Watkins Unchained: An Intellectual Critique
By Dr. Eugene Stovall
Oakland, California January 21, 2014
There is no doubt that Boyce Watkins offers insightful issues in his Your Black World internet publication. I especially like the material presented by one of his contributors, Yvette Carnell. However Watkins’ article, “How to Know the Difference Between a Black Man and a N*gger” is not only insulting and anti-intellectual but it is neither accurate nor relevant. By resorting to bombastic name-calling this article obscures the issues that otherwise might lead to an important and useful discussion. Doubtless, there is a real need to know why black people behave as they do, but Boyce Watkins article adds nothing to that knowledge. He says:
“The key is that you are fully indoctrinated into every type of brainwashing that the white man has made available to you. You can get n*gger-training from your friends, your family or even your local radio station. America’s Army of N*ggers is growing daily, and we’re always looking for a few good coons.
… it is time that we seek … black men out and convert them into something more stereotypical. So, if you are wondering what a black man looks like when he has not yet been transformed into a n*gger, here are some differences you’ll want to keep in mind…”
We are aware that the black community is plagued by serious pathologies___ most caused by the fact we are an oppressed minority residing in a police state. As a result, all suggestions that help us find our way are welcome. However the suggestions should be positive and certainly more than what Boyce offers. What is needed is a useful tool of differentiating between the various segments of black people. Such a tool would be especially helpful to evaluate the motivations of our leaders and qualifications of our politicians. Several black intellectuals have offered important intellectual tools. For example, in his book, The Negro In United States, E. Franklin Frazier differentiates black people into the:
“…the shiftless and vicious element which form about 10 percent of the Negro community;
… the rank and file, the common people, comprising 70 per cent of the entire Negro population who derive a living from domestic and personal service and common labor;
… the middle class which formed approximately 18 per cent of the Negro population including waiters, Pullman porters, janitors and artisans [as well as] professional people and proprietors of small businesses [who] are generally thrifty and own homes …
… [and] the small upper class --- 2 percent of the Negro population --- the majority of whom are light complexioned and live in superior residential districts and have white neighbors.”
In his book, The Philadelphia Negro, the highly respected W.E.DuBois says that a tool for differentiating between classes is desired by the Negroes because, “Nothing more exasperates the better class of Negroes than this tendency to ignore utterly their existence.” Furthermore, DuBois says, “the word Negro carries most Philadelphians’ minds to the alleys of the Fifth Ward or the police courts.” This is why DuBois divides Negroes into the following grades:
Grade 1: Families of undoubted respectability earning sufficient income to live well …
Grade 2: The respectable working-class [living] in comfortable circumstances with a good home and having steady remunerative work…
Grade 3: The poor, but honest persons who do not always earn enough to have the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter …
Grade 4: The lowest class of criminals, prostitutes and loafers.
Other black intellectuals have sought to differentiate the black community, but none, no matter their ideology, has been so insulting as to describe us as either blacks or n*ggers. Neither of these terms are even exclusive categories for the purpose of intellectual analysis. They are merely descriptors or attributes ___ one is a pejorative attribute; the other is an attribute of preference. But as any intellectual can tell you, these attributes are overlapping, i.e. would could be both black and a n*gger. On the other hand, an African-American could be neither black nor a n*gger. I would have thought that as a doctor of philosophy, Boyce Watkins would be familiar with the basic tools of inquiry and analysis necessary for critical thinking.
“It is time that we seek black men out,” Watkins says.
Who is this ‘we’ that Watkins is speaking for? Is it some group of self proclaimed leaders that wishes to speak for the black community ___ some elitist group of leaders who considers themselves neither black nor n*ggers, but, somehow, superior to both. Is Boyce Watkins’ article some crude attempt to introduce a ‘we’ vs ‘they’ concept of the black community ___ a concept that has intrigued philosophers from Martin Buber to F.C.S. Schiller. If so, he misses the mark.
