03%2f08%2fwhy-this-descendant-black-american-slave-is-being-deported%2f%3f

Elnaiem, M. (2018, August 16). The African Roots of MLK’s Vision. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://daily.jstor.org/the-african-roots-of-mlks-vision/

Farmer, A. (2019, February 28). Audley Moore and the Modern Reparations Movement – AAIHS. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.aaihs.org/audley-moore-and-the-modern-reparations-movement/

Hayden, M. E. (2019, November 12). Stephen Miller’s Affinity for White Nationalism Revealed in Leaked Emails. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2019/11/12/stephen-millers-affinity-white-nationalism-revealed-leaked-emails

Jackson Lee, S. (2019). H.R.40 – 116th Congress (2019-2020): Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/40

Kelley, Dr. R. D. G. (2003). For Reparations and Transformation. Retrieved December 18, 2019, from https://solidarity-us.org/atc/102/p683/

LEE, E. Y. H. (2014, October 23). Fake ‘Progressive’ Group Pits Blacks Against Immigrants In Nasty TV Ad. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://thinkprogress.org/fake-progressive-group-pits-blacks-against-immigrants-in-nasty-tv-ad-51498ddff50b/

Media Matters Staff. (2019, April 15). What to know about ADOS, a group targeting Black progressives. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.mediamatters.org/4chan/what-know-about-ados-group-targeting-black-progressives

Pace, E. (1997, May 7). Queen Mother Moore, 98, Harlem Rights Leader, Dies. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/1997/05/07/nyregion/queen-mother-moore-98-harlem-rights-leader-dies.html

Progressives for Immigration Reform. (2019). Taking on the Ecofascist Meme. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://us9.campaign-archive.com/?u=845a0ee1621585a7136f535df&id=bbaa74d77a

Read the 2019 State of Black America Report | National Urban League. (2019). Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://nul.org/news/read-2019-state-black-america-report

Runes, C. (2019, February 26). Following a long history, the 2020 Census risks undercounting the black population. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/following-long-history-2020-census-risks-undercounting-black-population

Scott, E. (2019, January 9). – The. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/gdpr-consent/?destination=%2fpolitics%2f2019%2f01%2f09%2ftrumps-claim-that-black-americans-are-hurt-most-by-illegal-immigration-gets-pushback%2f%3f

Shoichet, C. C. E. (2018, December 4). US citizen: Sheriff detained me after ICE request. Retrieved December 9, 2019, from https://edition.cnn.com/2018/12/03/us/us-citizen-detained-ice/index.html

Southern Poverty Law Center. (2010, July 27). SPLC Report: Nativists Appealing to Environmentalists are “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing.” Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.splcenter.org/news/2010/07/27/splc-report-nativists-appealing-environmentalists-are-wolves-sheeps-clothing

Stein, J., & Van Dam, A. (2018, February 6). – The. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/gdpr-consent/?destination=%2fnews%2fwonk%2fwp%2f2018%2f02%2f06%2ftrump-immigration-plan-could-keep-whites-in-u-s-majority-for-up-to-five-more-years%2f%3f

Stockman, F. (2019a, November 13). Deciphering ADOS: A New Social Movement or Online Trolls? Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/13/reader-center/slavery-descendants-ados.html

Stockman, F. (2019b, November 13). Deciphering ADOS: A New Social Movement or Online Trolls? Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/13/reader-center/slavery-descendants-ados.html

Stockman, F. (2019c, November 13). ‘We’re Self-Interested’: The Growing Identity Debate in Black America. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/08/us/slavery-black-immigrants-ados.html

Taylor-Coleman, J. (2016, September 11). How do you trace ancestors who were slaves? Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-37291230

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. (2018, April 4). Ghana Trip. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/ghana-trip

The Opportunity Agenda: A Media and Public Opinion Scan and Analysis. (2007). Bridging the Black-Immigrant Divide: Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.opportunityagenda.org/explore/resources-publications/bridging-black-immigrant-divide

Jess Hilarious and Daniel Caesar are Why We Need to Teach the Babies

Photo of Daniel Caesar accepting award.

Social media is a powerful tool that can help you amplify your voice. Unfortunately, it also gives you the ability to quickly spread ignorance and tear down others. Such is the case with Instagram comedian Jess Hilarious and singer Daniel Caesar. Both are examples of young Black celebrities using social media to express uneducated, uninformed, troubling sentiments with little to no regard of their initial impact. In the words of Issa Rae, “I’m rooting for everybody Black.” But I’d also like to add that not everyone Black is informed or equipped to be thought leaders or even have a platform.

Both have been caught in controversy surrounding troubling and offensive statements towards other people of color and the Black community specifically.

A few days ago, Instagram comedian Jess Hilarious recorded and posted a video of herself mocking four passengers as they entered an airplane. The passengers were Brown men wearing turbans. Jess, assuming they were Muslim (they were actually Sikh), could be heard saying, “Ahhh! Where are you going? Where are you going?” The irony is that Jess was also wearing a headwrap. Later she screamed into her camera that she didn’t feel safe, that she felt threatened, and didn’t care how anyone else felt. She then went on the plane and said the men were no longer on the flight, leading many people to assume that she had the passengers kicked off the plane.

She posted this ignorant commentary just after 50 Muslims were murdered in the Christchurch Mosque in New Zealand. The backlash came swiftly from all sides, including the Black, Muslim, and Sikh communities.

She later cried on camera apologizing for her mistake, vowing to “do better.”

Then, as if on the same frequency of stupidity, singer Daniel Caesar went on Instagram Live to chastise the Black community for not being nicer because he believed that his friend, YesJulz ( a white female artist manager) should be allowed to say the N-word. He also stated that the Black community should stop being “sensitive,” learn from, and make friends with what he called, “the winning team.”

