Reprint by Permission from Haiti Observateur
The best way to keep control of a group of people is to maintain division within their community, to keep them fighting among themselves. Thus, they cannot come together to fight a common enemy. A serious and flown debate has taken root in the Black community in the United States and threatens to undermine its ability to vote as a block. This movement seeks to redefine what it is to be a Black American, whether Black identity should be defined by descendants of slavery or by African ancestry. In other words, who is a true Black American?
At the center of this debate is the social movement referred to as “ADOS” (American Descendants of Slavery). Founded in 2016, ADOS is a political and social movement the purpose of which is to advocate for reparations to Black people whose ancestors were enslaved in the United States. The group argues that reparations for slavery is economically and morally justified, and I agree.
Not new, the idea of reparations is very controversial. People have been discussing such possibility since 1672. What makes ADOS dangerous, however, is not its advocacy for reparations but its emphasis on distinguishing Black American descendants of slaves from Black immigrants, a misguided focus that essentially pits Black Americans with ancestors that were enslaved against Black immigrants, something that could only benefit the Republican party whose operatives have been very supportive of the founders of ADOS.
Proponents of ADOS argue about the economic and educational differences between the two groups. Black immigrants in general are better educated and have higher median income than Black Americans of slave ancestry. While the fight for social and economic justice for Black Americans is commendable, the rhetoric used to advance the agenda is not only anti-Black immigrants but has the potential to divide the Black community into native born Blacks and those who were born elsewhere. Opponents characterize ADOS as having harmful anti-Black policies and contend that its leaders do not believe that Black Americans can or should have any connection with Africa.
The harmful ADOS rhetoric was repeated last Friday (October 16) by rapper Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson) in an interview on CNN with Chris Cuomo. As it is, Ice Cube upset a lot of people by meeting with the Trump campaign to discuss what he calls “Contract with Black America.” During the interview, Ice Cube denied that he is working with the Trump campaign, or any campaign for that matter. He told Cuomo that he came up with a plan for “Black Americans, descendent of slaves,” not “Black immigrants.” The Biden campaign had called him first to say, “Let’s discuss the plan after the election.” However, unlike the Biden campaign, the Trump campaign “wanted to discuss the plan” with him now. So, he did.
Despite his denial about working with Trump, Ice Cube’s divisive rhetoric is troubling for several reasons: First, it mirrors the kinds of divisive rhetoric for which Trump is known. Second, this pitting of one Black group against another can only benefit the real enemy. Third, lce Cube, who is a well-known rapper with millions of followers on social media, could influence certain voters. It is not a secret that Republicans would love nothing more than to suppress the Black vote, if not, at least dilute it through division.
Supporters of ADOS blame Black immigrants for economic and educational failure of Black Americans of slave ancestry, not unlike poor uneducated White men who tend to blame successful Black Americans, both men and women, for their own failure. This strategy of divide and conquer elicits politics of grievances, targeting vulnerable communities as scapegoats, instead of confronting the culprits for the real economic injustices. It has been very effective in the past and Republicans hope that this time around, that strategy may help re-elect Donald Trump.
We should note also that the Trump camp has gone the extra mile to woo Black Americans away from the Democrats. Other than Ice Cube, another rapper, Kanye West, was encouraged by the Trump folks to declare his candidacy for president, something he did on the 4th of July when he missed the date for such registration in several states. He fully knows he’s not going anywhere, but he can try to dissuade several Blacks from voting the Democratic ticket. Moreover, he was dispatched to Haiti three weeks ago to be photographed with Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in a last-minute effort by Trump to siphon away some of the vote of Haitian Americans from Joe Biden, especially in Florida. And how can one forget Candace Owens with her Brexit movement (Blacks exiting the Democrat plantation) launched in 2017. The Conzés, or traitors to the cause, as the Haitians say, are everywhere.
*The writer can be reached at [email protected]