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Black-majority states are not progressive

Members of an American black nationalist organisation called the New Black Panthers. Credit: Getty

August 23, 2023 - 1:00pm

The New York Times writer Charles Blow has a proposition for black Americans: namely, that the great migration of the early 20th century must be reversed. Yesterday, in the same paper, fellow columnist Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote about the South’s sorority culture which, advertised through TikTok, displays “neo-antebellum white Southern culture” to the world. “Bama Rush”, the trending University of Alabama sorority, “is very, very white” and, for this as well as various other reasons, the “proper place for [it] is the past”.  

Perhaps Blow’s piece holds answers to Cottom’s “impulse to diversify Bama Rush”. He thinks that black Americans should leave the northern cities and move or return to the South to “reclaim” it. In doing this, he argues, black people will have the opportunity to build up political power in municipal and state governments, and in turn influence national politics to the benefit of the black community, namely in addressing systemic racism. 

In some sense Blow’s proposal is reminiscent of the short-lived Black Belt thesis of the 1930s floated by the Stalinist Communist Party, which defined black Americans in the South as an “oppressed nation” that had the right to self-determination. Some strands of that tendency sought to cut out an independent “New Republic of Afrika” from the union; others like Oscar Brown, as with Charles Blow now, wanted to create a black majority state under the auspices of American federalism and not secede from the Union.  

In any case, it’s a quixotic dead end that would backfire if actually implemented. African Americans don’t make up a large enough population in America to hold down sufficient state plurality to secure such a racial policy. While there is some reverse migration already happening, due to economic factors, turning it into a conscious racialist political project is a different matter, and only serves to further degrade American politics. More, it reveals how supposed liberals, the sort that religiously read the New York Times, can smuggle reactionary racialist ideas under the apparently progressive language of racial justice and empowerment. 

Blow’s proposition assumes that “black people” form an actual political constituency that speaks in one voice, when there are all sorts of fissures and cleavages that exist within “black politics”. To not recognise this is to have a meagre understanding of diversity. This might be politically beneficial for the black professional class, and those Adolph Reed has called “the guild of racial spokespeople”, the same segment that promotes a 1619 view of American history, but is not the same thing as being beneficial for black people in general.   

There are examples of black demographic power and the black political class governing at a city level in Detroit, Baltimore, Chicago and Washington DC. That this has barely improved conditions for the poorest black Americans reveals that social problems, whether poverty, education, health or crime, are not “racial” in character and that an increase in “black power” will not solve them.

There’s no evidence to presume that scaling this up to the state level would yield any better results for black Americans: at best, it would only really benefit the Democrats, to whom the black political class are wedded, in terms of Senate seats. And that is what matters to them ultimately. 

As Albert Murray once put it in his magnificent The Omni-Americans, US society is a “mulatto” and “irrevocably composite”. Even “for all their traditional antagonisms and obvious differences, the so-called black and so-called white people of the United States resemble nobody else in the world so much as they resemble each other.” 

The likes of Charles Blow would have us believe that white Americans and black Americans and all the other ethnic groups represent different ethnoses that are hermetically sealed from each other, when in fact they comprise the same demos: the American people. It’s about time this fact was taken seriously in American politics. 


Ralph Leonard is a British-Nigerian writer on international politics, religion, culture and humanism.

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Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago

Things would change if they elected a black president. White America isn’t ready to do that though.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Didn’t they try that?
Or doesn’t’ ‘he’ count?

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago

Trying a bit of satire. Not so good maybe.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Irony actually.

Paul Rodolf
Paul Rodolf
11 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I got you. Really funny if not sad. For a systematically racist country we’ve done a pretty crappy job keeping discriminated against groups out of the White House.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Rodolf

Name a country that isn’t “systematically racist”. As Mohammed Ali said, people like to be around people who are like themselves.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Rodolf

Name a country that isn’t “systematically racist”. As Mohammed Ali said, people like to be around people who are like themselves.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Irony actually.

Paul Rodolf
Paul Rodolf
11 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I got you. Really funny if not sad. For a systematically racist country we’ve done a pretty crappy job keeping discriminated against groups out of the White House.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
11 months ago

Obama wasn’t black enough, and yes, that absurd statement has been used to describe him and others.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
10 months ago

Or the black guy he’s married to?

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago

Trying a bit of satire. Not so good maybe.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
11 months ago

Obama wasn’t black enough, and yes, that absurd statement has been used to describe him and others.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
10 months ago

Or the black guy he’s married to?

Mônica
Mônica
11 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

“The so-called black and so-called white people of the United States resemble nobody else in the world so much as they resemble each other.”

This. I don’t know if Americans realize how alike they seem to be for the rest of us.

Last edited 11 months ago by Mônica
David Morley
David Morley
11 months ago
Reply to  Mônica

That’s something that has struck me too. There may be differences within the US (though I wonder if these are as big as class or even geographic differences) but to a foreigner they seem very similar and unmistakably American.

