Law in Contemporary Society

How will black liberationist movements evolve in Trump's America?

In a society where the current President of the United States captured the support of millions of Americans by idealizing an ancient paradise in a promise to make America great again, black Americans have yet to discover an idyllic utopia in this Country. Each era in this country’s 240-year history contains a set of racial structures that work to reproduce white supremacy and maintain a social order of white male hegemony. The era of Trump has proved no different and black Americans continue to search for a great America. A single vision of black freedom has never existed on account of the ethnic, economic and political diversity within the black American community. Black American freedom movements have varied on a wide spectrum from far left radical movements that call for a reconstruction of the societal status quo like the Black Panther Movement, to further right movements that adopt a conservative reformist approach like the NAACP. However, now more than ever, in reaction to Trump’s message of divisiveness, freedom movements are becoming increasingly intersectional and turning towards coalition building.

This essay considers how coalition building during Trump’s America will benefit the struggle for black liberation and explores the opposition and criticism that this trend is likely to face from black nationalists. I will argue that it is essential that these conflicting strategies coexist to see the black liberation struggle through Trump’s America.

Many modern grassroots organizations like Black Lives Matter are emphasizing the importance of coalition building in their social movements. Black Lives Matter is a radicalist movement led by black female queer leaders, which recognizes racism as a global problem that intersects with class, gender and sexuality. Similarly, organizations like the Women’s March on Washington pledge to stand in solidarity with other marginalized groups; recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country. These organizations may be exactly what the liberation movement needs in the era of Trump. The new administration has instilled fear in all minority and marginalized communities. As the Women’s March on Washington states in its mission, “there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.” Coalition building is successful because it helps to get at the root of the race problem in America. Racism is not simply about race. Race is inherently rooted in a global economic and social order that affects subjugated peoples all over the world; so is sexism, classism and colonialism. Focusing on the core of what connects marginalized groups in the United States enables issues to be challenged in a nuanced way and allows these groups to be recognized as a global majority of the oppressed rather than a minority. This is a philosophy shared by the communist party

Despite the benefits of coalition building, the maintenance of black nationalist movements is equally important and likely to emerge to challenge the trend towards intersectional movements. Black nationalism, represented by the philosophy of individuals like Malcolm X and groups like the Black Panther Party, criticizes intersectional movements on the grounds that they ignore the inherent differences in the oppression of African Americans and that of other groups like white women or poor white men. Therefore, they believe in a separate liberation movement that calls for black people to love black, live black and buy black. The Panthers employed a strategy of providing black communities with its own basic needs and services, independent of the United States and local governments. The Panther’s took on the responsibility of providing basic needs and services like healthcare and policing to its local communities. These nationalist philosophies helped to strengthen and unify the black community, but they were also weakened by the lack of support of allies in other communities.

Both liberation strategies offer unique solutions and philosophies to the struggle for black freedom. Therefore, I believe a hybrid movement, modeled from the Black Popular Front, would be must successful in challenging the status quo. The Black Popular Front was a movement that took place primarily in the 1930’s and 1940’s that was an extension of the Communist Party with a primary focus on incorporating trade unionism into civil rights. They had a primarily proletariat orientation and built coalitions with poor working class whites to gain access to well-paying jobs and collective bargaining to increase the agency of black workers and families. The Black Popular Front recognized racism as an extension of global capitalism and thus had a broad internationalist and intersectional perspective of condemning fascism in the Global North and other parts of the world where individuals were politically and economically disadvantaged with race, culture and class used as a rationale. Black Popular Front activists worked to transform the Communist Party by incorporating ideals of black nationalism. Within this group black nationalists and black communists weren’t seen as mutually exclusive groups. The Black Popular Front activists successfully built coalitions with other marginalized groups while maintaining a commitment to black nationalism.

The convergence of these liberation strategies may prove to be exactly what the movement needs in the era of Trump. Seeking policy reform from within the administration will be difficult during Trump’s presidency and thus the burden will fall on fresh intersectional grass roots organizations to advocate for the change that our nation needs to make America great for everyone.


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r5 - 06 Jun 2017 - 10:11:27 - ImaniPhillips
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