He then put the onus on the Black community to “bridge the gap,” concerning race. He also said, “You can’t win the game by choosing to not accept the winning team’s strategy.”

The boy clearly knows nothing about structural racism that continues to harm our communities. He knows nothing about the continued struggle for civil and human rights and it sounds like he’s been listening to Steve Harvey.

He almost certainly knows nothing about activist Audre Lorde that warned us years ago of this mentality when she said, “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”

Again, the backlash came swiftly. During his video he vowed not to apologize but I’m sure that won’t last long once he understands the weight of his words and faces the aftermath of his comments.

This is why we must educate our youth and upcoming generations. We must “teach the babies.” So if you’re an educator, mentor, parent or any type of role model please take the time to teach youth about the impact of their voices online, the permanent damaging effects of saying anything, everywhere and recording every useless thought that comes to their minds.

Most importantly, teach them about racial, ethnic, and religious disparities across cultures, so they don’t grow up making fools of themselves by amplifying anti-Black rhetoric and discriminatory ideas that cause harm to other Black and Brown people.

Please, teach the babies! We don’t need any more grown fools.

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Black Man Tricks White Supremacist Group into Becoming Its President

While we were busy enthralled in the Jussie Smollett drama, a Black man from California just pulled off one of the biggest upsets in history.

According to the Washington Post, James Stern, a Black activist, tricked Neo-Nazi group, National Socialist Movement leader, Jeff Schoep, into giving him control over the organization in January 2019.

Schoep came to Stern for legal advice, and that’s when Stern saw an opportunity to take charge of the organization. They knew each other through a connection that Stern had with former KKK Grand Wizard, Edgar Ray Killen. The two were prison cellmates. And even though Killen was a racist, he made Stern the head of his estate.

Through this connection, Stern and Schoep developed an odd friendship and even hosted a racist summit together.

According to the Washington Post:

Schoep felt underappreciated by his followers and left out of the mainstream white-nationalist movement.
In that angst, Stern saw an in.


“I saw a crack in that armor,” Stern said.
So he encouraged Schoep to get a fresh start by handing Stern control of the Detroit-based organization and website, Stern said, by making him president of the organization in official documents and signing a sworn affidavit.


With some convincing, Schoep said yes.
“He knew that he had the most vulnerable, the most loose-cannon members that they had ever had in the organization,” Stern said. “He realized somebody was going to commit a crime, and he was going to be held responsible for it.”


Schoep denies large portions of Stern’s account. He said he only signed over the group because Stern had convinced him that the ownership change would get the lawsuit dismissed.

This is by far one of the strangest most thrilling stories to come out of 2019 and it’s still unfolding.

The KKK, the National Socialist Movement, and other white supremacist groups have promoted and created hateful propaganda that creates fear and division across racial groups. Their narratives have promoted racism. Their words have encouraged violence.

Stern plans to take over the organization’s website and use it as an educational tool. This is a huge opportunity to breakdown hateful narratives and instead spread narratives concerning race and ethnicity that are based on truth, justice, and reconciliation.

Additionally, Stern is working to hold the organization accountable for its violence and hateful actions from the inside out. He has also already asked a judge to, “…find the organization culpable of conspiring to commit violence at the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017. (Washington Post)”

This is the definition of getting things done and doing the work. A lot of people pay lip service to social justice and civil rights, but ultimately it takes will power, creativity and the seizing of opportunities to create impactful change.

Cheers to you James Stern! Let us know how we can support you in this fight.

Read the full story at the Washington Post.

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They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South

New book alert! This looks like a very interesting read.

Book Synopsis:

Bridging women’s history, the history of the South, and African American history, this book makes a bold argument about the role of white women in American slavery.

Historian Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers draws on a variety of sources to show that slave‑owning women were sophisticated economic actors who directly engaged in and benefited from the South’s slave market.

Because women typically inherited more slaves than land, enslaved people were often their primary source of wealth.

Not only did white women often refuse to cede ownership of their slaves to their husbands, they employed management techniques that were as effective and brutal as those used by slave‑owning men. White women actively participated in the slave market, profited from it, and used it for economic and social empowerment.

By examining the economically entangled lives of enslaved people and slave‑owning women, Jones-Rogers presents a narrative that forces us to rethink the economics and social conventions of slaveholding America.

They Were Her Property is now available on Amazon.

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Jussie Smollett Orchestrated His Own Attack – Two Investigators Say

Screenshot of Jussie Smollett’s Good Morning America Interview

Hopefully, this news isn’t true.

A few weeks ago, it was reported that singer and Empire actor Jussie Smollett was attacked in an apparent hate crime.

Smollett told authorities he was attacked early January 29 by two men who were “yelling out racial and homophobic slurs.” He said one attacker put a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him. (CBS News)

Now, after much back and forth, two sources from Chicago police are telling reporters they believe that Jussie Smollett paid two men to attack him.

At a time when hate crimes are on the rise, it would be deplorable for anyone to fake an attack. People of color across America already have a difficult time getting justice when faced with racism, discrimination, and violence.

This story continues to unfold but I sincerely hope that it is not true.

Otherwise, Jussie Smollett has a lot of explaining to do and owes many people (especially the Black LGBTQ community) an apology.

Jussie Smollett’s lawyers have issued a statement:

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Black Homeowners Lost $156 Billion Due to Discrimination

In December 2018, the Brookings Institute released a report that examined and documented the devaluation of homes in majority Black neighborhoods. The report found that, “Across all majority black
neighborhoods, owner-occupied homes are undervalued by $48,000 per home on average, amounting to $156 billion in cumulative losses.”

