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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic


On October 22, 1969, at Long Island University, SNCC chairman H. Rap Brown gave a short lecture to students in which he stated, “To survive we (black people) must create politics that are relevant to our lifestyle.” To have socioeconomic freedom in America means that the ideals of black people must be represented properly. Attempts at black representation have taken shape as political movements but have all failed or have been victims of American intervention. The reason for such is failure is the makeup of said political movements, and how all of them follow the same pattern. A leader rises to prominence becoming influential in the struggle, the leader is then suppressed or assassinated, and as a result, the movement altogether proceeds to collapse or weaken. The B.P.P (Black Panther Party) being a prime example of how such blows to a movement’s leadership can cause dissolution. There you find the problem within the problem, which is the concept of the leader, or the individual. It is the obsession for sociopolitical practices to obsess over the idea of guidance being essential to make the movement work, or in other words, it is the obsession of the black individualism. This focus on identifying with an individual than being a collective that identifies with a concept makes it easier for America to destroy black political movements. Black individualism is an obsolete concept to the path of socioeconomic independence and potential black political movements.

Black individualism as a concept can find its roots at any point in time. You can find it during the period of reconstruction, where for the first time, there was a focus on breaking the limitations of the black individual. The definition of success had changed entirely, with freedmen looking to purchase land and make a new life for themselves. However large this change was you still had sharecroppers who were glorified slaves who had a different view of what success was. Black people were shifting the social ladder, while others were being held back by a white institution that still relied on pseudo-slave labor. You had a division of the black class where poorer blacks were resented and the elites were role models for the potential of what freedmen could be. You can look at the time of the Civil Rights movement, in which black activists rose in importance due to the advent of modern media. An example of some household names being Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hammer, and Malcolm X. All three individuals received much more attention than the movement they were associated with. You had the minority romanticizing the idea of the black savior, trying to see what leader would lead them to legislation passed for the marginalized. You had people who were more focused on who would lead these movements than what the movement stood for. In the most recent times, you can identify black individualism by looking at the growing division of the black class at the turn of the 21st century. You have a far greater split in black collective thought than ever, with the lack of an obvious common goal. Rich black conservatives will have ideologies on the other side of the political spectrum than poorer black people, despite both still being minorities America will continue to exploit and disenfranchise where able. In all the time frames given, the idea of a collective has been overshadowed by the focus of the individual in all things. In politics, in socioeconomic practice, and class ideology. Black individualism can be varied in how it presents itself, but it will always result in disunity.

Black individualism is seen as something positive for the black community because of its relation to a skewered version of capitalism. Capitalism in America prioritizes the individual’s capital, wealth, and worth by how they can accumulate profit. From this mix of a black individual highlighting their capital and ability to garner wealth, you get black capitalism. Black capitalism is the ugly love child of American ideology and black individualism and it is often praised because you have someone who is part of the minority or marginalized moving up the social ladder. By this logic, the black individual is encouraged to think and work for themselves if they are to have a life worth living in contemporary society. The black individual is told to keep working to get ahead or to acquire financial stability. This ideology is built upon black labor on the promise that if the black individual continues to work, they will thrive in America. This is a lie, and a perspective people will use to show the benefits of adopting black individualism. The truth is that beneficiaries of black individualism, and by extension black capitalism, are seldom black themselves. Black individualism is a product of capitalism, which to thrive, needs a labor force made up of a lower and working-class that can be exploited and marginalized. Black people and other minorities make up an exceptionally large portion of the working and lower class, which means that black individualism as a concept is self-defeating and contradicts the status as minority black people hold in America. To adopt the goal of accumulating wealth as a black individual to move up is to adopt the goal of further restricting the black sociopolitical movement. As stated earlier, black capitalism relies on the individual to gather wealth and this gives off the illusion of collective class progression. This serves nobody but the individual who is further contributing to a system that relies upon the oppression of the people below them. The problem is the individual thinking that their rise the social ladder is benefitting the black community, but once again, it is only benefitting the system that thrives off the labor of those who are not the elites. The other perspective that needs to be taken on this matter, is that we need a sociopolitical alternative to reach black socioeconomic independence. This alternative must be found in black people working together as a collective, with the only purpose of wealth accumulation being the advancement of black people within America. The solution is black people learning to identify with the concept of revolutionary nationalism and rejecting black individualism. To think together to push one idea is the only way to effectively utilize black wealth that benefits the black community, rather than traditional white American values of wealth. Revolutionary nationalism is the only system of thought that allows for the growth of a collective instead of the individual.

Many biases associated with the love of black individualism are because America has placed an immense focus on money. It is the unequal distribution of wealth that leads the black individual into thinking wealth is necessary, and that it will free them from the shackles of American inequity. Black celebrities that have reached such levels of wealth as Kayne West, Jay-Z, or Lebron James are very, very few. It is a combination of the bandwagon and anecdotal fallacy. Taking the success stories of a handful of black individuals and convincing black people that they are not working hard enough, and that they must push themselves harder if they are to mean anything to America. This is incredibly harmful, as it ignores the systemic influence white America has over the minority and marginalized. It inspires black individuals to work only for themselves, ignoring the system built against them, in hopes of becoming rich. The reason for accumulating wealth is once again rooted in the fact that it is exactly what America pushes. The thought that the labor of the lower-class individual is enough to move up the social ladder, but for most of these lower-class constituents, their labor only serves to benefit the already wealthy. Black individualism is so flawed because it prioritizes the success of the individual in any situation over the benefit of the collective.

Black people cannot afford to be individuals in America. We cannot afford to be selfish, as a success for one of us means nothing in the sea of disenfranchised black people. In going forward, we must learn to fight against the American ideal of having a leader. Political and socioeconomic movements will fare much better when we learn to identify with an ideology more than an individual. White people exist to preserve the ideas of the American majority, so it is only right for black people to find a way to unite under one idea. Black individualism relies on the individual doing their own thing, but you cannot do your own thing if your thing is not the right thing.


Submitted: February 06, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Arduna. All rights reserved.

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