David Morley
David Morley
11 months ago
Reply to  Mônica

That’s something that has struck me too. There may be differences within the US (though I wonder if these are as big as class or even geographic differences) but to a foreigner they seem very similar and unmistakably American.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
11 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

He was half and half like the rest of the country. Or at least liberals pretend it is demographically, and certainly in terms of cultural significance.
It’s time to add the third major ethnic group, Hispanics, into the representational mix and have a DeSantis or Haley candidacy.

Cynthia W.
Cynthia W.
10 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

I think DeSantis and Haley are pretty okay, compared to the available alternatives, but it’s not clear to me what either of them has to do with Hispanics.

Cynthia W.
Cynthia W.
10 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

I think DeSantis and Haley are pretty okay, compared to the available alternatives, but it’s not clear to me what either of them has to do with Hispanics.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Didn’t they try that?
Or doesn’t’ ‘he’ count?

Mônica
Mônica
11 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

“The so-called black and so-called white people of the United States resemble nobody else in the world so much as they resemble each other.”

This. I don’t know if Americans realize how alike they seem to be for the rest of us.

Last edited 11 months ago by Mônica
Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
11 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

He was half and half like the rest of the country. Or at least liberals pretend it is demographically, and certainly in terms of cultural significance.
It’s time to add the third major ethnic group, Hispanics, into the representational mix and have a DeSantis or Haley candidacy.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago

Things would change if they elected a black president. White America isn’t ready to do that though.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
11 months ago

I never cease to be amazed at how much ‘systemic’ racism is needed, by anti-racists, to defeat racism, systemic or otherwise, and how little this is pointed out by those campaigning against racism !

Bill Carey
Bill Carey
10 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

See Vivek Ramaswamy on reverse racism is racism.

Bill Carey
Bill Carey
10 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

See Vivek Ramaswamy on reverse racism is racism.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
11 months ago

I never cease to be amazed at how much ‘systemic’ racism is needed, by anti-racists, to defeat racism, systemic or otherwise, and how little this is pointed out by those campaigning against racism !

Steve White
Steve White
11 months ago

Black Americans have always had a streak of anti-establishment, and yet we find that many white Americans are being red-pilled these days with that same level of distrust for the ruling-class institutions. I think the biggest fear of the ruling-class is a merger of all of the America people against them. Joe Biden even had his speech from hell where he threatened F16s and called about half the nation (those who don’t trust them) insurrectionists. They know, and they are afraid. 

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
11 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

This is very much correct. As oligarchs, they fear nothing so much as the people. They know Americans are angry. Their best and only hope is to have Americans direct that anger at one another, through pushing racial and regional divisions. They also presumably have military experts at the Pentagon explaining the cost and strategic problems of suppressing and occupying a state or region that tried to secede in the modern era. Occupying the south after the civil war was expensive, so much so that Reconstruction was abandoned just a little over ten years after the war ended, and war now is not fought in the same way it was then. Guerilla warfare, terrorism, IED’s, and automatic weapons were not a thing then. Military experts surely know America has more and better guns per capita than Afghanistan, Iraq, or any of the other nations where we’ve tried and failed to ‘spread democracy’ over the past few decades. I can’t imagine an attempt to occupy a seceding region or state would go much better. Add to that the fact that internal warfare is exponentially more expensive than external warfare because all the damage is inflicted not on a foreign enemy, but on one’s own resources, industry, and people. And all that assumes the military remains intact. The first civil war witnessed mass defections as many southerners sided with their state. It might well happen again, and then a weakened military has to fight elements of itself. Further, America still has other resources that would act as a reservoir of military assets in a worst case scenario. There are still many local militia groups, many of whom are composed of ex-military personnel. American police are highly armed and militarized, and firmly under state and local control. I can’t imagine many more difficult military scenarios than an invasion of part of the US. Like an invasion of Russia, no sane person would or should attempt it. I’ve always felt Biden had probably just come from hearing some Pentagon task force’s bleak assessment of what a real insurrection would look like and cost when he made that particular angry old man rant.

Last edited 11 months ago by Steve Jolly
Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

The womanly chairman of the joint US chiefs of staff is on record staying “white nationalism” is the biggest threat to the nation.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
10 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

This surprises me not at all. The people at the Pentagon are a lot of things, but ‘stupid’ is not one of them. I’m sure the military people are trying to tell the rest of the elite class and the swamp not to push so far you trigger an actual rebellion/secession scenario, because once it goes that far, there’s no good ending. Even if the military could win it, and it possibly could depending on the exact conditions, the political, economic, and social cost of doing so would make Iraq look like a leisurely stroll in the garden.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
10 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

This surprises me not at all. The people at the Pentagon are a lot of things, but ‘stupid’ is not one of them. I’m sure the military people are trying to tell the rest of the elite class and the swamp not to push so far you trigger an actual rebellion/secession scenario, because once it goes that far, there’s no good ending. Even if the military could win it, and it possibly could depending on the exact conditions, the political, economic, and social cost of doing so would make Iraq look like a leisurely stroll in the garden.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