As was pointed out, by Andre Perry (lead author of the report) at the Brookings Institute’s “Homeownership while Black” forum, the $156 billion in losses could have gone towards funding for:

4.4 million Black-owned businesses
8.1 million 4-year college degrees at public colleges and universities
It would replace the pipes in Flint, MI 3,000 times
It would fund 97% of Hurricane Katrina costs

That’s a lot of money!

Consequently, the unfair and discriminatory devaluation of Black homes harms Black residents substantially. It increases the racial wealth gap, thereby preventing access to upward mobility.

In case you were wondering why it’s hard for many Black communities to build wealth, start with reading this report.

Here are some highlights from the report:

There is strong evidence that bias has tangible effects on real estate markets, both historically and today. During the 20th century, both explicit government institutions and decentralized political actions created and sustained racially segregated housing conditions in the United States. (page 5)

This has created what has been dubbed a “segregation tax,” resulting in lower property valuations for blacks compared to whites per dollar of income. (page 5)

Contemporary work from social scientists has aimed to sort out whether these lower valuations are caused by differences in socio-economic status, neighborhood qualities, or discrimination. The results tend to show compelling evidence for discrimination.  In one study, Valerie Lewis, Michael Emerson, and Stephen Klineberg collected detailed survey data on neighborhood racial preferences in Houston, Texas. They asked people to imagine that they were looking for a new house, found one within their price range and close to their job; they then say to respondents, “checking the neighborhood . . .” and then present different scenarios based on racial composition, school quality, crime, and property value changes
for the hypothetical neighborhood.” (page 5)

__________________________________________________________________________

Black Americans are highly urbanized. 90 percent live in metropolitan areas, compared to 86 percent of all U.S. residents. And decades after the Civil Rights movement, blacks remain highly segregated. Though blacks comprise just 12 percent of the U.S. population, 70 percent live in neighborhoods that are over 20 percent black, and 41 percent live in majority black neighborhoods.

These majority black neighborhoods may be overlooked as sites for economic development, but they contain important assets, in terms of people, public infrastructure, and wealth. (page 10)

__________________________________________________________________________

The devaluation of black neighborhoods is widespread across the country. There are 119 metropolitan areas with at least one majority black census tract and one census tract that is less than 1 percent black. In 117 of these 119 metro areas, homes in majority black neighborhoods are valued lower than homes in neighborhoods where blacks are less than 1 percent of the population. Gainesville, Fla. and Sebring, Fla. are the only exceptions.

Download the full report here.

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Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is a publisher and multicultural communications specialist. To reach J.A.M., email her at JAMAiwuyor@gmail.com.

Black Americans Wearing African Clothing Is NOT Cultural Appropriation

Maya Angelou and Malcolm X
Maya Angelou and Malcolm X in Ghana

The internet has unfortunately become a cesspool for the most simplistic arguments to be sensationalized. The latest finger pointing bandwagon phrase to hit the net is “cultural appropriation.” It’s being slaughtered, with a slew of would be  writers refusing to actually research the meaning of the term before tossing it around carelessly. So is the case with a recent article declaring, that Black Americans were culturally appropriating African cultures by wearing African clothing. It goes without saying, that this bold assertion is as deprived of history, logic and critical analysis as “reverse racism.”

Part I: Let’s begin with the definition of appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is when a dominant culture takes, claims and establishes itself the creator of the cultural heritage and artifacts of a minority and or marginalized culture thereby erasing the history of the marginalized culture.

In Neo-Slave Narratives: Studies of a Social Logic in Literary Form, African American studies professor Ashraf H. A. Rushdy describes appropriation and how it operates:

Something gets appropriated by something else when a productive or expressive form or practices, let’s say jazz or blues or agricultural methods for growing rice, develops within one disempowered cultural group but gets used by and enriches only or mostly another empowered cultural group. The distinction between cultural groups has to do most emphatically with each group’s relationship to power, controlling the means of material production and controlling the means to mental production.

Rushdy continues:

One of the marks of that relationship between an empowered and a disempowered cultural group is that the empowered group is able to take possession of those material products, physical labors, and cultural forms and practices developed within the disempowered group. Once that something is “appropriated” it no longer functions to enrich materially or to empower socially those within whose cultural group that something developed. (p. 175)

Using Rushdy’s explanation, Black Americans as African descendants are not appropriating African cultures by wearing African clothing. The oppressive power dynamics, the enrichment that excludes African cultures, the means of controlling the material production of African clothing on the part of Black Americans is non-existent. Nor can Black American power dynamics with African cultures be compared with the power dynamics of colonial power structures that stifled Africa’s progress as was outlined in Guyanese Pan African scholar Walter Rodney’s, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.

Part II: Black History Is African History

The historical experience of Black Americans does not begin with slavery. It begins in Africa. This is a shocking plot twist to those wishing to disconnect Black Americans from African cultures. We did not emerge out of thin air, but are instead a mixture of African people of multiple ethnic groups predominantly from Western Africa. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and chattel slavery did not erase the cultural legacy of Black Americans anymore than colonialism erased the cultural legacy of African ethnic groups.

During the slave trade and chattel slavery the ancestors of Black Americans, Afro-Latinos and Afro-Caribbean people were often prevented from speaking their African languages and practicing their religions. Furthermore, the dominant Western culture demonized all aspects of Black African cultures. Still, Richard Allen and Absalom Jones founded the Free African Society and later the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1787, which is to date one of the oldest Black American institutions in the United States of America.

They named it the “African” Methodist Episcopal Church for a reason. It was a reflection of how they viewed themselves in America. They spoke no African languages, they wore no African clothing because those things were not readily available to them. But they insisted on embracing everything about their heritage that they had access to.

Over the last 228 years, a lot of changes have taken place including the ability to reconnect with aspects of African cultures that were cut off by oppressive systems.

These reconnections are not without complications.

