The dangers of binary politics for the African-American community

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon, III

“You can only be destroyed by believing that you really are what the White world calls a nigger…This innocent country set you down in a ghetto in which, in fact, it intended that you should perish…The limits of your ambition were, thus, expected to be set forever. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity…that you were a worthless human being…not expected to aspire to excellence…expected to make peace with mediocrity.” — James Baldwin My Dungeon Shook – 1963

America is recklessly muddling its way through perilous times. The pandemic called Covid-19 is being mismanaged by an administration that ignores science. Trump lied to the nation, falsely asserting that major insurance companies will cover treatment for Covid-19 free of charge. He then contradicted health experts with his “hunch” that the death rate was lower than WHO estimates, possibly down to a “fraction of 1 percent”. He also believes, “…we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better, just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work, some of them go to work…”

Contrary to Trump’s narrative that America’s economy is, “…the envy of the world. Perhaps the greatest economy we’ve had in the history of our country”, reality tells a much different story. According to political economist Dr. Jack Rasmus, after Trump’s March 11 address to the nation, “The Dow Jones stock futures market immediately went into a tailspin, falling 1250 points…That has nearly wiped out all of Trump’s much vaunted stock market gains since he came into office.”

On the international front, Trump’s “Deal of the Century”, the Middle East peace plan that was supposed to be three years in the making has proven to be a total fraud. Similarly, his “peace deal” in Afghanistan was signed by the U.S. and the Taliban in February but the Afghans and Taliban have not signed it. You can’t have peace unless the warring factions (Afghans and Taliban) agree. This from the man who claims to understand the “art of the deal”? That’s not a peace deal; that’s a big problem.

As America muddles its way through these perilous times, too many in the African-American community appear to be more confused than ever. We have traded our interests in for “electability” and “anybody but Trump.”  Former NAACP Board Chair Julian Bond told us that we have no permanent friends, and no permanent enemies, just permanent interests. Malcolm X called them permanent agendas.

By failing to develop, understand and articulate our permanent interests/agendas, we fall victim to the problem of binary politics, the simplistic either-or scenario. Yes, this is a two-party system, but failing to have an afro-diasporic weltenschung or world view continuously leaves us with the simplistic and deadly choices of the status quo, “do you want lead in your drinking water or mercury?…do you want arsenic with your grits, Baby or do you want mamma to sprinkle a bit of strychnine on them for you?” Having an afro-diasporic weltenschung does not mean that we are a monolith. It recognizes that we share a common history, oppressor and we should have common issues and values.

This rant of “anybody but Trump” is a perfect example of the dangers of binary politics, especially for the African-American community. Please don’t get this twisted. Yes, Trump is disgustingly ignorant, vile, gauche, racist and an admitted sexual predator. However, following the simplistic narrative of “anybody but Trump” without an afro-diasporic weltenschung as the basis of your analysis will not ipso facto lead you to a better alternative. As Sportin’ Life say’s in Porgy & Bess “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”

We’ve been told by some in leadership positions that “we know Joe (Biden) and Joe knows us”, “He is a public servant who has always worked for the best of who we are as a nation and we need that right now,” and “The answer to hatred and division is to reignite our spirit of common purpose…He’ll restore honor to the Oval Office and tackle our most pressing challenges.”

Yes, we know Joe; he has quite a long record. His record on bussing, the crime bill, Ms. Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas, plagiarism and other issues is very clear. I don’t write this to say that Joe Biden is the wrong choice. I write this to say that if your analysis is solely based on “electability” or “anybody but Trump” your analysis is shallow. In fact, it’s not even analysis it’s reactionary. The African American community can ill afford reactionary politics. It’s not about the politics of personality; it’s about the politics of policy.

“Anybody but Trump” ignores the fact as a US President, Trump is a functionary of the US government. His position on Venezuela is the same as previous administrations’. Both Democrat and Republican administrations have had policies that included US interference in other Central and South American countries. Trump’s position on tax cuts and cuts to social programs builds upon tax policy and social policy cuts from previous administrations. Remember “ending welfare as we know it” under Clinton and Obama’s failed “Grand Bargain”?

Again, I did not write this to say that Joe Biden is the wrong choice. I’m merely asking what do we get for our loyalty; more hope without substantive and systemic change? The issues that plague America are systemic. Racism in America is organic. What do we get for our endorsements? An afro-diasporic weltenschung is essential to developing the platform that serves as a baseline for any political candidate that seeks the African American vote. Any candidate seeking our support must commit to supporting a set of clear platform planks and policy initiatives that support the community. The 1972 Gary Declaration from the National Black Political Convention is the place to start.

Yes, Trump needs to go, but so does the status quo. Dr. William A. Darity, Jr. wrote in How Barack Obama Failed Black Americans, “…the relative economic position on virtually all indicators, including the racial unemployment rate gap, has not improved (for African Americans) since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” A return to the status quo for the African American community is unacceptable.

Samuel Yette told us in The Choice that this is a question of survival. In the minds of the elites, African Americans are “obsolete people…Black Americans have outlived their usefulness…The wood is all hewn, the water all drawn, the cotton all picked…and only a few shoes remain to be shined.”

By settling for the status quo through the willful ignorance of supporting a candidate that has a proven track record on issues that are not in the best interest of the African American community, are we, as Baldwin warned, making peace with mediocrity?

Without substantive systemic change, are we believing that we really are what the White world calls a nigger? This should never become our reality.

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Leon,” on SiriusXM Satellite radio channel 126. Go to or email: and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at © 2020 InfoWave Communications, 

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