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Forty years later: reflections on the writing of Black Awakening in Capitalist America.

I WANT TO EXPRESS my appreciation to Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Ramon Grosfoguel and the Ethnic Studies and African American Studies departments for organizing and hosting this event today. I thank you all for coming out, and I especially thank our panelists who have been here today. It's really been an exceptional day of presentations and thought and reflection, and I really feel that we're creating something here, that this will continue.

This is also the fortieth anniversary of my first encounter with UC Berkeley. I was a reporter then with the left-wing Guardian newspaper published in New York (not the Bay Guardian). I was living in New York and moved to San Francisco to run the Bay Area bureau. I was covering the Black Panthers, the antiwar movement, and the student movement. I came to the campus to cover the Third World student strike.

A big demonstration was supposed to take place and I planned to report on it. I walked up Telegraph Ave., and onto the campus at Sproul Plaza. I expected to see hundreds, if not thousands, of students demonstrating. But there was nobody on the Plaza. I thought I had somehow missed the demonstration.

Looking around for someone to ask what had happened I saw a figure walking across the plaza. When this person noticed me he started to run toward me. I was so surprised that at first I didn't move. Too late, I realized that the person was one of the infamous deputy sheriffs who had been ordered onto campus to crush the student protests. Before I knew it the deputy sheriff ran up and whacked me with his night-stick, knocking my notebook out of my hand but he didn't stop running. He ran toward a group of students who had appeared nearby. I was just a target of opportunity along the way. As I turned around to pick up my notebook I saw a phalanx of deputy sheriffs running in my direction toward the students. All of the deputy sheriffs had batons ready to beat the students, and presumably me. "Damn! I'd better run and get the hell out of here as fast as I can," I thought. I ran back to Bancroft and down Telegraph looking for a door to duck into to escape the deputies. The open door I found was at Blake's Bar & Grill where I hastily retreated. Catching my breath I decided to have a beer and contemplate the situation.

What I realized was that I had just had a taste of an experience that the students were having daily: being attacked and battered by brutal deputy sheriffs. This incident was an example of the determination of the authorities to put down protests by force. I had seen this in the strike at San Francisco State, and earlier in the civil rights movement and the antiwar movement. Liberals and conservatives alike had no qualms about using the full police power of the state in attempts to crush legitimate protests.

Fortunately, the students prevailed, and the movement gained some of its objectives, including establishment of Ethnic Studies. Never would I have thought that forty years later I would be sitting here less than a hundred yards from where that incident occurred, and that we would be reflecting on "Black Awakening in Capitalist America: Forty Years Later."

Genesis of Black Awakening

BLACK AWAKENING IN CAPITALIST AMERICA is a book that emerged out of the social and political environments of its time, the late 1960s. It was not a book I had consciously planned to write. Rather it grew from a set of experiences that pointed me in a direction that would lead to this book. Which is to say that Black Awakening was as much a product of my own lived experiences and my attempts to analyze those experiences as they were happening as it was the product of research and scholarly study. My involvement in the Civil Rights, Black Power, and antiwar movements provided a wealth experiential "data," and working as a journalist gave me the opportunity to conduct more formal research, as well as to reflect upon and analyze my experiences and research data.

The book was written in a relatively short span, about four months. That was possible only because I had spent the previous two years researching and writing on the topics that would form the subject matter of the book. At the Guardian in 1968 I wrote a series of articles that were later published as a pamphlet entitled, "Dialectics of Black Power." The series was a first attempt at thinking about Black Power, internal colonialism, and the role of government and private foundations like the Ford Foundation.

I would say the general importance of the book is that it named, conceptualized, and theorized a hegemonic social process that had and continues to have great consequences for the plight of black and other communities of color in the US, and globally. I am referring, of course, to the idea of internal neo-colonialism, which was an extension of the concept of internal or domestic colonialism. Black Awakening offers a useful theoretical analysis of racialized structural subordination, with class-based black solidarity and anti-racist/anti-colonial global solidarities posited as potential agencies for progressive social change.

