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Mon, 08.06.1900

Black Nationalism in America, a story

*Black Nationalism in America was affirmed on this date in 1900. It is a category of racial nationalism or pan-nationalism that embraces the belief that black people are a race and seeks to develop and maintain a black racial and national identity.

Black nationalist activism revolves around the social, political, and economic empowerment of black communities and people, especially to resist their cultural assimilation into white culture (through integration or otherwise) and maintain a distinct black identity. Black nationalists often promote black separatism, which posits that black people should form territorial and politically separate nation-states.

Without achieving this goal, some black separatists employ a "nation within a nation" approach, advocating various degrees of localized separation, which may be a response to several centuries of various forms of structural and cultural subjugation in many nation-states.  Pan-African black nationalists variously advocate for continental African unity (aiming to transition away from racial nationalism eventually) or cultural unity among the African diaspora, which entails either a return to Africa or a sustained connection between African and American black nations. Rejecting black separatism, some US-based black nationalists conceive the black nation in cultural terms as part of American diversity.

Some black nationalists promote black supremacy, which envisions black superiority over other racial groups. Black nationalists often reject the term and comparisons with white supremacists, characterizing their movement as an anti-racist reaction to white supremacy and colorblind white liberalism as racist. Critics of black nationalism argue that it promotes violence, racial hostility, and other forms of discrimination. The movement arose within the black community in the United States. In the early 20th century, Garveyism, promoted by the U.S.-based Marcus Garvey, furthered black nationalist ideas.

Black nationalist ideas also proved to be an influence on the Black Islam movement, particularly on groups like the Nation of Islam. During the 1960s, black nationalism influenced the Black Panther Party and the broader Black Power movement. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr. characterized black nationalism with "hatred and despair," writing that support for black nationalism "would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare." Norm R. Allen Jr., former director of African Americans for Humanism, calls black nationalism a "strange mixture of profound thought and patent nonsense."

Scholars have studied the link between black nationalism and antisemitism. In the late 1950s, Muslim and non-Muslim black nationalists often embraced antisemitism. Many of them taught that American Jews and Israel were "the central obstacle to black progress" and that Jews were "the most racist whites."  During the late 1960s, black nationalists depicted Jews as "parasitic intruders who accumulated wealth by exploiting the toil of black people in America's ghettos and South Africa." According to polls, many African Americans endorsed antisemitic tropes, and the hatred was "strongest among younger, better educated... blacks".

A study conducted in 1970 ranked 73% of Blacks in their twenties, as opposed to 35% who were fifty and older, as high on its index of antisemitism. By 1978 a survey of "black leaders" found that 81% agreed that "Jews chose money over people." In 2005, 36% of African Americans held "strong antisemitic beliefs," four times the percentage of White Americans.

In 2020, 42% of "black liberals" versus 15% of "white liberals" endorsed antisemitic stereotypes. Some black nationalists deny accusations of antisemitism by alleging that black people "are the original Semites" and, as such, cannot be antisemitic. Many black nationalists engage in Holocaust trivialization, while some are Holocaust deniers. Notable black nationalist leaders who profess antisemitic sentiments include Amiri BarakaLouis FarrakhanKwame TureLeonard Jeffries, and Tamika Mallory.

According to counter-terrorism experts and scholars, Black Nationalism as a movement is a reaction to the white supremacism endemic in America's system of governance from the country's founding until the passage of voting and civil rights reforms in the mid-1960s. Black nationalism different than white nationalism in that black extremism is a reaction to valid and brutal oppression. Regardless, the groups and individuals in this movement explicitly promote racial and biased ideas.

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