In my previous post, I noted that in the manuscript I’m working on I am arguing that blacks must continue to manage racial loyalty norms to help build group unity. With that unity, blacks can improve their legal interests. I obviously, therefore, strongly champion black solidarity. I’m not certain of this, but I get the feeling that racial solidarity among black academics has fallen in disfavor, at least compared to previous generations. Here I hope to outline what form of racial solidarity blacks should support and defend it from a popular conservative attack.
I argue, instead, that blacks should organize around a shared interest in overcoming or lessening the burdens of antiblack racism. Realizing that all blacks should share a common interest in ridding society of bigotry and racism, this conception of solidarity seeks to rally blacks into joint effort.
No one is directed toward specific policy prescriptions under this conception of black solidarity. Blacks should be extended enough latitude to debate the merit of varying strategies for racial transformation. It must be insisted, however, that whatever “panacea” an individual race member espouses that it be argued intellectually honestly believing it to be in the race’s best interest. Indeed, the championing of any argument must be activated and propelled by pure devotion. It is indefensible to charge someone with betrayal when his or her policy beliefs are animated by robust fidelity, unless those beliefs are so repugnant as to render sensible agreement implausible. But those who are indifferent to or even antagonistic to the group’s plight deserve to be called to account for their treachery. Bad faith actors should never poison the deliberations that blacks must foster.
Not all blacks, though, suffer equally from oppression. Since the Civil Rights Movement, the ranks of the black middle-class have swelled. Blacks, moreover, now occupy upper-class white collar positions now more than ever. There are, therefore, a sizeable number of blacks who are less vulnerable to the various manners of racial subordination. Indeed, all blacks, because of economic stratification, do not have a share a common economic interest. The issue, then, becomes why those situated outside the black underclass would embrace an oppression-centered rationale for black solidarity. This is a general problem for building solidarity movements; solidarity is much easier to maintain through social coercion in societies defined by similarities. Though it may appear that the black underclass has more reason to enter into this communal contract, there are convincing reasons for “secure” blacks also. Purely for self-interest, all blacks should support actions that raise the status of the race, for even the highest of the high can always humbly crash back to Earth. Those who upper-class blacks care most about—family and friends, moreover, may not be as comfortable. Thus, to support their loved ones, secure blacks should participate in racial solidarity. And last, the black underclass is likely to retain their unenviable status lest all contribute to the group effort. The moral compass, therefore, should direct blacks who all to varying degrees suffer from the effects of race-specific oppression to help those suffering the most.
Black conservatives proffer one important objection to black solidarity. They proclaim that the goal of the Civil Rights Movement—legal equality—has been attained and that socio-economic disparities should be traced back to blacks’ cultural and moral failings, not racism. Along these lines, black conservatives argue that black solidarity breeds a culture of victimization that hampers blacks’ ability to improve their lives. Racial solidarity, they argue, must therefore be eschewed.
The critique, however, crumbles when analyzed. If there are widespread cultural pathologies in the black community, one can only wonder how exactly black conservatives think that these problems can be corrected. If black solidarity is to be rejected, black conservatives would then have to count on millions of individual epiphanies among the black underclass. The black conservative argument is that blacks suffer from group pathologies, but that the proffered solution must not include group effort is an odd conclusion. Communal efforts can surely help invigorate the black underclass to reform any behaviors that might stunt upward mobility. Black conservatives, in fact, should be the biggest proponents of black solidarity for if blacks are the victims of self-sabotage the race needs not to convince outsiders of anything in order to progress and can simply debate problems and implement solutions on their own.