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Political Blaxploitation
by Seth Sandronsky
August 7, 2004

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One view of Hollywood films such as “Superfly” during the 1970s is that they exploited blacks. The term “blaxploitation” was coined to describe this.

In 2004, certain high-profile blacks such as Mr. Bill Cosby perpetuate political blaxploitation. He and others like him have access to (m)ass media, pleased to point out the so-called cultural errors and expectations of some African Americans.

Consider Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the black Ivy League professor. In a column headlined “breaking the silence” in the August 1 NY Times, he lauds a “new” black political leader on the scene, Mr. Barack Obama. Why? Mr. Obama in part told his audience at the Democratic National Convention in Boston not to expect the magic wand of the government by itself to help blacks in urban America to achieve academic excellence. Presumably, they should place their faith in the market. To that end, Mr. Gates suggests that blacks on the outside of the mainstream looking in should learn the talk of the marketplace. Both this belief and such speech will improve blacks’ life chances.

For Mr. Obama, personal responsibility is the key to black mobility. Thus it is proper to focus on individuals’ behavior in discussing what ails some of his black countrymen. Does this explain why America is a nation that incarcerates its black population at a rate without precedence? Or are they surplus workers held in a U.S. gulag because employers have no need to hire them?

Perhaps we should forget about equality in government funding of schools, students and teachers. Undoubtedly, government can only wage war with economic efficiency. Note the winks at corporate America from Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party generally. Boeing, General Electric, Lockheed Martin and other Pentagon corporations profit like fat rats from what President Eisenhower called the congressional/military/industrial complex. The Democratic Party is an essential part of this scam. Democrats lap up big cash from these merchants of death at the expense of human needs in America.

Back to Mr. Gates. He bemoans some black youth who want to be pro jocks instead of medical doctors. For African Americans in 2000, Mr. Gates cites census figures of 1,400 pro athletes in the big three ball sports, plus 31,000 physicians and surgeons. According to AfroCubaWeb, Cuba has 13,500 black medical doctors. The U.S. population is about 26 times the size of Cuba’s. For blacks in both nations, what is more likely the determining variable in becoming a doctor, personal responsibility or a socialist economy?

Further, it is worth nothing that U.S. economic output is about 14 times larger than Cuba’s. Yet Cubans experience more equality in incomes and wealth than Americans. Working people in the U.S. are more exploited than Cubans. With respect to black workers in America, they have been stuck on the bottom of the U.S. income distribution ladder since Reconstruction.

What makes many Americans of all skin colors unable to see these links between race and class in U.S. society? In a word, ideology. As an ideological force, white racism serves to strengthen a class coalition with a “white” view of entitlement. This way of seeing and not seeing blacks and other nonwhite peoples at home and abroad is about more than the color of one’s skin. Under the tent of the Democratic Party, this imperial gaze legitimates the ruling order of the few over the many.

The fact of the matter is that Mr. Obama and Mr. Gates play an old tune, tired and tiring. Tamely, they follow in the footsteps of Mr. Bill Clinton. A “new” Democrat and the supposed first black president, he also used political blaxploitation. Recall when Mr. Clinton bashed the rapper Sister Souljah for being a racist? Such attacks on blacks from the streets by whites in the suites have had many outcomes. One was to help sell the continuing attack on welfare, the federal program and its recipients, to the American public.

The assault on the U.S. welfare state for its citizens of all skin shades was launched on the watch of a Democrat, President Jimmy Carter. He joined Mr. Obama in speaking at the recent DNC. Such is the current context for political blaxploitation. It is a powerful tool in the arsenal of the nation’s master class against everybody else.

Seth Sandronsky is a member of Peace Action and co-editor with Because People Matter, Sacramento’s progressive paper. He can be reached at:

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