However, claiming that Black Americans are committing the same cultural appropriation as whites when wearing African clothing demonstrates a gross lack of basic level critical thinking skills. One can not compare attempts to reconnect to cultural origins with oppressive attempts to erase an ethnicity’s cultural legacy. Even if some Black Americans may not understand the full deeper religious meaning of various prints or tribal paints, that is completely different from seeking to erase the achievements and history of a culture’s artifacts, which is what cultural appropriation does.

Furthermore, the assumption that all Black Americans do not know the deeper meaning of various tribal prints or paints is without merit. This is especially the case due to the rising amount of African descendants converting to traditional African religions or at least bonding with various symbolic references from these religions. One can not assume, that the wearer does not know the meaning simply because they are Black American. It could be the case that they know the meaning and that’s why they wore it. It’s complicated, layered and not always executed properly, but still not appropriation.

Part III: Africa Is Not A Country, Blackness Does Not Exist In A Vacuum

Nkrumah and Dubois

Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana and Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first president of Nigeria, both attended Lincoln University, the first degree granting Historically Black College in the U.S. Nkrumah, an avid Pan Africanist, often cited the interconnectedness among all members of the Pan African World, working closely with Black scholar W.E.B. DuBois. Nkrumah is well known for his vision of a unified Africa with strong linkages to the Pan African World. “I am not African because I was born in Africa but because Africa was born in me,” said Nkrumah.

Making the statement that “if you do not belong to an African tribe, don’t wear tribal print,” is exclusionary to people that may not know the exact tribe of their family’s origin. It’s even furthermore complicated because as a mixed people, Black Americans actually come from many different tribes. Everyone does not have the privilege of knowing what tribes they come from, but they still carry the cultural heritage of those groups.

I was fortunate enough to trace my maternal lineage, with the help of AfricanAncestry.com’s DNA program. My own maternal ancestors are from the Tikar ethnic groups in modern day Cameroon. Does this mean that I suddenly became the spokesperson for all things Tikar? The answer is no. But it does mean that I have a cultural and ancestral connection that extends beyond the history of U.S. chattel slavery and any attempts to reconnect with that at best can be viewed as cultural appreciation or acculturation depending on my proximity to members of that ethnic group. The artistry and craftsmanship that my grandmother exhibited through her quilts, statues, paintings and instruments represent her heritage as a direct descendant of the Tikar people, even though she did not know she came from this ethnic group.

This can not and never will be cultural appropriation. You can not appropriate that which is your own.

Additionally, there are thousands of different types of African cultures and sub-groups. Ethnic groups on the continent and throughout the diaspora borrow from one another through cultural exchanges. Exchanging languages, religions, foods, musical styles and clothing. Members of various African ethnic groups often wear the tribal prints and jewelry of other ethnic groups simply based on liking the style. There is no reason Black Americans, Afro-Caribbeans and Afro-Latinos should be excluded from this cultural exchange. Additionally, on the economic front, many marketplace sellers and African fashion designers would cringe at the thought of limiting their work to only within the confines of their tribe.

That’s not how this works.

Black Americans and other children of the African Diaspora are included in the Pan African cross-cultural process as evidenced by the spread of hip hop music throughout Africa and the creation of Rastafari communities in South Africa and Tanzania. These are both stylistic and religious exchanges that no reasonable person views as appropriation.

Part IV: Lack of Knowledge Affects Everyone, Not Just Black Americans

Miseducation and Eurocentric thinking taught through colonialism, slavery and Western education affects all members of the Pan African World in varying levels, not just Black Americans.

The need to assert authority over Africanity in the face of other African descendants is a pettiness that stems from the designed disenfranchisement of the Pan African world. It also unknowingly reaffirms anti-Black sentiments by denying the nuanced experiences and cultural heritages of all people of African descendant. Instead relying on a limited non-layered perspective of Africanity.

Additionally, the faux concern about Black American knowledge of African prints would be more believable if critics were offering classes and books that share the deeper meaning on various tribal prints.

Part V: We’ve been told the same lie.

The limited interaction between continental Africans and African descendants is highly influenced by western based miseducation and media (in both Africa and North America) that promotes anti-Blackness at every turn, leaving African descendants and Africans on the continent circling in an endless cycle of confusion and rage uselessly aimed at each another.

This leads some Black Americans to make illogical declarations like, “I’m Black Not African American,” as if Black Land is a thing that magically exists outside of Africa. Upon asking, when did they stop being African, the response will include some gibberish about not speaking an African language, not having a red carpet laid out for them when they went to Africa and the misguided belief that Jesse Jackson created the term “African American.”

No one has yet been able to answer Malcolm X’s question, “If a cat has kittens in an oven, does that make them biscuits?”

Meanwhile, some Africans will proclaim more pride in being French or British than Senegalese, Ghanaian or Nigerian. Upon asking, why they perceive Western cultures to be superior, the response will include a puzzling look as to why you don’t understand that everything white is just better.

We’ve all been told the same lie, that somehow being African is “less-than” believing that it is more refined to be disconnected from Africanity. This has lead to many of us needlessly tearing each other apart. And make no mistake, all levels of anti-Blackness around the world stems from the historical Eurocentric perspective that African people are subhuman.

As children, Black Americans often used heard the term, “African booty scratcher.” I was called African Booty Scratcher daily, being a little dark skinned Black girl with short nappy hair. This term was not reserved for African immigrants but for all dark-skinned children. Black children were reiterating the negative stereotypes of African people that surrounded us on a daily basis through media, the Western education system and older generations. And it hurt.

In fact, there is a meme floating around the net that says, “You called me an African Booty Scratcher in school. Now you’re wearing a dashiki.”

Yet few who circulate this meme will admit that their parents also held onto negative stereotypes of Black Americans and Jamaicans, often attempting to keep them away. Using their own derogatory terms to describe them.

