Malcolm X’s ideas of internal colonization, black communal self-determination, skepticism toward the black elite and the Democratic Party, and racially autonomous political organizations influenced a generation of black activists and have had a significant impact on the contemporary political culture of African Americans. As Manning Marable remarked, ‘Dead at the age of 39, Malcolm quickly became the fountainhead of the modern renaissance of black nationalism in the late 1960s.’ Indeed, shortly after his assassination in 1965, many of Malcolm X’s ideas were developed and promoted by several black leaders under the slogan ‘Black Power,’ a phrase popularized by Stokely Carmichael.”—Tommie Shelby.
With analytical acuity, Shelby proceeds to examine the “philosophical content and social-theoretic underpinnings” of Black Power nationalism so as to ascertain its contributions to, and thus its contemporary relevance for, a “pragmatic black solidarity” in which “there must be room…for disagreement over the precise content of political action and policy initiatives.” On this account, neither black self-determination nor black nationalism preclude the extension of “solidarity to other racially stigmatized groups and even to committed nonracist whites.” And the ideal of black self-determination, “at least with respect to blacks in America, requires a sharply delimited trans-institutional and decentralized form of black political solidarity.” Shelby insists that “black political solidarity must be noncorporatist,” meaning “[n]o black party, association, or institution can legitimately claim to speak for black people as a whole. Instead, there should be multiple and independent black organizations and advocacy groups that take up particular issues that affect black interests.” This political solidarity nonetheless has principled grounding insofar as it entails joint commitment to particular values and goals, “understood as the faithful adherence to certain political principles, including antiracism, equal educational and employment opportunity, and tolerance for group differences and individuality, and to emancipatory goals, such as achieving substantial racial equality—especially in employment, education, and wealth—and ending ghetto poverty.” Finally, pragmatic black nationalism “is a form of black solidarity that aims, ultimately, to transcend itself.” Please see Shelby’s We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity (2005).
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- Karim, Imam Benjamin, ed. The End of White World Supremacy: Four Speeches by Malcolm X. New York: Merlin House/Monthly Review Press, 1971.
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- Shelby, Tommie. We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005.
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