THE CONCEPT of the black community as a type of internal or domestic colony in America was widely discussed in the Black Power movement. The argument was that the black community was politically, economically, and militarily subjugated to white America, much as colonies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America were colonially subjugated and under the direct control of European powers. Colonies need not be external, they could also be internal, like Indian reservations or the urban ghettos inhabited by African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans. What was critical was the colonial relationship and its structures of domination and subordination.

This colonial relationship was especially apparent in the decades before pressure from the Civil Rights movement pushed the government to begin dismantling institutional Jim Crow segregation. African Americans lived in segregated communities that were spatially separated from the white world. Black children attended segregated schools. Black people were disfranchised in the South and political power in the hands of whites. Economically, black communities were chiefly a source of cheap agricultural and unskilled industrial labor for white-owned farms, factories and businesses. Blacks were under the control of a criminal justice system in which they had no say.

This was certainly true of the black community in Atlanta, GA, where I grew up in the 1940s and 50s. At that time Atlanta had a total population of 300,000, of which 100,000 were African Americans. This was a big internal colony. It was so large that, ironically, growing up as a child within it, I had no idea (in the pre-TV era) that there was a white world beyond our community. To me, the black community was the world and I thought that the world looked like my community. It was a familiar and safe place. I would learn the truth as I grew older.

MY FIRST AWAKENING came in 1955 with the brutal murder of Emmett Till. Till at age fourteen was only one year older than me and his murder was incomprehensible and terrifying. At the time I had a Jet magazine delivery route. When Emmett Till was assassinated, Jet published a spread of uncensored photographs of his horribly mutilated body, exposing the inhuman deeds of the white racists who butchered him. Now I understood the warnings my parents had given me. My sense of safety vanished in the face of the violence done to Emmett Till, and by all too easy extension, to all of us. Small things that I had noticed (e.g., our hand-me-down textbooks from the white schools across town) now appeared as pieces in a system of racial discrimination buttressed by violence.

The memory of Emmett Till's murder propelled me into the Civil Rights movement when I was a student at Morehouse College. Morehouse students were demonstrating and marching downtown to protest discrimination and I gladly joined the movement as one of its thousands of foot soldiers. This was also when I encountered white people (students from some of the white colleges in Atlanta) who were fair-minded and willing to put themselves on the line beside black students in common struggle.

In my last year at Morehouse Malcolm X was invited to speak on campus. Vilified in the white press for his "extremist" Black Nationalism, Malcolm was a speaker many students wanted to hear. I was enormously impressed by his articulateness, his political insight, his knowledge of history, and his biting sense of humor that skewered his black listeners as often as it did the white racists. Malcolm showed that an ordinary person could hone his mind and will (even in prison) and become an extraordinary thinker, orator, and leader. When I graduated from Morehouse I moved to New York City to attend Columbia University. I started going to some of Malcolm's meetings in Harlem and downtown. By that time he had left the Nation of Islam and he was organizing the Organization of Afro-American Unity as well as the Muslim Mosque, Inc. As fate would have it, I was at the meeting where he was assassinated. To say the least, it was a horrifying experience that left me traumatized and devastated. I cannot imagine how his wife and daughters must have felt.

MALCOLM'S DEATH was a second awakening for me. Initially, I fell into despair. How was it possible to continue after the loss of such an inspiring leader, our "shining prince," as Ossie Davis called Malcolm? But at the same time, I had been inspired by his leadership and by his thought, and I realized that perhaps the best thing that I could do would be to find ways to connect with social movements, movements that would press for equality and justice and empowerment of the oppressed. But I had little clarity about how to do this, and it would take a while to find a path.