Though this generation has more opportunities to form cross-cultural bonds than our parents, there are those among us that are harboring hurt. And turning this pain into a “you can’t share my toy attitude.” It’s time to grow up. We’re not on the playground anymore.

We are all hurting, because we’ve been taught to believe the same lies.

In Conclusion:

Black Americans, Jamaicans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Haitians, Black Canadians, Afro-Caribbeans, whatever you want to call us, are members of the Pan African family. Wearing African clothing and tribal print is more revolutionary and impactful than upholding any stereotypes, slurs or one writer’s shortsightedness.

Our progress depends on our interconnectedness.

Over 400 years ago, many of us were torn from the shores of our homelands in Africa. We were beaten for speaking our languages, shunned for our skin, raped, murdered and brutalized. Some of us tossed ourselves over the sides of ships in order to see freedom through death. We have witnessed our family members hanging from trees. We have survived a horror like no other and still have the unmitigated gall to walk around in 2015 with our tribal print and paint. Our ancestors are somewhere smiling.

Despite not being born in Africa, like Nkrumah proclaimed, Africa was born in us. Overthrowing the tools of oppressive systems, gaining self knowledge and reconnecting with our origins may not always be perfect or without growing pains. But it is not and never will be cultural appropriation.

It’s a layered, nuanced, complicated triumph.

 

 

P.S.

I am a member of the North American Delegation of the 8th Pan African Congress.  To be included on our mailing list email OurLegaci@gmail.com.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is a writer, social justice advocate and the founder of Our Legaci. Learn more about her work at JessicaAnnMitchell.com. Follow JAM @TweetingJAM and Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

What being let go from my job during Sandra Bland and #SayHerName taught me about diversity and inclusion.

Sandra Bland
Photo of Sandra Bland

Last month, I was suddenly and suspiciously let go from my job at a local media production company in Houston. Prior to being let go, I’d been in New York City for a couple of days hoping to retrieve the last of my things left there over a year ago.

While away, I received very few email correspondences from work, but since I had planned ahead, I assumed the non-communication was because I was out of town. I didn’t sweat it; I was actually eager to return to work. We were up for mid-year reviews and recently, two exciting projects had landed on my plate. I felt as if I could finally stretch my creative legs after six months of settling in. It had not been perfect, but I worked to be a team player and give everything I could.

The day I left New York City, I spoke to a partner to update them on my return to Houston and to find out when to expect my review. I was then emailed by another partner confirming the meeting time of 8:30am. Shortly after I arrived that morning, the partner got right to it and said, “We have to lay you off .“

I felt like someone had just slapped me. A layoff was the last thing I expected, but here they were, insisting that the decision was purely financial and expressing sympathy.

I pushed back with the details of a new hire starting that week and upcoming projects that I had recently pitched and was awarded. I mentioned the conversation about job security we had during my meeting only one week earlier, where I was assured that I was fine and had nothing to worry about.

Suddenly, I was being reminded that my work wasn’t “billable” and that projects were drying up. I remembered being told that summers were usually slow. I was confused. A sudden layoff just didn’t make sense to me. I asked if there was something else going on and got nothing. “It’s financial,” they repeated.

I cried. I shook. I left. “Downsizing” was the subject line of the email I received finalizing my termination.

I was bewildered. What could have transpired in the four days of my being in New York City that would constitute a layoff? How could the company suddenly need to lay me off without my knowing? I did work in the department that handled billing. I had nothing. Eventually, I began to consider the timing of my layoff.

I live and work 45-minutes away from Waller County, the place where Sandra Bland lost her life. I know I easily could have been Sandra Bland. I’ve driven to lots of different places for work in Southern Texas. Some places where my black woman’s body would be unwelcome and potentially destroyed, had I not had whiteness around to “protect” me. I’ve always been acutely aware of this fact, but Sandra Bland’s death made me ache with it.

The day more details about Sandra Bland’s death were revealed, I was leaving for New York City, so I was not in the office. The office where I am the only person of color — ever — to have worked. The office where I had recently experienced casual racist comments from a colleague at a morning meeting. Comments that hit a personal nerve. In an email to everyone in the office, I called out those comments. Sharing how the experience affected me and how I would like to move forward. My email was responded to with non-apologies and excuses. To my knowledge, that colleague experienced no recourse for their statements. I was only assured they “didn’t mean to hurt my feelings” via an email.

Undoubtedly, my pain about Sandra Bland would have been invisible to them had I been in the office so I was grateful to not be. I expressed this amongst a series of tweets about police brutality. Given the culture of that office, I would bet (if I had the funds) they didn’t even know who Sandra Bland was that day. But they didn’t have to know who she was or what happened to her. They don’t have to care about her death. But, it sits in my chest like a bubble and swells every time I see a police car in my rearview mirror because … I could’ve been her. My mother, sisters, cousins, and friends, all could’ve been her.

Janet-Tweet-1Twitter is my preferred social media in times like these. I follow well-informed, brilliant and humorous people from multiple and diverse walks of life. I am able to stay informed, share my thoughts and find connection when I can’t find it anywhere else. I purposely keep my Twitter updates private. I prefer to not have people see everything I’m sharing. Plus, it keeps the trolling to a minimum. It’s also not connected to my employment in a professional manner, so I kept it private for that reason as well.

A tweet about white privilege and being offended by it was retweeted though, removing the usual protection filter. I didn’t care. I was too busy hurting for Sandra Bland, for Kindra Chapman, and their families and for collective blackness to care. I was too busy reeling from another black death. It was happening again: another black person gone from trivial circumstances. This time, a woman, and we know that black women’s death under any circumstances can and has been so easily forgotten. I was committed that day to saying her name: Sandra Bland.