Yet, notwithstanding Boyce Watkins’ failed attempt, there is a real need for us to differentiate between the ‘we’ and ‘they’ within the black community. The most common instance can be seen when black Republicans attempt to differentiate themselves from black Democrats. Another instance is when we attempt to understand the bitter and violent rivalry between the Black Panther Party and Ron Karenga’s United Slaves [US]. For that matter, such a differentiation tool would be helpful in understanding the gang war between the Crips and the Bloods, a gang war that claimed the lives of thousands of young black men and women from LA to New York City and has resulted in what Michele Alexander calls the “new Jim Crow”, the massive, ongoing incarceration of blacks in America. When it is necessary for some of us to distance ourselves from a Ward Connerly or a Clarence Thomas, we need some type of intellectual tool, since no self respecting black person would consider either as a part of ‘us’. Some time ago I actually devised such a tool for my own use. So it is that I offer the following as one method of differentiating between those who are objectively considered biological and legal members of the black community:
Assimilationists: These are black people who believe that they have melted into the dominant white culture and adopt both racism and fascism as their own personal behavioral norms. This group is composed primarily, but not exclusively, of people of mixed parentage and speaks of American society as having entered into a post-civil rights period. When necessary, they prefer being identified as persons of color rather than as blacks, African-Americans or any other common racial term. Most often, however, they vigorously deny identification with or membership in any racial group. Assimationists prefer the company of whites, generally engage in interracial relationships and display masochistic personality traits. Whites prefer appointing assimilationists to the highest academic, corporate and government posts.
Accomodationists: These are black people who adopt white cultural values in addition to white political and economic norms. Their success is found in their ability to ‘code switch’. Accomodationists use their connections to dominant culture to enhance their own personal self-esteem and economic success. Accomodationists often belong to successful families that are connected to established religious, social and fraternal institutions within the black community. They display a fatalistic personal psychology believing that the relative positions between whites and blacks in America will always remain fixed and immutable. Accomadationists do not advocate social or political change; they have a vested interest in the status quo. Accomodationists are the personal attendants to the rich and powerful, i.e., cooks, butlers, chauffeurs and valets. They are also career military officers and top non-coms. Accomadationists are essential to the criminal justice system serving as policemen, prison guards, attorneys and judges. As athletes, actors, singers, dancers and musicians, they are an important segment of the entertainment industry. Finally, accomadationists absorb all of the minority positions available in the various television, cable, internet and print media outlets.
Integrationists: These are black people who accept the economic and political values of the white society while attempting to maintain their own separate social and cultural identity. Integrationists actively pursue social and civil rights causes and are members of political and activist groups. Less capable of “code switching”, they are the most ardent advocates of ‘afro-centrism’. Nonetheless integrationists are teachers, doctors and lawyers. However, rather than advancing through professional development and subject matter expertise, integrationists continuously pressure institutions within the dominant culture to meet their specific demands for diversity and affirmative action programs that advance their own individual careers.
Integrationists are driven by the psychology of individualism and willingly bargain away group values for personal gain. These people are most likely to make moral appeals based upon religious teachings. Preachers, turned civil rights leaders, turned politicians, turned celebrities are some of the most successful integrationists.
Nationalists: These are black people who adopt an idealized set of values positing an independent social and cultural existence while accepting the reality of economic and political oppression. Nationalists know that the “game” is fixed and that the fundamental concepts of justice and fair play are nonexistent for black people in America. Nationalists attempt to forge cross-cultural linkages with other oppressed minorities in their economic and political activities while maintaining separate cultural and social values. A number of pseudo nationalist organizations offer a refuge to this group of black people. However, these organizations usually only offer false hopes and have hidden agendas. One such organization was the tragic People’s Temple, a pseudo-nationalist organization founded by the ku klux klansman, Jim Jones. Some claim that Marcus Garvey’s UNIA was pseudo-nationalistic. The successful nationalist resorts to the psychology of a refugee or of an expatriate … and never trusts anyone.
Deviants: These are individuals who adopt ‘street’ or outlaw values. Black deviants do not behave according to any set of personal values or moral codes. Neither do black cultural norms nor intellectual achievement influence a deviant’s behavior. Black deviants are denizens of the poorest sections of the community and live marginalized, day-to-day existences. The only order that most deviants know is institutional order. The more successful deviants are gangsters who behave according to their gang’s code. Gang deviants are admitted into membership only after passing through an initiation ritual that often involves serious criminal activity. However, since all the gangs are controlled by the criminal justice system, black gang members, unlike gangsters in other races, have zero chance for survival or success. The psychology of the black social deviant is similar to what is found in submerged groups all around the world ____ tribalism and desperation.
Boyce Watkins has built Your Black News into an important and influential media organ. But his importance is all the more reason to criticize his article, “How to Know the Difference Between a Black Man and a N*gger” as being crude, anti-intellectual and lacking the depth of thought that this subject deserves. Boyce Watkins should be careful writing articles like this because it calls into question his own academic credentials.