As I strolled east on a heavily-traveled street in Honolulu, Hawaii today and neared an intersection, another Black man was traveling south toward that same intersection. As we converged, I looked his way and nodded in acknowledgment of his presence. Within a flickering moment, he made one upward swoop of his right arm, made a fist in that same motion, and bounced it off of his chest where his heart resides.
In two unspoken gestures, we communicated. My gesture conveyed the following thought: “Black man, we are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on an island where Blacks comprise less than three percent of the population. I acknowledge you and hope that you acknowledge me. We may need each other’s protection in the future on this very island. “
In return, his gesture conveyed: “Black man, I see and acknowledge you. I love you like a brother and will fight to protect you.”
How often have you seen two Asian, Hispanic, Native, or White American males transmit such unspoken, yet powerful gestures? Probably seldom—if ever. Why not? Because they do not live with the knowledge that, as Muhammad Ali once said, “No matter how much money you have in America, a Black man remains just another ‘N-Word’.” History has left many examples of what happens to “Niggers” in America.
Knowing this to be true, and having 400 years of evidence to substantiate that truth, should cause Black Americans—especially Black males–to take pause.
Because we only remain safe in America when we play the game by rules that we do not establish, we should seek conditions in which we can establish our own rules. Sound logic will tell you that it is nearly impossible to win a game when someone else establishes the rules—and stack the rules against you.
One can only establish rules when one is in control. Although it is very difficult to imagine circumstances in which Black Americans are in control of this nation in the near term, it is possible to conjure up scenarios in which Blacks are in control and can establish rules.
One easy scenario to project is establishment of a Black American nation. Nation formation is not a new idea. History reflects many Black American efforts to found their own nation or territory. Liberia, West Africa is a classic case. Nova Scotia, Canada is another. What about Allensworth, California; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Rosewood, Florida? They all represent efforts to create an environment in which Black Americans control their lives and to do for self. Each case is marked by an imperfect outcome.
Those imperfect outcomes should not preclude efforts to achieve perfection. We must continue to inquire:
Is Black American nation formation a viable alternative?
What difficulties are likely to be encountered as a result of such an effort?
What benefits are derivable from Black American nation formation?
What are the downsides to such an endeavor?
It is only by asking these and other questions and performing a 360-degree analysis of the issue that we can come to an informed conclusion about the efficacy of Black American nation formation.
We will visit each of the foregoing questions in order to assist Black Americans in making decisions concerning where and how to allocate current and future resources, and to determine how to provide for our progeny’s future.
We should not find ourselves saying that nation formation is beyond our comprehension or control, and that we will “leave it to Jesus.” We cannot say that on one hand, and on the other hand quote the biblical passage, “Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” (Holy Bible, Ephesians 3:20.) Unfortunately, we place too much emphasis on the first part of this verse—putting the onus on Jesus—and ignore the latter and most important part—“according to the power that worketh in us.” In other words, we must have every expectation that we can work within the context of the power that is vested in us to make nation formation a reality.
Barring use of Haitian-like Voodoo, which helped expel the French from Haiti, or some other powerful JuJu, Black Americans face the difficult, but surmountable, task of working alone to identify and occupy a space that permits us to: Shape and control our destiny; delink ourselves from the deadly anxiety and pressure of discrimination and racism; and to create a peaceful and prosperous state.
Dr. B.B. Robinson is an economist and director of BlackEconomics.org, a resource for economic concepts, issues and policies affecting African-Americans.