Recently, at the end of January this year (2020), I posted a YouTube video concerning what I feel is an intentionally pushed, yet problematic, narrative surrounding the issue of separation versus integration. This narrative usually comes up within the context of black Americans and their continued struggle for civil and political rights. Historically, it has been the case that different groups of individuals have been shown in opposition to one another, with separation and integration being the narrative injected to supposedly illustrate a major point of contention.
This is going to be the introduction to a series of articles to provide more details (and links to sources) regarding the issue(s) discussed in that video. This series will be part of an overall series of articles on The History of Black Liberation & Colonization. In line with the other posts related to The History of Black Liberation & Colonization, which set to provide an accessible educational resource on black history, by the end of this particular series, I hope to provide a thorough history, and present-day guideline, for the goals of black, American liberation, as well as proper strategy toward achieving those goals.
In this introduction, I’m going to start with an outline of some elements that are a part of the agenda of white supremacy, global capital, and leaders of the dominant society, going back to the beginnings of the American project. This will provide initial context for understanding some of the dynamics underlying particular contentions and events that will be discussed as a part of this series.
These elements are as follows:
1. Separation. Voluntary and forced emigration to get blacks (specifically free, educated blacks during slavery) out of the US. This was the American Colonization Society and the back-to-Africa movements. Plus other non-African, separatist and forced immigration movements.
2. Displacement/replacement . Bringing in white* (or other foreign) immigrants to replace blacks and/or aid in maintaining blacks as a low population minority – as caste at the bottom of a dominant (white supremacist) society. We saw this with Irish and German, etc., immigration around the Civil War up to WW2. Then via Mexico, to date. Also, today, with African, West Indian and other immigrants who co-opt issues as voices for black Americans and who cover for white supremacist agendas, as their black, American counterparts who also work against the overall black community (see 3).
3. Integration/assimilation. This is by allowing and encouraging division among blacks. For “responsible” blacks, who are “not like the others”. For “successful” and “hard-working” blacks. Blacks from privileged backgrounds, or otherwise, who are willing to join dominant, white society against the majority. Here, interracial relationships tend to even be encouraged with the eventual goal being to assimilate and miscegenate away blackness – or otherwise “Americanize” the others into acceptance of the goals of white supremacy and global capital. After 3 or 4 generations, individuals can physically pass as white and give up black identity altogether – or alternatively, through being well-off, lose connection and association with the general, black community and related ideological views. This has been working, but was kicked up during the Civil Rights Movement through a co-opting of “integration” and now more emphasis in media.
4. Genocide. The destruction of the black community. Promotion of negative behaviors to slow reproduction and increase the death rate. Outright killings and Mass Incarceration.
* To note about the concept of “whiteness”. It is a concept based on racist ideas that contribute to the overall ideology of white supremacy. Some of that is also covered the links above; but more specific to this concept, and how it developed over time, will be added about this in the future.
With regard to the goals, specifically in terms of what I hope to show in this series, in terms of strategy and concerning the proper viewpoint to approach black liberation, I will say this:
The overall concept that you should see develop over the course of this series is a history of the greatest, black leaders establishing a radical tradition in opposition to American Slavery, Jim Crow and other injustices against black Americans over time. According to the era(s) in which they lived, I will show how the greatest opposition to these individuals and/or groups happened insofar as they were radical and vehemently opposed to the goals of the dominant society in their anti-slavery, anti-capitalism, anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism. I will also show how other movements, insofar as they worked in the interests of a white supremacist agenda, lacked those characteristics or were outright opposed to those specific elements.
In continuing with the introduction, I would like to quickly define the terms of the conversation, as well as provide a brief overview of what will be discussed in future parts of this series. Although I did not fully do this in the video, it is something I’m usually careful to do. A problem with understanding this issue is the different meanings that can be attributed, specifically, to integration, as well as not understanding the history and purpose (the when, how and why) of this concept making its way onto the scene.
One of the most notable, historical contentions, where this narrative, perhaps, became the most prominent, was the contention involving Malcolm X and the followers of the Nation of Islam and Elijah Muhammad. This contention was at its height prior to Malcolm X leaving the Nation, and it was between those individuals that identified with the Nation against those individuals who were followers of the more mainstream, Civil Rights Movement, along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was likely the most notable figure at the forefront of that movement.
However, if you look decades prior to that, such as throughout the contentions involving W.E.B. Du Bois versus the world–Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey then his own N.A.A.CP–the word is rarely used, especially in the same context later developed.
The origins of the concept developed out of an imposing of the dichotomy that happened following a pushing of W.E.B Du Bois out of the N.A.A.C.P. In May of 1932, Du Bois brought his want to address criticisms to the organization. This would mark a sort of beginning to a feud that ultimately saw Du Bois (for the first time) parting ways with the N.A.A.C.P., as well as the growth of the dichotomy over integration. The main concerns outlined by Du Bois were the following: 1) being a high-brow organization; 2) being centralized and non-democratic; 2) not having a positive agenda, in addition to being against segregation (here were the beginnings of his criticism on their policy of segregation and beginnings of what was used in the creation of an integration dichotomy); 4) youth organization.