ALONG THE WAY--in a fit of personal crisis over what I should do--I dropped out of Columbia. At Morehouse I had majored in math and physics. I wanted to be an astrophysicist. My father was a mechanic who worked in the housing projects as a maintenance man. He knew how to fix anything. He taught me that if you understood how something worked, you could fix it. I wanted to understand how the natural world worked--but after joining the Civil Rights movement (and later antiwar movement) I wanted to understand how the social world worked. After leaving Columbia, I took a job as a caseworker in the New York City Welfare Department in Harlem, thinking this was a way to understand and help poor people. I learned differently. Eventually I decided that if I wanted to study society and social movements I should study sociology. I enrolled at the New School for Social Research in New York, where I earned a master's degree while running a small bookstore in Harlem. (My Ph.D. was taken at UCSF, which has a small graduate program in sociology with an emphasis on "grounded theory" methodologies.)

When things were slow at the Browser bookstore, which they often were, I began reading the Guardian (then known as the National Guardian). When the bookstore failed I spotted an employment ad in the Guardian seeking to hire a staff reporter. It was an opportunity to write for a radical newsweekly whose politics I liked. As it turned out they were seeking a black reporter who could cover the Black Power movement. I had no experience, but I met the minimum qualification and I was willing to go anywhere and ask anybody for an interview. The Guardian became my school for politics and political writing. Its staff at that time was an eclectic and exciting mix (especially for a political newcomer) of folks from the Old Left (Communist Party), New Left (Students for a Democratic Society), Black Power Movement (SNCC), and antiwar movements, as well as fidelistas, women's liberationists, and independents who defied labels. It also had the best reporting on the Vietnam War from Wilfred Burchett, who was based in Cambodia. Working at the Guardian, covering the Black Power Movement, I was at an intersection of many currents of radical political thought and militant social activism.

WITH MY WIFE, Pamela (Chude) Allen, a founding activist and writer in the women's liberation movement, I moved to San Francisco in August 1968 where we both worked for the Guardian bureau. She was handling the business side of the operation and helping to build the women's movement, and I was doing most of the reporting while also working on Black Awakening. Julius Lester, then a columnist for the Guardian, had suggested that my "Dialectics of Black Power" pamphlet could be the basis for a book. He introduced me to his editor at Doubleday and they offered me a contract. After a couple of false starts I felt I had a handle on the argument I wanted to craft: By 1968 it was evident that, under pressure from the Civil Rights movement and the exigencies of Cold War politics, the colonial relationship was changing--but it was not ending; instead it was morphing into new forms. Seeking a conceptual starting point, I turned to the writings of Malcolm X, Frantz Fanon, and the emerging literature on neo-colonialism, including Kwame Nkrumah's book, Neo-colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism and Jack Woddis's An Introduction to Neo-Colonialism. I argued that beginning in the late 1960s a neo-colonial situation was developing in the relationship between the white power structure and black communities in the US. This shift to neo-colonialism was driven by the fact that as a result of the rise of Black Power militancy and the urban rebellions the white power structure, locally and nationally, was presented with a crisis of control, and finding itself increasingly challenged and discredited in black communities. As a result, the power structure sought to maintain hegemony by replacing direct white control of the internal black colony with indirect neo-colonial control through black intermediary groups, much as in the era of national independence struggles classic colonialism gave way to neocolonialism in the Third World. Whereas direct white control was the policy of the conservative, segregationist, Southern ruling class, indirect neo-colonial control was the policy of the liberal white power structure of the North. I argued that by promoting black professionals, politicians, bureaucrats, and businessmen, an intermediary class was developed that could be used as a buffer and be co-opted by the white power structure to act on its behalf in controlling African American communities.

