HomeHeadlinesWhy 'Black Progressive' is An Oxymoron

Why ‘Black Progressive’ is An Oxymoron


Congressional Progressive Caucus
Keith Ellison co-chair of the Progressive Caucus

Seems it has become fashionable over the past four years for African Americans to consider themselves to be politically progressives as opposed to liberals. The way I have managed to understand progressivism, in simple terms is that it is a political ideology that states it desires better conditions in society that is rooted in early 20th century liberal philosophy. It is supposed to be a response to the impact of industrialization as well is a political philosophy in between the response taken by traditional conservatives and socialist to deal with social and economic issues. Naturally, it started in urban areas and was first championed by folk advocating egalitarian and liberal methods to reform socioeconomic policy.

Scholars have had a very difficult time defining Progressivism. Some have even grouped both Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson as Progressives even absent of any common ideological ground between the two. They even add Lyndon Johnson and now, Barack Obama in scope and aim.

For some oddly coherently dissonant reason (historical and philosophical), I find it implausible and oxymoronic for any African American to call themselves progressives.

I would advance that most describe themselves as such either because of the aforementioned adumbrated definition, or because they support President Obama and White democrats call him progressive. In the past I have often had to disabuse politically, what I comprehended about the progressive political orientation. Specifically that it is rooted in the concept of liberal internationalism as implemented first via the foreign policy of Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States. Albeit not called such during the time of the imperialistic colonization of Africa, Wilson approach to the world (on behalf of the well-being of America) was immured to practices similar to what led to the enslavement of Africans and the subjugation of other world ethnic nationalities. This is the main reason I find African American progressive as a term, to be dysfunctional and improbable.

It assumes the false and contumelious Kantian Moral Imperative of exceptionalism that resulted in apartheid in South Africa and Nazism as well as the White Man’s Burden in Europe. The Progressive narrative in antithetical to the political philosophies of African Americans from a chronicled perspective and stresses a “muscular nationalism” designed to serve Americas well being only from a plutocrats perspective singularly internationally – meaning foreign policy is for the simple goal of protecting US national security (the wealthy). Ergo, the best national security involves advancing democracy abroad even by military force, regardless if nations desire such or not.

Back home, we have seen the pseud Darwinism of progressive politics from the attributing of race based cultural traits being antecedents for criminal behavior (Cesare Lombroso) and prior to that in the opinion of Chief Justice Roger B. Tanny who wrote in the Dred Scott ruling: that free Blacks would always be “identified in the public [White folks] mind with the race which they belonged, and regarded as part of the slave population rather than free.”

True, Progressives began in response to political powers unwilling or unable to address the economic and social changes consequential of the industrial revolution in America; but somewhere it turned into a monster that overlooked liberty, self-determination, sovereignty and individual rights- all in complete contradiction of the struggles of African Americans from slavery to the civil rights movement. And just as then, Progressives today want the same things from safety to making sure that our political system is free from corruption. The problem is that they want all of this implemented by advancing American interests by a Hobbesian (warlordism) the internationalism that at the same time make positive-sum interactions almost impossible.

First progressives place America first and intentionally ignore that we live in a global world and not an isolated one. Thus they miss the bigger picture that most African Americans have traditionally observed, that declining living standards, weapons proliferation, deforestation and social injustice everywhere, especially when perpetrated by America, is a hazard and digger to us all. This means that progressives applaud approaches put forth by men like Obama, Roosevelt, Truman and Wilson because simply put, their policy advocate that the United States knows what’s right, what other should do, all the US has to do insist that others snap into line. The right looks at other nations as objects of American foreign policy, rather than as being free agents themselves.

Now it seems in the age of Obama, even liberals support war under the cover of other attributes. The war in Libya was the progressive way to protect innocent civilians President Obama is in many way similar to both Wilson and Roosevelt. This is why I assert that Black and Progressive are incompatible just as freedom and ignorance, for progressives thrive and promulgate economic inequality for if it didn’t exist they would not be able to survive. This is the reason why the 99 percent exist, and why we find ourselves in wars in Libya, Yemen, Somalia and asking for one in Syria. The progressives do not send their kids off to war for a better life or struggle economically, they have it all, unlike most African Americans, even the ones who call themselves progressive.

By; Torrance Stephens
- Advertisment -

Trending Articles