In the February 1933 edition of The Crisis Du Bois set up what was going to be a continuing series of propaganda called, Toward A New Radical Philosophy. The elements of this “radical” agenda likely make up a bigger reason for the ultimate building of censorship and rejection of Du Bois from the N.A.A.C.P. Although the issue of segregation definitely played a role in that radical agenda, the agenda also included the introduction of ideas related to Karl Marx and Marxism: socialism/communism and their relation and application to black liberation in the U.S., as well as an application and critique of Marxian ideas with regard to white supremacy, the white vs. black proletariat and issues surrounding education, media, racial solidarity, pan-Africanism, legal and social structures, and religion. After a series of articles in The Crisis where Du Bois himself, and others under his editorial guide, addressed these topics, in addition to writings that were very critical of the N.A.A.C.P’s policy toward segregation, the behavior of the N.A.A.C.P. in reaction saw Du Bois ultimately forced out of the organization. Du Bois and his discussions on the topic of segregation would be the impetus for the starting of the integration versus segregation/separation dichotomy. This is a topic that will be covered in more detail in future articles.
The ultimate dichotomy had the function, along with the outright intention, to mask any true agenda for civil rights and black liberation, as was being framed by Du Bois at that time.
Integration Versus Fighting for Radical Change and Civil/Human Rights
Integration from one perspective can be seen as the outright fight for equal civil and political rights for all citizens, particularly black Americans (hence the name: Civil Rights Movement). This can take the form of fighting against forced segregation; for voting rights and ability to engage in politics and self-determining interests within the black community; against terrorism, lynchings and other deterrents to social, cultural, political and economic progress; etc. This, i.e., a radical fight for civil and political rights (as well as human rights, globally) is the view that I think has to be understood as the basis, from which, black Americans ought to be fighting. This is also the view that prior to the contention between Du Bois and the N.A.A.C.P. was the basic understanding–regardless of radical agendas or compromise–without the application of the term “integration”.
However, within the dichotomy, integration has, also, been seen–this where I feel a lot of the confusion is manufactured–as an agenda to be accepted within the institutions of dominate, white society, usually contrary to, and deterring, the building of strong and independent, black institutions. This is a powerful point, in part, because as I pointed out in my piece on 20th Century Targeting, black leaders were used (intentionally or unwittingly) for the purpose of weakening political activity and activism in the black community, as well as in the destruction of the black community generally.
The problem with the latter view is that it ignores the lack of any mutual exclusivity with regard to fighting for civil and political rights, while also fighting for a strong and independent, black community. Doing both of these things together was specifically what Du Bois was attempting to do, and the direction in which he was attempting to take the N.A.A.C.P., prior to facing an undermining and opposition. In addition, it does not allow for the proper distinguishing between righteous movements for civil and political rights against movements that actually are/were, properly, agendas (in whatever way) against the black community.
This is something to keep in mind as this series and conversation moves forward.
In conclusion to this introduction, I would like to go over an overview of the series. The first part will be on the contention between abolitionists and the American Colonization Society. That will be followed by several articles on the contentions that took place between W.E.B. Du Bois, and at different times, Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, and the N.A.A.C.P. To conclude–and conceivably with a separate article for a stand-alone conclusion to the series–I will discuss what is potentially the most prominent contention on this issue (at least in the minds of most Americans): the followers of Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam versus Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the mainstream Civil Rights Movement.
The following is a summary given by Du Bois in his semi-autobiographical work, Dusk of Dawn, which I think very accurately pulls together an overview of the various movements that happened historically, including what happened during the bulk his lifetime. It came out in 1940 following his departure from the N.A.A.C.P. and covers many relevant issues that include the reasoning behind him leaving and his relationship with (and views on) Booker T. Washinton and Marcus Garvey. In this selection, he deals with his ideas and with regard to the varying historical movements relevant to the discussion in my series:
“To recapitulate: we cannot follow the class structure of America; we do not have the economic or political power, the ownership of machines and materials, the power to direct the processes of industry, the monopoly of capital and credit. On the other hand, even if we cannot follow this method of structure, nevertheless we must do something. We cannot stand still; we cannot permit ourselves simply to be the victims of exploitation and social exclusion. It is from this paradox that arises the present frustration among American Negroes.
Historically, beginning with their thought in the eighteenth century and coming down to the twentieth Negroes have tended to choose between these difficulties and emphasize two lines of action: the first is exemplified in Walker’s Appeal, that tremendous indictment of slavery by a colored man published in 1829, and resulting very possibly in the murder of the author; and coming down through the work of the Niagara Movement and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in our day. This program of organized opposition to the action and attitude of the dominant white group, includes ceaseless agitation and insistent demand for equality: the equal right to work, civic and political equality, and social equality. It involves the use of force of every sort: moral suasion, propaganda and where possible even physical resistance.”