The womanly chairman of the joint US chiefs of staff is on record staying “white nationalism” is the biggest threat to the nation.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
11 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

This is very much correct. As oligarchs, they fear nothing so much as the people. They know Americans are angry. Their best and only hope is to have Americans direct that anger at one another, through pushing racial and regional divisions. They also presumably have military experts at the Pentagon explaining the cost and strategic problems of suppressing and occupying a state or region that tried to secede in the modern era. Occupying the south after the civil war was expensive, so much so that Reconstruction was abandoned just a little over ten years after the war ended, and war now is not fought in the same way it was then. Guerilla warfare, terrorism, IED’s, and automatic weapons were not a thing then. Military experts surely know America has more and better guns per capita than Afghanistan, Iraq, or any of the other nations where we’ve tried and failed to ‘spread democracy’ over the past few decades. I can’t imagine an attempt to occupy a seceding region or state would go much better. Add to that the fact that internal warfare is exponentially more expensive than external warfare because all the damage is inflicted not on a foreign enemy, but on one’s own resources, industry, and people. And all that assumes the military remains intact. The first civil war witnessed mass defections as many southerners sided with their state. It might well happen again, and then a weakened military has to fight elements of itself. Further, America still has other resources that would act as a reservoir of military assets in a worst case scenario. There are still many local militia groups, many of whom are composed of ex-military personnel. American police are highly armed and militarized, and firmly under state and local control. I can’t imagine many more difficult military scenarios than an invasion of part of the US. Like an invasion of Russia, no sane person would or should attempt it. I’ve always felt Biden had probably just come from hearing some Pentagon task force’s bleak assessment of what a real insurrection would look like and cost when he made that particular angry old man rant.

Last edited 11 months ago by Steve Jolly
Steve White
Steve White
11 months ago

Black Americans have always had a streak of anti-establishment, and yet we find that many white Americans are being red-pilled these days with that same level of distrust for the ruling-class institutions. I think the biggest fear of the ruling-class is a merger of all of the America people against them. Joe Biden even had his speech from hell where he threatened F16s and called about half the nation (those who don’t trust them) insurrectionists. They know, and they are afraid. 

R Wright
R Wright
11 months ago

Calling for massive demographic change for the purposes of political power sounds suspiciously similar to a certain idea labelled by the ADL as a conspiracy theory.

R Wright
R Wright
11 months ago

Calling for massive demographic change for the purposes of political power sounds suspiciously similar to a certain idea labelled by the ADL as a conspiracy theory.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
10 months ago

I thoroughly disagree. Since the woke claim that every Black failure is whitey’s fault, the thing to do is designate one state as Negrotopia, encourage all woke/BLM types to move there, where Blacks will control *everything*, and let them build their White-free utopia — let’s run the experiment.
Anyone complaining about the Systemic Racism under which they suffer, will simply be invited to move to Negrotopia where there are no Whites to Oppress them (OK, I suppose White Allies will want to move there too, but they will not have voting rights, nor be permitted to run for public office.) Lori Lightfoot might be the first governor.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
10 months ago

I thoroughly disagree. Since the woke claim that every Black failure is whitey’s fault, the thing to do is designate one state as Negrotopia, encourage all woke/BLM types to move there, where Blacks will control *everything*, and let them build their White-free utopia — let’s run the experiment.
Anyone complaining about the Systemic Racism under which they suffer, will simply be invited to move to Negrotopia where there are no Whites to Oppress them (OK, I suppose White Allies will want to move there too, but they will not have voting rights, nor be permitted to run for public office.) Lori Lightfoot might be the first governor.

Chipoko
Chipoko
10 months ago

People like Blow are as racist as those they vilify for being so! Racism is a pernicious evil, no matter who perpetrates this warped worldview.

Chipoko
Chipoko
10 months ago

People like Blow are as racist as those they vilify for being so! Racism is a pernicious evil, no matter who perpetrates this warped worldview.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
11 months ago

Mr Blow should be encouraged to begin the relocation, but I suspect he likes New York a little too much.

The ‘Bama Rush’ article is an exercise in barely disguised female envy.

Last edited 11 months ago by Derek Smith
Derek Smith
Derek Smith
11 months ago

Mr Blow should be encouraged to begin the relocation, but I suspect he likes New York a little too much.

The ‘Bama Rush’ article is an exercise in barely disguised female envy.

Last edited 11 months ago by Derek Smith
Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
10 months ago

If that was taken seriously, people in the big blue cities would stop electing black mayors, who just make things worse.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
10 months ago

If that was taken seriously, people in the big blue cities would stop electing black mayors, who just make things worse.

Valerie Taplin
Valerie Taplin
10 months ago

Read Thomas Sowell – very relevant.

Valerie Taplin
Valerie Taplin
10 months ago

Read Thomas Sowell – very relevant.