When I began working in Houston, I knew that the experience of racism could and likely would occur on some level. While Houston is hailed for it’s diversity, the majority of the establishment in my experience here is white centered. I understood, as a free black woman, I would have to choose if that racism was “worth” challenging. Then, how would I handle that once it happened. I even stated in the office several times that I did not like casual racism or sexism, but that was when I believed what I had to say mattered at my job. I now know different.

Racial diversity is a tricky thing. If your office is homogeneously white, you have to be intentional about diversity to have it actually be successful. It requires being willing to actually confront the very thing you think diverse hiring is the solution for: privilege. In this case, white privilege. Diversity, or rather Inclusion, requires those who don’t experience race based systemic oppression or marginalization to be challenged in ways that make them uncomfortable resulting in white guilt or “white tears”. Inclusion requires setting the precedence for intolerance to racism. It means that when an employee or colleague makes an out-of-bounds statement, you are willing to correct them, and if it’s in your power, take action to eradicate the behavior immediately.

It means that you are intolerant to any microaggressions and will listen when the person of color in your office speaks up about it. You will create dialogue and action because that is what is required for true inclusion. That didn’t happen in my office on multiple occasions, but I kept working there.

The majority of the time I kept my mouth shut when it came to questionable statements in the office. I did speak up when I was asked about Patricia Arquette’s commentary at the Oscars, which turned into an all day conversation summed up by the phrase “meant well.” I spoke up when a person of color’s name was said to make them incapable of being taken seriously. I specifically addressed this, not because of its personal foul to me but because those kinds of comments have power when voiced by white bodies and implicate flagrant bias.

Maybe I should’ve never said anything. Maybe I should have kept my head low and just kept my job and let the racism go unchecked because hey, I was employed, had bills and “White folks don’t care no way.” That’s the way it is when you are the “only.” That’s the choice or so I’ve been told over and over in the wake of my layoff. It’s the choice most marginalized persons find themselves making. Accepting environments that are dismissive and most often intolerant of their pain due to financial need and/or limited options.

Your economic stability is dependent on how you operate in what could be considered a hostile environment. An environment of constant microaggressions, confusing social interactions and unapologetic cultural insensitivity. Have the nerve to challenge it on any level? You could be fired. Don’t challenge it and still end up fired because of being deemed a threat. I had the audacity to challenge it because I was led to believe this company was open to that. It wasn’t.

I’ve come to the conclusion that people of color deserve to be in a work environment where we don’t have to be silent in the face of social injustice for the comfort of others. We deserve to not live in silence and fear of losing our job if we challenge racism. We deserve culturally inclusive environments free of unchecked and often flagrant racism. We deserve to be heard so that those with privilege can understand that their oblivious indifference and unconscionable dedication to white supremacy is the very same violence that caused Sandra Bland’s death and so many others. The same people who claim to support and exalt diversity, and who claim they “don’t see color” are the same people whose silence hurts even more than my defending my right to be comfortable alone in a culturally white space. Those who insist on my silence as a means of comfort in their existence. Those whose privilege is so intertwined with my oppression, the idea of my pain never even causes a question of consciousness or a hint of human empathy. Those whose racism shows up as complicity, duplicitous and is out of integrity with who they claim to be.

Let me say this. I don’t have any evidence that my job fired me for that tweet. This is just a feeling in my gut. It seems strange to me that they would award me projects one week and then lay me off the next. That they would hire someone a week prior to letting me go. That I wasn’t hired to have billable work in the first place but now, I’m laid off because my work isn’t billable. Without warning. Without initiated compromise.

If I was laid off for those tweets on my private twitter, that would mean that someone searched for something to challenge my role there. Maybe to stop me from working on a prized project or maybe just to put me in my place. In any event, they went out of their way to inflict their privilege on my livelihood because I made them uncomfortable and refused to be silent.

Zora Neale Hurston, one of the inspirations of my free black womanhood, says “If you are silent in your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it.” So I refuse to be silent. I will continue saying the names of those who have experienced physical death at the hands of white supremacy. I will continue lifting up and adding my voice with those pushing back on the very racism that will never be satisfied with our silence anyway.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetUche Wogwugwu is a media professional and culture curator. Most known as the creator and outspoken co host of HipHopis4Lovers.com (HH4L). A weekly online radio show/podcast exploring the many platitudes of gender, sexuality and intimacy in Hip Hop. HH4L is presently on hiatus until the Fall 2015.

Breaking Down Privilege, Light Skin and Beyond

Precious-2
Precious wasn’t a 110-pound light skinned girl for a reason.

As NPR described, “the writer known simply as Sapphire, tells the story of a dark-skinned, heavy-set, illiterate African-American girl who has survived multiple pregnancies by her father.” In other words, the character Precious was created by Sapphire to depict one of the most rejected, unprotected, less privileged demographics.

In an interview, Sapphire explained,

I wanted to show that this girl is locked out through literacy. She’s locked out by her physical appearance. She’s locked out by her class, and she’s locked out by her color.

There were similar reasons behind the creation of  characters Pecola Breedlove in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Celie in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Because of denied privileges to women fitting their characteristics, Black women writers felt a need to share these stories. Three things these legendary characters all had in common: poverty, dark skin and sexual abuse. This was not an accident.

It has been known for a very long time that people with dark skin have often been treated with the utmost disdain and abuse. This is not a new discovery. Yet still, a few of my readers had a digital meltdown when I discussed light skin privilege.

Dave-Chapelle-Rick-James

At first I was surprised but then I remembered how difficult recognizing privilege can be. After all, a huge component of privilege is not realizing it exists.

So I’m going to rewind and thoroughly explain what privilege is, how it works and who has it.