A SECOND ASPECT of this neo-colonial strategy, although not generally known at the time, was a secret, systematic, plan for police repression and state violence directed against revolutionary nationalists and black radicals, groups such as SNCC and the Black Panthers. This secret plan was the FBI's infamous COINTELPRO, or counter-intelligence program, launched in August 1967. Using any means necessary, including police attacks and murder, the avowed purpose of COINTELPRO was to destroy militant organizations and individuals identified by the FBI as so-called threats to national security. A 1967 FBI memo stated:
   The purpose of this new counterintelligence
   endeavor is to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit,
   or otherwise neutralize the activities of black
   nationalist, hate-type organizations and groupings,
   their leadership, spokesmen, membership
   and supporters, and to counter their propensity
   to violence and civil disorder.

Under COINTELPRO dozens of leaders and activists around the country were killed and jailed, and the limited financial resources of militant groups were exhausted in prolonged court battles with the state. At the time the Black Panthers claimed that there was a government conspiracy against them, but their claim was dismissed by the media. Although I did not know of COINTELPRO when I was writing it, Black Awakening raises the possibility of the deployment of something like COINTELPRO. The book noted calls for government restraint in the use of violent force to suppress urban rebellions, but the book also argued that "as the general level of repression gradually escalates, it can be expected that one of the favorite tactics of police forces will be more frequently employed--namely, decapitation of militant groups and movements. This is especially so since the US Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of state conspiracy laws. More and more militant leaders (white as well as black) are likely to be arrested on charges of conspiring to bomb, assassinate, and otherwise engage in illegal activity, even where there is very little evidence to substantiate these charges. As a consequence there is an urgent need for a national organization devoted to mass, political defense." [NOTE: Co-founded by Angela Davis in 1973 the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression built support for victims of COINTELPRO and other political prisoners.]

The neo-colonial analysis stood in sharp contrast with the liberal analysis which argued that the civil rights gains of the sixties would lead to the gradual assimilation of African Americans as a group into the mainstream of U.S. society. Assimilationists argued that racial conflict would subside and vanish as blacks were integrated into American political and economic mainstreams and assimilated to American culture. The neo-colonial model suggested that only members of the black middle class would have the possibility of (partial) assimilation, and that racial (and class) conflict would continue despite gains for some sectors of the black middle class.

SOME YEARS after Black Awakening was published I discovered that I was also a target of COINTELPRO. Several activities of mine caught the eye of the FBI. To begin with, in 1966 I was an antiwar activist and I refused induction into the US Army. In a flyer I handed out at the induction station I said I refused induction on grounds that the Vietnam War was a racist, imperialist war. I was investigated by the FBI and I expected to go to jail, but I was not charged, because in another case similar to mine the court ruled that the draft broad erroneously failed to allow the individual to make a claim for conscientious objector status. On the advice of my attorney, Conrad Lynn, I applied for CO status, which was promptly rejected as I expected. I appealed the rejection, only to be turned down at successively higher levels over the next two years. In the end I received a two sentence letter from my draft board. The first sentence said I had now exhausted all possible appeals, and had no other appeal rights. The second sentence read: "You have now reached your twenty-sixth birthday and are not subject for induction at this time." By then I was an organizer of a small group of black men in Harlem who were draft resisters or AWOL from the military. Most of them were younger and therefore faced harsher consequences, including jail.

IN 1967 I visited North Vietnam for two weeks as part of a delegation of American antiwar activists. I subsequently wrote articles and went on a national speaking tour in which I argued that the Vietnam liberation forces were going to defeat the US Army. Not surprisingly, the FBI intensified its investigation of me as a possible security threat. In August 1968 I moved to San Francisco and covered the Black Panthers and the strike at San Francisco State. These activities further provoked FBI interest and, unknown to me, in December 1968 the director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, issued a memorandum placing me on the FBI's so-called Security Index. The Security Index was a secret list of people who were to be immediately arrested and detained by the FBI in case of a "national security emergency." Hoover's memo to the San Francisco FBI office said:
   Security Index (SI) card prepared regarding
   Allen. Allen has been approved for the SI and
   the SI cards are being forwarded to your office
   by separate letter. Allen is being deleted from the
   Reserve Index.

