• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal


Is it time for our Spring fundraiser already? If you enjoy what we offer, and have the means, please consider donating. The sooner we reach our modest goal, the faster we can get back to business as (un)usual. Please, stay safe and we’ll see you down the road.

The Failure of a System

Back in 2006, I had a series of exchanges with the late African American and radical scholar Roderick Bush. Most of our exchange focused on issues he addressed in his text We Are Not What We Seem: Black Nationalism and Class Struggle in the American Century. The exchange pointed to the fundamental role of racism in the founding and maintenance of the US Empire. Indeed, Mr. Bush reminded me that not only was it the foundation of the US Empire, but also “Racism continues to be the main ideological pillar of capitalism, even as the public perception may be that racism is much less legitimate than it has been in the past.” Consequently, he surmised that anti-racist resistance was and is a crucial (if not the most crucial) hub of resistance to capitalism and empire.

In her new book, From #Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor takes a similar approach in her examination of African-American resistance to the empire of racism we call the United States. Looking primarily at the past fifty years of that movement, Taylor dissects the role played by the civil rights movement in both moving Black Americans closer to liberation and its subsequent place in stifling that forward motion as some of the leaders of that movement shifted into positions of power in both the public and private sector. It is a history equally uplifting and depressing. For examples of the latter aspect, one need only look at the recent statements by some so-called Black leaders regarding the current presidential election cycle in the United States. Certain members of the Black Establishment are supporting Hilary Clinton, who claims to be a civil rights pioneer despite so much historical evidence to the contrary, believing her campaign will be their ticket to more inside jobs for the elite they represent. In doing so, these supposed leaders decry the programs suggested by Clinton’s opponent—programs like free tuition, jobs programs, and so on—with one such pro-Clinton “leader,” Rep. Clyburn, echoing the far right and calling these programs “free lunch.”41NIPcVUywL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_

Taylor’s text makes it clear that Clyburn is not alone in his politics among the African-American elite. She takes down the Congressional Black Caucus, pointing out its despairingly weak voting record and its collusion with some of Black America’s worst exploiters, like Wal-Mart and the private prison industry. In doing so, she narrates the history of this trajectory towards conservative capitalism, describing the growth of the Black US middle class, its roots in earlier history and its meaning for the Black liberation movements of today. In this discussion, Taylor examines how the growth of the African-American middle and upper classes has not only left the bulk of Black US citizens behind, but also how it has affected their education, their employment status (in terms of jobs available and numbers employed), and their treatment by the courts and police. Taylor spends a long chapter on the latter subject, tracing its history from the days of slavery through Reconstruction up to today, when police murders of African Americans occur on the average of several per day and Black citizens represent a disproportionate majority of prisoners in the world’s largest penal colony system.

It is this ongoing fact of mass incarceration and police murders that created the Black Lives Matter movement. Although it is a movement still struggling to define itself, it has already made a substantial addition to the never-ending US conversation about racial politics. Unfortunately, it has also already experienced efforts by mainstream power elites to divert its radical stance to one more accommodating with the existing system. In response, some self-appointed leaders of the movement have claimed it as their own and met with Barack Obama and others in its name. Taylor not only acknowledges this trend; she calls for a greater understanding of Black liberation history and a closer bonding with movement’s for workers’ rights and against capitalism. In other words, the movement must maintain its radical analysis, learn from radical organizations and individuals in history, and beware of the illusions created by the system that appear to be progress. Naturally, meeting the primary demands—to end police brutality, murder, and mass incarceration—would certainly be progress. However, unless there is an essentially radical analysis that fundamentally challenges the racist fact of US history, that progress is unlikely.

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation is an important book for today. In its pages, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor takes on the Black establishment in the United States, calling them out for their liberal ultimately reactionary words and compromises. In making it clear that the work of the Black freedom struggle in the United States is far from over, Taylor takes apart the myth of a post-racial America. She decries politicians like Clyburn, along with various Black capitalists and preachers, who have helped maintain the stasis Black America finds itself in. This book is a condemnation of the failure of the US political system to deliver on the hopes of the civil rights movement. Instead, argues Taylor, the system and most of those African-Americans involved in it, are resigned to substituting black politicians for black political power, a black bourgeoisie for genuine economic power, and mass incarceration for Black liberation.