It wasn’t until I was older that I realized I had privilege. Even as a little girl, when a white class mate (afraid of my Blackness) refused to come near me, I had privilege. Even in middle school when a group of Black girls compared me to a gorilla, I had privilege. Even in the 9th grade, when I was bullied to the point of crying in class by other Black kids because of my permed but still nappy hair, I had privilege.

It wasn’t until I was older, when I saw some of these same people and their lives, that I realized the privilege I had. I grew up in a two parent household. Both of my parents were college graduates. The concept of college was never a question. Never had I ever been asked, “Are you going to college?” It was a given. Not only was I going, I had already begun writing, playing instruments, learning modern dance, and performing in theater productions. When I wanted to do something, my mother wrote a check.

Black-ish-money

We were not rich, but she was able to pay for every school activity I wanted to do.

My mother was very busy, but still had time to go over my school work. During the summer, I would get mad at her for forcing me to complete workbooks before I could go out and play. I didn’t know that any of this was a privilege. It was always assumed that everybody was able to do all of these things. In my mind, everybody’s mom read them stories, gave them books, made home-cooked dinners every night, and helped them apply for financial aid to attend college.

I later learned that some of those same people that bullied me so badly, were living in abject poverty. Baldwin County, Ga has a poverty rate double the national average. Many of their mothers were working overtime in service and fast food industries trying to make ends meet. I realized that those playground wars, where I had been called such horrible names, were their own attempts to feel better about their status in the world. If they could succeed in making someone else feel the way they felt, then they could feel powerful (even if it only lasted for a few hours.)

If you had told me at the time I was being called a gorilla, that I had privilege, it would have been hard for me to believe you. I would have said, “But my feelings are hurt, what privilege?”

It wasn’t until my senior year of high school, when so many Black kids failed to pass the Georgia High School Graduation Test, that I started to realize the disparities. It wasn’t until I saw members of my senior class receiving a certificate instead of a diploma that I realized what happened. Their lives were cheated, opportunities had been denied and it was systematic. I recalled how certain students were automatically put on the technical track while others were put on the college track. The state of Georgia had predetermined who was going to college and who wasn’t.

But not me. I was going to college. I was going to leave and study whatever I wanted to. In high school I worked at McDonald’s, Sonic and Papa John’s. Quitting these jobs was never a make or break situation for me.

half-baked-job-quit

I had no problem saying, “I quit,” because, I was college bound. Fast food or retail wasn’t going to be my future. Hence my confusion when I saw other students dropping out of high school once they finally got their highly coveted job at Walmart.

Later in college, I saw how girls that were darker than me in skin tone were treated by men. I saw first hand how their deep brown skin was used a prerequisite for excessive abuse or utter disregard. I’ve seen their love interests dodge them and pursue me or other girls. I’ve also seen how they were treated by faculty members and staff. They were under constant attack. My lighter skinned friends also faced hardships, being not considered Black enough or having to deal with people’s assumptions about them. But what our other friends were going through was undeniable.

We were also treated differently according to body type.

Coming-To-America

Dark skin plus thicker body equaled additional problems. It was during this time that I also realized thin privilege. And yes, that’s a real thing. I had never thought of this before either, but it existed and I benefited from it.

Later I learned about abelism and the privilege I have as a person with no physical or developmental disabilities.

So here I am a Black middle class, 2nd generation college graduate, with two educated parents, with no known disabilities, that wears a size medium. I have a lot of privilege that other people don’t have. That doesn’t mean I’ve never experienced racism or bullying.

So when I wrote about the documentary Light Girls, referencing its avoidance of privilege, the commentary was out of a real need to address historical facts that affect the Black community. Light skin privilege is real. It has been studied and documented throughout history. It is a subsidiary of White privilege, where people of hues closer to white on the racial hierarchy are afforded with certain advantages. Over the past 300 years, it has become a part of the fabric of Western society.

Here are the 6 most common responses when discussing Light Skin Privilege:

draya-bye-felicia

1. But I’ve experienced racism. I don’t have privilege.

2. But other Black people picked on me because I’m light skinned. I don’t have privilege.

1-2: Your concerns are valid. However, it needs to be remembered that this issue isn’t about individual situations or circumstances. Light skinned privilege isn’t about anybody’s assumptions or hurt feelings. Race is a social construct that was created to sustain a hierarchy. In the Western world “whiteness” has been used as a measuring stick for human value. People of lighter hues have been treated with less “disdain” than other Black people. This is a historical fact, not an idea or assumption. It doesn’t mean that light skinned people never face racism or colorism. 

3. But I went to prison or had some other horrible experience in life. I don’t have privilege.

Light skin privilege does not mean that people labeled as light skinned never experience hardships or adversity. However, it does mean that at times, certain hardships will have less of a blow if your skin tone is lighter. For instance, a recent study showed that among Black people in prison, those perceived as light skinned received shorter sentences than those perceived as dark skinned.

4. Stop making assumptions about my character. I don’t have privilege.

Privilege isn’t about making assumptions on someone’s character. People need to understand the concept of light skin privilege is not an indictment on light skinned people, but instead an indictment on how racial hierarchies operate. Challenging this issue, is necessary in order challenge the false concept of white supremacy.

5. I don’t believe it. Show me the receipts! Where is this privilege?

Whitney-Receipts-1

For all naysayers, part of “privilege” is having the ability to not “see” the problem, because it has become so normalized.

