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FOLLOW UP: White power and Black voices

Picture of Adam Jackson

Adam Jackson

Chief Executive Officer
Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle

So…what I thought would happen is happening.

There have been two general responses to the argument that Dayvon made in the last article we put out about Pam Block-Brier and the Baltimore Urban Debate League.  First is the interpretation of our criticism as a personal/emotional attack.  This is exactly what we predicted would happen.

People have reduced the argument to this notion of disliking Pam Block-Brier because she is white.  This is an intellectually juvenile reading of the article.  We made arguments about the implication of her leadership of BUDL.

Among them are:

1) The vision of debate in Baltimore should be directed by those who are of and from the communities that BUDL attempts to serve.

2) Pam Block Brier is not suited to chart the direction of debate in Baltimore, given that there are people who are more connected to the communities that are targeted by BUDL and have more expertise in actually using debate to engage in social transformation 

3) BUDL is structurally not accountable to the community, but accountable to a board of directors and CEO that do not have political, economic, and existential stake in Black self-determination in Baltimore. 

These are arguments, not personal attacks.  Dismissing them as such is convenient way for people to protect their power and privilege and perpetuate the status quo.

The second (and biggest) response to the article has been silence.  There has been very little direct engagement with the argument that we have put forward.  What I find extremely interesting is that we are attempting to hold the philanthropic community accountable for the harm that they do, and I don’t sense a willingness to engage the argument, much less fix the problem.

The bottom line is that if you aren’t talking Black self determination, then you are enabling the perpetuation of Black social, political and economic subordination.  I am not putting this notion forward without recognizing the complexity of Black life and thought.  Black people, like any other people have varying ideas and stances on issues.  We don’t have a monopoly on real Blackness.  We just know that we are a piece of the puzzle and that it should be other Black people that chart a future for Black people.  What is fascinating is that this is only a controversial concept when this is said about Black people.  LGBTQ would not let heterosexual people lead organizations about their issues.  But when I say this about Black people it is interpreted as being controversial, and mean spirited.

Honestly, we are doing the philanthropic community and white liberals in general a favor by bringing this issue up again.  Change is going to come from below.  The power that white people have over the minds and bodies of Black people is coming to an end.

You can either get on the train of social transformation, or get run over.  The choice is really yours.  The days of the master slave-relationship that exist in white civil society is over.  We are not going anywhere.

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