The myth that we are all now equal in the United States is exposed in a concise and readable narrative, replete with numerous statistics woven into the text. Stating that it is the outcomes of laws and pronouncements that determine whether or not racism exists and not the intention of those phenomena, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation dispels the lie of a post-racial nation. Instead, it examines where we are at the current juncture and how we as anti-racists can achieve a genuinely anti-racist society.

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

May 27, 2020
Ipek S. Burnett
The Irony of American Freedom 
Paul Street
Life in Hell: Online Teaching
Vijay Prashad
Why Iran’s Fuel Tankers for Venezuela Are Sending Shudders Through Washington
Lawrence Davidson
National Values: Reality or Propaganda?
Ramzy Baroud
Why Does Israel Celebrate Its Terrorists: Ben Uliel and the Murder of the Dawabsheh Family
Sam Pizzigati
The Inefficient and Incredibly Lucrative Coronavirus Vaccine Race
Mark Ashwill
Vietnam Criticized for Its First-Round Victory Over COVID-19
David Rovics
A Note from the Ministry of Staple Guns
Binoy Kampmark
One Rule for Me and Another for Everyone Else: The Cummings Coronavirus Factor
Nino Pagliccia
Canada’s Seat at the UN Security Council May be Coveted But is Far From a Sure Bet
Erik Molvar
Should Federal Public Lands be Prioritized for Renewable Energy Development?
R. G. Davis
Fascism: Is it Too Extreme a Label?
Gene Glickman
A Comradely Letter: What’s a Progressive to Do?
Jonathan Power
The Attacks on China Must Stop
John Kendall Hawkins
The Asian Pivot
May 26, 2020
Melvin Goodman
Trump Administration and the Washington Post: Picking Fights Together
John Kendall Hawkins
The Gods of Small Things
Patrick Cockburn
Governments are Using COVID-19 Crisis to Crush Free Speech
George Wuerthner
Greatest Good is to Preserve Forest Carbon
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
The Covid-19 Conspiracies of German Neo-Nazis
Henry Giroux
Criminogenic Politics as a Form of Psychosis in the Age of Trump
John G. Russell
TRUMP-20: The Other Pandemic
John Feffer
Trump’s “Uncreative Destruction” of the US/China Relationship
John Laforge
First US Citizen Convicted for Protests at Nuclear Weapons Base in Germany
Ralph Nader
Donald Trump, Resign Now for America’s Sake: This is No Time for a Dangerous, Law-breaking, Bungling, Ignorant Ship Captain
James Fortin – Jeff Mackler
Killer Capitalism’s COVID-19 Back-to-Work Imperative
Binoy Kampmark
Patterns of Compromise: The EasyJet Data Breach
Howard Lisnoff
If a Covid-19 Vaccine is Discovered, It Will be a Boon to Military Recruiters
David Mattson
Grizzly Bears are Dying and That’s a Fact
Thomas Knapp
The Banality of Evil, COVID-19 Edition
May 25, 2020
Marshall Auerback
If the Federal Government Won’t Fund the States’ Emergency Needs, There is Another Solution
Michael Uhl
A Memory Fragment of the Vietnam War
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
Make a Resilient, Localized Food System Part of the Next Stimulus
Barrie Gilbert
The Mismanagement of Wildlife in Utah Continues to be Irrational and a National Embarrassment.
Dean Baker
The Sure Way to End Concerns About China’s “Theft” of a Vaccine: Make it Open
Thom Hartmann
The Next Death Wave from Coronavirus Will Be the Poor, Rural and White
Phil Knight
Killer Impact
Paul Cantor
Memorial Day 2020 and the Coronavirus
Laura Flanders
A Memorial Day For Lies?
Gary Macfarlane – Mike Garrity
Grizzlies, Lynx, Bull Trout and Elk on the Chopping Block for Trump’s Idaho Clearcuts
Cesar Chelala
Challenges of the Evolving Coronavirus Pandemic
Luciana Tellez-Chavez
This Year’s Forest Fire Season Could Be Even Deadlier
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Beijing Acts on Hong Kong
George Wuerthner
Saving the Lionhead Wilderness
Elliot Sperber
Holy Beaver