Reserve Index? It almost sounded like a promotion--a promotion to a higher level of threat to national security! Why Hoover decided to upgrade me from the reserve list to the active list was not stated in the memo.

In 1976 when I obtained my FBI files (some of them) through the Freedom of Information Act, I was surprised to discover that an unknown FBI agent had written a summary of Black Awakening and posted it in my files:
   "Black Awakening in Capitalist America" was published
   by Double Day [sic], Garden City, New
   York, in 1969, and consists of 239 pages and carries
   a list price of $5.95. This book starts from a
   premise that the black minority in America constitutes
   a colonial population. Further, that the
   white ruling class intends to head off a movement
   of natural [sic!] liberation which is beginning
   to take shape within the colony.

This is one of the few notices the book got, and the only one that accurately summarized the argument in only two sentences. I particularly liked the slip in which the writer referred to national liberation as "natural" liberation. Somehow that seemed right.

More ominously, these files revealed that the FBI considered what black intellectuals were writing and doing as dangerous enough to warrant keeping track of--progressive writers, journalists, and scholars. Among other things, COINTELPRO was a system of spying and professional intimidation directed at silencing voices of dissent.

Internal Neo-colonialism and Coloniality of Power

IN THE YEARS after 1969 I was on the Berkeley campus from time to time, usually in the role of outside agitator. I spoke at Sproul Plaza rallies (most memorably at a big anti-Bakke demonstration in the 70s), and I was once taken into custody but no charges were filed. My relationship with the campus began to change in 1993. My friend Carlos Munoz invited me to speak in his class on the social movements of the sixties--Ethnic Studies 41. He asked me to give a talk on Back Awakening and whether it was still relevant.

It had been a while since I seriously reflected on the significance of the book. I had been somewhat preoccupied with writing other books, teaching (San Jose State, Mills College), working with Robert Chrisman editing and keeping The Black Scholar going as an independent journal, working with the Venceremos Brigade and the Oakland Men's Project, and negotiating multiple family relationships and marriages. After due reflection, I told the students that the analysis in Black Awakening was still relevant, even more so. Internal net-colonialism was still unfolding and advancing in more sophisticated forms with the emergence of a class of Black Elected Officials dependent on the Democratic Party and what I call the black MBA class which has been assigned a niche in corporate capitalism. With the exception of certain notable individuals these classes serve net-colonial interests.

In 2005 I published an essay in The Black Scholar in which I argued for the continuing usefulness of the theory of internal net-colonialism. The article also noted that a concept similar to internal net-colonialism has been independently developed by an influential group of Latin American scholars, including Ramon Grosfoguel, Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Anibal Quijano, and Walter Mignolo. Working with the concept of "coloniality of power," by which is meant the continuation of the colonial relationship without the formal colonial administration, this group of scholars argues that the granting of independence by a colonial power does not mean decolonization; rather the colonial relationship continues through economic and cultural domination and the dependence on imperialism of the native bourgeoisie. As Grosfoguel has remarked, there is no "post" in colonialism. Moreover, Grosfoquel argues that in the period since World War II the coloniality of power was also reproduced in the metropoles of imperialism. He posits that subaltern populations of color in the US are simultaneously colonial and racial populations, whose racialization is "entangled" with their location in a colonial/racial division of labor (e.g., slavery, sharecropping). He argued that the notion of internal colonialism as implying a colonial administration (white domination through the formal legal/institutional edifice of segregation) must be reconceptualized "in a way that accounts for the post-1965 transformations and complexities of the race/ethnic hierarchy of the United States." For Grosfoquel, "coloniality of power" offers the required reconceptualization. I would note that "coloniality of power" and what I have termed internal net-colonialism are closely related, if not identical concepts. Both concepts highlight the replacement of the formal structure of colonial rule with indirect rule through "native" intermediary classes.