Here are the requested receipts:

http://www.theroot.com/articles/politics/2011/07/color_bias_do_lightskinned_blacks_get_shorter_sentences.html

http://www.multiculturaladvantage.com/recruit/diversity/bias/Skin-Tone-More-Important-Than-Educational-Background-African-Americans-Seeking-Jobs.asp

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/14/skin-tone-bias_n_4597924.html

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/01/study-people-associate-education-with-lighter-skin/283086/

http://thegrio.com/2014/01/16/study-light-skinned-black-men-perceived-as-better-educated/

http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/05/13/doll.study/

http://jezebel.com/368746/study-men-are-more-attracted-to-women-with-lighter-skin

http://www.sentencingproject.org/detail/news.cfm?news_id=1136

6. Why are you talking about this? What good does it do? This is just divide and conquer.

Talking about Light Skinned Privilege does not promote “divide and conquer.” Ignoring it does.

Divide and conquer can only exist in a state of confusion. Right now, confusion exists because we haven’t learned how to effectively pin point and deconstruct the inner workings of racial oppression. By rejecting the privilege of light skin or at least calling it out, we are also rejecting the concept of white supremacy. We are saying that all Black lives are just as valuable as the others. This same thing can be said we we reject homophobia and sexism in our communities. We’re saying all Black lives matter the same, despite our perceived differences.

Last but not least

Part of the normalization of privilege is not being aware it exists. Even as a former landlord happily called me her “new pitch black friend,” I had privilege at various levels. In other words, this isn’t about your or my hurt feelings. Transforming society hinges upon our ability to proactively breakdown privilege: white, light skinned, class, economic and beyond.

In the case of racism and colorism, recognizing light skin privilege is a step towards understanding how to dismantle white privilege and Black oppression. The recognition of light skin privilege is not an indictment against light skinned people, it’s an indictment on the currently normalized role of false white supremacy and how it plays out in our lives.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com. Email JAMAiwuyor@gmail.com.

Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/JAMAiwuyor

Assism Is Not Feminism

Assism-Feminism-OurLegaci

People need to understand that women who present provocative images of themselves are not automatically making a feminist statement. This isn’t to say that a woman can’t express herself, but when this self expression is deeply hinged upon supporting oppressive systems it is not a liberation moment. This is why Nicki Minaj can express herself and still glorify Nazi propaganda. Kim Kardashian can express herself #ALLDAY and still glorify the hypersexualization of women’s bodies. Provocative imagery does not automatically equate to activism or empowerment.

feministtheoryThis point of confusion was described by bell hooks in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center:

“A central problem within feminist discourse has been our inability to either arrive at a consensus of opinion about what feminism is or accept definition(s) that could serve as points of unification. (p. 18)”

This statement feels even more relevant in 2014 as it did in 1984, especially with the emergence of what some are calling “Millennial Feminism.” Across the digital sphere conversations are constantly springing up around feminism. Still, few are actually producing or referring to a substantial definition of feminism.

The fixation on women’s butts, I’ll call it “assism” is a well documented form of objectification, deeply rooted in the commodification of Black women’s bodies. Kim Kardashian accentuates this fixation, layering it with the benefits of whiteness to score on monetary profits. Though Nicki Minaj is Black she comes as close as she can to Kim K by combining anti-black sentiments with the commodification of Black phenotypes to yet again benefit monetarily. Additionally neither of them are bothered by classism as a form of oppression. They are not feminists. Stop trying to make fetch happen.

ButSomeOfUsFeminism is hinged upon an awareness of oppression in conjunction with working towards ending all forms of it. In All the Women Are White, All The Blacks Are Men: But Some Of Us Are Brave, Barbara Smith explains:

“Feminism is the political theory and practice that struggles to free all women: women of color, working-class women, poor women, disabled women, lesbians, old women–as well as white, economically privileged, heterosexual women. Anything less than this vision of total freedom is not feminism, but merely female self-aggrandizement. (p. 49)”

To refer to Nicki Minaj or Kim Kardashian as de facto feminist icons is to minimize the anti-oppressive backbone of feminism. It’s reductionist thinking. Neither of these women have exhibited any substantial work towards ending sexist, racial, or economic oppression.

While some may point to their open display of sexuality as a liberation moment, this thought process over looks the fact that their displays are based more on the history of women’s commodified bodies under the patriarchal gaze. Yes, they make a lot of money doing this but that does not necessarily translate into freedom. They are riding the constant wave of hypersexualized images of Black women’s bodies with no intention of challenging the status quo. In fact it becomes a competition of who can promote sexual commercial objectification more, who can more closely embody the mainstreamed fantasy of women in sexualized positions.

Yet none of this is new or shocking. It’s actually pretty underwhelming. Another day another booty. Where is the triumph in that? It’s an attention getting tactic but it is not a feminist manifesto or challenge to oppression. The recurring statement is that they were “free” enough to show themselves. However if the only way for them to gain the public’s attention is through a constant stream of butt shots what does that say about society? That’s a far cry from freedom or liberation.

Nicki-Between-Women

Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda was an act of desperation used to counter the emergence of Iggy Azalea. Iggy then responded by appearing alongside JLo in a video for a song literally called, “Booty.”

Booty1

Since the emergence of her sex tape with Ray J, Kim Kardashian has been profiting from racialized butt adoration for years.

Kim-Kardashian-Jean-Paul-Goude-1stdibs

The sentiment has been, “You want to see more? Here you go!”

Oprah-Booty-Meme-Ourlegaci

Perhaps for her that’s winning. But is it winning for women overall? It doesn’t challenge the realities that women face everyday as constantly sexualized beings. This imagery plays up the dehumanization and never dares to deconstruct or even acknowledge it. This article is not suggesting a policing of women’s bodies. It’s about recognizing a thing for what it is. Nakedness can be a political empowering statement  but Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj are not examples of that. This may be provocative but it is not feminism.

We already have a plethora of mistruths floating around about feminism. Why add to the list? It’s very dangerous for feminists to automatically embrace commodified sexual images as feminist modules. There are levels to this. Where are the discussions about about intentions and context? It is a teachable moment. But it is not a grand moment in Women’s History.

Sorry folks but assism is not feminism.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.