My Perspective on the American Descendants of Slavery Movement

American Descendants of Slaves

By Marc W. Polite

In looking at political trends and currents as an interested observer, it often means being at odds with other assessments already publicly out there. Advocacy for Black American political concerns and issues have taken on many iterations in American history. Whether we’re discussing the abolitionist movement, Reconstruction, or The Civil Rights/Black Power movement, all of them have called for the transformation of this country in one way or another. Also, these past movements have changed conditions in this country, by challenging power.

The modern call to address Black concerns in this country is at this time calling itself the ADOS movement- American Descendants of Slaves. After some observation of this tendency, I have to say that it differs from past streams of American Black political thought in ways that are more destructive and isolating than what we have seen in our history. Even though I am technically part of this group of Black people, I find many of their stances questionable and myopic.

This is not an assessment to be made lightly.. political currents have a messy nature to them. As people figure out what is, and what to do about it, there are matters which will only be sorted out during an active struggle. However, that is not what we have here so far.

What we have seen here, so far is people who are advocating for an ADOS framework for the Black American struggle, put a lot of public pressure on 2020 presidential candidates. That’s good for the purpose of getting an issue discussed, but if it remains just that, it will be co-opted into campaign trail talking points.

The anti immigrant hostility, for one is particularly hard to ignore. While some of that hostility does come from anti-Black sentiments expressed by some non Black people of color, and chauvinism directed at Black Americans by some Caribbean and African people, matching that energy during a time of white nationalist reaction is a bad route. Black nativist xenophobia will actually weaken the struggle, and runs counter to our history.

Also troublesome, is its call for reparations. Now, historically and morally, there’s not much of an argument against reparations. The problem is that it’s not just very practical. There is much to be said about the form that any potential reparations should take, but most formulations that are being widely promoted are in terms of cash payments to the descendants of the enslaved.

The problem with the outlook, is that it pits Black Americans against everyone else, when it should be all working people against capital that is putting serious constraints on our lives with austerity. In a current political and economic situation where many signs are pointing to another economic downturn, with falling standards of living for everyone, will the political will to do this come from?

Furthermore, how do you plan to win these things, at a time when people are thinking about massive popular solutions to social problems that affect everyone? We’re hearing a lot of groundswell of support for big, sweeping changes like Medicare for All, The Green New Deal, and an infrastructure/public works program.

Say what you will about the wave of Democratic socialists advocating for these things, but Black Americans would benefit more from universal policies of this nature more than just some one time, $2500 dollar check.

Yes, historically Black people have been left out of universal programs- The New Deal being the most glaring example. This is why the Civil Rights Movement pushed for full citizenship, which led to The Great Society. It would be better to fight for broader social programs and work to ensure that Black Americans don’t get left out for racist and structural reasons, then to pursue this current course.

The notion of “going it alone” may sound great, and is a form of militant posturing, but the real question is what is to be gained by this approach?

Is it politically smart to alienate non American Black people, and other people of color with Klansmen and Nazis active? This, along with a number of other issues have to be taken into account. Especially if the goal really is to win tangible gains for Black people as a whole, not just carve out a radical niche on the internet.