I THINK A PROBLEM with the early formulations of the internal colonialism/neocolonialism thesis is that it was thought of as only an analogy, rather than as a mode of analysis in its own right. And because it was regarded as an analogy, the links between black people, other people of color in the US, and other colonized peoples throughout the world were seen as merely incidental or simply as similarities rather than as organic connections growing out of a common colonial experience. "Coloniality of power" is a concept that organically links external colonies with internal colonies, it links colonial/racial subjects with colonial/racial immigrants, and situates all of them in a racist/colonial/capitalist World System that dates back to the fifteenth century and has literally impacted the entire planet.

In the 2005 Scholar essay I noted that while black people in the Americas can trace their political status as colonial/racial subjects to the operation of the colonial slave system, in recent times the neo-imperialism of market globalization has brought millions of displaced workers and peasants--who may be considered colonial/racial immigrants--to the US and Europe. Their encounter with US and European racism has a radicalizing effect on many of these new immigrants, especially the youth, who discover that their hope for a better life in the United States is fundamentally constricted by the reality of racial and ethnic discrimination. The offspring of these new colonial immigrants-the racialized, transnational children of globalization, many of whom are now young adults--are emerging as critical agents in the struggle for global social justice. These millions of what Grosfoguel calls new colonial/racial subjects, along with the millions of descendants of earlier forced migrations caused by colonialism and slavery, constitute a potential force for progressive, democratic change. Malcolm X recognized this and in the last year of his life he proposed building political coalitions between black people and other people of color within the US and in the European nations, and allying these formations with the counter-hegemonic force of colonial/racial subjects in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

I believe that applicability of the theory of internal colonialism/neocolonialism is even more evident now, especially when we think of it in the context of coloniality of power. It has enormous implications for analyzing the present situations of Native American, Latino/Chicano, Asian American, and other colonial/racial communities in the US and other imperialist countries. Moreover, the articulation of the concept of coloniality of power unites theory and praxis, offering the prospect of developing a global paradigm of the colonial relationship that will also provide a deeper theoretical understanding of the powerful resistance that continues to emerge in subaltern communities and nations around the world.

THE FINAL TWO CHAPTERS in Black Awakening are devoted to the issue of social agency in the struggle for progressive change. I examined both the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Black Panther Party (BPP) and attempted to assess their strengths and weaknesses as change agents. I argued that students are an important force for social change, but students are inherently a transitory group. Not only are they in transit physically but they are often in transit socially and ideologically. Many students of color are in transit from the working-class origins of their parents to the professional positions they will hold in corporate America. This can lead to confusion and ambivalence. They may feel torn between social activism and various forms of accommodationism, Students are also important to corporate America's neo-colonial plans. As I wrote in Black Awakening.
   It is the educated and trained blacks who are slated
   to become the new managers of the ghetto,
   the administrators of the black colony. Like the
   educated Westernized elites of Africa and Asia
   [and Latin America], it is assumed that these
   educated blacks [and other youth of color] will
   identify with the values and aspirations of white
   society, and therefore become the willing (and
   well rewarded) agents of the corporate power

As for the Panthers, with their leadership disrupted and destroyed by COINTELPRO they increasingly glorified lumpenism and criminal violence. Organized criminal violence is not a revolutionary alternative to capitalism; it is simply the underbelly of capitalism. Unfortunately, the BPP stance fed into and provided a convenient rationalization for COINTEPRO-inspired police attacks on the BPP. Many Panthers died as a result.

Eldridge Cleaver's journey from advocate of lumpen violence to Mormon minister was a curious and sad sidebar on the collapse of the organization.