Here he, also, subsequently interjects with the previously mentioned criticisms, insofar as the limitations, of the N.A.A.C.P. agenda, including the issue of economics and funding (or lack thereof) for such campaigns. More details on this will be discussed in the part of the series concerning Du Bois versus the N.A.A.C.P.
“The second group effort to which Negroes have turned is more extreme and decisive. One can see it late in the eighteenth century when the Negro union of Newport, Rhode Island, in 1788 proposed to the Free African Society of Philadelphia a general exodus to Africa on the part at least of free Negroes. This ‘back to Africa’ movement has recurred time and time again in the philosophy of American Negroes and has commended itself not simply to the inexperienced and to demagogues, but to the prouder and more independent type of Negro; to the black man who is tired of begging for justice and recognition from folk who seem to him to have no intention of being just and do not propose to recognize Negroes as men. This thought was strong during the active existence of the Colonization Society and succeeded in convincing leading Negroes like John Russworm, the first Negro college graduate, and Lott Carey, the powerful Virginia preacher. Then it fell into severe disrepute when the objects of the Colonization Society were shown by the Abolitionists to be the perpetuation rather than the amelioration of American slavery.
Later, just before the Civil War, the scheme of migration to Africa or elsewhere was revived and agents sent out to South America, Haiti and Africa. After the Civil War and the disappointments of Reconstruction came Bishop Turner’s proposal and recently the crazy scheme of Marcus Garvey. The hard facts which killed all these proposals were first lack of training, education and habits on the part of ex-slaves which unfitted them to be pioneers; and mainly that tremendous industrial expansion of Europe which made colonies in Africa or elsewhere about the last place where colored folk could successfully seek freedom and equality.
These extreme plans tended always to fade to more moderate counsel. First came the plam1ed inner migration of the Negro group: to Canada, to the North, to the West, to cities everywhere. This has been a vast and continuing movement, affecting millions and changing and modifying the Negro problems. One result has been a new system of racial integrations. Groups of Negroes in their own clubs and organizations, in their own neighborhoods and schools, were formed, and were not so much the result of deliberate planning as the rationalization of the segregation into which they were forced by racial prejudice. These groups became physical and spiritual cities of refuge, where sometimes the participants were inspired to efforts for social uplift, learning and ambition; and sometimes reduced to sullen wordless resentment. It is toward this sort of group effort that the thoughts and plans of Booker T. Washington led. He did not advocate a deliberate and planned segregation, but advised submission to segregation in settlement and in work, in order that this bending to the will of a powerful majority might bring from that majority gradually such sympathy and sense of justice that in the long run the best interests of the Negro group would be served; particularly as those interests were, he thought, inseparable from the best interests of the dominant group. The difficulty here was that unless the dominant group saw its best interests bound up with those of the black minority, the situation was hopeless; and in any case the danger was that if the minority ceased to agitate and resist oppression it would grow to accept it as normal and inevitable.”
The above is the full excerpt. You can see his mentioning of the American Colonization Society, which will be covered in Part 1, as well as Booker T. Washington and Gavey, which will be covered in subsequent parts.
“A third path of the advance which lately I have been formulating and advocating can easily be mistaken for a program of complete racial segregation and even nationalism among Negroes. Indeed it has been criticized as such. This is a misapprehension. First, ignoring other racial separations, I have stressed the economic discrimination as fundamental and advised concentration of planning here. We need sufficient income for health and home; to supplement our education and recreation; to fight our own crime problem; and above all to finance a continued, planned and intelligent agitation for political, civil and social equality. How can we Negroes in the United States gain such average income as to be able to attend to these pressing matters? The cost of this program must fall first and primarily on us, ourselves. It is silly to expect any large number of whites to finance a program which the overwhelming majority of whites today fear and reject. Setting up as a bogey-man an assumed proposal for an absolute separate Negro economy in America, it has been easy for colored philosophers and white experts to dismiss the matter with a shrug and a laugh. But this is not so easily dismissed. In the first place we have already got a partially segregated Negro economy in the United States. There can be no question about this. We not only build and finance Negro churches, but we furnish a considerable part of the funds for our segregated schools. We furnish most of our own professional services in medicine, pharmacy, dentistry and law. We furnish some part of our food and clothes, our home building and repairing and many retail services. We furnish books and newspapers; we furnish endless personal services like those of barbers, beauty shop keepers, hotels, restaurants. It may be said that this inner economy of the Negro serves but a small proportion of its total needs; but it is growing and expanding in various ways; and what I propose is to so plan and guide it as to take advantage of certain obvious facts.”
Lastly, he covers his own views relevant to the issue and time period he was in. This will be discussed more both in the article on the N.A.A.C.P., as well as in conclusion to the series.
Part 1 is available, here.