IN MOST OF MY WORK since Black Awakening I have focused on the question of agency. In Reluctant Reformers (1974), for example, I offer a study of the impact of racism on US social reform movements. Among the movements I studied were the Abolitionist movement, the labor movement, the women's suffrage movement, and the socialist and communist movements. I asked the question: to what extent were black activists in these movements able to exercise agency and antiracist leadership? My conclusion was that black activists were most effective when they had an independent organizational base from which they could make effective antiracist ideological interventions in these predominantly white social reform movements. In The Port Chicago Mutiny (1989) I examine a spontaneous work stoppage by a group of African American sailors during World War II. I discovered that the militant action by these young black sailors, supported by a public campaign and legal intervention by Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP, gave impetus to the process of general desegregation of the US military. In my present research I am studying how C.L. Dellums, one of the founders of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters labor union, used the union as an independent base from which to push for civil rights legislation and racial justice in California.

For nearly four decades I have also been one of the editors of The Black Scholar journal, an outgrowth of the strike at San Francisco State. Robert Chrisman, publisher and editor-in-chief, was a faculty member who, along with Nathan Hare, was fired because of their support of the strike. In 1969 they founded The Black Scholar journal as an independent forum for the expression of progressive black thought. The Scholar is both organizationally and intellectually independent. We are not funded by foundations, universities, or the government. We are funded by our subscribers and a small amount of advertising by academic publishers. As a result we have been able to function as a self-reliant, ideologically independent, and self-determining movement journal.

These research and organizational experiences have convinced me that there are ways in which progressive activists can exercise effective ideological leadership and agency, even from within the constraints of internal (neo)colonies. The key is in building independent social movement organizations that can support ideological independence and leadership. Such organizations must themselves be sustained by the communities and movements whose interests they serve.

THERE ARE ALSO new opportunities that arise in the course of present history and struggle. In a 2008 article in The Black Scholar I argued that in the era of the presidency of Barack Obama we have an opportunity to build a progressive political majority in this country that can effect substantial change. I argue that the election of Obama is evidence of the existence of this growing progressive majority. If you examine the election returns it is apparent that Obama was elected by African Americans (95 percent), Latinos (67 percent), and Asians (62 percent). He won only 43 percent of the general white vote, but he won 54 percent of the white youth vote. He also won 69 percent of first time voters, who include many immigrants and youth. This is the new progressive majority in formation. I argued in the article that we can see this majority in formation here in California over the past fifteen years, and it has extended to other parts of the country. The rightwing understands this phenomenon very well and will do all it can to undermine this emerging majority through divide and conquer tactics such as California Propositions 187, 209, and others. But new social forces are emerging that will impact this process, forces such as the children of immigrants of color who have come to the US in the past two decades. This "new second generation," or what I call the children of globalization, have characteristics that connect them to internal colonies as well as to the external colonial peoples of the third world. Barack Obama is an example of this new kind of transnational person, although it remains to be seen how history will judge him. Is he simply the new face of US imperialism or a factor for social justice? All of us will play a role in what that judgment will be. It is the agency of the people and their advocates that can, as it has in the past, push our national leaders to take progressive action (think Lincoln--Douglass; Roosevelt--Randolph; Kennedy/Johnson--MLK/Malcolm; Obama--??). Black advocates rooted in militant social movements (abolition, labor, civil rights, Black Nationalism) have been powerful and effective voices for change at critical turning points in US history. The many millions of children of immigrants in the US and millions more in Europe and other parts of the world are a new social formation capable of agency. They have made their presence known through mass protests against racist colonial oppression in cities such as Paris and London and others around the world. Many are activists in struggles for global social justice. I believe these are among the allies Malcolm X had in mind when he spoke of building an international alliance against capitalist, racist, colonialism.

WE MUST BUILD independent social justice movements and organizations that bring together colonized/racialized communities, immigrants, children of immigrants, and progressive whites in a common struggle. These are the forces that can turn history in a new direction, toward building what Carlos Munoz has termed a multiracial democracy in the US. This is the struggle of our time.

(Adapted from keynote speech at UC Berkeley on April 10th 2009. Audio recording by Jared Ball. Transcribed by Christopher Reid.)
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Author:Allen, Robert L.
Publication:The Black Scholar
Article Type:Viewpoint essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2010
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